Friday, January 30, 2009

Dog training

Dog training me, that is.

Zee and I have started going to dog obedience classes once a week. And I'm already counting down the weeks until we're done.

I knew going in that the main point of obedience class is to train the owner to handle the dog. I get that, understand the philosophy. But the execution is painful for me.

A roomful of dogs, several of them barking, nobody I know, individual practice in front of everyone.

And my dog--usually calm, focused on me, intent, eager to please, quick to learn--is so distracted and excited by all the dogs that he can barely stop whining or wiggling. He has been dubbed "the hyper dog" and the teachers seem convinced that I do no work with him in between classes.

My goals in doing all of this are to bond further with Zee and to get him to follow a few basic commands, nothing fancy.

A few more weeks, and even if Zee doesn't officially pass the class, I'll count it a win if I don't die of embarrassment.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Small victories and a lesson in assumptions

My letter to the editor should be published in the next day or two. After emailing it, I received confirmation of receipt and a request for my phone number. This didn't surprise me since my hometown newspaper also required some sort of verification before publishing a letter.

Now the local paper is generally a conservative paper with little substance--a small-town paper with only a handful of staff, sort of standard. That I hadn't heard back yesterday or today after emailing my phone number had convinced me that while they would eventually publish my letter, they were not exactly enthusiastic about it. Since I had been on the phone for other things, I decided to initiate the call so that this wouldn't drag out.

So imagine my surprise when, after identifying myself, the editor said, "And I want you to know I agree with you completely."

I relayed this to Trillian, who was also shocked. In a good way.

After looking at today's paper, I can't help but wonder, however, if the original letter writer has been doing some of my work for me. Obviously I hadn't been paying attention to who was writing these letters before. But now I think that this man must write at least one letter a week. Most of them appear to be ranty and make odd comparisons. So maybe I didn't need to address his statement specifically; there's a good chance most people here know to skip over those letters.

But at least it got me to submit something on domestic partnerships. And I found out that there are some supporters in places I wouldn't have expected.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tangled thoughts on religion and being gay

It feels as though a whole host of my thoughts for a couple days have been revolving around religion (or lack thereof) and being gay. Even when I'm not actively contemplating those two topics, something will leap up to remind me of their intersection.

Take, for instance, the recent news about new allegations against Reverend Ted Haggard. Turns out that the male escort he frequented (and bought drugs from) was not his only gay relationship; he also had a cash-for-sex affair with a young (early 20s) church volunteer. Oh, the mind boggles. Not because the man might be gay, but because of the way it manifested for him. Notice that all of his gay relationships (that we know about so far) involve paying for the sex that is so shameful to him, per what his religion tells him. I can't figure out if paying for it was supposed to alleviate some of the guilt or if the prostitution angle would make the gay angle pale in comparison. What I do know, though I won't go into it now, is that the strict prescriptions of religion can do so much damage.

Haggard aside, we're looking at the possibility of some domestic partner recognition in our community, and this is the primary reason I've been so focused on that point where issues of religion and being gay swirl around each other. I've been in the throes of letter-writing and will be sending several off tomorrow. Two are the standard letters to elected officials, including the reproach that both of them ignored my earlier missives on the topic, about which I am not impressed. Both are on record as against domestic partnerships; one specifically has cited his religion as his reason for opposing previous attempts to implement this. I doubt I'll change their minds, but the votes may be there without them.

The third letter is the one in which I have a more personal investment. It is a letter to the editor of our local rag, which absolutely everyone in town seems to read. I was compelled to write it after a throw-away line in another letter to the editor in which the writer suggested that domestic partnerships are 'amoral' and something being pushed by people from out-of-state. And so I wrote my letter to counter that second part explicitly while working against that first one more subtly (as in, emphasizing the importance of family in this issue).

The intersection with religion comes both from the loaded issue of morality and what I know about the author of the first letter. I've met him before and suspected, from a number of observations, that he is Catholic. A quick search showed me that he is not only Catholic, but staunchly, emphatically, and inflexibly so. Thus, I am probably right to read into 'amoral' all that I initially did.

