Monday, June 30, 2008

A short and belated observation about people who have no shame

People who are about to get married by a rabbi, especially if it is by their own rabbi, in their own synagogue (as was the case for my sister and my now brother-in-law), often present themselves on Shabbat previous to the nuptuals (which generally works out to be Saturday morning before their Sunday ceremony) for an aufruf-- being called up to the Torah to recite the blessings before and after reading of the same, and/or, for the more adventurous, to actually read a Torah portion.

After that is accomplished, congregation sings congratulatory songs, and everyone pelts the happy couple with (soft) candy, thoughtfully provided either by the synagogue or by the family. Children then race up to collect the bounty, and a rabbi says some nice things and blesses the couple. Most Saturday mornings, especially if it is a largish congregation, there is also a Bar or Bat Mitzva happening. Which means that the teenager at the center of it also eventually gets pelted with candy and then, surrounded by his or her family, blessed.

Here's what I noticed on the morning of my sister's aufruf-- the rabbi, in blessing the couple, wished them many a good thing, including all sorts of signifiers of a long happily married life, but did not in any way mention children. The same rabbi, however, when blessing the Bat Mitzva girl, mentioned the "may you one day stand with your beloved under a wedding canopy" thing. So it's not that they are opposed to mentioning that next life stage. Is it, then, that they feel that getting married is a less iffy proposition than having children is? Or that they don't want to imply that children should necessarily be on the agenda? Or that they don't have to be on the agenda right away? Whatever it was, I appreciated that. I am pretty sure the young couple did too.

To be fair, the rabbi who officiated at the wedding the next day did mention children ("when you are ready"), but I felt that was ok since she spent the previous many minutes talking about the many things that make the newlyweds good together and for each other, knows them very well, and, it could be deduced, knows that they do, some day, want children.

The subject of this post, though? People who have no shame? That, my dears, would, somewhat predictably, be both sets of parents and, maybe less predictably, one other person. The parents, in their toasts. Our parents (mom, to be more precise) wished them children, though almost as an afterthought at the end of their toast, and his parents (mom, again) wished them many children, much more prominently in the toast. It's ok-- you can let out your collective groan now. Some of us did, in real time.

Care to guess who that one other person is? Ok, how about this-- I will tell you, only a few lines down. And then I will rely on the honor system for you to tell me in the comments whether you guessed it. Ok? ok.


It was Monkey. She found a couple of our friends signing the guest book, and wanted to know what they were up to, and whether she was allowed to do that too. Here for your weekday amusement is her note, taking off the idiosyncratic family salutation and fixing her guess-and-go spelling, though it wasn't too bad:

Good luck with your happy life and your children.

Like I said, no shame.

Friday, June 27, 2008

MotherTalk Book Review: More Than it Hurts You

More Hurts The nice thing about this book is that it gets better. For me that was almost exactly half way through the 400 page tome, when the t has been crossed, but the is have not yet been dotted, when the story finally moved out of the too-carefully constructed set-up phase and into the acting, reacting, and interacting phase.

More Than it Hurts You by Darin Strauss is a multi-threaded novel ostensibly about what constitutes the truth, at what level, and how hard are different people willing to look for it. The topic, even the subject matter are compelling and certainly worth the investigation. Unfortunately, the treatment of the material by the author left me wishing for a more thoughtful, more delicate, less heavy-handed approach.

The Publisher's Weekly review that accompanied the call for reviewers stated that in this novel "[t]he stereotypes are intentionally heavy-handed..." And are they ever. I am not sure that people like Josh Goldin actually exist-- shallow by choice, observant but not thoughtful. I can't call him a protagonist, although I suppose we are meant to. Is he compelling? Sympathetic? At times, yes. But mostly he is flat. Except for when he exhibits emotional awareness he should not by rights possess. I was, in fact, puzzled and almost offended when Josh, walking through the hospital to see his son decides that he can handle it, if worst came to worst, but that it was intolerably sad that so many people in the world would never meet Zack. Intolerable sadness of the world not knowing your child is one of the real, very real emotions of bereaved parents. But to me Josh getting to that place that fast and before he knew how dire (or not) his son's condition really was felt like cheating, like skipping a whole boatload of steps.

