I am dogged by the suspicion that I am forgetting to do something important. Something that needs doing, either today or before the babies arrive. What that is, I don't know, and it is driving me to distraction.
Distraction, as if I need more of that. Preparing the twins' room for painting, I pulled a frame off the wall, then slid the nail and hook out too. Five minutes later I had no idea where I'd left the nail and hook. I searched for a half hour, wandering up and down the stairs, scanning and re-scanning every room I'd walked through, touching surfaces as if I could make the nail jump to my magnetic fingers. After I gave up, my father-in-law found it hiding in plain sight on Ada's place-mat.
When people ask whether we are ready for the babies, I ignore the larger question of whether we are psychologically/emotionally/financially ready, responding that we have three big things on our to do list: sell our car and buy a min-van, paint the room we are readying for the twins, and settle on names. So far we've looked at Toyotas in order to get a sense of what a minivan will be, mostly painted the babies' room, and had one ten minute conversation about names. After seeing his list, I finally admitted to Chris that I had been counting on him coming up with perfect names, as he did last time. "Ada" was the first item on Chris' list last time, and I immediately loved it. After years of considering names in the abstract, faced with a real list of names for actual (if future) children is daunting. My brain goes blank, leaving me with a vague but persistent feeling that there is something I am supposed to be doing, some task I am forgetting.
I know there are a few things I need to do. When I had more energy earlier in the pregnancy, I sewed a diaper bag big enough to carry both babies and a few extra diapers. The final step in the project was edge stitching around the bag's openings. Without going into the dull details, I will note that I made a few errors and have been meaning (for months) to undo certain sections and resew them. So here's one thing to do, but staring at the bag daily has not motivated me to deal with this task. Surely there is something more pressing to do than re-sewing a finishing seam? (and less annoying, I hope silently)
Pregnancy-brain is sneaky. Although I remember suffering other hormonal effects, I don't remember feeling quite this way last time. Maybe the years have erased this as surely as it has muffled the horror of life during Ada's first few months. Maybe this disconnected concern that I am forgetting something is a way of thwarting my brain's efforts to remember that time. Maybe my mind is protecting me from the memory out of fear that should I remember what it was like, I would decide to leave my babies at the hospital if I could access those harsh weeks and months.
Still, there's that nagging feeling.
Monday, March 30, 2009
I am dogged by the suspicion that I am forgetting to do something important. Something that needs doing, either today or before the babies arrive. What that is, I don't know, and it is driving me to distraction.
Friday, March 27, 2009
I failed a couple of last week's blood tests. Besides being a bit anemic (hey, could this explain feeling tired all the time?), my glucose test showed a level high enough to warrant the dreaded 3 hour glucose test. While he was drawing blood for the first test, the nice young Russian tech sympathized about how gross the glucose drink is. "And that one only has 50 milligrams of sugar. For the three hour test, the drink has 100 milligrams." Great.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I am in my 28th week, muddled enough that I needed to look up where exactly I am. I have been meaning to take more pictures of my belly, but have not gotten around to it. Last pregnancy I made Chris take the pictures, but most of those shots are not ones to share on the internet. No good could come of posting those images taken late at night of a no make-up, tired face pregnant woman, sometimes in her underwear. No good can come of thinking about them, for that matter.
After puttering around for 2 trimesters, I am taking the reins, or at least the auto-timer, into my own hands. But because I can't just take pictures of my belly (and because I love a theme), I have decided to take each picture wearing a fancy hat. Most of these hats were my grandmother's, though the first one came from my friend Ann in Chicago. I think it might have originally been her grandmother's. She can remind me if I am right about that.
I started a set on flickr. Though I will probably weekly upload several photos to the set, I will probably not post 4 pictures to the blog each week. However, as this was my first week I am indulging myself as I work out a few kinks. To wit:
Take 1: Smiling pregnant woman, but pulling my shirt down creates one long line from breast to belly. To avoid what I have come to see as a "brelly" I'll fix the shirt. Also, the hat on the mantle is a little distracting, placed as it is exactly behind my head.
Take 2: Better, but what else have you got? And man, I know you are carrying around a basketball but could you try to stand up straight? Who's going to want to marry a hunchback?
