Tuesday, January 27, 2009

19 week ultrasound

We went in for the Level II ultrasound today, the Big One where you get to see a baby that finally looks completely human. Everything looked absolutely perfect - we saw tiny little fingers and toes, a four chambered heart, a normal brain, an alternating cute and bizarre alien looking face, the cute little mouth opening, swallowing and sucking on fingers and an intact spinal column. And a penis.

So yes, we're having a boy! We were pretty neutral on the subject, although I had looked forward to barely having to buy any more clothing if we had a girl. Fortunately, I've been buying K some boys' clothes all along - the advantages of a daughter who likes dinosaurs.

To reward him for being more revealing than his sister, I will change his nickname from a girl's name to a boy's name. So our incipient offspring is now Wulfrith. Now all we have to do is work on his actual name. We had a boy's name for K, but we weren't in love with it, so we're revisiting the issue. If you have any suggestions for your favorite boy names, we would love to hear them.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

18 weeks

Five weeks into the second trimester, I'm finally feeling like I've left the first behind. I haven't thrown up in three weeks and I don't need to take a nap to make it through the day. My appetite hasn't really kicked in yet, but at least I'm not losing weight any more.

Last pregnancy, I gave up on normal pants at the beginning of 17 weeks, and had spent the two weeks before that having to unbutton them by the evening. This time, I'm still wearing normal pants without any trouble. Part of me worries about this, but the regular renditions of the Fetal Fandango I'm being treated to are mostly reassuring me. I also had to give up on a pair of jeans today when I was able to get them on and fasten them, but decided it wasn't worth having to make it through the day that uncomfortable (although part of that might have been due to *ahem* pregnancy related intestinal slowness adding bulk to my abdomen). I can feel my uterus right under my belly button which is right where it should be, but it just isn't sticking out at all. It seems like since my stomach wasn't exactly flat before I got pregnant, baby has steadily been replacing fat as I've lost weight, leaving me the same shape. Still, I'm not a remotely pregnant shape, so I still fret a bit.

Speaking of fretting, it's way, way too early to even think about the fact that this fetus seems to heavily favor lying transverse, as evidenced by the amount of time I spend getting simultaneous kicks 8 inches apart on either side of my stomach, right? Even though K also heavily favored lying transverse from about as early I as I could feel her, and stayed that way until birth? And even though the reading I've done on transverse lie is that it's almost always for a reason (uterine abnormalities, fibroids, weird pelvis, etc) and therefore has a high chance of happening again? Although I'm not quite sure why I'm bothering to fret about this, because ultimately if this fetus decides to settle into my pelvis like it's the world's comfiest hammock like its sister did, well, I'll have another c-section, which is a prospect about which I'm pretty much neutral. Recovery from abdominal surgery isn't fun, but it will certainly make other parts surrounding scheduling child care a lot more convenient. And 18 weeks is far far too early to worry about fetal positioning. This is just an excellent example of how my brain likes to not merely borrow trouble but take a mortgage out on it.

We have the big ultrasound next week, which will hopefully allay any concerns I have about growth. And maybe Aethelryth will be more generous than K and let us see its sex. It will be a lot easier to help prepare K if we can start talking specifically about her new brother or her new sister. And frankly, all we got out of being involuntarily surprised last time was a lot of green and yellow baby clothes. I'm not a big fan of surprises, so I'd just as soon get it out of the way next week.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I have been watching the inauguration with tears in my eyes and joy in my heart. K is asleep on the couch beside me, not yet old enough to understand what an important day this is in her life. I remember four years ago when she was still a half-formed fetus of indeterminate gender, how afraid I was for her future. And now I sit with her, with her half-formed brother or sister within me and feel so much relief for both of them.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Princess Dilemma; or, a Near Miss

We've been wanting to arrange a playdate for K with one or two of her friends from daycare, so you can imagine our delight last night when we were having dinner at Perkins (half-price kids' meals AND a clown that makes balloon animals on Wednesday nights) and one of her friends came in with her mother. We invited them to join us and we had a lovely meal together. The mother was entirely on board with the idea of a playdate, and best of all, I finally learned the name of the elusive Princess Game.

The Princess Game is something K came home talking about a couple weeks ago. We couldn't get a good description out of her, except that it involved dancing. When we went in to daycare and asked the teacher about it, she said it was a dvd with dance mat, sort of a very girly DDR for the preschool set. But she didn't give us the name. So when I went to the Toys R Overpriced website to look for it, what I came up with was this:

The Barbie Island Princess Activity Mat with Instructional DVD. From the description: "Includes Barbie as the Island Princess interactive activity mat and instructional DVD. Teaches girls how to act, dress and dance like a princess, just like Princess Rosella."