Likewise, Dori, Josh's wife, is drawn with two notes. Her backstory, I suppose, is meant to explain to us how she turned out this way. But it doesn't, not really, because nobody can be this squashed based on those events alone. Zack, their baby, is described in the most generic baby terms for most of the book, until, at the age of just over 18 month he is suddenly ascribed things resembling thoughts. Even in his parents' thought bubbles he is seen as mostly a lovable vulnerable lump. I know it has been a while since I have had an actual living baby under my care, but I do still remember definite streaks of personality, of determination, of expressed likes and dislikes, of behaviors, fercryingoutloud, that Monkey exhibited from much earlier than that. I am certain that when I thought of her then, I thought of those things, of her, not of generic baby descriptors.

To me, however, the most annoying character in the novel is the narrator, who, omniscient as he is, I must take to be the author himself. While possessed of excellent eye and, often, sharp wit and slicing metaphors, the narrator is heavy-handed. Not content to paint the picture for the readers and let us draw our own conclusions, often the narrator shoves his conclusions, his unassailable by virtue of his omniscience explanations for people's behavior down our throats. Really, Mr. Strauss, after you spend half a page describing a man's thought process to me, I am capable of calling it rationalization myself. Having you spend another sentence telling me so feels no less insulting and patronizing than the way your fictional reporter treats one of your fictional characters.

One character in the novel does speak to me, though. Dr. Darlene Stokes is, I feel, the most realistic character in the bunch, and most familiar to me. Though I did not rise from that little, nor climbed that high, I share Dr. Stokes' dislike for workplace politics, her social awkwardness, her reliance on objective truth, her drive to know, her passion for observing and analyzing society around her, her inability to lie to her child. This is another reason, I think, for my dislike of the narrator. Narrator explicitly wishing she would shut up in a socially acceptable manner on a date, as well as other similarly condescending notes, just didn't sit well with me.

I originally asked to review this book because, in the wake of the Texas child removal case, there was a rather intense discussion of the institution of the Child Protection Services among a number of people I know in real life. However, CPS doesn't figure nearly as centrally in the book as you would think, and is drawn in fairly neutral tones. I would, I think, have liked more on the inner workings of the system. I would have liked to see the CPS point person in the book actually get a speaking part, for example.

Finally, the book could've really used a copy editor. Was Darlene born in '66 or '68? Was that thing found on the third visit or the fourth? And was that one thing or both? And really, how hard is it to check that June 12th was not a Wednesday in any year the book could've possibly been set in? Likewise, repeating small observations in only slightly varied contexts in chapters positioned close together makes the observations far less astute. A copy editor is all I am saying.

Overall, this is not a bad summer read. It may, paradoxically, be an even better book club selection. Not because the evening can be spent discussing brilliance of the work, but because it can be spent discussing the many issues raised in the book (albeit via those heavy-handed stereotypes)-- race relations, media influence, authority vs. family, various corporate cultures. There is a certainly a lot there, so don't forget your mixed drinks.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And... exhale

After days of crazy overfilled house, Saturday night and Sunday morning were actually nice and quiet. Only my sister spent the night before the wedding here-- everyone else was at the hotel. Sunday morning, while JD went to get bagels, and before the crowd descended, we even had some time to lazy about our bed, just the girls.

For all of you lovers of shiny, here's some more.

Soon the house was buzzing-- the hair lady, the photographer, bridesmaids, parents, aunt and uncle, my friend Natalie who was doing makeup for everyone in need. Miraculously, even though it was pretty crazy, it all also went pretty smoothly. Cream cheese ended up on bagels, not wedding attire. Coffee was administered strictly orally, and none of it got applied topically-- a minor miracle, considering sheer number of people roaming around my decidedly not-huge house and the amount of said beverage brewed for the occasion. Hair and makeup for seven people was being done in a fairly optimal order and in time.

And then the limo didn't come. For real. Calling the number on the reservation or the number on the company's website yielded no answer. The bride, unlike our mother, however, reacted in the most reasonable manner. All she wanted to know was which car was going to take her and her dress to the temple.

So we all got there, my sister got into her dress, some pictures were taken. I got myself into the bridesmaid dress that still zipped (can you believe it?-- most excellent choice of style back in December, and of size back in February). Then it turned out that our cantor's wife's water broke about 30 minutes before the start of the ceremony. Luckily our ritual director has pipes that some cantors elsewhere likely envy, and even more luckily he was puttering around his office that afternoon and was, therefore, available. He lives close enough by that even with going home to change he was still back in time. I feel compelled to point out that twelve years less one day before the events in question my own wedding got underway much later than scheduled, even though our limos came on time and there were no last minute clergy substitutions. So color me impressed.