But this is also where it crosses into a very sensitive territory. See, that author is the father of one of my son's classmates. Even trickier, it's the one kid with whom my son has a true, reciprocal friendship, one I would very much like to encourage since there are so many kids in his class who are quick to tease him for his differences. I hope that we can all be adults and separate our political and religious beliefs from our sons' friendship. Guess we'll see when we offer to have a playdate here.

In all of this, I find the religious/gay cocktail already so volatile that I hesitate to add in my own atheism. I worry about how that additional element might shut down all discussion.

Hang on for a minute while I set this up: I'm laying some groundwork for us to start trying to have another kid. Both Trillian and I still want two, but since almost a year's worth of doctors' appointments and blood tests have yielded little new information, the possibility of more miscarriages weighs heavily in our thoughts. Recently we decided that adoption is a possibility. Due to our particular situation, however, it is likely we would go the private route. So being me, I did some online searches and looked at how one would go about this.

Being in a same-sex couple does not appear to be too much of a barrier, per se, in private adoptions. There are plenty of prospective parent profiles and success stories. But it's hard to miss the fact that so many of these couples make explicit mention of the important role of religion in their family. So how conspicuous would it be to omit this? Notice that I'm not even thinking of including 'atheist' or any of its gentler synonyms ('humanist,' 'secular,' and others)--not that I'd be able to lie about this if asked directly.

OK, so that's not as immediate of a concern as the domestic partnerships, so it's a question that I can put on the back burner for now. Not that it will stop me from continuing to ponder how it is that I cannot untangle religion and being gay, even though they do not seem that they should logically overlap so thoroughly.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I should and want to write about the majesty of the day. Our TV was glued to CNN for almost the entire day, and I shed more than a few tears. (Even Trillian cried, and that is not common!) But...

Holy Hell, my legs no longer work properly!

It's not even the shredding I've been doing courtesy of Jillian Michaels. Oddly, that has been killing my arms, but not so much my legs, even after increasing the depths of my squats and such (the real reason not to do this with an audience).

No, I had my first ballet class again after a month's break.

I did a couple of mini-barres during the break. And both times my legs were sore afterwards. I can already tell I'm headed there in the morning.

In the meantime, my legs feel as though they're too long and I just can't get my body far enough off the ground to walk with a normal gait. Gravity is not my friend.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Green: BPA, revisited

Remember my big, long post on bisphenol-a a little over a year ago? Remember how I got my own troll? We laughed, we got indignant, we closed comments. Good times.

Mostly I was amused that an industry talking head was so intent on yelling me down. It seemed like a lot of effort to deal with a very small time blogger's take on the issue. At the time, I argued as best as I could with the information I had; I knew that the reports he cited were spinning the data and that there was much more out there to vindicate my position, but I didn't have the time or resources to track it down right then.

And then earlier this week, I found Trillian's copy of Fast Company sitting on my chair. (When she has airline miles that are about to expire, she gets magazine subscriptions. We also get The Economist and Martha Stewart Living. I can create festive decorations out of depressing retirement account statements!) It was open to an article, "The Real Story Behind BPA."

It took me a while to get through the whole thing. The article is dense with information, and I had to put it down every time my blood pressure rose too much. But there it was, the information I knew existed. If you get the chance, go read the whole thing. Really, it's worth the time! But let me highlight some of the points I wish I'd had at my fingertips last year.

