Friday, October 30, 2009

Polyseme, Perspective, and Pleasure

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Sammy and I went on a school field trip to the pumpkin patch.  We've been talking about it for days.  We had a really great time, and as we were coming home, Sammy asked me why none of the pumpkins were wearing eye patches.

  2. It was only after I got the results of the chromosomal analysis that I realized that I had almost completely forgotten that I was supposed to get them today.  Those results could have contained really terrible news, but I never worried about it once since the miscarriage because it was so unlikely.  This tells me that I am doing a great job at really and truly keeping this loss in perspective and not allowing it to make me fear disaster at every turn. 

  3. Red wine.

Trisomy 16

I went to the doctor today for my follow-up from the miscarriage.  It was all good news.  There was no indication of any problem with my body or the way I carried the pregnancy.  This is good because those problems might have meant higher risk for the future. 

The chromosomal analysis showed that the fetus had Trisomy 16.  This means that instead of a pair of chromosome 16, the fetus had 3 copies.  Trisomy 16 is the most common chromosomal cause of miscarriage.  This problem alone doesn't indicate any higher risk of problems in future pregnancies.  If you've never heard the word "trisomy," you might be interested to know that Down Syndrome is also known as Trisomy 21.  People with this condition have 3 copies of chromosome 21.  All trisomies are major problems but only trisomies 18 and 21 generally appear in living humans (although there are rare cases of live births withother trisomies).  The rest involve defects so severe that the babies die before birth.

Another good thing is that Trisomy 16 is in no way related to what happened with my first pregnancy.  The two problems that I have had are most likely totally unconnected.  This means that I've had some bad luck, and bad luck is much better than an underlying problem!

I still have to wait until Monday for blood test results to make sure that my hormone levels have gone down.  If they have not, that would indicate that some tissue remains and my body still thinks it is pregnant.  But once I clear that hurdle, we've been given the green light to try to get pregnant again during my next cycle, which means we have to wait just about a month.  I don't think we're going to try to avoid pregnancy this month, though; we'll just see how it goes.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Intellectual, Physical, and Emotional

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Rationally Selfish Radio

  2. Longest walk with the dog this year.

  3. The words, I LOVE YOU TOO, MOMMY.

It Works on My Daughter

Don't you dare go over to 3 Ring Binder to read this week's Objectivst Round Up.  That would be just awful.  Oh my god, you're about to click the link--don't do it, don't do it!  Oh, you did it.  Bye bye.

Cooperation Chart

As I've mentioned, Sammy is going through "a thing."  The symptoms include hitting me, yelling at me, delaying, defiance, crying, begging for hugs, saying I WANT DADDY all the time, anger, tantrums, giving orders such as, DON'T TALK, MOMMY, and about a million instances of the word, NO screamed at the top of her lungs.  It's gotten to the point where I'm afraid to talk to her at all because I'm actually afraid of how she might react.  I find myself tensing up at every interaction and I am not enjoying her company much of the time.

I've tried a number of things with no real results.  For a while I thought she was just missing her dad who was away on a business trip for a few days, but the more comfort I offered, the worse she behaved.  I tried getting more strict with her and that helped a little bit, but not much.  I redoubled my efforts to give her explanations, to give her time to process, and to offer choices, but that actually made things worse.  I noticed that the more I talked, the more angry she would get so I tried talking less.  That helped when I was silent, but the minute I would open my mouth, she'd flip out again.  Even telling her, "I like your drawing," would put me in danger of being attacked.

A few days ago, I had to physically force her to get dressed for school.  I've had to force her into the car seat twice in the past week.  I hadn't had to do those things in a very long time and I realized that we needed to do something to snap out of it.  I decided that I needed to do something new, even if all it did was to break the pattern that we'd been falling into.  I tried to think of what the essential characteristic of all of her behavior has been, and I came to the conclusion that it is defiance.  She is doing whatever she can come up with to thwart me.  All of the other things are either variations of defiance (like delaying tactics) or consequences (like anger when she fails to get her way).  I do feel like I've been "giving orders" to her a lot lately.  Somehow, the things that she used to do on her own, or would do happily when I'd remind her, have become points of contention between us.

Faber and Mazlish have a whole section on engaging cooperation in How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.  Instead of giving orders like "Get that wet towel off my bed!", you can:

  • Describe what you see:  "There is a wet towel on the bed."

  • Give information:  "The towel is getting my blanket wet."

  • Say it with a word:  "The towel."

  • Describe what you feel:  "I don't like sleeping in a wet bed."

  • Write a note:  "Please put me back so I can dry.  Thanks, Your Towel."

I use these techniques all the time but I still get the sense that she is bristling at being bossed around.  I never tell her to do something simply because I say so.  I've explained all the ways which it is in her own self interest to cooperate with me.  We've talked about cooperation in general, and about specific issues.  She agrees in the abstract but then doesn't want to do it.  I've stopped cooperating with her as a consequence to show her how we both need to work together.  That works for 5 minutes then she's back to her old ways.  We use timers and schedules to help make transitions go smoothly and to minimize the need for me to give directions.  But we're still having this problem.  So in addition to the techniques above, I decided to try a reward system, something I usually try to avoid.  I created a "cooperation chart" for her, and she gets stars when she does a good job cooperating with me.  I thought simply writing these things down might help because Sammy loves the written word, and she loves her written schedule.  When I brought home the new whiteboard and magnets I would use for the cooperation chart, she squealed with delight, A NEW SCHEDULE, MOMMY!  ANOTHER SCHEDULE!

Here is Sammy's Cooperation Chart:

Cooperation Chart

The tasks I listed are the areas where we've had the most conflict lately.  "Follow instructions," "Nice words," and "No hitting" are things she needs to do all day long.  (I added "Potty" to the list since we're having so much trouble with that lately too.  And right now, I do think that her not using the potty might be a cooperation issue.)  I explained all of it and she was excited about it and agreed to try to cooperate.