Even more shiny for you-- my girls in ivory.

The limos came after the ceremony, thanks to the aunt of the groom who put in ridiculous amount of time calling, and calling, and calling until she got someone on the phone.

I went a bit special effects-happy there. You like?

This is Mozart the mouse, a gift to Monkey from one of the wedding guests. She hardly parted with him since making his acquaintance on Friday.

New cousins. Watching them at the wedding, you would never have believed that the first time they met was Friday. In fact Elizabeth was the one trusted to hold Mozart through the ceremony.

The party rocked all the way to midnight when the bus for the hotel left, the band stopped playing, and the custodians came to take apart the room setup. As the catering was from the Old Country catering business, we had so much food to take home with us that for a while there we were unsure that we would fit into the cars we had with us, and then, upon getting home had to spend about an hour finding room for all that food.

Monday our friends came over to help put a dent in our supplies and to celebrate our own twelfth anniversary. Yesterday the newlyweds took off for their honeymoon and my parents went home, taking Monkey with them. I planned to mark the occasion by staying at work late to catch up on some neglected projects. Instead I got hit with some relatively frequent contractions, necessitating a trip to the hospital. Turned out they were just annoying and not at all productive. Fetal fibronectin was negative, and contractions I got while on the monitor were much milder and much rarer than what sent me in in the first place. So today I am mostly hanging on the couch, and so far so good. Tomorrow I am going back to work with the hopes that yesterday's performance was due to the excitement of the past week, and not to sitting in my work chair.

But dudes... My baby sister is married. Married, I tell you.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Show and Tell: Before the storm

The wedding is tomorrow. The wild ride starts in the morning, but this afternoon I got to stay home and chill while everyone else and a buttload of out of town guests enjoyed a reportedly lovely BBQ at a local park.





I think we are ready.

This post is part of Mel's weekly Show and Tell. Go see what everyone else is up to this weekend.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Meme time

It's meme time. Well, it was meme time two weeks ago when Coggy first tagged me, and then again three days later when Janis did. My excuse for procrastinating? Other than procrastinating? Well, my sister is getting married this weekend, and so my house is crazy house. My go.ogle reader is currently clocking in at 215 unread posts, I have about an hour before we have to head to yet another pre-wedding activity, and I am hiding in the bedroom with the laptop. Seems like a good time to lighten my conscience by doing the limbo meme. So here goes.

1. What were you doing 10 years ago?

Just turned in my master's thesis. Doing research for the PhD. Getting ready to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. Still unpacking from our recent move into the graduate resident apartment in the dorm. Wondering when the hell would the depression meds do their thing-- being able to actually wake up in the morning sounded mighty fine and completely unattainable. (It would take another nine months and a hail Mary pass to kick both the depression and the meds.)

2. What 5 things are you your to-do list today?

1. Accompany my sister to the pre-wedding ritual (the merits of which I am still debating in my head, but she wanted it and seemed to enjoy it and get a lot out of it).
2. Attend wedding rehearsal.
3. Growth scan and cervix state ultrasound-- checks out ok, and I am allowed to dance, a little, at the wedding.
4. Friday night services with a large chunk of the bridal party and guests.
5. Rehearsal dinner.
6. (bonus, if awake after above) Try to reduce the number of unread posts in the reader.

3. List some snacks you enjoy.

Nuts of all kinds
apples and dried apple slices

4. What would you do with a billion dollars?

Build a dual immersion bilingual K-12 school and put enough money into a fund to allow the school to run on the annual income of that fund. The school would be free, and it would be awesome.

Give a bunch of money to Monkey's school for a scholarship fund for families who could use tuition assistance.

Buy land and build environmentally-friendly middle-rise of very nice condos for us and oh, 15-20 families we like. With sports facilities, daycare, art studio, garden, and whatever else I can cram in there.

Move my parents to my city.

Give a lot of money to charities or establish charities where needed-- stillbirth research; something for sensitivity training for medical professionals, especially OB/Gyn offices; early childhood education; literacy research; basic science education; fund training for graduate students and postdocs in science who are looking to strengthen their education training/credentials; advocacy for infertility and insurance coverage for infertility.

Enter some high stakes poker tournaments.

