Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On Track

We are only about a week away from what I'm now calling the Big Day.  Embryo transfer day!

I'm amazingly blasé  about the whole process.  I don't have the slightest clue what the embryo transfer process is - I don't even know if I'll be conscious or not during the procedure.  This is very unlike me to not have researched the whole thing to death.  I guess I just trust the clinic enough that I don't feel I have to micromanage the doctors, and it's not like childbirth, where there are a lot of choices I have to prepare for.  I'm just going to do what they tell me and take it a day at a time.

But speaking of choices, there is one decision that we've made.  Assuming there are at least two viable embryos, we will transfer two.  It turns out that all the statistics that I've been given on success rates are based on transferring two embryos.  It's standard operating procedure to do two.  Statistically, we then have a 70% chance of getting pregnant, and a 40% of getting pregnant with twins.  Of course, the numbers are lower for a successful live birth, and it's very common to become pregnant with twins but to lose one of them early on.

But Adam and I do have to prepare ourselves for the idea of twins.  It's not what we would choose, but we're both okay with it if it happens.  Actually, I would love to have two more children.  It's only the pain of the first year or so that I would hate.  And if history is any guide, I'm probably going to hate the first year anyway.

Medically, the process has been much more mundane than I had expected.  I went off the birth control pills about two weeks ago and had the worst bout of PMS ever, but it passed.  I'm still doing the Lupron shots every day, but at a lower dose.  Now I've added Estrace, a form of estrogen.  I've had an ultrasound and two blood tests in the past couple of weeks.  Again, no big deal. The monitoring is to adjust my meds if necessary, but so far I've stayed on the standard dosages, which is reassuring.

The clinic calls me every couple of days with a report on mine or my donor's status.  She is also proceeding as expected.  Today I received a call telling me that she has between 15 and 19 small follicles growing.  Those are the potential eggs!  She'll have another check up on Friday and I believe that they will then schedule the retrieval for a few days later, which means getting those eggs out and into the petri dish.  For her, that's the end of the line.

I have a check up on New Year's Day which will include another ultrasound.  When they do the retrieval, I have to start progesterone (those are the nasty injections with the big needle), antibiotics, and, of course, Adam will have to make his contribution.  I also have to have yet another ultrasound on retrieval day.  Then, three to five days later, is the Big Day.

I'm working hard not to get too excited about this.  It's not easy, because I do think I have good reason to be optimistic.  But even if we do achieve pregnancy, there's still a long wait before I'll feel like we're really on the road to having a baby.  Our success rate with natural pregnancies is only 17%.  Getting pregnant is just a prerequisite.  Getting past eight weeks is the major hurdle, since that's where the last four have gone wrong.  But then there's the twelve-week mark, when the miscarriage rate really drops, and the twenty-week ultrasound, which is when we found out that our first pregnancy was going wrong.  I really hope that a younger someone's eggs will solve all of those problems, but I'll probably have a hard time feeling secure until I have a healthy baby in my arms.  Can you blame me?

Despite my conscious effort not to think too much about the uncertainties ahead, my subconscious is busy.  Last night I dreamed that I had a son but that I couldn't recognize his face, and I kept forgetting to pick him up from school.  A separate dream last night was about having twins.  But mostly, I notice that I'm highly cognizant of the awesomeness that is Samantha.  Sometimes that means that I worry that a baby without my own genes won't be as special to me, and sometimes it means that I desperately want any baby at all.  But one way or another, I have Sammy, and that's what I'm trying to focus on now.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Loot

Okay, I'm officially one of "those parents" who buy way too many toys for their kids.  We didn't get Sam anything extravagant, but she got so many different things for Christmas, even after we had to postpone the ant farm due to the mail-order ants being DOA.  We don't have a lot of relatives, so there were only gifts from five people/couples besides Santa and Mommy and Daddy.  But all of those people went as hog-wild as we did, especially Aunt B., who is responsible for almost all of the musical gifts.

The rest of this post is mostly for the relatives to enjoy, but if you're going to watch any of the videos, try the last one with the race track, because there's nothing cuter than a 4-year-old girl saying "munch out" over and over.