Take 3: I took off the cut-off tee I wear to deal with the gap between the bottom of my shirts and the top of my pants. Without it - wow, what a belly! That is a little obscene, and this is only week 28. Can we do something about that?
Take 4: That's a bit better. I pulled the pants up a bit and the shirt down a little. Despite the return of the brelly, hopefully this shot gives you a sense of my girth without scaring young children.
Wait, who am I kidding? Young children may be the only ones not scared. Ada (who loves me anyway, I know) routinely comes up and hugs my waist while giving the babies a kiss. Really, what could be more endearing?
Recently other kids seem intrigued now that my belly is "hard to ignore" size. Last week a kid at Monkey Boy's school ran up and asked excitedly "is there a baby in there?" When I said yes, she seemed a bit at a loss about what to do next, and I moved on before she asked for my autograph. Mrs. French's son, who sees me fairly regularly and until now must have just thought I was getting fat, today noticed that I have a baby belly.
Note on the hat: As I mentioned, this hat came from a friend. I always want to wear it backwards, to better show off the pink ribbon that is correctly worn at the nape of the neck. The hat is a lovely gray velvet that feels so good to wear.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Back in January Jiro sent me a link to someone who committed to write a blog post about Ada Lovelace, but only if 1,000 other people would do it too. Kind of silly, and I might have (ok, WOULD have) ignored this, except that one of the reasons Chris and I liked the name Ada was the association with Ada Lovelace.
Who was Ada Lovelace? I'm glad you asked that question.
Ada Lovelace was a 19th century woman with a talent for mathematics. Often called the first computer programmer, she worked with the mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage. Babbage is credited with coming up with the idea for what we now know as a computer. Lovelace translated Luigi Menabrea's memoir on Babbage's writing on an "analytical engine", and in the process added some notes of her own on how the machine could calculate Bernoulli numbers. In essence, she wrote a computer program. Babbage is the one who called Lovelace "the enchantress of numbers." (Incidentally, she was also a countess and the daughter of the poet Lord Byron, though the two were never close.)
A blogger, angry that women in technology are often mistreated, decided to take action. Suw Charman-Anderson decided that one way to deal with this is to talk about female role models by highlighting women in technology. Suw made a pledge to write about Ada Lovelace on March 24, noting that "Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology." As I am not usually a tech writer, this is a bit of a stretch for me, but I do know several women in math and science that I respect and hope my daughter will see as role models as she grows up. In honor of Ada Lovelace Day, I want to express my appreciation for my economist mother.
My mother got into economics in the 60s, when a female economics PhD candidate was a rare thing. She focuses on micro-economics (vs the "big idea" theory stuff many people think of when they hear economics) and has always been a fan of hard data. She is an accomplished researcher who is not afraid of numbers and has long dug into data to prove a theory or investigate an idea. As a kid I colored on the back sides of her old-style green-bar paper, barely registering the flow of numbers on the other side. My mother encouraged me to believe I could do math and science, and while I did not always believe her, I got a lot from her attitude. She influenced my decision to go to a quantitatively focused graduate program, and that choice affected my career (positively). She is an influential economist, not only as a woman but among all economists studying health care and related fields. I am very proud of her. I should probably tell her that more. In fact, I think I will go call her right now. Thanks Mom!
(As I am likely to have two young babies when my mom has her birthday next June, I figure I should deal with all this mom-love stuff early. In that vein, I also sent her an early birthday gift a couple of weeks ago - a book call Parentonomics by an economist dad. From reading his blog, I know he gets google updates when people use the phrase parentonomics online. So: Hi Joshua Gans! Thanks for writing a book that is perfect for my mom.)
Monday, March 23, 2009
We interrupt our regularly-scheduled anger and fear to bring you a new segment we're calling: Well, THAT Was Uncalled For.
Today's contestant is the stranger in line behind me at the sandwich shop by my office. The woman who runs the place remembers that I am pregnant but, having forgotten I am having twins, asked if I am due in a month or so. I say, "no, I have a few more months, I am just ahead in size because I am having twins." This elicits a loud gasp from the woman behind me. A gasp that would have been appropriate had she heard me say, "actually, I am not pregnant, this is a large malignant tumor that will kill me within six months."