5. List the places you have lived.

The Old City
Small village ~100km outside a European capital (for about 6 weeks)
Another European capital (for about 10 weeks)
Midwestern City where parents still live
East Coast City

6. List the jobs you have done.

Car window washer (self-employed)
Fast food employee
Library page
Dorm front desk worker
Lab rat/graduate student

7. List the people you would like to know more about.

You mean I am not the absolute dead last to do this meme? Hm... Beruriah, Thrice, Aurelia, Reality, and Apron Strings.

P.S. Also, a new post up at Glow in the Woods.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hard days


Last year there were times when I was better, and times when I was worse. Three months increments seemed to be especially tough. Others said it was that way for them too, like the trimesters of pregnancy. This weekend three of our own are facing those round increments, and I think of them, and their babies. Please think of them too.

Today CLC is marking six months since Hannah was born still. Yesterday Amy marked the same terrible date for her son William Henry. This weekend Kate is marking a year since the night they held Liam as they let him go.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

MotherTalk book review: The Maternal is Political

Maternal is Political 2 I have no idea whether it was coincidence or whether finding out I was included among the reviewers for this book got me looking for this kind of thing, but ever since it had pretty much been raining opportunities to think about the intersection of maternal and political around here.

Last week Monkey's classmate spent the night here, and I had to get both of them to school the next morning. No biggie, except it was before Shavuot, and the girl's mom forgot about the school request to have the kids wear a white shirt and bring in a fruit the day after the sleepover. The white shirt was no problem-- Monkey has a bunch. It the fruit I was a bit worried about driving home from the afterschool activity both girls attend the night of the sleepover-- we were on the distal end of the shopping week, and I wasn't sure how many apples were left in the fruit bowl. Two, lucky me.

I didn't know what the school was going to do with the fruit, but we dutifully deposited the apples into baskets in the school lobby the next morning. As we were headed out that afternoon, that was what I asked about. "What did you do with the fruit?" "We didn't do anything. It's going to the Women and Children Lunch Place." Ah, that explains it-- the school is heavy into tzedaka, charity. The kindergarten class had a wildly successful spare change money drive this spring to raise the money to donate a goat through Heffer International (Monkey took in some change, but also some of the money she got for her birthday), so successful they got two goats and some other small creatures. There are a couple of food drives and a couple of clothing drives each year. There was even a bicycle drive organized by one of the Bat Mitzva girls.

I considered, for the briefest of moments, dropping the subject right there. My curiosity was satisfied, and Monkey was actually now telling me about the other unusual part of the day-- the multi-age group projects they engaged in that afternoon in celebration of Shavuot. But Shavuot is a holiday at least partly about learning, the educator in me knows that an educational activity is only meaningful if you think through it and assimilate it, and in the end this was a setup too rich to drop. So we talked about it. Where IT was big enough to fill the entirety of our drive.

We talked about why places like the lunch place have to exist. Monkey didn't like that the place singled out women and children. What about fathers, she wanted to know, what if they get hungry. I told her that I was sure they wouldn't turn a daddy away, but then we had to talk about why women and children might need extra help, extra protection. Yeah, gender politics for a six year old. I was surprised to realize that having that part of the conversation actually made me feel ashamed. Ashamed that in this country, in the 21st century, it was still a relevant, oh, so very relevant a topic. (I have to say that having grown up in a place where gender equality was so much more a given, I had many a moment of adjustment since coming to the US-- realizing again and again that the things that are obvious as day in my head are not so in this culture.) We talked about why fresh fruit was an especially good gift to the place. We even talked about why it may be able to help more people if the place cooks and serves food rather than hands some out to each family (the class read about and cooked stone soup earlier in the school year, and I was happy to see that she got the connection). And I felt no compunction whatsoever telling her that because this place is needed, because there is so much social injustice around us, mommy and daddy will be voting D this November and for as far an the eye can see.

In "The Maternal is Political", a collection of essays by women about the very many intersections of mothering and public policy, there are two essays that are, to some degree, about shaping the little people that live in our houses in our own political images, about what happens when they then take their budding beliefs with them back to school. I have to say that in our case, the last part is less worrisome than for at least one of the writers (Carolyn Alessio)-- our school, unlike her daughter's, would never ask why we would talk to our daughter about voting. Our school, in fact, stages mock presidential debates and mock elections, and, in the spirit of making their educational objectives very-very transparent, tells the students that the reason they are doing all of this is so that the students learn to appreciate their citizenship, so that they learn to feel responsible for their country, and so that when the time comes, they are ready and eager to vote for real.