Issues of methodology:
  • Toxicology. In this model, the issue is to define the threshold of significant harm. Experiments in this vein feed huge doses to the test subjects, seeking the point at which organ failure, cancer, and other things (like death) happen. The current acceptable level of BPA has been set using this model. If you go back to my old post, you'll also see that this is the model referred to by my troll.
  • Endocrinology. This model focuses on changes caused by small doses of chemicals that mimic hormones. And since BPA has recognized estrogenic properties, it seems reasonable to expect this to be the accepted model of study. But it's not, at least as far as government studies are concerned.
  • "Of the more than 100 independently funded experiments on BPA, about 90% have found evidence of adverse health effects at levels similar to human exposure. On the other hand, every single industry-funded study ever conducted -- 14 in all -- has found no such effects."
  • The first studies of BPA's effects at low doses were inspired by multiple experiments in which unexpected results were traced back to the use of polycarbonate items (flasks, petri dishes, cages).
  • vom Saal examined the interaction of BPA with human blood and realized that it needed further study. In an experiment where he fed pregnant mice doses of BPA "25,000 times lower than the EPA's toxic threshold," male offspring had enlarged prostates.
  • vom Saal's findings have been replicated multiple times by other scientists. Nonetheless, industry often refers to his experiment as unreplicated, a blatant lie.
  • "Others have found impacts on sperm production, testes development, and mammary-gland tissue, as well as behavioral disorders including hyperactivity, aggressiveness, and impaired learning."
  • Tyl performed two experiments, the most commonly cited in the industry, claiming BPA as safe. In the first experiment, she used a strain of rats (CD Sprague-Dawley) that "can withstand a dose of synthetic estrogen more than 100 times greater than what a female human can tolerate." In the second, she used mice, but they were fed a type of food shown to "mask the effects of estrogens like BPA." Even then, her results show male mice with enlarged prostates.
  • Government reports have officially based on reviews of the available literature. But a closer look at these reports shows that these are not even close to being unbiased. There's a big, long explanation in the article about how much of this work was outsourced to a consulting firm that, conveniently, does a lot of industry work and has frequently had questionable conflicts of interest.
And if all that doesn't make your head spin, a mention that one such consulting firm has offerred to help Dupont defend PFOA (the potentially nasty chemical in non-stick surfaces) makes me feel pretty certain there's a similar story there.

I'd be lying if I claimed not to get some enjoyment out of saying, "I told you so." (Trillian would call me out on that immediately. And it's not like I'm saying it to my usual readers--we'll see if the troll returns.) But this is one time when I wish I hadn't been quite so right, because the whole issue is quite disillusioning and a bit scary.

Time to go clean out the pantry and try to figure out alternatives to various canned items.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


This post has been floating around in my head for a while now. Even though I'm still not sure I can adequately articulate the humble of thoughts I've been unraveling, an incident today has it spilling out.

Out of nowhere this afternoon, Scooter started in on a particular toy he needed. And it wasn't even that he wanted it for his birthday. He wanted it today. Logic--that toy isn't made anymore; regardless of whether or not it still exists, we couldn't get it today; regardless of all that, we weren't just buying him a toy and he didn't have enough of his own money to buy it--could not calm him in any way, and we found ourselves facing a larger meltdown than we've seen for a while.

The standard take on such meltdowns almost always include some riff on the "spoiled only child" theme. (I'm waiting to see if this will be what pushes me into tears at the next IEP meeting, as I weepily yell that this is not by design. Anyway...)

But this is not simply an issue of having a male Veruca Salt. Sure there are plenty of times that he wants something and then pouts when he doesn't get it. With incidents like today's, however, there's a different undertone, an urgency and anxiety that feels different than simple desire. I think I understand this, but I'm not sure how well I can convey it to people who don't regularly experience this.

I generally frame the fact that I have become more reflective of my purchases as an environmental issue, a desire to consume less--and it is. Yet in many ways, that I have reduced general acquisitions is more amazing because it signifies my ability to talk myself out of the compulsion to collect. While I have never been a full-blown packrat, I have a very hard time letting go of anything and usually feel a need to have more.

More specifically, this tends to manifest as a need to fill out collections. It can be ridiculous stuff, like toys from a fast-food restaurant that form a series. Even now, when I look at the little brochures that come with Legos and Playmobils, I can't help but think, "This set would be great, and then we could get this, which means we'd need this other thing, and then..." As an adult, I can quickly see that my thoughts are ridiculous and quell them before they fully set, but Scooter isn't quite there yet.

This sort of frantic, desperate need for things is not just about wanting the item in question, but rather a manifestation of anxiety. Obtaining a desired object creates some order in an otherwise frustrating and uncertain world. Stuff is concrete; it will still be there even when other things do not happen as expected. It can be rearranged, put in order, put away, brought back out. More anxiety, get more stuff.

If only it were that simple.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In the kitchen: cheesecake

Did you know you can make cheesecake in the crockpot?

What? Did you not want or need to know that?