Now I've said before I don't mind the princess thing, at least the way K is expressing it. I wouldn't call it an obsession because she has far too many interests to be obsessed with any one thing. But she likes princess stuff, and has an extraordinarily cheap and tasteless set of fake jewels and tiara and when we went to buy her a sleeping bag for naptime at daycare, I bought her the Disney Princess bag (although she hasn't seen any of the movies). But part of why I don't mind the princess thing is that it's possible to take a feminist approach to it. We have several books like The Paperbag Princess and The Princess Knight, which show princesses being active and take-charge in addition to being pretty.

I have a big problem with the princesses who sit around and look pretty while pouring tea and waiting for balls so they can dance with their prince. Dancing at least is active, but I'm not at all thrilled with the idea of buying some game to teach my child to act like a stereotyped idea of a helpless princess. And it's Barbie? That's just icing on the cake.

Here is where I get really conflicted. I dislike the message that girls should act a certain way that fits a narrow view of femininity. But I also dislike the knee-jerk reaction that all things stereotypically feminine are bad. The result is that male=good and female=bad, which is just as sexist as we've always been. What I want for all of my children is to feel that they can like anything they damn well please without worrying whether it fits society's narrow definition of their gender. So far, K likes princesses, dolls, trains, blocks and dinosaurs. I think we're doing pretty well so far, especially since she's reached the age when many children become interested in what it means to be a boy or a girl and can be very rigid in their definition of what that means.

And yet there's that visceral reaction, that a dvd teaching K to act like a princess is bad bad bad. Not to mention that Barbie is just evil, which just brings up more conflict because I've already decided that while I don't like Barbie or Bratz and wouldn't buy them for K of my own volition, I would buy them if she asked for them. It's part of my general parenting philosophy, which is that absolute prohibitions create forbidden fruit that makes things far more attractive than they would be otherwise. So I allow some tv, and some junk food, and would buy some tasteless toys if K really wanted them.

Digressing into the Barbie and Bratz issue for a moment, I have to say that while I absolutely am against premature sexualization of our children, I'm not sure they deserve all of the vitriol they receive.* Not that I think they're so great, but they're such a tiny drop in the gigantic ocean of negative messages our society sends girls constantly about their bodies. I'm not sure giving K a Barbie would be any more damaging to her body image than letting her watch ten minutes of network television or leaf through the pages of something like Ladies' Home Journal. The damaging messages are everywhere, and my biggest concern these days is a lot more focused on what sort of messages about the obesity hysteria epidemic she might hear at school in the name of nutrition education, or receiving sex ed that amounts to "Keep your legs closed until a ring is on the finger."

I had Barbies and I don't particularly remember thinking I should strive to look like them and a lot of that is that is because I grew up in a household that largely didn't give me a complex about how I look. Fundamentally, I feel like if K is getting her body image from a Barbie doll, I have failed as a parent. It's my job to be talking to her about this frequently as she grows up, trying to counteract all of the negative messages she receives, and if I do it well, the Barbies and Bratz won't matter. I suspect the biggest damage that I can do to her body image is to obsess over her waistline and the food she eats, not from the toys I give her.

In summation, what we have here is a hot mess of contradictions. I don't mind the princess thing and I would buy a Barbie if asked, but I feel profoundly reluctant to buy a Barbie princess dvd even though it's the game K has been talking about enthusiastically for two weeks. I don't know what the answer is.

Fortunately, I don't have to find out right now because this is all a complicated, long-winded way of saying that I found out the princess game is actually Bella Dancerella, a Dora the Explorer dancing and singing dvd game, complete with maracas. Absolutely nothing to disapprove of (once you get past the tv merchandising issue), and multicultural to boot. Bullet dodged. But I'm sure it will come up again.

*On the subject of Bratz, could I extend a heartfelt plea that people stop expressing our disapproval of them by using words like "whore" and "slut?" I don't really see how using misogynist, body-hating words are the best way to defend our daughters. I'm going to have a hard enough time giving K a positive view of her body and sexuality without people using terms that tell her that an adult woman who enjoys sex and has multiple partners is dirty and deserves to be vilified, especially since most of the people I hear using these terms are people I know have had premarital sex, often with more than one partner. And worse, that if she doesn't cover a sufficient number of square inches of her skin, she will cause everyone to assume she has an active and varied sex life and will be judged negatively for it, which is about two steps away from "She deserved to be raped because she dressed provocatively." Bleah. So please stop trying to protect my daughter with your misogyny.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Three months on, the two new additions to our household are fitting in quite nicely. They're still a tad jumpy - you can't approach them directly without them springing away like spring-loaded gazelles on pogo sticks. But if they are allowed to come to me, they are now happy to be petted and will even lie down on my lap. The cold weather has definitely helped with the new cuddliness, but I like to think that it's a desire for affection as well.