Here is the tree right after Santa left.  (Toby gets tired just watching all of that hard work!)

Sam opened every single present on Christmas Day, unlike last year.  She did take eight hours to do it, with a break for a bath, and that ended up creating a wonderful, relaxing day for all of us.  Although what's up with the high quality wrapping paper that is impossible to rip?  We couldn't understand why Sam kept asking for help opening the gifts until we tried it for ourselves.  Here she is needing some help:

I didn't have Christmas-present-unwrapping-angst at all like I did last year, either.  Sitting next to Sam and immediately making separate piles for trash, toys, and owners manuals solved that problem.

Here is what Sam got for Christmas:


  • A tambourine

  • A chimalong (which is like a little xylophone, with real metal tubes)

  • Finger cymbals

  • A real, working miniature accordion

  • A real ukulele

  • Two sets of jingle bells

  • A harmonica

  • A drum

  • A "cat and canary" whistle (which was a huge hit)

  • An awesome set of bells

  • A foam, step-on piano mat (kind of like from the movie Big)

Books and Crafts

  • Books:  Can You Hear It? (A book with music CD), The Secret Garden (audiobook), My Oh My A Butterfly, Olivia Goes to Venice, Angelina Ballerina, Lily's Purple Plastic Purse, Mariette on the High Wire

  • Two workbooks (tracing and numbers)

  • New York City calendar

  • Disney Princess coloring book/calendar

Stocking Stuffers

  • Blob gel (you know, just some slimy stuff in a jar)

  • Pinwheel pen

  • Bubble bath

  • Lip gloss

  • An indescribable little monster thing that you squeeze and its eyes bug out

  • Silly bandz

  • Kaleidoscope

  • Instant snow in a can

  • One of those plastic wiggly things with all the spikes sticking out of it - if you're a parent, you know what I'm talking about.  Sam has wanted one of these things for ages. Here she is dancing with it:


  • A few outfits

  • Barrettes

  • 3 pairs of socks

  • A scarf (her first one)

  • An adorable hat


  • A small, real pot (which I just pulled out of my kitchen cabinet and wrapped up) because "I want to cook with mommy"

  • A set of wooden magnetic dress up dolls

  • Mr. Potato Head

  • Popsicle molds (a particular type that she wanted)

  • Foam puzzle of the world

  • 3 Christmas ornaments

  • A butterfly garden (the kind where you grow real butterflies)

  • Magic wand

  • A wooden frog that you put together

  • A chia-pet type thing

  • A penguin that poops out candy (another hit!)

  • Princess note cards

  • A racetrack set (this was the "big" present from Santa)

All that stuff seems crazy!  Did we all get this much stuff for Christmas when we were children?  Well, Adam didn't.  He was raised in a Jewish household.  He's a kid at heart, and since he never had Christmas before, I think he's enjoying it more than any of us.  But we've all been having a blast for the past few days, just playing with toys, including my iPad from Adam.  Yay for Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

This Year's Jewish Christmas Dinner

It's time for Jewish Christmas dinner!

I'm spending most of the day cooking today.  It's something I look forward to about Christmas.  Most of the food is really simple, but somehow, it's all very time-consuming.  But as long as I have some Christmas tunes on, and as long as I have a plan, it's kind of like a vacation.
"Mommy, I need help cutting this foam heart into teeny tiny pieces!"

"Go ask Daddy - I'm cooking."

"Honey, where is the doo-dad that you never, ever use, but which I can never, ever find?"

"I don't know but I can't help you - I'm cooking."


"Adam, the cat is hungry and I'm cooking."


"Adam, the dog needs to go out and I'm cooking."

Ahhhh, paradise.

Again, I'm making matzo ball soup as a kind of appetizer.  I'll use real schmaltz again this year, but I'll prepare it this way, which looks like fun!

The website with the schmaltz preparation also includes a couple of ideas for what to do with it.  I can't resist trying the salt and pepper kugel.  My understanding is that kugel is basically egg noodles - yuk.  But this recipe calls for schmaltz and chicken livers.  I'll do this instead of the potato latkes.  When Adam heard about this plan he said, "Not only do you disappoint me with no latkes but you add insult to injury and you're going to serve me LIVER?  Ack!" I might have to ask Santa to bring him an extra present this year to make up for this offense!