I turned around to see this woman looking at me with a look of complete horror. I was actually more shocked by her expression than by the gasp, as I had assumed the noise she'd made was a (pitiful, inappropriate) attempt at a joke. But no, she's really just horrified at the thought that a stranger is carrying twins and doesn't mind expressing that in a completely rude and unthoughtful manner.
"You really shouldn't do that to a stranger," I said. "You can do that kind of thing to friends, but not to people you do not know." The rest of the brief interaction is kind of a blur, and I move away to grab some salad. A minute later, maybe to fill the now quiet space in the cafe, the woman making my sandwich kindly tells me that she wishes she could have had twins. (I am a bit surprised how much I have heard this, even if people only mean it in the most fleeting way.)
So there, my first utterly inappropriate pregnancy comment. (if you can call a gasp a comment, which I guess I will) While several people have asked me if twins run in my family, which is maybe a step from asking if twins are "naturally occuring" or due to intervention, until now no one did anything to suggest that a twin pregnancy is so horrible or pitiable that it would make someone lose control of their good sense and social graces. Most people seem to have a bit more control, thankfully.
3:45pm (before I can relax in the soft cafe chair and read my book)
I am so angry. I am angry at Ada, sure, but it is bigger than that. My anger sometimes feels uncontainable. It flows out, or maybe more accurately seeps. That feels apt - it seeps under the door, through cracks in the foundation, around century-old windows. I am angry at everyone, irrationally annoyed. At the substitute yoga instructor for running an overly restorative class. Angry at myself for not having a fantastic plan for the time Chris has generously placed in front of me. Angry that the cafe I have escaped to has a baby in it who keeps smiling and trying to catch my eye.
I keep saying that I want to get stuff done, but I am not sure what that is really. What do I want to get done? I want the space and energy to get things done, yes. But what ACTUALLY do I want to do? I am angry at myself for not knowing.
When it flares up, it is like a burning hole in me, in my head and my heart. Ha - psychic heartburn.
That's all we have time for today. Next time let's look into that fear we've been harboring.
Two hours later
There is no way to know what is in a stranger's heart. After putting the groceries in my car I looked up to see an older couple on the corner, maybe discussing how to carry home their groceries, when one of the man's paper bag handles broke and groceries spilled on the sidewalk. The woman makes a face I have felt myself make a thousand time, and walked off, leaving him to manage the collection and transport of two brimming bags.
I immediately felt critical of the woman for leaving the man to deal with the mess. But who knows; maybe she had just told him the bag was breaking, maybe she had offered to bear more of their shared burden, maybe she really had to pee. Why should I judge her when my own heart and actions have certainly not lived up to the heretofore unexplored standard of "blameless if viewed from half a block away by strangers."
I would like to cut myself and others a little break. Others being both strangers and my loved ones. I want to be open to more love, want to be embraced by it. Instead I push it away and embrace my anger.
Friday, March 20, 2009
As the wife of a mathematician, I am always on the look out for fun math songs. Stop laughing, math is fun. (and cool too, haven't you heard of the math prof rock star?) This was on the radio today - apparently the band - the Saturday Knights - is playing at sxsw. "Count it Off" features the random quote-worthy lyrics "street mathematician scientists, learn that cut-corner calculus".
You can thank me later.
Oh yeah, and - happy spring!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
We had "taco night" with our neighbors. Chris made pulled pork roast, the neighbor husband made a yummy Mexican-y chicken soup. The wives helped prep fixings. The girls ate a little and then ran around eventually (and probably inevitably) shedding clothes in the process.
When it was time to leave, Ada was convinced to put her boots on, so we left it at that for the half-block walk home. As often happens when it is time to leave, Ada had a melt-down about a non-issue. This time, she saw her friend eating a tortilla and demanded a tortilla. Of course this was the last one, of course dinner was over, of course this was just a ruse, a vain attempt to stall our departure. Chris and I held firm and Ada followed me out the door. The whole (thankfully short) walk home, Ada screamed at the top of her lungs "I WANT A BIG TORTILLA!" over and over. If only I'd had the video camera, I could have captured this classic toddler insanity. Wearing only her purple rain boots, screaming about tortillas, really feeling it, but still walking back home because that is where her family was going.