The essays in the book span a wide range of topics. When my sister came to visit the afternoon my copy of the book first arrived, she grabbed it, scanned the names on the cover, and immediately dove in to look for Susie Bright's contribution. She then made merciless fun of me for not knowing who Susie Bright is and proceeded to read large chunks of Susie's essay out loud. First grade values Susie talks about sounded pretty trying to navigate, and I was feeling all smug about not needing similarly deep conversations to handle the kindergarten values. Of course you know what comes next, right? Pride, fall, predictable order thereof.

Monkey's previously professed best friend in class' mom asked me whether there is any truth to Monkey not wanting to play with her daughter as she has been reporting lately. My gut reaction was to say can't be-- Monkey had written in her very first diary that she got for her birthday that Hannah is her best friend in school. Yes, but since then, Hannah's mom insisted. I asked Monkey later on that afternoon, and what do you know-- another girl in the class has "made me like her more." Um, how exactly could she do that, I asked, taking note of Monkey looking very uncomfortable and rather shamed. "She kept telling me how she is better than Hannah, and how I should play with her instead." What I was dumbfounded by was that she was willing to suspend her judgement. We talked about that. Then JD came home, and they talked about it. Next day I listened as she apologized to Hannah, clearly feeling very bad about her behavior and searching for the right words. Hannah said "Thank you for saying you are sorry," and Monkey said "you are welcome," and I snorted. I then collected myself and talked to the both girls about using their own heads and their own judgement and not letting anyone else, even another friend, set rules for them.

There were many more moments of recognition for me. I was grateful to find that I am not the only one who gets the blood in the ears, can't stop myself even though I probably should compunction to talk sharply and uncompromisingly about difficult and controversial topics, especially when the topic is raised in an unfair and biased way. Why, if Anne Lamont herself can't resist, surely I can be forgiven for succumbing once in a while. Although I have never tried M&Ms as a recovery treat afterwards. I should remember that. In the impolitic section, I was also cheering for Amy L. Jenkins as she was taking on the fresh-faced and self-congratulatory patriarchy of a preacher's son. Speaking of which, listen, kid... If you get beaten in sports by a girl, don't make it her problem. You are welcome to work as hard or harder and to beat her next time. Got it?

It's the same thing, really, that had me furious good fifteen years ago in the conversation with a friend who was studying to become an Orthodox rabbi and who, at that particular moment, was trying to tell me that the reason women should not sing in services is that their voices may distract men into thinking impure thoughts. Dude, I said, you are saying that men, that YOU have no self-control, but that somehow that is supposed to be MY problem? It is supposed to prevent me from getting the most out of services? What we have here then is reason #7337 that I will never be Orthodox. (Ok, one more confession. JD feels bad for the boys on playground who come there with their dads, try to show Monkey up, and inevitably end up shown up themselves. He doesn't feel anywhere nearly bad enough to say anything but "great job!" to Monkey, but he does tell me he feels bad for the boys being shown up in front of their dads. One chink in his feminist armor. We are working on it.)

And should I even mention the vigorous internal head nodding that was happening as I was reading several authors' sharp critiques of the system in academia that serves to bottleneck women out of the prestigious and secure career tracks and into part-time and adjunct roles? It was particularly vigorous these past couple of weeks as I wage my own battle for respect as an educationalist working with at least one reluctant member of the science faculty. My sister, by the way, was rather pissed at me a couple of years ago when I decided that I would not be returning to bench science and would instead stick with education. She thought I was giving up. I wasn't. I was making a choice between things I was good at and liked in favor of the field that required less time away from my family. Not that I wasn't pissed too. But what I was pissed about was that the choice I was facing was tremendously lopsided by virtue of the structure of academia. I understand why my sister was mad-- at the time I was deciding to walk away from the bench for good, she was applying to graduate schools. She was just beginning on the path that might, one day, bring her to the same exact choice, and she might not like her other option as much as I like mine.

