Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

This past year was simply awful, in a way it hasn't been since the horrible duo of 2001 and 2002 where I lost my remaining grandparents, my father was diagnosed and my mother had her accident. This year was lonely and depressed, and was rather hard on a number of friends as well. So phooey on you, 2007. We won't miss you one tiny little bit.

It would take a significant amount of work for 2008 not to be better than 2007, so I have high hopes for the coming year. I wish nothing but happiness and good cheer for all of you in the next year, and a reversal of fortunes for those of us who have been on the receiving end of too much bad luck.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

We are now somewhat moved into the new house. Well, our furniture and a lot of our clothes are moved into the new house, and our old house bears a suspicious resemblance to the floor of a teenage boy's bedroom, with lots of stuff strewn haphazardly over the floor but hopefully less mold.

I do quite like the new house. For some reason, it was always smaller in my memory than it actually is, so the past day has been spent feeling pleasantly surprised at how spacious our new surroundings really are. Our bedroom is smaller, but we had more room than we needed and in all the wrong directions before. K's bedroom is bigger and the guest room is about the same size but a better shape. The same goes for the kitchen, which is no longer so narrow that if two people want to pass each other in it, they really need to be married for it to be moral. The dining room is smaller, but we can say a cavalier "Pshaw" to that little detail because of the basement rec room, which is huge. We have all of our living room furniture in it, the tv and entertainment center and all of K's toys, including the sizeable train table she got for Christmas, and it still doesn't feel crowded. The upstairs living room is going to hold most of our bookcases and serve as a library, and if the table feels too crowded in the dining room, there's enough room to put it in there as well. It's all the same room, really, just in an L shape (the kitchen-living room-dining room are basically a big square room with a wall between the the kitchen and living room. I think if I owned this house, I would knock down the wall and put up an island so the entire area would be open.

Hopefully our process of ant-like ferrying of our stuff from one house to the next will be efficient enough to have us out in the next two weeks (with a five-day chunk taken out for a trip to Michigan for Christmas. I keep forgetting about the little detail of a plane trip this week, or at least I remember it, but not that it's this week. When my mother told me tonight she would see me in three days, it came as a big shock even though the logistics of the trip were about half of our phone conversation. My brain, it is mush). We are at stage two of stuff, the three stages being:

1. The things you absolutely need to live in your house in any sort of reasonable comfort (i.e., not just sleeping on an air mattress and eating sitting on a folding chair with your plate on your knees)
2. The things you don't need right away but are still nice to have
3. The crap you should have thrown away five years ago but still inexplicably carry from house to house, sometimes not even bothering to take it out of the box in between

I am not yet sick of moving. I expect I will be singing a very different tune around December 28 or so though, so stay tuned.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I talked to my boss today about getting catalog cards that could go through the printer, and while I had her blessing to make free with the Gaylord catalog, talked her into spine labels for the printer as well as more book tape. Christmas gifts for the geeky librarian!

I completed my campaign to pull the library into the 20th century by making my best pitch for putting the catalog on the computer, and I think I've talked her into it (as far as I can tell, her hesitation is due to the number of staff hours it would take to do the data entry. But the museum worker there and I pointed out that it was the sort of work you could do during quiet times and pick up and put down. Plus we have a couple of new volunteers just ripe to abuse with a stultifying project). And it's a good thing I did because I discovered a couple powerful new reasons to have the catalog on computer.

First, I dropped an entire drawerful of cards. Fortunately, they dropped in a clump and didn't get out of order, so it was easy to clean them up. But that wouldn't happen with a computer. Of course, dropping a computer would have much more disastrous consequences, but I don't think I would have as many occasions to be carrying around our desktop. Also, electronic records are much easier to duplicate than five hundred billion catalog cards.

Then, I was filing cards and discovered a problem I hadn't thought of before but is an obvious issue in any library with records going back far enough: outdated subject headings. More to the point, outdated subject headings that use terms that are now considered offensive. Specifically, I was in the N drawer and found the section of cards for the subject headings that start with "Negro." Erk. I pulled them all as quickly as I could so I could update them to the current term and went through the rest of the catalog to get the other related cards that might have those subject headings on them.* And while I was at that tedious task, I thought about how easy it would be to simply call up on the computer all the records that use that term and change them in one fell swoop. A five minute job, which will take me much longer since I have to retype all of the cards and then file them again. I can't wait until we move our level of technology into the 1980s.

*If reading about this makes you want to rant about all of the PCness rampant in the world today, please don't bother sharing it. While on the one hand I certainly have my eye-rolling moments and occasionally want to point out that changing what you call yourself isn't necessarily going to leave behind the baggage of prejudice you experience, it seems to me that an awful lot of what people call PC is common politeness. And it seems like an awful lot of the time, when I see people ranting about it, what they're really saying is that they don't want to interrogate their internalized racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., and they resent being made uncomfortable by you bringing the topic up and making them think about it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I think we are in complete denial about the fact that we're moving in THREE DAYS. Currently, I'm sitting here working on the sweater for K that has consumed my brain lately; I don't want to do Ebay stuff, I certainly don't want to pack, I just want to knit. Our books are about half packed right now, and I threw some bathroom stuff in a box earlier today. We have a bunch of stuff that never really got unpacked which has mostly been moved over to the new house, so it can sit mostly unpacked in _that_ garage. But other than that? We're woefully underpacked when you consider that we rented a truck for Sunday.