We started using it yesterday and had our first mostly-good day in a long time.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will continue to help.  I'm not sure we'll keep using this chart indefinitely.  I tend to think we just needed something to break us out of this cycle.  It might change from a cooperation chart into a chore list at some point, or maybe something else.  But for now, it seems to be working.

One other thing that I started at the same time and which is helping a lot is the use of humor.  One time I told her, "Good job" about something she did and she flipped out.  After she calmed down, I asked her if it made her mad when I said "Good job."  She said, YES, so I asked her with a grin, "Would you rather I told you you did a terrible job?"  She cracked up.  So for 2 days now, I've been using this humorous reverse psychology to great advantage.  "Don't you dare put your napkin in the trash, young lady!"  "You did a really awful job using the potty."  "That underwear better stay right there on the floor or you'll be in trouble."  Fun stuff.  Sammy loves it, and there is no danger that she'll confuse this with real instructions or anything serious.  This technique can't last forever either, but again, it helps to break up the serious stuff and the anger that had built up between us.

We're having fun again.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Success, Scrumptious, and Sleep

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I had the best day with Sammy that I've had in weeks.  My good idea seems to be working.  Hint: it involves a whiteboard.  I'll write about it tomorrow.

  2. I tried cooking my vegetables in chicken fat for the first time tonight and it was delicious. 

  3. Sammy had a 2.75 hour nap today, and I slept for 2 hours myself.  Enough said.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All about Sam

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Sammy made it through school without pooping in her pants for the first time in about 2 weeks.

  2. I came up with a promising idea to deal with Sammy's latest problem behavior (defiance, sass, hitting, back-talk, and just general nastiness).  I'll write more about it later.

  3. I bought Sammy some new clothes and pajamas.  Little-girl clothes are so cute!

First Science Lessons

Sammy and I were driving along the other day when I had to put on the brakes pretty hard.  Her sippy cup, which had been resting in her lap, fell forward to the floor.  In a curious voice she said, MY SIPPY CUP FELL ON THE FLOOR, so I told her that I put on the brakes to slow down the car, but since there was nothing to stop the cup, it kept moving forward.  I told her that was called inertia.

Then we passed the mountain of mulch that we had climbed last week.  It was shorter and wider than it had been before, after all of the climbing that had been done in the meantime.  I pointed this out, explaining that no mulch had been removed, but that the mountain was shorter.  I reminded her how the mulch rolled down to the bottom when she had climbed and slid on the mountain and told her that all that fallen mulch now made the mountain wider.  There was the same amount of mulch, but now it was in a different shape.

She listened intently each time.  It's exciting that she's old enough that I can start giving her these explanations!

Monday, October 26, 2009

More Friends

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I visited a friend today and we chatted while the kids played.  I was relaxed.  It was simple and nice. 

  2. My friend who visited yesterday gave Sammy the most wonderful book, All the Places to Love.  I can't read it without crying; it's just lovely.

  3. In today's mail I received another thoughtful gift from a friend who, with her words, has helped me to accept all of this support and sympathy I've received.  I am a different and better person than I was 2 weeks ago.

Writing Files

Ok, are you ready for more good stuff?  I'm just bursting with it lately.  Again, during that horrible weekend of the miscarriage, I had an important breakthrough.  I finally thought of a good plot idea for a novel.

A little background:  I've wanted to write fiction for as long as I can remember, but I basically just gave up the idea for about 15 years because, well, I suppose I just didn't have the courage to try it.  About a year and a half ago, I read I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What it Was, by Barbara Sher, on the recommendation of Jean Moroney.  You can read my About Amy page to find out how that influenced me to start this blog and to try to do non-fiction freelance writing.

I've completely dropped the idea of freelancing for magazines as I had intended.  I love writing my blog.  I love it more than I ever could have imagined.  But I have no desire to write the kinds of articles I read in magazines.  It's mostly tripe.  I might be able to make money from it, but I wouldn't enjoy it.  There are opportunities for writing quality, substantive articles, but to make money doing that you really do need to have some kind of specialized knowledge, which would defeat the whole purpose for me.  So I've been looking for some other way to write as a career.

Then, a couple of months ago, I re-read Ayn Rand's The Art of Fiction and participated in an on-line book club discussion about it (thanks, MOBsters!).  My desire to write fiction returned full-force and I've been working on ideas ever since.  In the past, I'd always been able to write good scenes, but never to construct a plot or even to find a plot-theme that seemed worth exploring.  I'd just get stumped and wouldn't be able to move forward.  My breakthrough was finding a seed of an idea that I am excited about enough to keep plugging away at it.  I like this idea.  It's not too ambitious for a first effort but it's not superficial.  The theme is very meaningful to me personally.  The events draw on knowledge that I already have (I don't have to do a ton of research on designer molecules or the history of Albania).  The situation presents a wealth of potential conflicts to explore.  I like thinking about it.  I am loving the actual work, not just the abstract thought of finishing a novel.  And finally, I seem to be able to accept that I need to work on it incrementally.  It doesn't bother me one bit that this might take me 10 years, or that I might have to scrap this particular idea and start over.  I can even accept that I might fail.  I must have made some progress on my time-sickness!

I'm obviously not going to share the actual story idea here.  For one thing, it is constantly evolving (it has already changed about 80% since my initial thoughts about it), and for another, I think it would hinder my thinking about the actual work to be reporting on it directly.  But I do want to share something of what I'm doing here on the blog, because, well, I think it is interesting, and maybe you will too.  (If you know of any writers who blog about their day-to-day work process, let me know - I'd love to read them.)

So to kick off this "Writing Files" thread, I'll give you a little idea of what my work on this story consists of.  For now, I use my mental down-time (showering, walking the dog, driving) to think about the story.  I usually have to spend about 5 minutes bringing the full context of what I've already accomplished into the forefront of my mind.  This is difficult and takes an act of will.  Usually, as I'm doing this, I recognize what I need to work on next but sometimes I have to do a lot of thinking just to figure out what to think about next.  So far, I can hold all of this in my head without sitting in front of my notes.  I've already spent a lot of time on character development and clarifying my theme, and I'm still in the early stages.  But this is an interative process and now I'm working on the plot - more specifically, I'm looking for a climax.  In The Art of Fiction, Ayn Rand gives this invaluable advice:
When you construct a plot, the first event to figure out is always the climax...First devise an event that dramatizes and resolves the issues of your story, then construct the rest of the plot backward, by asking yourself what events are needed in order to bring your characters to this point.