Come on, you know you want some.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Guilty (semi-)pleasures

So I've figured out one way in which a semi-anonymous blog is better than Facebook: there are a number of things that I just can't bring myself to share with the entirety of my friends list. I mean, really, the person who had all of one class with me through high school does not need to be informed of my guilty pleasures. (I'm sure it comes as no surprise--I was a huge nerd in school, generally seen, even admired, as an intellectual. I have a reputation to maintain.)

So the first admission is that I just finished Twilight--that I read it at all is something that will not make my status. Amazingly, when I put myself on the waiting list at the library, I found the book ready when I went in to check out some other materials. I read through it in just three days, so I have to grant that it is a quick read (doesn't hurt that the print is large). And... meh.

I will read the others in the series, eventually, when I get around to it. Parts of the story are compelling, but I really find it surprising that so many self-avowed Buffy fans can also wax poetic about this. Bella drives me nuts. Edward keeps saying how dangerous he is, but that never really comes through. The dialog is repetitive and predictable. I'm torn about the monkeying with vampire lore--some of it is an interesting interpretation of all that has come before, other parts seem to be slapped in to fit some detail that she thought of later. The major danger comes up suddenly at the end and is dispensed of way too quickly--so much more could/should have been done with the other vampires. There was a good long stretch before that part where I kept reading only because I wanted to know more about Alice, who is my favorite character. Please tell me there's more of her in New Moon.

Enough of my life of the mind. On to the physical world. And the second admission.

I've mentioned before that I watch Biggest Loser. It is, in fact, the only reality show I watch. And Jillian Michaels is a big part of why I keep tuning in. So I was intrigued when I saw references to 30 Day Shred popping up on many friends' FB statuses and in a number of blog posts. (Side note: I really, really want to stick in the grammar-appropriate hyphen between '30' and 'Day,' but the official title does not have it.)

Out of curiosity, we Netflixed it so I could give it a go. It arrived today, and I decided to try Level 1 between an early dinner and Scooter's bedtime. Limitation #1: I definitely ate too much, too soon beforehand. Limitation #2: My knee's been bugging me, so I couldn't do all of the jumping for the cardio. Things I can work on and compensate for, but nothing compared to...

Misconception: Just because Jillian yells less on the DVD than on the show, I would have a quieter workout. Trillian and Scooter sat in our recliners behind me as I worked out. To give Trillian credit, she does know quite a bit about fitness and would probably make a decent trainer if she wanted to go that route. So she was giving me some tips on form, most of which I know (whether or not I can translate that to physical expression), nothing I mind too much. What I hadn't counted on was that she would fill the void of Jillian's usually tougher presentation by yelling out sayings we've heard many times on Biggest Loser. At the same time, Scooter was critiquing me and offering suggestions. He was particularly concerned when I adapted the jumping jacks so I wouldn't be stressing my knee. "You're going to lose," he shouted when I was not moving as fast as the women on the DVD.

The big advantage of getting this from Netflix is that I can hold onto it for a bit yet. And now that I know to schedule my workouts for school time while Trillian is occupied with work, maybe I can concentrate on the images in front of me and not the voices from behind.

So... what are you not putting in your Facebook status?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Corrupting the children

There are many reasons I enjoy volunteering in Scooter's classroom on a weekly basis. One of the side benefits is the opportunity to inject just a little of my lesbian, freethinker sensibilities. My most recent visit included the suggestion to the kids who started talking about church that some people believe what they were discussing, but other people believe other things.

And then there was this exchange:
Girl: That other girl, who came to the singing thing, looks just like you. I swear you two look alike.
Mouse (taking a minute to register that this would be Trillian): That's Scooter's other mom.
Girl (look of confusion): ...
Mouse: He has two moms.
Girl: What?!
Mouse: Yep. Two moms.
Girl: Is there one husband?
Mouse: Nope. Just two moms.
Girl (slight pause): Look at how my skirt matches my shirt just right.

I love five-year-olds.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

For a few months, I have found it hard to post here. Not that I haven't had many things to say. I've started countless posts and then lost steam and hit 'delete.'

I blame Facebook.

OK, it's not directly Facebook's fault, but that particular site has definitely played a role. I actually had a conversation on this topic with a friend a couple months ago--via Facebook Chat.