The problem is that we've been lured by the siren song of the fact that we're only moving two miles and we have an entire month of overlap between leases. Theoretically, this means we can take stuff over in stages in a leisurely manner, hopping and skipping all the way. But I'm starting to be afraid what will actually happen is that we'll find ourselves late on December 30, shoveling our crap into the car for trip after endless trip as our belongings mate and multiply before our very eyes.

It's not too late to avoid this dire fate. I could start by closing the laptop and getting up and packing more books. Did I mention we discovered this week that there are built-in bookshelves in the rec room downstairs of our new house? And a totally cool fold-out desk in the wall.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Sisyphus at the Typewriter; or, Keep Your Wooden Sabots Away From My Computer

We recently got a huge donation of cat-themed mysteries at work. This is great since we have a high little-old-lady quotient among our patrons, so books that combine mysteries AND cats are the intersection of perfect.

But I have begun to feel like if I go to purgatory when I die, I will be required to type "Lilian Jackson Braun" over and over for the rest of eternity, probably on a typewriter where every third key sticks.

I don't mind using the typewriter for cataloging, even the days like yesterday when I'm clearly too tired to be operating heavy machinery* and I wind up awash in correction fluid. What I mind is typing the same thing over and over and over again on each of the minimum of three catalog cards every book requires, and the fresh hell that breaks loose when a book has subject headings assigned, which each need a card of their own.

Today I realized that while we don't have 3x5 cards that can go through the printer, we do have card stock and a paper cutter. So I took ten minutes and set up a template in Word. And then I cataloged nine books in 15 minutes through the magic of cut and paste when yesterday it took me an hour and a half to get through 6 books. Behold the power of library automation.

*You don't think a typewriter is heavy machinery? Then I invite you to come try to pick up our venerable IBM Selectric, which as far as I can tell is made from a cross between concrete, anvils and pure malevolence. Always assuming you're not scared off by the way it squats in the corner of the room, humming threateningly and radiating evil, of course.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Two books I found at work today

Your Psychic Power and How to Develop Them

Psychic Archeology: Your Time Machine to the Past

And as a result of this, I now know that "Parapsychology and Archeology" is a Library of Congress subject heading. Words cannot express my delight.

We have a surprisingly large 133* section. I think we may have gotten a donation from a generous crackpot, or perhaps the crackpot's heirs. I think that section may soon get quite a bit smaller, since I don't think we really need to be giving shelf space to the writings of crazy nutters that haven't been checked out in the past twenty years. If they were popular writings of crazy nutters, that would be a different matter entirely. But given the dust from a bygone prehistoric era that puffs up every time you open one of those books, I think that's a section ripe for weeding.

*Occultism and Supernatural/Parapsychology/crazy weird ravings by eccentric loons

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The textbook definition of "mixed blessing"

The other day, K took off a wet diaper and put it in the toilet. There's a certain logic there, but I don't like to think what a large cloth diaper would do to our plumbing.

However, she wasn't able to flush the toilet because the handle has been broken for the past two weeks and the only way to flush is to lift the lid off and yank the chain, which K isn't nearly storng enough to do.

Do you think I should send our landlord a thank you note for his negligence?

Thursday, November 29, 2007


(and a half)

I've been terribly negligent in keeping up with the K updates. The combination of a chaotic summer, depression and grief, too much work and the fact that her development just isn't as dramatic from month to month any more have all conspired to keep me from writing all of her incredible changes down.

I know for many people two is a challenging age. And we certainly have our share of tantrums, defiance and a very definite, yet capricious idea of how the world should be ordered. But I have to say (and don't hate me for this, fellow parents of two-year-olds), two is an absolutely fabulous age for us. Because we had all of those negative behaviors before she turned two, but we also had screaming and bucking when we tried to get her in her carseat, a desperate need for instant gratification and a hair-trigger whine. All that is a lot better these days, and two is a walk in the park compared to 21 and 22 months.

Mental development:

I think the improvement in disposition can be traced to a few leaps forward in brain development:

1. She has a much better understanding of sequences, and therefore understands that, for instance, to go to the library we first have to put her shoes and coat on and then get in the car, so she will do all of those things willingly. And she recognizes that I have to go through certain steps to make her lunch, so as long as she sees me doing those things, she doesn't need to wail until she gets the food she wants. I can't begin to say how much more pleasant this makes life.

2. She can talk better and get across a lot of what she needs verbally. I was worried about her speech for a while - it seemed odd that a child that had a vocabulary that big didn't seem to talk much. As it turns out, she was talking, just not intelligibly. But she's more understandable and I'm listening more closely, so we're communicating much better now.

It feels like K is losing so much of the randomness of early toddlerhood. She goes about her play with so much purpose. She plays with her trains and cars, builds towers with her blocks, uses her doctor kit to listen to our hearts and look in our ears, makes pretend cookies out of play-doh, makes her dinosaurs roar and takes meticulous care of her baby doll. What she does these days is a lot more recognizable tasks of imaginative play and a lot less random playing with physics (shaking and banging things, taking things in and out of other things, ripping things up, etc).

She recognizes some letters, can count objects at least up to ten, recognizes shapes and colors and knows her body parts. She can unhesitatingly match shapes.