I think this is the real reason I have a blog. How else would I remember this perfect moment of the toddler experience?
Monday, March 16, 2009
No wonder I can't keep readers - one day complaining about toddler bathroom woes, the next pushing organic veggies, then on to math or photographs of signs. I have no over-arching theme. Oh well, not like that's going to change.
Speaking of signs, here are a few from North Interstate Boulevard in Portland, snapped on a recent gloriously sunny late winter day:
How typical that I am in the middle of a photo project that involves looking down, and I show you pictures I shot looking up.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
For those of you who do not live or hang out with mathematicians, today is 3.14 - the day of the year that most resembles Pi. Hence: Pi Day!
As I am a fan of mathematicians (and of the other, slightly more delicious pie) I offer the following links of the day:
- How to calculate the circumfrence of a circle (because sometimes you just want to know)
- Join a discussion about how you and others celebrate this important day
- Make a pi cake (link to recipe included. Mmmm, chocolate raspberry pi cake...)
- Get cozy with your very own set of fuzzy math symbols
But that is a few years off. For now, I recommend you live a little: eat some pi. Er, pie.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
A number of years ago Chris and I decided to try to buy and eat organic meats. We'd already been members of organic community supported agriculture farms, both in Chicago and Rhode Island, when we heard an NPR story about what made farmers in one northern European country lobby for organics legislation. (Sorry, I have forgotten what country it was, since I heard the story almost 10 years ago now.)
In any case, the thing that struck me at the time was the difference in how the animals were treated in organic farms versus "conventional" ones. The choice to go organic means that the farmer must take steps to avoid disease and other issues for her animals by treating them better. Where conventional farmers can cram animals together in horrid conditions and limit the spread of disease by pumping up the animals with antibiotics, organic farmers can not do this. They need to give the animals more space and take greater care to ensure their health and safety by seemingly obvious methods (keeping their livestock clean, feeding them well, etc.) Related to this, organic farmers do not rely on hormones to make their animals bigger. They feed them well and let them move around.
All this seemed like a good idea. So I was motivated both by a desire to avoid putting unnecessary crap into my body and an interest in treating animals better. It might seem a little odd that someone willing to kill animals for food cares about the animals' well-being, but just because I find them delicious doesn't mean that I don't care that the animals that feed me live decently before they end up on my plate.
So all those years ago, Chris and I decided to eat organic or antibiotic/hormone free meat (and by extension, eggs and dairy, which we buy a ton more of than we do meat), deciding that we were willing to vote with our dollars. It costs more to eat this way, but we think it is worth the money. But - and here is where I make the transition to talk about the thing that got me writing this post - it does cost more money. Luckily, you can do things to reduce the cost. You can grow things yourself, cook from scratch and use up leftovers. And you can buy some organics and some conventional. I know that I started by writing about organics in meat, and now I am going to show you a table about organic veggies, but there is a connection. Though I am not terribly worried about the treatment of veggies at the hands of conventional farmers, but I am concerned about pesticides. As I want to limit the pesticides my family and I ingest through food.
Toward that end, I like to consult the following, a guide recently updated by the Environmental Working Group. There are some obvious items on the list: apples, bell peppers and pears. It makes sense that many fruits and veggies containing a lot of water would be better to buy organic, since the pesticides get sucked up by the water into the food. There are some surprises too. I was happy to see that I can buy conventional avocados and not be too worried about pesticides. (I remember reading that things with thicker skins tend to get contain fewer pesticides.) Getting a free ride on mangoes and kiwi is great, and who would have guessed that water-hogs like watermelon and tomato would be low in pesticides?
You can download the guide at the EWG website.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Monday, March 09, 2009
I have been so busy with self-indulgent pregnancy and potty-related posts, I have failed to post any self-indulgent "hey isn't my child brilliant/funny/adorable" posts. Time to remedy that oversight.
February in Portland tends to be rainy and unhospitable. This year has been a little weird, with more snow and less rain than usual. Still, on those rare days when the sun shines, (foolish) parents are tempted out to the park. On this day, it was freezing (literally, I think, in addition to hyperbolically) and after running around for a half-hour, Ada actually asked to go inside. Any of you with a young child know this rarely happens. By the time we walked the half-dozen blocks home, Ada's teeth were chattering and she was considerably less cheerful than she'd been when I snapped this picture. Still, for about 20 minutes we enjoyed our glimpses of the sun reflecting on the play equipment.