They are about 8 months old now and roughly adult-cat sized. There may be a little growth left in them, but they're both 95% of the way there. Now that they're larger, the downside of having three grey cats is becoming more clear, as it's next to impossible to tell any of them apart when seeing them in low light or out of the corner of your eye. If they were smarter, they would no doubt use this to play identical triplet pranks on us. Fortunately, not a single one of them has more than two lonely brain cells to rub together, so we're safe from reenacting any French farces or 50s sitcom style japeries.

One thing we had forgotten about young cats is how they go after food a lot more enthusiastically than staid middle-aged cats. We've had to learn to never leave a morsel of food out, and to weight down the top of the box if we order pizza, because they've been known to open the box and drag a piece out for themselves. Really, nothing is safe. I found a green bean on the floor tonight, dragged down there by a cat whose ambition outmatched her tooth structure when it comes to chewing up that sort of thing. I'm not sure if they're teenage boys or goats.

Their personalities have remained much the same. Lily is more playful, and it does my heart good to see her devotedly bat around a pathetically bent and half defuzzed pipe cleaner the way Olwen used to. Luna is more cuddly, and loves nothing more than to cuddle up to Sonya. Of course, I think Sonya would welcome her affections a lot more if her current approach weren't to go up to where Sonya is lying and simply fall over sideways directly onto her. Not surprisingly, poor Sonya doesn't enjoy being used as a pillow much and bitches Luna out in no uncertain terms before struggling out from underneath her and resettling.

Despite the new competition for food and being crushed by affection, I think Sonya is happy to have more cats in the house again. I definitely am. There's no better way to spend a cold evening than by being cozily weighted down by a carpet of cats.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

She'll be wanting to borrow the car next

A couple times in the past few days, K has gone upstairs and come back down with a sandwich she had made - two slices of cheese and pepperoni neatly sandwiched between two slices of bread, which she then put on a plate and sat down to eat. When I went upstairs later, I discovered she had put all the ingredients neatly back in the refrigerator. Then she announced she had to go potty and went and took care of business.

Goodness child, are you planning on perusing the apartment listings while you're feeling so independent?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

For a bit of perspective

It's been hovering just above the freezing mark here lately, which has everyone going on about how cold it is, and has those of us who grew up in Michigan sneering a bit, given that this would be warm for January in Michigan, where it's typically in the teens and 20s.

But for real perspective on winter cold, I suggest picking up one of the Little House books. I was rereading These Happy Golden Years at work today, and got to a passage where everyone was happy because it was so warm: only 20 below zero.

Yikes. Reminds me once again how happy I am not to live on the plains.

Margaret Mead

I occasionally feel like an anthropologist at work, a visitor from the distant land of Rational, observing the strange customs and beliefs of the Elderly Volunteer. I learned something today that cemented that feeling.

It all started this morning when I was informed by two of the Friends that I was to tell P (the other librarian) not to go into the booksale room and take the books that N (the woman who runs the monthly booksale) had brought in. Apparently he was taking boxes' worth of books out, and N works very hard to bring those books in, and it's their only source of income.*

Heh. I can't say for certain that P** isn't going and taking entire boxes of books, but I'm pretty darn sure he isn't. And I'm not either. I do go down and take books out of donations that other people have made, but in those cases, the person has donated the books to the institution as a whole, and in that case, the library gets first dibs.

What this is, of course, is a rehashing of the old conflict over whether donated books should go to the library or the booksale. Because according to F, the (senile) president of the Friends, the library has plenty of books, and therefore they should go to the booksale. The fact that the library might occasionally benefit from new books, and donations are my only source of new children's books doesn't signify. It's a fascinating example of how a friends group can get so caught up in their activities that they actually wind up attempting to compete with the very organization they were formed to support.

Anyway, I was talking about this to R, one of the museum workers who talks more to N than I do, and decided from what she was saying was that this was simply yet another repetition of a constant theme from these people instead of stemming from a new incident. But I also learned something absolutely insane:

The incident I linked to above where N was so upset about books being taken from the booksale for the library was over a couple very nice Julia Child cookbooks that I had cataloged but hadn't personally acquired. I was under the impression at the time that my boss had seen them and decided they were too nice to sell for fifty cents and took them for the library. But no. Apparently R had BOUGHT them, and then donated them to the library. N was terribly upset about books that had been paid for, because they ultimately ended up in the library. And today when R was down at the booksale buying some books and mentioned that she might donate some of the books she was buying to the library after she had read them, F's shocked response was "You can't DO that, can you?"

This is so insane that all I can do is stand and gape in befuddlement. Yes, once R has bought a book, she owns it and do anything she wants with it, including burning it for heat, tearing out pages to use for toilet paper, or *gasp*, give it to the library. I don't know why they spend so much time with their knickers in a twist over the idea of a library acquiring books, but they can tie them into an entire Boy Scout manual full of knots for all I care. My boss, the person who actually runs the museum, says I get first crack at the donations, so that's that.