The main dish will be brisket again, but this time I'll try Mark Sisson's recipe. How can I not, after reading Kelly's description of it?

Finally, I'll try this winter squash recipe. I hope it's not as bland as the broccoli casserole I made last year.  I don't know what it is about Jewish food, but it's all beige, and it's all bland.

And so I'm off to the kitchen!   Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dance Recital

Sam had her first dance recital last weekend.  Her first words to her dad afterward were, "I did it!"  She has reason to be proud - it's not easy for her to deal with a room full of a dozen people, let alone hundreds.  And not only did she get up there and dance - she had fun doing it, as you can see in the video, especially at 2:20.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Too Much Time on the Computer?

Sam and I were doing laundry and I asked her to unload the dryer while I pulled the line-dry stuff out of the washer.  She removed each article of clothing individually, dropping them in the hamper and saying each time, "Drag and drop. Drag and drop."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Little Thing

"Mommy, how old are you?"


"Wow. That's a lot.  I'm not going to be forty until...until...until I'm older."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Little Thing

Sam's very favorite thing to do at school is phonograms, and it shows.  Today, she read the word "enjoy."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Miscellaneous Update

I feel like I MUST get a blog post up today, but it's impossible to come up with a coherent subject lately.  I figure that by giving this a title of "Miscellaneous Update," I'll feel less pressure to have any kind of theme.  So here it goes:

  • I've now done four injections of Lupron.  It's easy as pie and doesn't hurt a bit.  The first one was stressful in exactly the way I expected:  I felt uncertain that I was getting the dosage right and getting rid of air bubbles and all of that.  But after the first time, it's been no problem.  Sam keeps asking to watch and I'd totally let her except that I keep forgetting.  But doing it with her around is not the big issue that I had feared.

  • We had Family Movie Night on Saturday and watched some weird Rudolph spin-off - something about the Lost Isle of Toys.  I really disliked it.  The music was bland and the story was preachy.  We're getting our classic Rudolph from Netflix later this week!

  • Today or tomorrow, I swear, I'm going to start planning my Jewish Christmas dinner.  We're having one or two guests, and it will be simple in every way except that I'll cook for two days.  I love it!

  • Our Italy plans are slowly progressing.  I booked the airline tickets last week.  I still haven't booked hotels, though.  Everything is turning out to be more complicated than I had anticipated.  Prices are higher, there were less flights to choose from, etc.  But now that the flight is booked I have a sense that THIS REALLY IS GOING TO HAPPEN.  Woohoo!

  • We're working on refinancing our house and it is also turning out to be much more complicated than I had anticipated.  Did you know that a large check might take up to ten business days to clear?  I suspect this is a new phenomenon due to post 9.11 financial regulations (or maybe other new regulations).  My bank told me that it has not always taken that long.  I planned things around certain timing and now the whole thing might fail because of this.  Regulations - arg!

  • I still have tons of Christmas shopping to do.  In fact, I must leave right now to do exactly that.  Bye!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Little Thing

Adam:  So what do you think, Sam - should I grow a beard?

Amy:  He'd look like grandpa.

Sam [in the saddest, cutest, little-girl voice you can imagine]:  No, daddy. Don't grow a beard, because then you'd look like grandpa and I'd never see you again.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Christmas Package

I've been working really hard at not getting too excited about this donor egg thing.  I've tried not to think too much about the process or the possible result, because I've already done the thinking and made my decision.

But now I'm getting excited.  And nervous.  I received the following email this morning from my buddy K. at the clinic:

Good morning!  Just wanted to remind you that your Lupron injections will start tomorrow morning.  You will need to inject 10 units each morning.

Also, please continue your active birth control pills until 12/17.  Take your last active pill that day.

Your baseline appt will be on Wednesday, 12/22.  What time would you like to come in for this between 7am and 9am?

And so it begins.