I am doing my best to provide her with a wide variety of potential interests that ignore stereotypical gender lines, and so far it seems to be working. She loves her blocks and trains, her toy toolkit, dinosaurs (why, oh why do girls' clothes not have dinosaurs on them?) and running her cars down ramps. But she also loves to help me cook and do housework, try on new clothes and is absolutely, passionately baby-obsessed. Lately, her baby doll is her favorite toy and we can't go anywhere without it and its bottles just in case it gets hungry. She dresses it and tenderly straps it into its stroller.

That seems like a nice balance of interests to me. Right now, she has no idea that there are certain things she should and shouldn't like because of her sex, and I'm hoping to keep it that way for a while.

Physical development:

I'm in awe of how far her gross motor skills have come from last spring when I first started taking her to the playground to now. She started the summer crawling up stairs, teetering across the bridges and was more likely to try to step out into thin air than to successfully sit down at the top of a slide to slide down. Now, she walks up and down stairs holding onto the rail, runs confidently, has mastered slides and is obsessed with ladders, which she has mostly figured out.

Her fine motor skills are just fantastic. Recently, she picked up a jar of tiny beads and I found her successfully threading them onto a cord. She uses silverware well and has figured out a way to use chopsticks in a very clumsy, yet somewhat successful fashion. She can put on a shirt, pants and socks (she's been successfully stripping naked for nearly two years now).

K is currently 35.5 inches and 29 pounds. Her arms and legs are getting longer and she's almost lost her toddler potbelly. I can't believe how much she's grown up in the past few months. I can see her babyhood slipping away, almost gone, with this child emerging in her place. Sniff.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

So have I ever really talked about my job?

As I've said, it's a library in a museum in a gorgeous Victorian mansion. It's in a park where I often take K, since it has a really good playground. As it turns out, the park, the museum and the library are all the gift of Robert Ryerss, a rich man who died in 1910. He was a Quaker, the descendant of someone who came over with William Penn, and believed strongly in public service. So when it was clear he was going to die childless, he left his summer house and the land around it to the city to make a park, museum and public library. His wife (his former housekeeper) decided that there wasn't enough stuff in the house to make a proper museum, so she went on an around-the-world shopping trip, bringing back anything she thought was interesting. She wound up bringing so much back that they had to build an addition on the house (a lot of that was because there were some big Buddhas that wouldn't fit in the original house).

So the museum consists of the first floor, which is set up the way a Victorian house would have been set up, two gigantic rooms full of a fascinating variety of stuff, and then the library on the second floor, where the bedrooms used to be. The library is just like a small public library - popular fiction, a wide variety of non-fiction, some local history and a children's section.

It's not intentional, but the library is a bit of an antique just like the rest of the house. We do pretty well keeping current with adult popular fiction and some adult non-fiction, but there isn't any regular purchasing for the children's section, which means it's more than a little bit dated. And speaking of dated, we still have a card catalog.

I have several goals for this job. One is to try and get more people in, and younger people. We're a well-kept secret with a small core clientele, who tend to be on the antique side themselves. I think we really need to get younger people in, and the best way to do that is try to attract children. We have a bunch of prepared children's programs, so I'm probably going to start trying to run them in the new year. I may try to start a storytime as well. I'm going to state for the record that both of these projects are so far out of my comfort zone that I can't even see it on the horizon, but at least now that I'm a parent, I feel like I'm marginally capable of this. I've been to a lot of storytimes recently, which gives me a much better idea of what works well.

My second project is rearranging the children's section. It's broken up into a lot of smaller sections, but none of the books have spine labels, which means I tend to spend a lot of time wandering around trying to figure out where books should go. In a library, not knowing where the books go is, what's the term? Oh yes, incredibly, stupendously, horrifyingly bad. Bad bad bad. And did I mention bad? So I'm going to put spine labels on all of the books so we know where they go. Before I do that, I need to make sure all of the books are where I want them to be, so I'm slowly shifting and rearranging.

And as I'm doing the spine labels, I'm going to be working on my third project - moving everything to the computer. I'm not talking about getting rid of the card catalog, but there's no reason that we can't do the cataloging on the computer and then print out cards for the physical catalog too. Right now, all of our cataloging (typing the cards and the labels) is done on the typewriter and it's absolutely unnecessary. All of that can be done on the computer and save us a huge amount of time and tedium. I'm not sure what's worse - having to type out five cards for the same book (one each for author, title, subject headings and the shelf list), or discovering at the end that you've faithfully reproduced the same mistake on all five of them. We don't have a correction ribbon either, which makes typing a much more hazardous proposition. You never quite realize how bad a typist you are until you have to use a typewriter and can't backspace to erase your mistakes. If I were doing this on the computer, even if all I were using was Word, I could use copy and paste to only have to type out one card and then make the minor changes for the other cards.

I'm sure I don't even need to talk about the advantages of having the catalog on the computer. Besides the better searching capabilities, it would solve the problem I've been finding of catalog cards that aren't always in the right order. Argh. Pardon me while I go whimper in the corner now. Once the cards are out of order, all is lost. Quite literally.

So! Clearly it's going to be a while until I'm bored at work. These projects are all in addition to the normal work of checking books in and out, helping patrons and all of the sundry other things librarians do. Lately, it's been printing out seasonal decorations from the web for new displays as we move rapid-fire through the different holiday seasons. I have to admit, my graduate school classes never really prepared me to spend the afternoon cutting out paper snowflakes. And even enjoying it, which is weird because that so isn't me. I'm not the artsy-crafty decorating type, but I seem to be discovering my inner kindergarten teacher.