I actually already have the general idea of what my climax will be, and I have it in terms of action, not just something like, "the character realizes she must choose X or Y."  But as I've used that climax to start working backwards, I've been realizing that I need to get just a bit more specific before I can really move on.  The ultimate conflict needs to be stronger or deeper or something.  I'm not sure what yet.  My next task is to make a "laundry list" of things that would be the most difficult, painful, dramatic, and intense conflict possible for the character I have in mind.  (Another tip directly from Ayn Rand.)  I won't assess these ideas until later.  Right now, I just want to make a list and see what my subconscious brings up for me. 

So that's what I'm working on now.  In future Writing Files posts, I plan to talk more about issues like how I get these ideas recorded before I lose them, how much time I spend each day working, any mental blocks I encounter, etc.  This has become a big part of my life now, so of course, it needs to be blogged.  I hope it holds some interest for you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Three Good Things for the weekend:

  1. We attended our friends' wedding yesterday.  As Adam pointed out, it was nice to once again be celebrating with friends instead of commiserating.  Congratulations, J&&!

  2. We had a wonderful visit from a friend from California tonight whom we hadn't seen in years. 

  3. I set up 3 or 4 more social events for the coming weeks.  Our calendar is fully booked up with fun!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Little Thing

I got them, the dreaded words, for the first time yesterday:


And I could take it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Control, Companionship, and Contentment

Yesterday I was on Cloud 9; today I'm down in the dumps.  But there are always Three Good Things:

  1. Despite her epic tantrum and refusal to get dressed, I got Sammy to school on time (and clothed) without losing my temper.

  2. Adam comes home from his business trip tonight.

  3. Sammy is contentedly watching The Muppet Movie, her new favorite thing.  TV is an important parenting tool on a day like today.

A Little Thing

After we decorated our front, bay window with pumpkins, witches, and a glowing bat, I decided that it was not enough and bought some of that fake spiderweb stuff.  Adam put it up around the window, using our sculpture of Thomas Jefferson to hold it in place, then he left for work.  Sammy said,


And she did.

New Windows

We got new windows installed in our house last week! 

This is the biggest home-improvement project we've ever done, so it's kind of a milestone for us.  The whole project took 4 months, but most of that was just waiting for the windows to be ordered.  I did interview about 7 companies over 6 weeks, and I did a lot of research as well.  (Angie's List was a great help, although nothing can beat a personal recommendation from somebody you trust.) 

We decided to make this our first big project on the house for a few reasons.  First, we'll get some return on our investment with the energy savings we'll experience.  The old windows (original to the house which was built in 1981) were very drafty and inefficient, so it will simply be more comfortable in the house as well.  There was also the tax credit which isn't huge, but we figured we might as well do it sooner rather than later.  I have no idea if new windows will increase the value of our home, though, and I didn't even look into it.  We never make home improvements for that purpose.  It's nice if it happens, but we have never looked at our home as an investment.  We only spend money if we get the value out of it while we live there.  And we never make design choices for anyone but ourselves.  So far, this policy has never hurt us financially.

The old windows also had almost no soundproofing.  Last spring I was awakened every morning by a bird in the tree outside my bedroom window.  It might as well have been in the room.  The sliding glass doors sounded like nails on a chalkboard when you operated them.  The screens were broken.  There was a hole in one of the storm windows.  There was some dry rot in a couple of the sills because some idiot had filled in the weep holes (look it up).  There was mold, or at least some strange kind of dirt, on a couple of the windows.  They were ugly.  They rattled.  And half of them were impossible to open. 

We're very happy with the new windows.  We got the standard double-pane vinyl windows that everybody gets now.  They open and close so smoothly that I'm much more likely to open them on a nice day.  The house is so much more quiet now.  I love letting the dog out in the back yard because the door is such a pleasure to operate.  The windows tilt in so I can easily clean the outside of them.  And they look great!  I didn't take any "before" photos, but here is a picture of our next-door neighbor's window, which is exactly what ours looked like before:




And here is a photo of one of our new windows:



We're slowly, slowly, making this house into our own home.  I really enjoy the process.  The next big project is replacing the deck and landscaping the yard.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Three Kinds of Vigor

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Sammy and I made an impromptu stop at the playground when I spotted a huge mountain of mulch right there in the middle of it.  It was about 7 feet high and maybe 10 by 15 feet at the base.  I suppose somebody was going to spread it out eventually and I didn't want to miss our chance to play in it.  It was the perfect mountain for a pre-schooler to climb and slide down (and not too bad for an adult either).  Sammy went out of her mind with excitement and I've never seen her so physically adventurous.  Another parent wondered aloud why the kids were playing on the mulch when there were slides and climbing equipment all around them.  I guess she's forgotten her youth.  I'm glad that I haven't.

  2. I did some very good thinking on my walk with Toby this morning. 

  3. I took my cat to the vet for his annual check up and he is healthy.

A Little Thing

Sammy calls him, PERMIT THE FROG.

Objectivist Round Up

Here it is, your weekly Objectivist Round Up.  Head on over to Rule of Reason and enjoy!

A Gift

During our long, terrible weekend recovering from the miscarriage, life threw us yet another curve ball, but this was the good kind.  We found out that Adam's recently deceased grandmother left him a large sum of money.  Adam and I are both in a bit of shock about it and we're trying to work through what it will mean for us.  It's not enough money that (even if he wanted to, which he certainly doesn't) Adam could quit working.  It's nowhere near that kind of money.  It's not even enough that we will substantially change our lifestyle.  But it's enough that it will definitely change our lives.  I think I can sum it up by saying that we have lived on the financial edge for as long as we've been married, but this will put us into the blissful category of "financially secure," and it will probably keep us there forever.  Thank you, Grammy.  This is an amazing gift that we never expected.