See, most of my readers--my regular commenters, at least--are among my Facebook friends. So I feel like they can find out about the more mundane details of my daily life much more easily than trucking over here. And by the time I sit down to compose multiple, (hopefully) coherent paragraphs, my thoughts on the topic feel stale.

So I've decided to redirect things here a bit. I do plan on posting more often between here and the Kitchen. But I think I'll be stepping back just a bit in my writing. I can't quite articulate yet how this will translate to the screen. I expect to write a little less on Scooter, though maybe I'll address how being his parent makes me reflect on my experiences of childhood. I'll also be posting more of my thoughts on autism at a site under my own name (if you're interested, email me and I'll send you over there).

I'll also be updating the look of my blogs, as I get to it. Excuse the mess as I tinker with things I really don't understand.

And something I feel great ambivalence about--I'll be sticking some ads in a sidebar. Not that my readership is so great I'll see much from this, nor do I expect to see much increase in traffic. But maybe I'll earn some coffee money. Besides, I might as well make a few cents on all those people who end up at my site due to various searches on "mouse nest" or because they're looking for women's breasts (seriously, "The post wherein you get to see my breast" is the second most common entry page, after the main site itself).

It may be that ackowledging the changes I've been batting about in my head is completely unnecessary; perhaps they'll barely register for most people. But I wouldn't be me if I didn't overthink things, and then try to drag others into my deliberations.

Monday, January 05, 2009

In the kitchen: pasta fagioli

Want to know about a staple from my poor grad student days? Need a recipe for a deliciously filling soup on a cold day? Head on over to the Kitchen for my first post back.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Oh look, it's 2009

It's taken me a few days, but I'm finally willing to acknowledge that the calendar has rolled over and we have indeed entered a new year. And not that I had wild success with my goals for last year, but I figured, might as well go loftier. So instead of 8 separate goals, I have multiple goals divided into five categories. (Wow, do I love lists!)

  • Continue with exercise, maintaining my enjoyment. At the top of things to do for this goal is to enroll in a ballet class and design the rest of my exercise around that.
  • Meditate regularly. Another holdover from last year. The hardest aspect is just making the time.
  • Figure out allergies and food sensitivities; adjust diet accordingly. I'm headed to the allergist later this week to see if anything turns up in this area. It's the latest idea of my endocrinologist, since my bloodwork still insists there's no thyroid problem.

  • Determine whether or not we'll have a second child. The plan now is to try again, starting in April. We have three pop-sicles remaining, and I've pretty much decided that's the determining factor. If I'm not pregnant after three tries with this donor, I'm done. I haven't quite figured out how miscarriage(s) might come into play, but that's very much on my mind.
  • Make sure Scooter gets the support he needs at school and at home. This will start with a solid IEP in February. Even more crucial will be the transition to first grade with a new teacher. I'll also be working on a sensory diet for him at home, since I remain convinced that the better able he is to handle his sensitivities, the easier other things will be.
  • Develop a range of go-to recipes. I've already started this, particularly with some crockpot cooking, but my goal is to have enough easy-to-ccok dishes in my repertoire to cover four or five nights a week in a month without repetition.

  • De-clutter. This is a slow-and-steady kind of goal. My plan is to devote an hour a week, in segments of fifteen or twenty minutes, to surfaces and drawers and just all of the stuff that has somehow taken over. I will never be an "everything must go in its place" kind of person, but I would like to cut through all the excess papers and such that we've now moved a couple times. I fully expect that I can spend an hour a week (and occasionally more) on this every week of the year and still not get to the end.
  • Organize my desk and work area. Another task that will get an hour a week. Once I get it under control, I will try to maintain it with fifteen minutes a week. Then I can use a little of that "extra" time to tackle the papers mentioned above.
  • Start some green projects in the house. Trillian and I have a mental list, which I hope to commit to paper, starting with some windows. What we tackle after that will depend greatly on finances, so we'll also be focusing on...
  • Focus on reducing, reusing, recycling, rethinking. We've already started re-appropriating items for new uses and just not buying things without debating if we really need them. This year, I hope to bring Scooter into this more.