So that's my job. I go to work in a gorgeous mansion, in a room with beautiful molding and two marble fireplaces, doing work I really love. If only it were more hours a week, it would be perfect.

Thursday, November 22, 2007



For shelter and clothing, for food and for the two most important people in my life.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fertility delayed

I went to the ob/gyn today for my annual checkup. Everything seems healthy and in place, and she seemed pretty nice. Her advice on how to proceed with trying to conceive was exactly what I had been planning on doing - try on my own for six months with charting and ovulation predictor kits, and then go in for help if it's not working.

I found out that I would be sent straight to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE), which I would prefer since even if we just use Clomid, I'd like to be monitored better this time. I didn't realize at the time last time that I really shouldn't have simply been given a prescription for fertility drugs and sent on my merry way, but in fact should have been monitored to make sure I was 1) ovulating, and 2) not overovulating and in danger of conceiving sextuplets. If nothing else, I'd like to spare myself the uncertainty of last time of not being sure if/when I was going to ovulate. Obviously I got it right, but it would be nicer to have an ultrasound tell me next time.

There's just one hitch: I asked to have my iud taken out and she said we needed to check and make sure my insurance will cover it. I'm a little confused - I want the iud out either way, so what exactly will happen differently if my insurance doesn't cover it, besides my having to pay for it? My inner Pollyanna hopes there's some sort of insurance billing voodoo they can perform to get it covered. My inner cynic thinks this is a great way to get a second office visit fee. Either way, I wasn't expecting to have to wait another two weeks and I'm feeling a little impatient. I don't really want to get pregnant this month since it's going to be insane enough with Christmas and moving, but there are other ways to ensure that doesn't happen.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Warming up

One thing I really enjoyed about my mother's visit this time is that K has started showing real affection for her. K was calling her "Gramma," giving her kisses and in one particularly sweet move, put some pillows on a chair in the dining room for her as she was slowly walking in. And I'm sure that was what K intended, because when I pulled out a different chair and told her that it was the chair Grammie was sitting in, she moved the pillows over. Sooo incredibly sweet.

I've always felt so badly for mother that she couldn't interact with K the way her other grandparents do, and have been wracking my brain for ways to help them bond when my mother can't do anything physical with her. The simple fact is that most of the bonding that goes on with a very young child is through either 1), physically caring for them, or 2), playing with them, which is usually also pretty physical. Mom can read her books and talk to her, but that's about it. She's given K some rides on her lap, but K never seems hugely comfortable with that (although she'd probably be more open to it now) and I'm not thrilled with how precarious it seems. The last time I was really comfortable with my mother holding K without someone else right there to catch her was when she was two weeks old and weighed 9 pounds. Ever since then, she's been too big and too wiggly for me to be really sanguine with her in my mother's uncertain grip.

An additional barrier is the wheelchair itself. It's electric and much higher off the ground than a manual wheelchair. It's part of why I worried when K is sitting on her lap - it's much farther to fall than normal, and there are various metal parts to hit on the way down. But it also prevents K from being able to go up and interact, because she's just too short.

I want K to have a close relationship with both of her grandmothers. And I know how hard it is for my mother not to be able to take care of her grandchild. In a couple years it will be easier, because once K is old enough to perform basic self-care and can be relied on to obey spoken orders, my mother will be able to babysit and take her out without us. But it's hard right now, to see the difference between how K greets B's parents and my mother. I don't begrudge her relationship with B's parents for a second; I just want it for my mother too.

So it was really nice this visit, seeing her warm up to my mother so visibly. I think it helped that we couldn't get the electric wheelchair into the house, so Mom had to walk up the steps (with heavy support) and sit on the couch. It made her a lot more accessible, and she could do things like participate in games of catch with the beachball by kicking it, or let K march the dinosaurs she gave her across her lapboard. Hopefully this trend will continue at Christmas.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Because I'm sure you're as enthralled with my child's bladder as I am

K has been flirting with the toilet for the past several weeks. She's never shown much interest with sitting on her potty, but I got one with a lift-out lid that could be used as a toilet seat insert while the base could be inverted to use as a stool, and she just loves sitting on the toilet. And I love the idea of not having to clean out a potty on a regular basis, so hey - kismet!

But with life's general chaos, we hadn't been pushing it much - we sit her on the toilet if she asked and occasionally asked her if she wanted to sit on it (usually no if it wasn't her idea). The other week, we woke up and heard her in the bathroom, and discovered that she had put the toilet seat on by herself, stripped naked and sat on the toilet all on her own. The only success we've had before today was when she was dancing around the bathroom naked and started to pee, and I quickly grabbed her and put her on the toilet to finish.

It's clear she gets what the toilet is for. She'll sit on the toilet and sing about pee*, and when B had discovered her on the toilet, she said "Poop!" There wasn't any mind you, but she knew where it went. She always wants her own toilet paper when I'm using the toilet and either wipes herself (outside her clothes), or tries to help me wipe myself (I typically decline her kind offer). Then she throws it in the toilet and waves bye-bye to the pee as it gets flushed.

Today, however, she had her first success. I suppose with the amount of toilet sitting she's been doing, it was mathematically likely that she was going to pee while sitting on it at some point. Everyone was very proud of her anyway, and she had the bonus of a grandmother here to admire her great accomplishments the way only a grandmother can.