My Lupron injections are self-administered, which seems scary, but I don't think it's going to be such a big deal.  The hardest part might be doing it at the same time each day, and managing that with Sam around.  I have to do some serious thinking about what time is best.  Here's a video of a woman doing a Lupron injection.  It doesn't show her measuring the medicine into the syringe, which is actually the scariest part, to me:

She's an egg donor, but it's the exact same medication and the same needle.  My donor is doing the same thing right now, too.

After the Lupron come some pills and then later, progesterone injections, which are intramuscular and require a bigger needle.  My baseline appointment is bloodwork and an ultrasound, and I'll have a few of those as we go along.

I bought all these meds from an online pharmacy.  There was so much stuff that it came in a FedEx Large Box:

With all of the other packages arriving at this time of year, it was kind of strange, but I have hope that this package is the means to the best gift of all.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Humor in Infertility

Why have I never seen this blog before?  A Little Pregnant is hilarious.  Check out this post on what it's like to be infertile on Facebook.  And this excellent response to those who call for infertile couples to adopt because it is the right thing to do "for the planet."  (The TODAYMoms piece is actually kind of weak, but I like what Julie wrote on her own blog and look forward to more.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter Is Here

Yesterday afternoon, Sam and I went to a book fair fundraiser for her school.  When she heard the word "fair" I guess Sam thought it was a very special occasion, because she asked to wear her Christmas dress.  I had completely forgotten that we had even bought her a Christmas dress, but there it was in her closet.

Now this is a milestone because Sammy does not like to wear anything that feels in any way different than her favored "pajama clothes."  No buttons, snaps, ties, zippers, or bows are allowed, turtlenecks are horrible, and if the material is scratchy, forget it.  She has also never worn tights with a dress, that I can recall. There was no way she was going out bare-legged at this time of year, so I was doubtful that this was going to end well.

But she did it!  She wore the dress, with a shirt underneath, of course, because the material was too scratchy, and she even LOVED the tights.  She also allowed me to put her hair in a ponytail and to clip her bangs back with a barrette, which is a rare event.  She couldn't quite make the leap beyond tennis shoes, but hey, this is progress!

When we were ready to leave, she refused to put on her coat because "it might mess up my hair."  In this photo you can see the pain of Sam's first sacrifice for fashion:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

FMN - Jack Frost

We were again too busy this weekend to do a real Family Movie Night, but Adam came home a bit early last night and we caught the 1979 claymation special Jack Frost.  As Adam said, it sucked.  Or, as I said, it blew.  Sam was mildly entertained and the popcorn was good, though.

We've been recording airings of all of those old Christmas specials from our childhoods off the TV for the past couple of years - Frosty the Snowman, the Grinch, etc.  But they don't seem to be airing the claymation Rudolph anymore, so I'm going to have to get it on Netflix.  I wonder what's up with that.

What's your favorite Christmas movie or TV show?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sam and Jinx

This video captures EXACTLY what goes on in my house every single day, except the tiger is just a regular domestic cat and the gibbon is a four-year-old girl:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Objectivist Round Ups

I missed last week's Round Up and I'm a whole day late with this week's, but I'm happy to say that my family is healthy again (except for me - I finally got the cold - but I can deal with that much more easily than the others) and most of the crises are over.  I should be able to keep up with life again starting next week.

So, in case you missed them, here they are:

November 25 - Rational Jenn

December 2 - Reepicheep's Coracle

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Yard

Our new deck and patio are complete!  Well, almost.  Of course, there is one outstanding issue we can't seem to get the construction company to complete - removing some piled up dirt under the stairs - but that's really the only thing left.  It's kind of a bummer because we have to keep walking the dog until that gets done, but I'm hoping they'll do it this week.  Then we're going to put down gravel and try to train the dog to do his business there.  I hope it works, because I really do not want to have grass.

We do also have to wait until spring to stain the deck because the wood has to be seasoned, but that doesn't stop us from using it.  The new deck furniture should arrive by mid-December.

The deck seems huge!  Our old one was barely big enough for the grill and a tiny table.  Now it is a real outdoor space, which we mostly plan to use for grilling and dining.  The stairs, which we didn't have before, will allow the dog to go out from the main level of the house and get to the yard, instead of me having to take him down to the basement and hang out by the door until he is ready to come back in.