  • Finish my comps. Brought directly over from last year. I am taking leave until August, so I can't officially take my last set of exams until after that, but I hope to set them up for September and October.
  • Submit my thesis proposal. Just the next step after comps, but one I'll need to get done soon after, especially if I might be taking maternity leave.
  • Use NaNoWriMo for thesis writing. It's not the intended purpose of National Novel Writing Month, but the timing will be just right for me to try to get as many words down as possible. My plan is to pour out various starts and stops, thoughts as they come to me, the ideas that are unsupported as of yet. Then I can take bits of it and prune it into shape while chasing down the appropriate references.

  • Restart The Mouse's Kitchen. I've been having a lot of fun in my physical kitchen and really want to share some of it with others. Since I'll be working on recipes anyway, I can post my favorites. I'll also be writing about coffee, because we've been having some fun on that front too.
  • Post a minimum of five times (here and the Kitchen combined). I've had plenty to say, but have made it here only once a week or so. When I do post on my food blog, I'll link to it from here, at least for a little while. I'll be devoting an entire post to my plans for these sites in the next couple days.
  • Work on two sites under my real name. Not linking to them here. One is a family site, and I don't update nearly often enough. The other is a parenting site Trillian started, but hasn't had time to tweak as she would like or to add new content regularly. I'll be writing there and monkeying with in the background.
Now let's stand back and watch how quickly I forget I ever planned these goals.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Because I'm still ignoring the new year and am not yet dealing with resolutions/goals

I ran by the local grocery store this afternoon to pick up our junk food; that's all we needed since I'd already made the week's official run. In my basket: two frozen pizzas, potato chips, and two bottles of liquor.

Since this is the only grocery store in Springfield, we have one of their savers cards. One of the benefits is supposed to be the bonus coupons printed out with each transaction. Usually they're keyed in some way to the purchases, discounts on either the items purchased or comparable items from other brands.

So the coupon that printed off with the above purchase? Poise bladder control pads.

Dude, it's not like I was going to consume all of the above in one sitting!


Hearing Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" in the car today reminded me of an exchange with some fellow students last year.

We were all filtering in before seminar, early enough that the professor wasn't there yet. A male student was humming a bit and apologetically explained, "I put Talking Heads' Remain in Light on a couple days ago and just can't get the songs out of my head."

I responded enthusiastically, "I have a bunch of their songs on my Shuffle and always find one of their songs to listen to before an exam."

A female student (one I've written about before as annoying me greatly) joined in to add, "Must be before my time. I have no idea who you're talking about."

Now my male colleague is pretty close to her age, and he both knows and appreciates their music. But even more importantly, how could she have ever appreciated Kermit the Frog in the big suit?


Our alma mater made it into a bowl game this year. Since it was a manageable driving distance and in a city with an Ikea, we decided to take a couple days to take it in. Trillian didn't realize until we were there that the last football game I attended was the homecoming game my sophomore year of high school--and that, only because the friend who was driving me to the dance was in the band.

I can follow football much better than I could 20 years ago, and I definitely found that being there made it more exciting than watching at home.

Trillian assures me that I can lay claim to the full college football experience since I had the opportunity to witness a drunken fan getting tossed out of the game. Some perky blonde type, who I'd seen go past us multiple times with a couple beers throughout the game, got into an argument with someone else during the fourth quarter. She was disruptive enough that other people in the same team colors as her were shouting at her to sit down. I believe that the official reason she was asked politely by security, and then more forcefully by a police officer, to leave the area was the cussing she eventually broke into.

Most amusing to me was that her boyfriend was obviously scared of her. Even when the police officer was clearly explaining that this could be done the easy or hard way, he was looking back and forth between the two, deciding which one was scarier.


I have now assembled enough Ikea furniture to feel assured of my butch credentials again (despite the foofy top and shimmery lip balm I'm wearing). I think this is a large part of the Ikea appeal for me. I get to work with tools and build things, but don't have to do any of the planning or detail work.

The down side is that we now have all of the furniture we've been planning to get for our house. So now I'll have to do things like clean and de-clutter.

But maybe I can carry my ratchet around in my back pocket while I do those things, just to maintain the image.