Searching for indoor distraction, we headed to the children's museum, where the current traveling exhibit is a Bob the Builder thing. I don't really get the attraction, not being in Bob's target audience. I would think that Ada wouldn't be so into it either, having watched all of ONE episode of Bob the Builder ever. I was so bored by the episode she saw that I never made it available to her. Before you condemn me as a mean mommy, note that Ada never asked for another viewing, so I don't feel so bad about it. And Chris and I let her watch music videos on a semi-routine basis, so there.
In any case, despite no actual interest in Bob and his crew, Ada is very interested in knowing what other people like. She knows that Monkey Boy is crazy for Madagascar, so any time she sees ads (for toothpaste, crackers, or whatever else this movie used to push on children) she demands that we cut out the ad and save it for MB. You know, as a gift. She doesn't care what the ad is for, she just knows it features MB's obsession, and she wants to help him collect as much Madagascar-themed ephemera as possible.
Similarly, Ada knows that her neighbor Paul loves Bob the Builder. Or at least that he used to. Who knows, now that he's almost 5, things could have changed. (We see a lot less of our neighbors in the winter than we do in summer when all the kids race up and down the block together until all hours.) But for Ada I don't suppose it matters whether Paul's obsession is current. If a friend loves something, Ada loves it. Hence the hours we spent in the Bob the Builder exhibit. To be fair, there were some fun activities, and as you can see, Ada learned some useful vocational skills, the value of which can not be overstated in our current economy.
Too bad she's so smart. Today we met friends at the park; Ada rode her tricycle and the other girl showed up on her bicycle. Ada asked to try out the bike, and enjoyed riding it so much that she was in tears when it was time to go. Tonight's "woodchuck" story (a nightly ritual in which Chris or I tell Ada a story featuring a woodchuck who is essentially her furry stand-in) featured a story about Woodchuck's pre-potty using days, and how he so enjoyed riding his friend Squirrel's bike that he eventually decided to use the potty in order to earn a bicycle of his own. Ada and I talked about how fun it was to ride her friend's bike. Instead of taking the story as I'd intended it, Ada wondered aloud whether we could visit her bike-owner friend again, so that she could use the bike while her friend borrowed Ada's trike. Ten seconds after my story and she's already worked out an alternative way to use a bicycle without having to stoop to using the potty.
Friday, March 06, 2009
To the driver of the black Ford F150 with Montana license plate 46-821:
I hope you were as freaked out as I was when you almost merged into the right side of my car this afternoon on the I-5. I know your car is much bigger than mine and it is surely a pain to look down, left and behind before changing lanes at high speed, but nonetheless I request that in the future you try to do so. If I had not braked hard you would have put a serious dent into my just completely-paid-off-this-week car.
Glad that I have better reflexes than you do,
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
I am worried that I am turning into a cold mother, the kind that withholds approval and affection to get what she wants. I am not there yet, but when my daughter is wailing and I am sternly responding that the horror of the moment is the result of her own choice...well, it is hard not to just take her in my arms and tell her she can have whatever she wants if she'll just stop sobbing.
Right now Ada is upstairs with Chris getting ready for bed. No matter who does her bath, Ada always wants me there for pre-bed books. I heard Chris tell Ada to let me rest, that he and she would read books together tonight. But Ada traipsed down the steps to ask: "Mama, are you available for reading books?" How can I look at her and say "nope, actually I don't want to have anything to do with you right now" - even when that is exactly what I want to say?
A few days ago I started writing a post about Ada's (utter lack of) potty routine. I wasn't sure I was going to post it. Several times I have dealt with my frustrations by writing a post that never goes anywhere beyond personal catharsis. But I need to write about this. It may be a stretch to connect potty woes to this, but part of why I blog about infertility is the hope that others suffering similar problems will take heart that they are not alone. I need to write about what we are going through now, both to unburden myself of the frustration, embarrassment and anger, and to hope that my words can let someone else know that it is not just them.