We did one kind-of interesting thing with the deck.  We installed a gutter system under it so that the patio underneath will stay dry in the rain.  This system also creates a ceiling on the bottom of the deck that is a more finished look than bare wood beams, and will allow us to install low-voltage lighting or a ceiling fan down there in the future.

We installed lights on the railing of the deck and on the stairs.  I'm not expert enough with the camera to get a good night-shot, but the lights make the deck a very attractive place when it is dark.  That was a cheap feature and it makes a huge impact.

The patio is just concrete.  We have such a tiny yard that I didn't want to break it up with part-hardscape, part landscape, so we basically paved over the whole thing except for a small area for Toby.  Concrete is not my ideal surface, but we wanted something low-maintenance and inexpensive, so this was the best option.  We plan to put potted plants around the perimeter to make it look a bit nicer, but really, it's just a little bit of extra space for Sam to play in, and for storage.  Because it is fenced, she'll be able to go out there on her own as soon as the weather allows.

Even though it's practically winter, we've already had a picnic breakfast out on the deck and we've played tag on the patio.  The dog loves to go out on the deck and just bask in the sun, and we've even started letting the cat out there. We bought an outdoor storage bin for the patio and moved a ton of stuff like charcoal, rakes, bush-trimmers, etc., out of the house, freeing up more space inside.  Really, the backyard was a total wasteland before, and now it is functional and clean.  Clean, oh joy, clean!

This was an extremely expensive project.  I never imagined I'd ever spend this kind of money on a house - I'd never even bought a new appliance before we moved here.  But it is totally worth it!  I'm sure it will increase the value of the house, but we never count on that.  We only invest in things that we will get the value out of while we live here, and it looks like this one will pay for itself in that regard very quickly.

Samantha and I also enjoyed watching the whole construction process.  The two main guys who did the deck-work, Nelson and Nicolas, were friendly and very responsive to my constant questions and perfectionist tendencies. When they were done, Sam was actually quite sad to see them go, so she dictated a letter to them, which we were able to deliver by hand when they had to come back for a follow-up visit.  Nelson has kids so he gets it, and he read the letter out loud in front of us.  That moment is just one of the ways that having a child can turn an experience like this into a touching memory that I'll savor forever:

Dear Nelson and Nicolas,

I love you. You built our new deck for us. I like it when you put it together right. I don't like it when you don't come to our house. I miss you.



Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Alternative Lifestyles

As I've mentioned before, my parents are full-time RVers.  They sold their house about five years ago and they travel around the country (and beyond) at will.  Sometimes they take jobs.  Three years ago they spent the winter working at Disneyworld, which they loved.  This fall/winter, they are working for, helping with the seasonal rush.

They just sent me a link to an article in USA Today which characterizes these seasonal workers as desperate - just more evidence of the terrible economy, with the implicit message that SOMETHING SHOULD BE DONE ABOUT THIS!  But my parents claim that the vast majority of the workers at their RV camp in Campbellsville, Kentucky, are not in dire financial condition.  Their observations are anecdotal, but so are those of the journalist.

My parents actually are there for the money - they're saving up for a trip to Europe.  But, as they also point out, "many of us wanted to experience work as a change of pace.  After all, our lifestyle is a continuous vacation."

Desperate?  Not.

Monday, November 29, 2010


My latest MRI revealed that I almost surely do not have lupus, psoriatic arthritis, or any other systemic autoimmune disorder.  That's great news!

What I do have is tendonitis.  I also have the equivalent of carpel tunnel syndrome in my ankle (tarsal tunnel syndrome), plantar fasciitis in my heel, and other inflamed areas around tendons and ligaments.  That's all in my right foot and ankle, so we're assuming that the pain in the other areas of my body is of the same nature.  Since I've had no injuries and I don't overuse any of these parts of my body, my doctor thinks that I might have a genetic condition that makes me more susceptible to damage to my connective tissue.  Basically, I'm fragile.