I would like to have coffee, if coffee could last for, say, days, with many of the authors in this volume. I want to talk with Marion Winik about wonder, but also about the community and social justice charges of my faith. With Sarah Masterson about immigrant nannies. With Ann Douglass about working political campaigns. With Jennifer Brisendine about the impact of No Child Left Behind on both elementary and secondary education. And I would love to hear from Barbara Kingslover what happened to her daughter since that letter at thirteen. For my imaginary date with Kris Malone Grossman I think I would need something stronger than coffee. Untangling gender politics in academia, society, and family unit, with an eye on raising girls as it differs from raising boys? That seems to call for at least a pitcher of fruity drinks.

Not that I agree with every author in this book on every single point. I would love to argue to Stephanie Losee that it is ok to raise a political mini-me, as long as you make sure that your child isn't just parroting your words but can in fact argue for his or her beliefs. I would like to argue with Carolyn Alessio about immigration. Because really, she can't expect to just toss that little nugget out there and have it go unnoticed.

The book is meaty. There are a lot of things in it I don't have personal experience with-- representing a culture's idea of beauty by virtue of looking like that culture's former oppressors; raising a minority child to not self-segregate away from opportunity; intersection of mothering and serious mental illness; generational memory and second-parent adoption in a same-sex couple; mommy wars from the point of view of a onetime active participant; disability; being a prominent figure. The book is chock full of thought-provoking and just plain good writing. It will highlight phenomena you might not have thought about, or might not have thought that important. It will make you nod your head, and it will likely make you shake it too, for we can't possibly all agree on everything. It will make you think. It's a great book.

In fact the only negative I have about the book, and I saved it for last because I hesitate a bit here, is that I find myself needing to recommend that you skip the introduction by the volume's editor, Shari Macdonald Strong. I hesitate because clearly she did a great job collecting and editing these essays. I imagine that assembling such a diverse and stellar cast of writers couldn't have been easy. And that is exactly why the introductory essay doesn't sit right with me. It feels too light, too cartoonish, too ditzy even for what comes next-- profound, honest, deep. The intro, as I read it, is an overstrained cheer for team Engaged Mom, a motivational speech about how ha-ha, I used to be such a ditz, like totally, and if I can be reformed by motherhood, so can anybody-- rah-rah, goooooo team. It felt, to me, unworthy of the volume's contents, too fluffy for the serious and honest treatment the rest of the essays give its subject matter. In fact, Shari Macdonald Strong's other essay in the volume, although not my favorite, is much-much better, and you are honestly a lot better off with that essay as your sole impression of the volume's editor as a writer.

So that is my recommendation to you-- skip the intro, read the book. And because it is conveniently subdivided into bite sized pieces (i.e. individual essays), you can sneak one or two of those in between all those boring adult activities that make your life run. You might even experience some withdrawal symptoms when you finish the book. In that case, look up two of your favorite contributors on the internets and call me in the morning.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


At this moment in time, I seem to lack the self-examination skills to determine whether what I am about to write is a giant whine. If it is, please feel free to change the channel, pausing only to whack me upside the head. The reason I think it very well might be a whine is that I am pretty sure I just heard the world's tiniest violin do its thing somewhere in my vicinity as I made disgruntled faces at the piece of cake that signified the blessed end to the three day torture known around these parts as carbing up for the three hour glucose tolerance test. For which I am to present myself to the lovely gentleman at my OB's office whom I would call the lab vampire if he wasn't so lovely tomorrow morning at 7:30am sharp.

I failed that one hour test last week, and since I am trying to do everything by the book this time, I am taking the three hour tomorrow. The prep protocol calls for eating what for me seems like inordinate amounts of extra carbs for three days, and while I sort of thought I might enjoy some of this, it had instead knocked me on my ass. It seems I just can't handle this much sugar. It makes me miserable, exhausted, completely wiped out. It has been so bad that I have been bitching about it to several people.

I haven't written much about how the pregnancy is going physically, nor do I tend to talk about it much in my daily life, mostly because it is a rather boring recitation of small indignancies and minor inconveniences. I am not trying to look heroic with that last statement-- my outlook has genuinely shifted. In A's pregnancy, when the pelvic pain showed up, it nearly knocked me over. I was already feeling physically pretty crappy, and this felt like it might be that last straw. I used heat pads and water bottles and felt a bit defeated to be dealing with this thing too. In this pregnancy, it showed up earlier than last time, and yet, I am deeply philosophical about it. I wince, once in a while. I even groan, and, on occasion, when JD had done something that he should've known was a bad idea because it was likely to, and did indeed result in aggravation of that pain, I got grouchy. (I just re-read that sentense and realized that it sounds a bit single-track there. Sorry to disappoint, but you will have to get your mind out of the gutter. What he did was let Monkey crawl into our bed in the middle of the night, leaving much less room for me than I require not to wake up more sore than I went to sleep.) I have, though, been perceiving this and all the other physical stuff as merely temporary inconveniences, and so not worth griping about. I know for a fact that this pain ends.