So here is what I wrote on Sunday. Nothing has changed, except that my bile keeps rising with every wet piece of clothing and smelly load of laundry...
I have started this post a dozen or more times, while the drafts get dusty in my files. How do I write about something that embarrasses and angers me, even as I have no control over it? Even worse, when I write or talk about this, well meaning people feel compelled to give me advice. This would be great, but none of the advice (really, none of it) has worked.
Ada is less than 4 months from her 4th birthday. She has not peed in any kind of toilet or potty for over six months. That most recent time was under great duress, and caused her to sob uncontrollably even as I hugged her and told her how proud I was that she'd used the potty. Before that it was over a year since she peed in a potty. Overall she's done it maybe 4 times ever.
My child wears underwear. She only wears diapers at night, and that is because after a few weeks of trying full no diapers, we decided that it was irrational to wake her every night at 11pm to change her sheets and clothes. She sometimes wets the bed at nap time, mostly if she's gone all morning without peeing and her bladder betrays her while she sleeps.
In December, out of frustration and anger, I consulted a social worker who suggested we eliminate the power struggle by letting Ada be completely in charge of her elimination. This meant that she was free to pee or poop in her pants, but that when she did she had to clean it up on her own. Which she does, with very little complaint. The downstairs bathroom is equipped with extra clothes, wipes and plastic bags, and we've placed a mirror at her level so that she can see where she needs to clean up. The underwear has to be washed out in the toilet before it can go in the wash, and all wet clothes are bagged and taken to the washing machine. Is she efficient? No. Does she do it? Yes. Does this satisfy me? No. On the up side, I am not cleaning her up any more.
Many of Ada's toys are potty trained. She spontaneously talks about her stuffed animals or dolls needing to use the potty, and dutifully takes them to the toilet to help them deal with their "need". Before we got to where we are now, we tried progressive rewards. We tried promises of big rewards. We tried cold turkey no diapers. We tried cajoling and questioning and all manner of techniques. Once or twice we forcibly held her down. (the result was so horrifying - arching, crying resistance - that we gave that one up pretty quickly.) We potty trained all her dolls, using a water spritzer to shoot "pee" into the potty while the dolls sat there. She loved that, was happy to train every toy she owns. But she wouldn't sit on the potty herself.
Recently Ada spontaneously started sitting on the toilet. As she describes it, she is "practicing" using the potty. My parents are thrilled. My sister offered congratulations. I want to be hopeful, but this is not the first time that Ada has shown some interest, only to pull back at a crucial moment. I have no idea why this is an issue for her, beyond my general understanding that toddlers often seize control of the few areas in which that is possible. (usually: what goes into and out of their bodies.) For whatever reason, food is not a big issue for Ada. As I have mentioned previously, she will actually eat a wide range of vegetables (as long as there is no sauce in sight) and the list of acceptable foods grows whenever a dessert is likely. But toileting is her control area. She is impervious to peer pressure. There are plenty of 2 year olds at her school that use the potty. She doesn't care. Some of the kids have tried to show her how to use the potty, encourage her to do so, tell her she does not have to be afraid. No dice. Ada is as resistant to peeing at school as she is at home, so it isn't just about controlling her parents.
This is the parenting area (ok, this and whining) that feels the most challenging to me right now. I had kind of promised myself not to write about it until Ada actually used the potty, but I don't know when that might be and I am routinely forced to walk away from her so that I don't express my frustration about this directly to her. Sometimes I fail. Today while plunging the toilet (a tale for another time) I told Stephanie about my frustrations, with Ada standing right there. It was a pretty crappy parenting moment, but it was all I could manage given the circumstances.
I don't really want advice. I mean, I want a magic bullet, sure, but I don't actually believe there is one. My electronic friend Mayberry Mom recently posted about all the things that have not worked with her son. I see my family in her list and share her frustration. I am with her in asking "what the hell?"
And if anyone else says "I'm sure she'll be potty trained before she goes to college" it really is going to come to blows.
Monday, March 02, 2009
Recently people found me when they were looking for:
aaaarrrrr (Is it more or less confusing that this search was from Korea?)
cheerleader cupcakes (also: cheerleading cupcakes - which I might like to see, actually)
can't get over assholes (try some of those cheerleader cupcakes, I hear they help a lot)