This concierge physician I hired is finally starting to pay off.  The rheumatologist who ordered the MRI wanted to send me to a podiatrist for the foot problems and to a hand surgeon for my hand, and to specialists for every other part of my body that hurts.  She did not integrate the evidence.  My concierge physician did, and assures me that we will keep working to understand why this is happening so it can be treated in the most appropriate way.  He agrees with me that it is absurd to see separate doctors for each area of the body.  He and I agreed that the best step now is for me to go back to the pain specialist who performed my PRP therapy two years ago and get it done again.  It cured me for over a year last time, and the fact that it worked is consistent with this tentative and vague diagnosis.  I'm a little worried that I won't have time to get it done before the donor egg process interferes, but I'll find out in the next two weeks.

After that, the doctor wants me to have the genetic analysis he originally suggested.  His very first theory about my pain was exactly this (apparently there are rare but known genetic disorders that cause this kind of fragility), and I thought it was such a remote possibility that I didn't do the tests.  I'm still not sure what it would get me to do the genetic testing - I mean, I don't know if it would affect any decisions about long term treatment or management of my condition.  I plan to talk to the doctor more about that in a couple of months, as well as discussing what else might be causing this besides a genetic abnormality.  (The genetic analysis is expensive and not covered by insurance.)  For now, I'm just trying to get myself back to being functional without meds.

But I'm feeling a huge sense of relief since getting this diagnosis.  It's somehow much less scary to have tendonitis than lupus, even though I really have no idea yet if my condition could be degenerative or have other long-term effects that are worse than lupus.  But knowing that my pain is the same thing that people feel when they have tennis-elbow makes it seem less mysterious and threatening.  I guess the real issue is that I have less uncertainty.  Not knowing what was wrong with me was such a huge source of stress.  Not knowing why it would get worse and worse was scary because I never knew where it would end - at one point I was convinced I would be bedridden in a hospital within months.  Now I know that it gets worse because I keep moving.  I can't really live without moving, but at least I have a framework for understanding what is going on in my body, and I can develop a plan to deal with it.

I have to admit that I also have a sense of relief and validation that now I know that my doctors and others can't write me off as a hypochondriac.  I've had crippling pain, with absolutely no evidence of a health problem, for years now.  I've had dozens of tests which, until now, have all been negative.  I've been told to consider what I deem to be irrational, non-scientific answers such as fibromyalgia (whose definition is essentially "mystery pain" and so means nothing) and leaky-gut syndrome (which claims to explain practically every ailment known to man, and so can not possibly explain anything).  I went by my own independent judgement and refused to accept anything that did not make sense to me, or which conflicted in principle with the rest of my knowledge, and I've been vindicated.  Even when I was wrong (by not following the concierge physician's initial advice), I had good reason, and I ended up at the truth in the end.

It's been a real strain on my self-confidence, though.  If I were Howard Roark or Dagny Taggart I might have been able to travel this path without self-doubt, but I have had a lot of self-doubt.  Coming to this place now is more than just a step towards physical health - it's also a great lesson for my mental health.  I just spent three years trying to solve a problem and it seemed that at every turn, there was someone or something trying to convince me that I was deluded.  But, by persisting and relying on my own judgment, I did solve the problem.  Or, at least, I've begun to.  It's a great boon to my self-esteem, which, lately, has been very fragile itself.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cats, Fairies, and Supermodels

I didn't intend to watch this kind of movie for Family Movie Night - it's really a kids' only kind of flick - but Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue was okay.  I stayed awake and I laughed at the fat, mean cat a couple of times.

Speaking of cats, we almost put ours to sleep today.  He's been peeing in places other than the litterbox and howling at night and tearing up the carpet and really just doing all the evil things cats do.  We put him on Prozac last week because we're so desperate.  But he didn't pee at all for at least two days so this morning we called the vet and they said it would cost $1200-$2000 to unblock him.  (He has a condition where crystals form in his bladder and can block his urethra, a potentially fatal problem which he's been treated for once in the past.) We are not spending any more money on this cat when all he does is cause us stress, so we prepared ourselves for the worst.  Our only hope was that he might pee out of sheer terror as soon as we put him in his carrier.