I'm still not going to push much though. We're moving in the next month and taking a plane ride at Christmas, and all of that is going to be easier if we don't have to worry about getting a small child to the toilet on time. Also, the new house will have a toilet on each floor which will be much easier than our current house where I would have to hustle her upstairs every time she needed the toilet.

But still, our first potty success! Another milestone for the baby book.

*The lyrics usually go "Pee, pee, pee, pee, pee..." Stephen Sondheim she's not.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

So. I work Friday through Sunday, usually alternating between one day and two days per weekend. But which days within the weekend I work hasn't been the same yet. Meanwhile, B works Saturdays, but not every Saturday. He also works Sunday afternoons periodically, since he either gets overtime or comp time for them. Essentially, chances are good that any given day of the week, one of us is working. But not the same days every week. Our household schedule is different every single week.

It's official: I no longer have any idea what day of the week it is. There is not a single bit of regularity in my weekly schedule to let me know what day it is. I can't even count on church since I can't go to church the Sundays I work. I've been sitting here most of the evening, convinced that it's Sunday. Or possibly Thursday, or a week from next Tuesday. It's all a blur at this point.

Meanwhile, I've been working for a month but haven't gotten paid yet. I can't get paid because my child abuse clearance hasn't come through yet. And why hasn't it come yet? Because they sent it back to me today (after over two weeks) claiming I didn't include information that I had written on an additional page, THE WAY THEY TOLD ME TO. Why tell people to write down information that doens't fit on the form on an additional page if you're not going to look at it? Grrr. For all that I complain about how little I'm getting paid, I really need that pittance. And now I'm likely going to have to wait another two weeks before I can even go in to get my employment forms taken care of.

I'm still really enjoying work though. Not quite enough to do it as a volunteer, but it's fun. Weeding an ancient collection is bound to throw up some real gems. For instance, today I found myself inexplicably transfixed by Trudy Wells R.N., Pediatric Nurse. Can Nurse Wells convince the childless millionaires to adopt an older child instead of buying a baby on the black market? Sadly, I'll have to wait until next week to find out.

I also recently found a guide to disco dancing. And believe it or not, I decided to keep it. It had a pretty comprehensive instruction section on ballroom dance, so it was worth keeping, despite the fact that it also had instructions for twelve different version of the Hustle and scary scary pictures of a man wearing the finest seventies polyester and sporting a moustache that needs to be covered up in public in case it frightens small children and horses.

My mother and brother are arriving tomorrow. Yay!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Regular-size me

I'm feeling a conflict of diet theories these days.

A lot of what I've been thinking about diet lately was crystallized by a blog post I read recently, which talks about the moral value society attaches to foods and how this screws us up:

Teppy wrote a great post yesterday about “demand feeding,” which is a really terrible name for “eating what you want when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.”

That’s something I recommend frequently, as it’s a key component of the Health at Every Size strategy. The problem with it, as Teppy points out, is a whole lot of people don’t know when they’re hungry, what they feel like eating, or when they’re full. Ex-dieters, especially, are so used to categorizing foods as “good” and “bad,” and having specific foods and portions dictated to us, the thought of really eating whatever we want — as opposed to the diet version of “eating whatever you want,” which means allowing yourself one bite of ice cream SO YOU DON’T FEEL DEPRIVED (oy) — can be overwhelming and frankly frightening.


But regardless, “We will give you permission — in some limited way — to eat ‘bad’ foods!” is a tremendously effective marketing strategy.

And that’s because so many of us really believe somebody needs to give us permission; simply choosing to eat fatty, sugary food because you feel like it is absolutely not an option. And then somebody also needs to put a limit on that permission, so we won’t go and devour the world. In this culture, most of us never learn to trust our bodies when it comes to eating, and we certainly never learn to trust our desires. Choosing what to eat is a daily battle between good and evil.

I mean, think about it for two seconds. People are selling plans that allow you to “eat what you want,” to the tune of billions. That’s lunacy. Because I love you, I shall offer you the Kate Harding Lifetime Diet Plan — which permits you to eat whatever you want — absolutely free! It goes like this:

DAY 1:

Eat whatever you want. It’s your body. You’re allowed.


Repeat Day 1.

The problem with the Kate Harding Lifetime Diet Plan is exactly what Teppy talks about — figuring out what you’re hungry for and how hungry you are after a lifetime of being told you are always too hungry for the wrong foods. I still struggle with staying on my own plan, for exactly the reasons Teppy and her commenters describe. I have a major fear of deprivation when it comes to food, plus a whole lot of baggage about “good” and “bad” foods, so trying to listen to my body instead of the voices in my head involves a lot of conscious effort — which is exactly what you’re trying to drop by, you know, listening to your body.