The first thing we're going to do is to pay back Adam's parents the money they lent us to use as down payment on our house.  That will feel really good.  Then we'll pay off a good chunk of our "second mortgage," otherwise known as our student loans.  We can completely eliminate at least one loan and free up a sizable chunk of monthly income in the process.  Then, we'll set aside a healthy emergency fund.  That will be a huge relief to me, as the conservative CFO of this family. 

There will be plenty of money left after all that and we're not sure exactly what we'll do with it yet, but we do intend to buy one special thing:  a digital piano.  We've been saving up for one for a few months now anyway, but now it will be a gift from Grammy.   This photo will have a permanent home on top of the piano:

With Great Grammy

It's hard to believe this is really happening.  This money is going to give us peace of mind about our finances.  I can't even remember what that feels like, but I know it's going to be really, really good.  

This experience reminds me of one of Diana Hsieh's first podcasts, when she answered a listener's question about the morality of inheritance.  She essentially said that an inheritance is a gift, and that there is nothing immoral about accepting a gift.  At the time I thought, "duh!" but now that it is happening to me, I can see where people might have some trouble accepting such a gift.  I don't personally have trouble with this kind of gift, but I do have trouble accepting other things from people, as I mentioned in yesterday's post.  I can't easily accept sympathy, help, and support from others.  I conflate sympathy with pity, which is a mistake.  Part of my problem is a mistaken premise that I have a duty to support myself independently, regardless of context.  Part of it is a trust issue.  It manifests itself in many harmful ways that go way beyond accepting help:  I'm uncomfortable meeting new people, it takes me years to form a real friendship, I am hyper-defensive and second-handed about how people perceive me, especially regarding my intelligence, and there's more.  I'm still working on figuring it all out.  So, along with dealing with the wonderful support I received after my miscarriage, this is yet another experience that is helping me in my introspection on this issue.  In this case, I have something to differentiate.  Why am I able to accept benefiting from an inheritance (and one that has not even been given to me, but to my husband), but I can't easily accept someone cooking dinner for me when I've suffered a loss?  I'm going to listen to Diana's podcast again, with this question in mind.  I'm getting closer to an answer to this problem.  I'm determined to work this out so that I can benevolently enjoy my relationships with others.  And if Grammy helps me get there, that will be an even greater gift than the money.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Good Things

The one bad thing that has happened to me lately came at an opportune time.  This is a time when a lot of really great things are happening for me and my family.  It's easier to cope with a loss when you have all sorts of good things going on.  I'll write more about some of the specific things as time goes on.  There are a couple of whoppers!

Before the miscarriage, I had been thinking a lot about how lucky I am.  Well, I shouldn't say "lucky," but that is part of it.  I suppose I was reflecting on how well things are going for me.  I have a great marriage, a wonderful daughter whom I get to care for full time, we're all healthy, we don't have a house on the market, and there are many great things to look forward to in our future.  Sadly, the reason I was thinking along these lines is that a lot of my friends are going through very difficult times right now: divorce, cancer, you name it.  Before the miscarriage, I actually thought to myself that I'd be really lucky if nothing went wrong with the pregnancy.  (For anyone who thinks there is something mystical about my insight, I have news for you: this is called coincidence.)

The miscarriage has just reinforced this awareness of the good things that surround me.  I simply can't feel sorry for myself.  Above and beyond the values that I have earned for myself, I've also just led a fairly lucky life.  I've had a bit more of the bad luck lately, with the two lost pregnancies, but besides that and the divorce from my first husband (I'll have to write about that some day), I haven't really had many "trials" in my life.  I have friends who were abused as children, or their parents divorced, or there was a lot of death surrounding them.  In contrast, I feel like I've almost lived a sheltered life.

But in order to focus on the good, and not just the lack of bad, I'm going to reinstate my Three Good Things series here on the blog.  It feels like the right time.  To kick it off, here are Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Today is just about the most beautiful fall day imaginable, with bright sunshine, a cool breeze, and colors galore.

  2. I'm going to a wedding this weekend and I found a suitable dress in my closet--and it fits!

  3. Sammy is now old enough that I can hand her the phone while driving, she can have a brief conversation with her dad, and then hand the phone back to me.  I marvel at Little Accomplishments like that.


It's been a week since my miscarriage and I'm feeling like I'm pretty much over it.  I did a lot less grieving than I thought I would.  The procedure on Friday went smoothly and I felt fine by Friday night.  I just moped around the house over the weekend and, although it was probably good to have some time to reflect, I was very happy to get back to my normal routine on Monday.

I guess I was right when I said that there wasn't much of a context to disintegrate with this loss.  Usually, that disintegration is the work of grief.  (I got that from Leonard Peikoff, but the specific source eludes me.) When you love someone, you integrate him or her into your life.  You share values.  In my case, I hadn't integrated a person into my life, but a pregnancy.  I had to do things like unsubscribe from a pregnancy newsletter, cancel ob-gyn appointments, cancel my prenatal yoga class, rethink next summer's travel plans, set aside the plans for preparing the baby's room, and even cancel a prenatal massage.  Those things were a disappointment.  I had valued all of it as part of the pregnancy experience.  But I had no connection with the life growing inside me yet.  I do indeed feel like this is just a setback.  We're still going to have a second child and all the values that come from that - we're just not going to have them as soon.

I don't mean to diminish this experience.  It really is a horrible thing to go through.  I think when it happens in a first pregnancy it is much more difficult.  But it's been a week and I'm over it.  Sure, there is a little residual sadness, but it is in the background.  There is a little bit of new doubt about whether we will be able to have a second child, but I'm fighting that by focusing on the fact that it is metaphysically given whether or not we will succeed.  We will take all the action we can to make it happen, but worrying about it will not change anything.