We got "lucky" and he did just that.  I can't say I'm all that relieved.  In that hour or so when I thought this might be his final day with us, I felt a huge burden lifting off of me.  No more allergy attacks, no more dread of cat-urine-smell every time I enter a room, no more unwanted half-hour serenades at midnight and sunrise, no more pawing at Sam's bedroom door to awaken her to get my attention, no more claw caps, infected scratch wounds, or Achilles-tendon bites (cats must have an instinct about that vulnerable area of the human body), and no more contests to see who can get down the stairs undamaged when six legs are twisted together in unnatural ways.

We've decided to give him two weeks to shape up.  If the Prozac doesn't kick in and help him by then, it's over.  I'll miss him a little bit, but not as much as I've missed my last cat, Geddy.  (We put him down while I was pregnant with Sam.  He was 17 and he'd been with me my entire adult life.)  I think Adam loves Jinx a bit more than I do, but he's okay with it, too.

The real heartwrenching part of this is how it might affect Sam.  She loves this cat.  She probably spends an hour a day tormenting him.  (Now you know why he needs Prozac.) We put the claw caps on him because she never did learn to avoid getting scratched.  Actually, she learned, but not the lesson we would want; she learned that if she provokes him, he'll attack her and she can try to duck out of the way and if she does it is HILARIOUS and if she doesn't then Mommy or Daddy will give her hugs and cuddles.  Hey, it's a win-win!

So, I guess I'm pulling for him just a little bit.  And seeing that fat, mean cat in the movie reminded me that I can't really complain.  I knew what I was getting into when we brought him home ten years ago.  All cats are like supermodels - they're gorgeous, vain, stupid, vindictive, petty, and prone to hissy-fits.  In other words, they're entertaining.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


My computer seems to have healed itself.  I hope we're not headed towards Skynet, but I'll take what I can get right now.

The cat peed in the litterbox and the dog has not thrown up yet.

Sam has a ruptured ear drum.  She's on the meds now and she will heal herself, but she was in a lot of pain last night and I had to sleep in her bed which means that I'm stiff and sore and getting by on very little sleep.  Still, it was worth it when I woke up to dim daylight, opened my eyes, and found her watching me with a sweet, loving smile on her face.  Then she touched my nose with the tip of her index finger and said "boop" just like I might have done to her.  It was just about the sweetest thing she's ever done.

So I have some Little Things, even today, to be thankful for, along with many Big Things like my family (and the potential for enlarging it), my good, good friends, my Best Job In The World, my travel plans, and much more.  And you know, writing it out like that actually makes me feel the emotion - not so much of gratitude, but of appreciation.  Thanks, Thanksgiving, you came just in time this year.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Little Thing

Sammy [eating her crackers and butter]:  Sometimes I like to rub my finger in the butter and put it in my mouth.

Me: That's ok, as long as you aren't spreading it all over the table, but just eating it that way.  Does it taste good when you put it on your finger or something?

Sammy:  No, it tastes good when I put it in my mouth.

Monday, November 22, 2010

No Such Luck

Well, since I wrote the last blog post this afternoon, I've found out that we still don't have reliable internet access (and now Adam's computer is not working properly either), the dog has started chuffing like he's going to puke again, and the cat has not yet used the litterbox.  Oh yeah, and our brand new microwave, which has been replaced once, repaired once, and jury-rigged once, is making funny noises again.  Oh yeah, and Adam and Sam are sick.  I don't know what is wrong with this house but I feel like we're cursed.  Well, I was stress-free for a few hours.  Anyway, the point of this post is that I might not be able to blog much until I get the computer problems resolved.

Wedding Weekend

Whew!  We just got back from our whirlwind trip to Atlanta where we attended a wedding (congrats, C&T!).  I don't even need to write about it because Jenn (happy birthday, Jenn!) covered a lot of what we did on her blog - go check it out!  I have to add, though, that the dancing was so freaking awesome.  I hadn't danced like that in years.  I'm so happy that my pain was under control that night and didn't interfere with my fun one bit.  As Jenn says, Adam and I were crazy on the dance floor.  Those Atlanta folks probably think we're party animals now and I think I'll let them just keep thinking that.