Yesterday someone asked me how I was doing with the pregnancy. I said it was hard. "Of course, the heat," she said. And she seemed genuinely surprised when I said that it wasn't the heat at all. She wanted to know what it was, and, feeling honest for some reason, I told her that it was scary. She didn't even fully get it then, talking about how she remembers being for some reason afraid when she was pregnant and her husband was away, just laying there in their bed and being afraid. Um, no... Not exactly.

The topic of what it takes to decide you are ready to try again is in the air in deadbabyland. Some bloggers have been pregnant for months now, some have just announced, and a few are struggling with whether they are ready to try, and what that actually means. Someone said those of us who gave it another go are brave. I don't feel brave. Last year, when we were just starting to try, I wrote about not feeling brave on account of not feeling like I have a choice.

What I said there still holds, it is all still true. But now, from where I sit (and as I hear that violin tuning up again) there is something else that is pretty clear to me-- I jumped in with no real idea of what I was getting myself into. Oh, I knew it was going to be hard, like I theoretically know that running a marathon is tough. But I had no real frame of reference for how hard this really is. How much emotional reserves it takes. How vigilant it makes me, and how much that takes out of me-- feeling responsible for keeping track of movements, doing the doppler dance (the record so far stands at six times in one day, one particularly bad day).

I am a bit of a freak, I think, because I also worry about being too forceful in trying to get the baby to kick. I think my general style of parenting is so hands-off that I don't feel entitled to perturbing the situation too much just to assuage my paranoia. But with anterior placenta and the baby who is apparently very happy to keep hanging out transverse breach (with his head over my bladder, facing up) my situation seems to resemble nothing so much as being up a hard to navigate body of water without an implement that is meant to make that navigation possible.

This next thing I want to say isn't just an obligatory disclaimer. I really wouldn't trade being where I am right now-- 27 weeks 2 days, in the third trimester or on its cuff no matter how you draw the borders between those. No, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Yes, I am hopelessly attached to this new boy already, and yes, the mathematical likelihood of a positive outcome, an outcome, which, by the way, I am having great trouble visualizing even now, is so much higher now than when we just started. But more practically, now I know. Now I know how hard it is to get here, how scary even with having a great doctor at a great hospital and with everything going pretty much well. Now I know. Now the idea of going through a pregnancy is no longer theoretical. If when we were deciding to try again I knew what I know now, I think I would hesitate a lot more. There was no bravery in that decision for me. It was pure, reckless drive. And for that I am grateful.

I know, too, that if that outcome I can't visualize does actually come true, if we walk away with a real live take home baby, every little bit will be worth it. Even that last piece of cake, heavy and carb loaded as it was.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Show and Tell-- Better late edition

The A students in the class have all turned in their show and tell projects like 30 hours ago. I am aiming for a C this week. But better late than never, right?

We don't have a dog (yet), but I do have an excuse-- our air conditioner broke. All dead, very bad. Of course (and this next part is all so I can vent about how right I was and how wrong he was, he-he-he), when I told JD that I thought something was amiss with it a week ago, he blaimed it on not reprogramming our programmable thermostat to summer schedule yet. And then it rained, so it was all good. And then it was Saturday, and 90+ outside, and some young ladies showing up to my house for my sister's wedding shower I was hosting, and...

It actually wasn't too bad on Saturday-- the house kept its cool for most of the day. When the shower was over and JD came back, I was starting to suspect that we were in for an unpleasant night. He thought it was just taking a while to cool the house. He finally went outside to look at the AC unit itself after 9pm, and came back looking very-very grim. The worst part? We had another party planned for Sunday-- his and a friend of ours birthday. We always celebrate these two together (and call JD and this friend, Irene, twins because their birthdays fall into that section of the horoscope).

The party was planned for 2:30, but by 11 the temperature outside was nearing 90, and in consultation with Irene we moved the party to 5. Good idea, as that allowed JD to install two window units (one ours and one a friend's), and I even got to lie down near one of the window units for about an hour before the party started.