We did decide to get the chromosomal analysis of the fetus.  We should have the results in a few weeks.  If there is anything to learn from this that can help our future efforts, we'll learn it.  Most likely, though, we won't learn anything at all.  I'm ok with that too.

There are other things I've learned from this experience.  I'm working on a bad premise I have about accepting help and support from other people.  And I've been vindicated in my practice of being totally honest with my daughter about sensitive issues like this.  We told her everything from the day I took the pregnancy test to the miscarriage, and she's handled it just fine.  I'll write more about both of these subjects in the days to come.

A Little Thing


Sammy, the pen is for writing on paper, not my desk.


Sammy, your dirty napkin goes in the trash, not on the cat.


Sammy, food is for eating, not spreading on your shirt.


Sammy, you're making grunting noises; do you need to use the potty? 


The funny thing is, if I ask her, "Are you telling me not to look at you because you want to go ahead and do the wrong thing?" she'll answer honestly, YES.  Testing, testing, testing - that is her job.  Being consistent, consistent, consistent - that is mine.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Little Thing

You know your child is really upset when she cries so hard her beloved chewable vitamin falls out of her mouth.  Sad, but still, a little cute.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Another Virtual Parenting Lesson

A three-year-old can be a challenge, but it's good to be reminded of how parenting only gets more challenging as children grow older.  Michelle at Scribbit writes today about a tough call she had to make regarding her 7th grader's school.  She had allowed him to change schools at his request, but after seeing that the new school wasn't working out, she decided to move him back to his original school.  She writes:
The decision was the hardest decision I ever made in my life, hands down. Hard because I know my son and I knew that moving him back would kill him--he would hurt like he'd never hurt before and I worried if it would ruin our relationship. He'd feel betrayed, he'd feel angry and upset and I wondered if making this change wouldn't cause more damage.

What interested me most, though, was her statement defending her choice to make this decision for her son:
I've known people who say that children should be able to make all their own choices. I disagree. Instead, it is my job as a mother to teach them to make their own choices by allowing them agency in limited, steadily increasing amounts toward the goal of independence and wisdom but until they're old enough to make all of their own decisions there are many things that it is my job to decide.

We allowed our son to decide if he wanted to transfer schools at the beginning because there was no reason at the time why that would be a bad idea. But once the warnings were there it was our job to step in and make the tough call to transfer back that he couldn't make for himself.

I complete agree with this sentiment and I believe Michelle made the right choice in this situation.  Figuring out where to draw that line between allowing your child freedom and making decisions for him is tough.  I don't have a clear principle to guide me here.  Many parents I respect try to err on the side of freedom, and I think that is a good starting point.  But when do you step in?  When the child is in physical danger?  When irreparable damage is certain?  Likely?  Possible?  Maybe these questions will only become more clear as I gain experience. 

In the meantime, I'm learning as much as I can from others' experiences.  Thank god for the Internet!  All of these stories are available to me.  I don't get "advice" on-line.  I get virtual experience.  I watch what others do and analyze and assess.  This is so much better than Hillary Clinton's village.

A Little Thing

Me, after Sammy colored on my one of my private notebooks:  This is my journal and it's not for you to write on.  See, here on the cover it says, "PRIVATE. Amy's journal."  Do you know what "private" means?


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Objectivist Round Up

Here is this week's Objectivist Round Up, presented by Titanic Deck Chairs.

And with that, I'm signing off for the weekend.  Thank you so much, readers, for all of your support.

Logistics and Statistics

So tomorrow I go to the hospital for a procedure called "dilation and curettage," which is a type of abortion.  This is my second unwanted abortion, and I'm not happy about that.  Since it makes me feel better to write about all of this, I'll tell you what I know about this process.  (And thank you all for your kind comments.)

In a case like this, where it is discovered that the fetus is not developing before there are any symptoms of miscarriage, there are two choices:  have the D&C, or let things happen naturally.  Eventually, my pregnancy hormones would adjust and my body would naturally expel the contents of my uterus.  The problem with that option is that you don't know exactly when it will happen, it can be very painful, and it is very bloody.  The doctor emphasized, "a lot of blood."  The risks of a D&C these days are minimal, the most common major problem being infection, which could lead to perforation of the uterus and infertility.  But I trust the doctor who advised me yesterday that this risk is very small.  I will be on prophylactic antibiotics anyway, and I've never been prone to infection.  Many times, even if you let things happen naturally, you need the D&C anyway to be sure all the tissue has been expelled.  The other benefit of the D&C is that a genetic analysis can be performed to possibly find out what went wrong.  I'm not sure if my insurance will cover this, so I'm not sure we'll have it done, but it would be nice to know if possible, especially given my history.

The biggest cause of miscarriage is genetic defect.  If the problem is bad enough, the fetus can't get beyond a certain state of growth.  When we are amazed at how well DNA builds such perfect human beings even with all the problems we see in living people, we shouldn't forget that there are a lot of errors - these are the miscarriages.  I read last night that up to 75% of a 40 year old woman's eggs may contain genetic defects.  Unfortunately, the book I have does not include footnotes and this figure sounds ridiculously high.  (The book is also one of those types where pregnant women are encouraged to take no risks whatsoever so I don't completely trust it.  Another source put the percentage of defective eggs at 50, with the caveat that this figure was arrived at by studying only infertile women, so it is probably still high.)  But one hard fact is that the miscarriage rate for 40 year old women is about 1 in 3 and it goes up dramatically as you move towards 45. 

These figures can be depressing, and it is certainly possible that we'll never have another child.  (Here is an interesting personal anecdote from a woman who tried to have a second child in her mid-forties - she eventually did fail.)  But I look at these figures as a way to understand and cope with this miscarriage.  As I said before, it can be seen as "normal" at my age of 39.  And I have to be prepared for it to happen again.  But for now, this is no deterrent.