I highly recommend the rest of the post. Reading it made a frightening amount of sense to me, especially after I thought about it for a while. It's the way K eats, after all. I control her menu, of course, but within the foods I offer her, she chooses what she wants and how much she eats. And as far as I can tell, she only eats when she's hungry and stops when she's full. Even if it's treat like cake - I've seen her leave half a piece on the plate because she's not hungry any more. And her body seems to tell her what she needs to eat. I don't really worry about her getting enough nutrients any more because I've noticed that over the course of the day she eats a pretty balanced diet. She may eat a lunch of only turkey and cheese, but she ate mostly cheerios for breakfast and grapes at both meals, so it balances out. *

Demand feeding also jibes well with research that shows that deprivation leads to gorging - in a study where children were offered sweets, children who were on very restrictive diets gorged themselves on the sweets, whereas the children who were allowed to eat sweets ate moderate amounts and then stopped.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is pretty much how I've been eating for the past couple years as well. I've made stabs at following diets and "eating better," but mostly I've just eaten what I felt like and stopped when I was full. And you know what? My weight is stable and while it might be a little higher than I would like, it's healthy. My cholesterol and blood pressure are fine. So it seems like the only thing I need to change is give up the guilt, the persistent voice in the back of my head that I should be consuming nothing but spinach salad and sparkling water.

But then there's the other side of the coin, the gigantic But.

I think demand feeding is a great idea. For people with normal metabolism who don't have health conditions that are affected by what they eat. Because the simple fact is that some people absolutely cannot eat whatever they want. People with high blood pressure can't have salt, people with food allergies can't eat the things they're allergic to and diabetics really shouldn't eat foods that cause their blood sugar to swing wildly.

And people with PCOS have a condition that is caused by insulin resistance, and therefore do much better on a diet low in carbs.

So you see the dilemma? I'm all hep to the idea of the Bobby McFerrin-zen approach to eating where restriction is the worst thing you can do to yourself. And I'm seriously considering going on a low carb diet.

The problem is that PCOS is directly affected by how much I weigh and what I eat. It started to get worse after college, when I started eating a mostly vegetarian diet and therefore eating a lot less protein. I started gaining weight, which made PCOS worse. And then I got mono, which stuck around for over a year, and all of that lying around on the couch made me gain more weight and get worse. At that point, the PCOS was making me feel so awful that I couldn't exercise or be active, so it continued on a spiral that just kept feeding itself until I managed to artificially convince my body it had a normal metabolism with metformin. I got back down to a healthy weight and things seemed fine.

But it clearly wasn't enough because I wasn't ovulating. Thus my dilemma: I weigh about what I did before I got pregnant. Low-carb diets are a proven way for women with PCOS to lose weight and improve their fertility. So if I'm serious about trying to conceive, should I go low-carb?

Before anyone starts yelling about how unhealthy low-carb diets are, I will say that any low-carb diet I follow won't be rib-eye steaks with a pork-rind chaser. It will be lean meats and lots of vegetables. Basically, I would replace the starches in my diet with vegetables that have less effect on the blood sugar and give up sugar entirely to start. Then I would get to slowly add carbohydrates back in until I'm on a diet of lean proteins, vegetables, fruits and complex carbohydrates. The way my diet would like in the end is meals that look more or less normal, but with smaller portions of carbohydrates, with Barilla high protein pasta or shirataki noodles instead of regular pasta, beans or pearled barley instead of rice, and no potatoes. Or sugar. Or white bread. And that's where the thought of this makes me groan, because I _like_ potatoes and sugar and white bread (not necessarily together). And the path I would have to take to get to that point would be long and hellish.

One wrinkle is that I've tried low-carb in the past and I think the longest I've made it is two weeks. I have reflux and my stomach doesn't like it when I remove those nice spongy carbohydrates that soak up stomach acid. But I've done a lot more research into alternative foods and recipes, so I think I may be able to deal with that better this time.

So I suppose the essential question is that if the potential improvement for my fertility is worth the deprivation, given that deprivation isn't a very good thing. I guess the thing to do is see what happens when/if my cycle comes back. I don't think it's a good idea to try and give up carbs right before the Thanksgiving-Christmas sugar-fest eating season, so I wouldn't try to start until January. At that point, I may have more of a clue if it wll be necessary.

*Note: I can be zen about how K eats because she eats a decent amount of food and will eat a wide variety, including vegetables. She's also a healthy weight. I understand completely how parents of very picky eaters and children who are very low in the percentile charts get neurotic about their childrens' diets - I was there myself for K's first 18 months.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Fertility and the future

Two weeks ago, I turned 33. It didn't get a lot of fanfare; I was insanely busy with work and none of the friends we've celebrated with in the past were remotely close enough to come for a party. So I had a quiet day with K and B, got a few books and some nice cards. Nothing exceptional. Except that for the first time, I've started to hear the ticking of the biological clock.

I hadn't worried about it the first time. I was 28 when we started trying and had more than enough to worry about with PCOS. The thing about being infertile is that you're much more concerned about dealing with the reasons for that than worrying about age-related fertility issues, particularly if you're on the near side of 30. But now it's occurred to me that I'm only two years away from the point when they start recommending the thorough prenatal screenings and considering me elderly. And that chances are that as time goes by, I'm unlikely to get _more_ fertile, so if trying for another baby is going to take as much time and assistance as last time, I should get cracking.

Fortunately, I'm finally feeling like I'm ready to consider trying. I hadn't planned on thinking about it until this summer anyway because I would like at least three years between children. And after unemployment, a major move, adjusting to a higher cost of living and dealing with the death of a parent, it just wasn't practical to start trying until now.

However, I'm painfully aware that being mentally ready for another baby doesn't remotely equal actually getting one any time soon.