My method of dealing with them this morning was to use my patented Smile Noncommittally and Nod approach. If things come to a pass where that's not enough, I'll calmly explain who the donations actually belong to when they're donated to the museum and library (here's a hint: the museum and library, not its support group). And add that one great way to get me to stop taking donated books is to give me money to buy books. To actually do what they were formed to do and support the library, since I don't think I've seen an example of that since I started working there.***

*This last is what is technically known as a Gigantic Lie, and I don't know what she was thinking when she said it, or how she had the nerve to say it to me as I stood surrounded by the pens, greeting card, stationary, t-shirts, charms, informative booklets and bookmarks all for sale with profits going to the Friends, not to mention the basket for the fundraising raffle (brought in at the open house in December, one of our several fundraising events) not twenty feet away from me. If she really wants me to believe they survive on the twenty bucks a month the booksale room brings in, I'm a little insulted at her opinion of my intelligence.

**As an aside, I'm really not sure why they assumed P was taking the books and not me. Unless it was their passive aggressive way of telling me to keep my thieving hands off their books.

***In fairness, they do quite a lot and we appreciate having them. It's just all the support they give is to the museum, and I get a little tired of being treated like the entryway to the museum rather than an actual important part of the organization.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Potty talk

Probably not of interest to non-parents.

K has been stuck at the same place in potty training since last summer. She's quite reliable with pee if she's not wearing anything on her butt. As a result, as long as we stay home all the time, she can go without diapers without much of a problem. She's even stayed dry all night a couple times.

The problem, of course, is that she can't go commando when we leave the house or when she's at daycare. I had originally bought some cloth training pants for her to wear at daycare, but the cheap Gerber versions did nothing to contain the wetness after a single accident (which is the whole point of training pants - not as thick as diapers, but thick enough to catch an accident so you don't have to change pants as well as underwear), and after a week or two of arriving every day to pick her up and finding her in disposable pullups, I gave in and started buying them to send to daycare, and to use when we left the house.*

Yes, yes, I know pullups are lousy for actually accomplishing toilet training, but the point wasn't to encourage her to use the toilet, it was to prevent having to change her pants three times a day at daycare.

But they're a crutch, and I've decided we need to go cold turkey. So I explained to K this week that we weren't buying any more pullups to use at home. I bought some for them to keep at daycare, but I don't care how many pairs of wet pants we go through, we're not using them at home. I think the only way we're ever going to achieve dryness when we leave the house is to push her a bit.

So far today, the tally is three pairs of wet pants, but while playing pantsless this evening, she marched right over to her potty and pooped in it, which is a big step forward. So all we need to do is figure out how to help her remember to use the potty when she's wearing pants. Nagging produces resistance and incentive plans have never helped. Ultimately, it needs to come from her. Hopefully she'll just figure it out with enough practice.

*K loves the different designs on the various brands of pullups, so I tend to vary what brand I buy, and get both boys' and girls' designs. I'm a little fascinated by the gender encoding - Disney Princesses and Cars on Huggies are pretty much par for the course, and Dora and Diego on Pampers make sense. Toys R Us brand has dinosaurs for boys and hearts and flowers for girls, which made me gag a little. They couldn't even put something more interesting like cats or butterflies on the girls' pullups?

But it's Target brand that really mystifies me. They have pirates for boys, and you would think the girls equivalent would be princesses (which I would love, because K loves princesses and Huggies are hella expensive). But instead, they're... lesbians. No, really. Two different designs of two girls holding hands or enjoying ice cream together, with hearts in the background. Theoretically, the design is meant to be "best friends," but I would only believe it if it was said with a knowing wink.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Auld lang syne

Looking back, 2008 was a pretty decent year. Obama won the election, I found a part-time job that's adding decently to our bottom line and K is happy, healthy and thriving in preschool. And we managed to hit the one cycle in three when I actually ovulate and seem to have acquired the sort of pregnancy that sticks around.

If you look back at my journal for the past six months, you would probably mostly get the impression that I was tired a lot. That would be because I spent three months trying to work thirty hours a week while taking care of a young child without benefit of daycare, and then once we got her in preschool, I promptly became pregnant and got knocked flat by the first trimester. It's a case of appearances being deceiving - it may have looked in my writing like I was tired and unhappy, but it's more that my mental energy was being sucked in other directions. And as hard as the first trimester was, I happily (if not always stoically) endured it.

In 2009, I have three goals:

1. A healthy baby in June
2. Implement a housework schedule and do better with meal planning
3. Try a lot harder to improve our social life

Hopefully all three are reasonable and achievable. Here's hoping that 2009 brings much better fortunes for the world in general.