Tomorrow is going to be a terrible day, and from what I gather, I'm going to be in pain through the weekend at a minimum.  But I want to get it over with.  I've spent the past 24 hours worried sick that things would start happening on their own.  I hope I make it through the next 24.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The M Word

I had an ultrasound today.  There is no heartbeat.  The fetus stopped developing a couple of weeks ago.  I had a miscarriage.  On Friday I'll have a D&C.  I'll write more about that later.

It's ok.  I mean, it's horrible, but I'll be ok.  This is nothing like losing a 24 week pregnancy.  When that happened, I really resented people who equated my experience with a miscarriage, but I wasn't sure if my feelings were just, because I had never experienced a miscarriage.  Well, I was right.  This is hard, but I don't feel like I've lost a baby.  We didn't know the sex yet, we had never heard the heartbeat or seen the baby on ultrasound, and we hadn't bought anything for the baby.  My belly hadn't grown.  I hadn't felt the baby move.  We hadn't bonded with it.  We don't have a huge context to disintegrate.  We just have to start over.

I do have one similar feeling:  the feeling that I have lost time.  When our first child was stillborn, I felt like I had lost a year of my life.  We had spent 4 months getting pregnant, 5+ months being pregnant, and then we had to wait 3 more months before we could try again.  I'm sure I'll be told that we should wait 3 months again, but I might not heed that advice.  I started planning and thinking about it within 10 minutes of finding out, and Adam agrees: We're getting right back on that horse!

I'm also thinking about the things that will be easier.  We have some travel plans that will be much easier now.  Next time, I'll be better prepared with the right drugs for my psoriasis, which has gotten totally out of control since I had to suddenly stop my medication.  Well, that's about all the positive stuff I can think of right now.  As for the negative, I think the thing that bothers me the most is that when we do have SS, there will be that much more of a gap between our children's ages.  That, and the fact that, the older I get, the less likely we are to successfully have a child at all.  But, at least right now, I'm not feeling as stressed out about that as I was when we first decided to try for another child.  For some reason, I was really afraid that we wouldn't be able to conceive at all.  A miscarriage is almost par for the course at my age, so I don't feel like this doesn't bode well for the future.  We might have another miscarriage, but we're still fertile, and we've had one healthy child, so there is no reason to leap to worries about ultimate failure.

And that is one of the reasons I decided to announce my pregnancy to the whole world immediately.  I knew this could happen, and if it did, I wanted people to know.  I can't tell you how shocked I was after our first, failed pregnancy, to find out how common miscarriages, infertility, stillbirths, and other problems really are.  Once you are a part of "the club," the stories come out of the woodwork.  Miscarriage is common enough that I would call it normal.  If you don't know how common it is and you have one, you will not have the right perspective, and you might become afraid.  It might seem like there is something wrong with you, or that you did something wrong like eating the wrong food or exercising too much.  Many women even feel ashamed, since it is just never, ever talked about (except in those internet chat rooms, and you should not go there--trust me).  I don't want women to have to go through that.  I mean, I hate thinking about all the pity people will feel for me, and even the sympathy.  I hate to cause other people those negative feelings and I hate to be the object of them.  I could have spared all of us that by just keeping my mouth shut.  But now that this has happened, I can confirm what my gut told me in the first place:  We need to stop hiding early pregnancy and miscarriages.  It's one thing to learn the miscarriage rate as an abstraction.  It's another to know that 5 out of your 6 best friends have had miscarriages, fertility problems, or a stillbirth. 

I've only known that I miscarried for about 8 hours now, and I've had to tell 5 people.  Telling people is difficult and painful (although writing this blog post is cathartic).  I understand the desire not to have to go through that.  But I think that telling people is an important part of facing up to what happened.  I can't imagine having been pregnant this whole time, losing the baby, and having the whole thing be invisible to all of my friends and family.  I think it would prolong the pain.  I don't mean that I want to "share" the pain, like spreading it out would lessen it or something.  I just don't like keeping secrets from people who are close to me.  (And once you tell those people, the cat is out of the bag and you might as well tell everyone.)  It's important to note that I absolutely do not think that it is dishonest to keep an early pregnancy a secret--it is nobody's business but the parents' and there are plenty of situations where it is rational to keep it hidden.  What I'm saying is that this default practice of waiting 3 months to announce a pregnancy does not do anybody any good.  Ignorance is not bliss.

I'll write more about this in the days to come, but now I have to go have a good cry.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rationally Selfish Radio

I've become a regular and enthusiastic listener of Diana Hsieh's podcast, Rationally Selfish Radio.  Although many of my readers are probably already aware of it, the podcast is so good I that I wanted to encourage those few who haven't listened yet to give it a try. 

Dr. Hsieh speaks on a wide variety of topics, which keeps things fresh and interesting.  In her 13 podcasts to date, she has included segments on:

What I really like about Dr. Hsieh's podcast is her clarity and precision in discussing ideas.  I've gone into a few podcasts thinking, "I already know what I think about this topic and it doesn't sound all that interesting," but I always come out feeling like it was time well-spent.  Most of the time, Dr. Hsieh does have some insight that is new to me, but even when she does not, her methodical, rational analysis is just a joy to experience. 

If you've never listened to podcasts or books on tape, I recommend listening while you drive.  I find it impossible to sit still and listen to anything at all, with both my overflowing inbox and dirty living room staring me in the face.  Of course, if my daughter is around, it's not going to happen.  But listening to a podcast in the car is a great way to multitask.  Even Sammy likes to listen sometimes.  And now, she recognizes not only Dr. Peikoff's voice, but Dr. Hsieh's as well:  MOMMY!  THAT'S DI-NANA!

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Little Thing

Sammy eating her first pomegranate.  No further words required:





Thursday, October 8, 2009

Objectivist Round Up

You can find this week's Objectivist Round Up at Trey Givens' blog.  I'm looking forward to reading Kate Gerber's Is there a "Work-Life Balance?"


Since we had Sammy, I've been running a lot more plastic through the dishwasher.  It seems obvious now, but I couldn't figure out why the ceramic and glass would come out dry and the plastic would always be wet.  Answer:  Ceramic and glass are better heat conductors and therefore stay hot longer and get drier than plastic.  Duh!