For those who weren't reading last time around, my reproductive history in brief: I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. The brief version of this is that due to a missing enzyme, I don't respond to insulin as well as I should. This results in my pancreas pumping out higher levels of insulin to compensate, which in turn results in weight gain, blood sugar issues and massive hormone problems (and in my case, debilitating fatigue, to the point that I was disabled). The hormone problems are what causes the infertility, but the best way to address this is to get to the root of the problem, the insulin resistance. So I've been on a diabetes medication for the past five years which increases my insulin sensitivity and it works pretty well - I'm able to maintain a stable healthy weight, my symptoms are pretty much in check and when I went off the pill, I had regular periods. But it wasn't quite enough, because I apparently wasn't ovulating very often. So after over a year of trying, I took clomid and got lucky the first time out.

So you can see how contemplating a second baby isn't as easy as just going off birth control for me. It doesn't help that I have absolutely no idea what my current fertility status is. My current birth control is a Mirena iud, which has the salubrious effect of eliminating periods, so I havne't had a period since January of 2006. In the past, I've said I prefer birth control methods where I still get my period because it's a useful indicator of how I'm doing health-wise, but honestly, I've been enjoying the honeymoon from the monthly bloodletting. I haven't been having any other PCOS symptoms to speak of, so I decided to have a nice vacation in the land of Not Worrying. But now I have to start worrying and while I didn't miss my period, I kind of wish I had some way of knowing what my hormones are going to do.

The current plan is that I have a doctor's appointment in two weeks for my annual lady parts inspection and I'll ask the doctor to take my iud out and wait for my period to come back. If it doesn't come back or six months goes by without anything happening, I'll get more proactive and go back to the doctor. I may throw in asking the doctor if we can start testing to see if I'm ovulating as soon as my period comes back. But I'm not waiting a year again since I don't have as much time to wait.

It's hard to know how to feel about being infertile sometimes. I didn't have nearly as hard a time getting pregnant as many do; once we sought treatment, it only took one dose of Clomid. Comparing that to stories of ivf and miscarriages, we got off pretty easily. But that doesn't mean it was easy, or that it won't be harder next time. I also get to worry about the fact that PCOS raises your miscarriage risk by quite a lot. One weird thing is that many women don't find out they have PCOS until they try to get pregnant and can't. It's only then that they go on metformin, and since it doesn't usually work immediately, they still need a lot more intervention. But I was diagnosed with PCOS because it was making me so very ill that I couldn't possibly ignore the symptoms. And if I had been trying to get pregnant then, I would have had an absolutely miserable time of it. But instead, I was on metformin for three years, got back down to a healthy weight and mostly straightened my hormones out before trying. It's a weird position to be in: infertility made me absolutely horrendously miserable for several years. I just wasn't trying to conceive during most of them.

In any case, there's no point in obsessing about any of this until I get my iud removed. Not that I'll let that stop me from running a constant low-grade worry.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I got a call from a friend tonight asking how I'm doing, and I think the best answer is that life is just rather grey right now. I'm going about my life with a decent amount of success, but everything is muted like there's something sitting on me, oppressing my reactions.

It surprised me a little, when I was home. At the funeral, we spent our time talking about my father before he got sick and I mostly spent my time thinking about how much I missed that man. But I discovered when I was home this last trip that I just plain missed my father, even the way he was after he got sick. As hard as it was to watch him decline, we were lucky in that until the very end he was pretty pleasant to have around. He was very sweet and gentle, and able to give and receive affection. He loved to sit and have me talk to him even after he couldn't speak well and he got huge enjoyment out of watching K play. I miss that man too and the house felt very empty without him.

I think grief is a lot like a cloudy day. Sometimes it rains on you and makes it hard to go about your daily business. Sometimes it hits you with a gale-force hurricane and stops you cold. But even when you're functioning fine, it's always there, hanging over everything you do and hard to ignore.


I got a call from a friend tonight asking how I'm doing, and I think the best answer is that life is just rather grey right now. I'm going about my life with a decent amount of success, but everything is muted like there's something sitting on me, oppressing my reactions.

It surprised me a little, when I was home. At the funeral, we spent our time talking about my father before he got sick and I mostly spent my time thinking about how much I missed that man. But I discovered when I was home this last trip that I just plain missed my father, even the way he was after he got sick. As hard as it was to watch him decline, we were lucky in that until the very end he was pretty pleasant to have around. He was very sweet and gentle, and able to give and receive affection. He loved to sit and have me talk to him even after he couldn't speak well and he got huge enjoyment out of watching K play. I miss that man too and the house felt very empty without him.

I think grief is a lot like a cloudy day. Sometimes it rains on you and makes it hard to go about your daily business. Sometimes it hits you with a gale-force hurricane and stops you cold. But even when you're functioning fine, it's always there, hanging over everything you do and hard to ignore.

Monday, September 10, 2007

2000 words

New pictures up here.


And a new movie. K started dancing a lot more recently and I finally got it on film. Sadly, it's really dark due to the bad lighting in our living room, but you can still tell what's going on:

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Moments of unbearable cuteness

K is trying to learn how to jump. She crouches down, then raises her arms and leaps upwards, saying "Jump!" Only her feet never leave the ground. But she keeps trying. The other day at the playground, she saw some girls playing jumprope and nearly died of the excitement of trying to jump along while she watched them.

We were having dinner with a friend last week, eating outside on the sidewalk at a restaurant. K started climbing up on a step and then jumping off in triumph. "Jump! Jump! Jump!"