Anyway, the party was a bit of work, but lots of fun. Winced once, when someone who didn't know about my current status before congratulated me, but mostly it was good. If very-very hot. We also played musical chairs a lot-- JD set out a bunch of chairs outside, but there were more people so someone was on the ground, and someone was standing all the time. When I was outside, I mostly sat in this one chair in the shade. It was nicely located, and I got some excellent candid shots of both adults and kids (who were doing a great job entertaining themselves, even if the end result is that most of the content of Monkey's closet is currently on the floor of her room; oh, well, at least it's contained) right from it. But then another chair freed up, and I wanted to talk to someone sitting in the chair next to the temporarily empty one, so I grabbed it. Turns out, from my previous spot I was missing a gorgeous sunset.



These pictures were taken no more than 90 seconds apart-- the light was really playing tricks, and fast.

So this is my show and tell submission this week-- a lovely and unexpected end to a very hot weekend.

As I finish up writing this, a lot of hundreds of dollars lighter, our air conditioner is repaired. The culprit was the compressor that gave out. The electrician who came out to look at it yesterday nearly got electrocuted for his troubles when he thought it might have just been the fuse, and tried to start the thing up again. But this morning he sent a couple of trainees to haul the old one away, then bring the new one, then showed up himself to connect everything and write the final bill. Which I paid, almost gladly.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Small steps

I moved the plant, re-potted it. All by myself.


Monkey helped me pick the pot, but since we only have adult size gardening gloves, I was the one to actually re-pot it.


I feel compelled to point out that I have never ever done anything like this before. I wouldn't have even known how to go about doing it. Like, do you just get the root-bound cluster of soil from the old container and stick it into the middle of the pre-filled pot? Luckily, the bag of the potting mix had instructions right on it, and I followed them. There is truly a first time for everything.


I didn't notice the new buds until this morning.


There is three of them, and I am suddenly ever so slightly more invested in not having killed the plant in the process of re-potting it. I guess we will know soon enough.

I am taking a sick day tomorrow. I have been stressed and overwhelmed, and have had a common condition of pregnancy (arrhythmia) act up that can be aggravated by being tired or dehydrated. I am usually pretty well hydrated, but I will work on floating myself while getting up as little as possible tomorrow. Can be tricky, what with a somewhat predictable need to, throughout the day, let all that water go, but I think I will manage. I have been in a much more cheerful mood since deciding to take the day. Go figure. And I hope to write a real post then, and to catch up with everyone's blogs.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Show and Tell Sunday: Time lapse

I am, as I admitted in the comments of the last post, a horticultural ignoramus. A city kid who grew up in an apartment, moved to a different apartment half way around the globe, and then left for college the weekend before her parents moved into their first ever house. Don't look at my side yard-- it's really embarrassing. It's not that I wouldn't like to grow something. It's just that keeping track of what needs to happen to keep things that don't speak for themselves alive somehow takes a back seat to everything else I have to do. I have admired many a blogger's lovely garden, and I have thought, more that once, that it would be cool to grow something. What I have always been afraid of, though, is that my involvement would spell doom for the poor condemned flora.

But I am also not looking to disappoint my child, so when the school sent home a plastic cup with a label that proclaimed the contents to be a marigold seed planted by my own offspring, I felt unduly responsible for its well being. I watered it even though it never seemed to do anything. When JD would move the cup, I would remember to find it and make sure it has been watered recently enough to keep the soil wet.

That game went on for a while-- me taking care of the thing, and it giving me nothing in return. Then, all of a sudden it seemed to explode with green above the soil. Even looking at the soil through the clearish plastic cup I can see lots and lots of thin green lines-- the damn thing grew. Even more amazingly, it started to flower. The first bud appeared right before JD and Monkey left for the Old City. I took pictures almost every day while they were gone. They came back yesterday, and now we have two blooming flowers.





I have no idea why watching the thing bloom in that plastic cup makes me so happy. It's small, it's confined, and I didn't have to do anything except water it. But it's just that I never had anything grow from seed for me before. Do you think it means I am ready for more challenging projects? And what do I do with the marigold now? Will it continue to be happy in the cup, or am I supposed to move it somewhere?

This post is part of Mel's Show and Tell. Go see what the cool kids are showing and telling, and, if you are so inclined, jump in yourself.