Since that mystery was solved, here's another one.  Why doesn't anybody make a lightweight children's step stool taller than a measly 8 inches?  We have stools all over the house, but have yet to figure out a good solution for the bathroom sinks.  Right now, this is what we have to deal with in our tiny powder room:

Attempt to make it child-friendly

If you look closely, you can see that the stool blocks almost half the doorway.  It is a tiny space and I can't imagine keeping it like this as long as Sammy needs a stool.  She has to stand on the 2nd step and she can just barely reach the handles to turn on the water.  She cannot reach the soap because of that completely non-functional sink.  (For the life of me, I cannot understand why anybody would ever buy a pedestal sink.  There is no storage and no countertop space.  But that's another mystery altogether.)

Anyway, this is a mystery I haven't been able to solve.  Any ideas out there?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More Freedom

This week I reorganized Sammy's toys and play area.  I put away a lot of baby toys for SS (Sammy's Sibling) and bagged up all of the Happy Meal crap that had accumulated to give away.  I also moved things around.  Her dolls are on a shelf instead of in a drawer.  Her easel and table have switched places.  Almost all of the stuffed animals are in a trunk and their old places on the shelves occupied by games and puzzles.  I do a playroom reorg every couple of months or so, but this was a major one.

The biggest change I made is that I brought all of Sammy's art supplies - scissors, crayons, glue, paper, clay, markers and paint - out from the high places I used to store them, and put them in a set of drawers that she can access whenever she likes.  She's pretty responsible with these things, but I haven't been willing to monitor her closely enough to allow her free access until now.  I've noticed such a huge change in her since she started Montessori that I thought now was a great time to give this a shot.

She's been spending a lot of time with her washable markers and the glue.  She had never used glue at home before now, so it's new and exciting.  This is great because she gets very involved and I get lots of time to do my own thing.  She has shown no inclination to draw on the walls or glue the cat to the dog, so I haven't had to do much monitoring.  I do have to interrupt my own activities, though - not to stop her from doing something wrong, but to respond to the constant cries of COME LOOK, MOMMY!  I GLUED IT BY MYSELF.  COME LOOK!  I MADE A TRIANGLE.  MOMMY!  MOMMY!  I MADE YOU A PICTURE. 

That reorg was a couple of hours well spent.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Social Norms

I'm fascinated by social norms - unofficial rules that people obey without the force of the law to back them up. 

A friend of mine recently started working as a nurse at a hospital and realized she had broken a social norm when a co-worker said to her, "Oh!  I thought you were a doctor when I saw you from behind."  My friend realized that she was wearing the "wrong" kind of lab coat for a nurse and quickly corrected her mistake. 

Recently, I read about the Dutch town of Drachten where they have removed all traffic signs and signals.  People have come up with their own methods of sharing the roads with other drivers, bikers, and pedestrians, and they actually have less serious accidents now.  People drive much more slowly and cautiously, but there is less traffic and you get to your destination more quickly.  I haven't verified these facts, but it is an interesting experiment.  Take a look:


I'm enjoying one of the social norms at Sammy's new school.  When the weather is nice, we pick up the children at the school's playground behind the building.  We park in the large parking lot, get out, and collect our children.  I have yet to see 2 cars parked directly next to each other.  Everybody leaves a space between cars.  It means walking a bit further, but it also means that there is always enough room to open the car door and maneuver the child into the car seat.  A parking lot full of spaced out cars is also much safer.  Reversing out of a parking space can be difficult when there are two huge minivans on either side of you.  With all the kids around, it just makes sense. 

This is a great example of Ayn Rand's principle that there is no conflict of interests between rational men.  It is selfish to cooperate with others in this way.  Safety is a greater value than convenience, in this case.  (It would not be a greater value at Target on a Saturday when you might have to walk a mile if only every other parking spot were used.)  Any parent who decided to break the "rules" by parking next to another car just to get a bit closer to the playground, while counting on others to follow the rule so he could reap the benefits of it, would be seeking the unearned.  This is not selfishness, but dependency. 

It's nice to see a group of people acting rationally and selfishly in such an everyday way.   These are the Little Things that I love to pluck out of my experience and savor.

Monday, October 5, 2009

7 Weeks

7 WeeksI finally got started taking photos of my pregnant self.  Here I am at 7 weeks pregnant.  (For the uninitiated, being "7 weeks pregnant" means that you conceived 5 weeks ago.  A pregnancy is dated based on the first day of your last period.  Your due date is 40 weeks from that date.)

That belly you see is just my usual fat self, but I have gained 5 pounds and my clothes are too tight.  I'm determined not to buy any maternity clothes until I absolutely have to.  This is not because I don't like maternity clothes.  As a matter of fact, I love maternity clothes!  The only time I get to wear a lot of new things is when I'm pregnant because I'm the kind of person who normally spends about $100 a year on clothes.  Maybe $200 if you include shoes.  $250 if you include jewelry.  Seriously, my budget is $20/month.

So anyway, the reason I don't want to buy anything much in advance is that last time around, I grew out of clothes before I had a chance to wear them.  I was due in September, so in March I went out and bought a lot of summer things.   That year in Michigan the warm weather didn't come until June, and by that time I was too big for some of the stuff I bought.  You're supposed to just buy size "small," "medium," "large," etc. based on your pre-pregnancy size and, just to be safe, I bought a size up from that.  Still, I had to keep buying new things cotinuously.  By August I had grown out of every single thing I owned and had to buy a whole new wardrobe (ok, that just means a few pairs of pants, really) for one month of wear.  I had to shop in the fat womens' maternity section, and I'll tell you, it was really hard to find anything at all that fit me.  I went from an original size of 6 to bigger than 14.  That's not about the belly - that's just the hips and thighs and the rest.