I think I'll be disappointed when she can actually get off the ground.


Every night, we read K three or four books before bed, depending on how long she can manage to lengthen the bedtime process. Lately, when we put her in her crib, she has been demanding a book go in with her. Since it hasn't prevented her from falling asleep yet and the alternatives is a full-bore toddler tantrum, we give it to her. Satisfied, she lies back, gathers her baby doll in the crook of her arm, and proceeds to read the book to her baby.


Tonight, K insisted that I lie down on the couch, insistently pushing me back and then patting the end of the couch where I was supposed to put my feet up. Once I was settled, she put a blanket over me, tucked a pacifier at my side in case I should want it, and then proceeded to apply a screwdriver to my hip to give my joints a tuneup. Every time I lifted my head, she would sternly push it back down, ordering "Head down!"

I know toddler behavior involves a lot of modelling of what they see. But for the life of me, I can't think of when we modelled the behavior of putting her to bed and then poking her repeatedly with a screwdriver.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The not-so-cheerful post

N.B. Since several people on my friend's list have been added since the last time I wrote much about my parents, here is some background: both of my parents have been seriously disabled for the past 5-6 years. My father has Alzheimer's disease, diagnosed in 2001 although he was having enough symptoms to make him stop teaching in 2000. My mother was injured in a car accident in 2002 and is quadriplegic, although she has some movement in all of her limbs and can walk short distances with a walker. She has full-time nursing care.

I talked to my mother on Easter, and she told me that my father is really going downhill. I had certainly noticed over the past year and a half that it seemed to be going faster; it used to be that I would notice from Christmas to Christmas that he had lost ground, and last year I noticed a significant change between Christmas and Easter. And by this past Christmas, it was clearly accelerating. Mom had had to hire an aide to get him dressed and fed in the morning because he needed too much help for Mom's aide to be able to take care of Mom and help him out (Mom's aides are only supposed to take care of Mom, but they all help Dad in minor ways). He could barely speak because he can't find words any more. And this past summer, he forgot his first relative when he couldn't recognize my cousin, his niece whom he had known since she was a baby. And now Mom says things are worse. She's decided they can't travel any more because it's too confusing for him, and because he needs too much help for the aide who travels with them to be able to take care of Mom and him. He can't go to the bathroom alone, because you can never be sure where he might pee. He's getting restless at night, which is a classic Alzheimer's symptom.

Things are bad enough that I decided to fly out to Michigan next month because I'm afraid if I wait until we go out in August, he won't know me any more.

That was just a hideous sentence to write. I find it's easier to think about my father dying than it is to think about him not knowing me any more. When he was first diagnosed, I found myself wishing he would get cancer, or have a heart attack or anything that would kill him quickly before his mind went. That passed as time went on and I learned to appreciate the time we had left together. But now I'm back there again. I'm torn between not wanting him to get any worse, and wanting things to go as fast as possible so we don't have to live in a limbo where his body is present but his mind is completely gone.


A while ago, my mother was teaching a class on grief, and she asked me what my reaction was when she had first told me about Dad's memory problems. My response was denial, complete and utter to the point that it was genuinely a shock to me when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's because I had refused to let myself think of it as a possibility. And when he was diagnosed, it was like the world came crashing down, taking my nice little denial cocoon along with it. For a couple weeks, I reacted in many ways like he was already dead, getting very depressed and unable to think about anything except that my father was going to die, and in one of the most horrible ways I could think of.

But then I had a couple good conversations with him, and I realized that he was still alive, and still very much himself, so I had better appreciate it while I could. And at that point, it was pretty easy. He was losing ground in little things, but he could still take care of himself and carry on a good conversation. He even did yardwork. The fall I spent living with him while Mom was in the hospital, I took weekend trips home without much worry, although I was relieved to have the excuse of Mom needing a van to get him to stop driving. And while I would give quite a lot for Mom to never have had her accident, I'm grateful that I got that fall with Dad, while he was still doing pretty well. For a long time, it was like that. He was clearly losing ground, losing the ability to read and write, and to work mechanical things. But his personality was the same and he knew us. He even still had his sense of humor. I felt really lucky, because many Alzheimers patients develop very short tempers out of frustration. But Dad has always had a very sweet and gentle personality, and he seemed to accept his declining abilities with a calm grace.

And then last January, Mom told me that he was going into the basement and getting upset because he was convinced people were stealing from them. Paranoia is a common symptom of Alzheimer's, but it hit me a lot harder than any of his other losses. And it wasn't hard to realize why: as hard as it was to watch him lose ground, none of what was happening to him was any of the really unattractive symptoms, or changed his personality, which made it relatively easy to think that things weren't so bad. Hello again, denial. Apparently you've been with me all this time. Paranoia is a symptom that makes denial impossible. It says that yes, Alzheimer's really is that bad, and it's only going to get worse.

And since then, it's been with me, that acute knowledge that it's a steep downhill fall from here. I had to acknowledge at Christmas that it was probably the last one where he would be aware enough to appreciate it and participate. And the thoughts about his final illness and death, the practical ones like whether to put him in a nursing facility and planning his funeral, are leaving the theoretical and becoming things we really need to deal with.

The future I have been dreading is here, and it really sucks.

Edited to add: As it turns out, this was the start of my father going very rapidly downhill, and he died on July 30, 2007.