Even with all of that, I really loved the big belly.  I never felt "fat."  Well, there was that one photo that clearly showed all the cellulite on my thighs (shudder).  But really, I loved the whole thing, including the maternity clothes.  Yesterday, I went into my closet and looked at all those jeans that feel so tight, and I thought, "I'm going shopping!"  The thought of buying stretch pants was a thrill.  (I know, I'm sick in the head.)  But I came to my senses.  In the meantime, I'm going to go shopping in those boxes of maternity clothes that have been in storage for 3 years.  Yipee!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Prenatal Tests

I just completed a nightmarish 4 day saga of deciding which prenatal diagnostic tests to have.  I got no real help from my doctors or the support nurses in the Future Moms program I am participating in.  I finally decided to stick with the Nuchal Translucency screening, which was what I did in both of my previous pregnancies.  It involves an ultrasound and a blood test and it looks for markers that indicate a higher likelihood of genetic problems such as Down Syndrome.  It does not test directly for these conditions, but just gives you an indication that you might want to take a definitive test such as an amniocentesis.  There is a pretty high rate of "false positives" - results that indicate higher risk when there is no actual abnormality present.  So you have to be prepared to get a scary result, take another test, and then wait about 10 days for definitive results.  I can live with that.  The NT screening also tests for neural tube defects and congenital heart defects, which CVS and amniocentesis do not, unless they are part of an identified genetic condition.  (I can't find anything that tells me exactly what is tested for, just these broad outlines.) 

Because the problems with my first baby were detected through ultrasound, I like the idea of this direct "looking" at the fetus.  The 20 week ultrasound will be the most important one, but the NT screen will give me a measure of comfort if the results come back negative.  I also like that the test is more comprehensive, even if less definitive.  My situation does not lend itself to looking for any specific problem since the cause of my first baby's problems is a total mystery.  I want the most comprehensive testing possible.

All of that was the easy part of the analysis.  The hard part was trying to compare the costs of each procedure.  Health insurance co-pays are supposed to signal costs to the consumer - something that has been lost in our insane collectivized health system. (Of course, the current proposed "reforms" of health care would make this problem worse, but I'm not going to get into that issue on my blog.)  My insurance company, however, makes it impossible to figure out what something will cost me ahead of time.  I spent 4 days making phone calls trying to figure out my portion of the costs of these tests, and ended up knowing nothing at all.  Finally, I gave up.  I'm going to rely on the fact that there is a yearly maximum out-of-pocket expense that I can pay.  I'm going to budget that full amount and be prepared to spend it.  I still have to be careful, though, because if I neglect to get a pre-authorization for a procedure that requires one, I'll have to pay all the costs and my maximum won't apply.  How do I know what requires pre-authorization?  I have to guess, and then call the insurance company for every single thing that I suspect might require it.  What clues do I have to go on?  Nothing.  Wish me luck!

The next thing that I decided to do was to get a flu shot.  That took over a week of work.  First, I had to figure out where I could get one under my insurance.  That took a few phone calls and hours in front of their web site.  Once I figured that out, I found that all of the places giving the shots would get a small supply, use it up, and then have nothing for weeks.  I had to keep calling different clinics and pharmacies every day to see if they had any shots and how long the wait was.  One time, I raced out to a CVS in the next town over, only to find that there was a wait of over 2 hours!  I got lucky last night and got my shot at my local supermarket pharmacy.  By just showing up and asking, I think I cut in front of dozens of people on the waiting list (they were waiting for a phone call from the pharmacy), but I could care less.  I'm supposed to have some kind of priority because I'm pregnant anyway, but I don't know how I was supposed to exercise that priority.  

I'm still debating about whether I'll get the H1N1 vaccine when it comes out in a month.  It is recommended for pregnant women, but I'm nervous that it is a new vaccine and that it was "rushed."  I'll think about that next month.

The bureaucracy of health care is one of the biggest stressors in my life.  Every single time I consider going to a doctor, I become confused, angry, and sometimes I just shut down.  I don't trust the doctors, who are more concerned with liability and getting ripped off by regulations than in my health, my insurance company is my enemy, and I can't stand the arbitrary rules, paperwork, and processes.  None of this bothered me at all with my pregnancy with Sammy.  The birth center I used was not part of the medical establishment and I didn't use insurance, but just paid for it out-of-pocket.  I need to find some way to deal with the medical world this time, or else it's going to suck all the joy out of this pregnancy.  Honestly, I don't know how I'm going to do that.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Little Thing

Sammy just drew a picture, rolled up the paper, handed it to me and said, THIS IS FOR MY BROTHER OR SISTER.

Objectivist Round Up

This week's Objectivist Round Up can be found at Reality Talk.

It's Not Silicon Valley

Aren't we supposed to feel sorry for all of those government employees who make so little money, and are sacrificing their own financial security to serve us?  Haven't we always heard the jokes about the government workers in the cheap suits, who have to live in the slums, but who serve a noble calling?

I live in Fairfax County.  It's a suburb of Washington DC.  The main industry here is government. 

Average earnings for full time, year-round, male workers in Fairfax County in 2008 was over $100,000!  Total median earnings for all workers (including part time and seasonal, presumably) was over $70,000. 

In 2008, the average assessed value of detached single family homes was $617,541.  The average for all residential properties in Fairfax County was $459,228, but it varies widely by area, from $332,879 in Lorton, to $1,017,799 in Great Falls. 

Compared to the rest of the country, we've had a very small correction in housing prices, but these prices are still notably lower than they were a few years ago.  I think the average drop for Fairfax County in 2008 was 3.38%.

Where is all the money coming from?  We do have a strong technology industry here, but much of it serves the government.  I suspect that a lot of the money is coming from outsourced government work, but it's hard to get good data on that.  The money for that government work comes from taxes.  I've been told that government and military retirees get pensions and retire early.  Many of them continue to work as consultants (usually indirectly working for the government), effectively bringing in two salaries, neither of which is pay for productive activity (at the macro-economic level).  Northern Virginia is an example of a massive redistribution of wealth.

Still, Fairfax County is a nice place to live.  I've been pleasantly surprised at how much I like it here.  I just hate the constant reminder of the size of the federal government. 

(source: Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs.)