We totally wore Sammy out.  She just refused to go to sleep at Jenn's house and Adam had to make the 1-2am trip to pick her up.  He's my hero - thank god he didn't drink anywhere near as much as I did!  But Sam is still catching up on her rest.  I didn't really plan on any naps for her and I think we pushed her way too hard the whole time.  I feel kind of bad about it - the poor kid.  She slept the whole way home on the plane and then went to bed without dinner as soon as we got home at 7:30 last night and then slept until 9am this morning.  I let her be late to school - sleep was more important.  Especially after the two massive tantrums she threw while we were in Atlanta.  This was not the first time that hotel security was called on us, but I hope it was the last.  I don't know what people expect you to do - muzzle the child?  The security guy suggested ice cream.  First of all, I'm not giving my child who is spitting and hitting and biting a reward for that behavior, and second, I really don't think it would work.  She'd probably throw it in my face.

On the other hand, I'm feeling rested and wonderful.  When we left on Friday, I had two broken computers, both animals were sick and puking and peeing all over the house, the coffee maker was broken, Verizon had just flaked out about moving a fiber-optic line (that they mistakenly ran through my drainage pipe!), and I was in a lot of pain and totally stressed out.  I think I got the computer problems resolved this morning (new router and new antivirus software), the carpet dried out while we were gone (man, it really is nice to be able to clean those FLOR carpet squares in the sink!), the animals seem to have recovered (we're putting the cat on Prozac - seriously), and my pain is much lowered (I got something of a diagnosis last week which I'll write about soon).  I still have a broken coffee maker and I have to call Verizon again, but it all doesn't seem so overwhelming anymore.  I guess I really needed a break.  I'm determined to go forward and avoid the build up of stress.  Luckily, Thanksgiving is going to be really mellow and we have no travel plans for Christmas, so the only real big thing for me to stress over is the donor egg project.  Think I can remain calm?  We'll see.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Okay, You Win

Me:  Okay, it's time to get out of the car and go in the house.  Can you clean up your poopy underwear while I make lunch?

Sam [whining]:  Nooooo!  I don't want to get out of the car!  I want to say here.

Me [turning around to face her]:  Do you think we should just stay in the car all afternoon?

Sam:  Yes.

Me:  I don't know.  I'm getting pretty hungry.  We won't be able to eat until we get inside.

Sam:  But I just want to stay here and have lunch.

Me:  All of the food is inside. Do you have any proposals?

Sam:  I think we should go inside.

Me:  Okay.

Sam:  But I don't want to clean up my poopy underwear.  I just want to keep my poopy underwear on for my nap.

Me:  Okay, but if you leave the poop on your bottom for a long time, it can make your skin hurt.  You know, just like when you eat too many grapes?  It can make your bottom hurt really bad.  But it's up to you.

Sam:  I think I want to wipe my bottom and put on new underwear and pants.

Me:  Okay.

Sam:  But I don't want to clean up my poopy underwear before lunch.  I just want to keep them on, because all the clean underwear and the wipes are upstairs.

Me:  Okay, that's fine with me.  [Later, as we were walking inside]:  Oh, Sam, I think I'm going to have to change my mind.  I can't sit at the table and eat lunch with you because you smell very bad.  Can you go clean up first?

Sam:  Nooooo, I don't WANT to!

Me:  Well, I can't sit at the table with you with that smell, so you can eat alone or you can clean up while I make lunch.

Sam:  Mommy?  Will you come upstairs with me while I clean up?

Me:  Okay.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Miracles of Modern Medicine

It's official: We've given up on nature and we're going with science!

About a week ago we finished up the diagnostic testing necessary to enter the donor egg program.  I had had almost every possible fertility test, but Adam had to have some tests.  Since we never had a problem getting pregnant, male infertility was never at issue, but obviously we don't want to go forward with this radical and expensive step only to find out that there was a problem on his side.  We both also had to be tested for a bunch of common infectious diseases.  I'm actually not sure why, but whatever - we're clean.

Adam and I spent about 45 minutes together at my computer picking out our top three choices for donor, but the process is so dynamic that, by the time we sent our choices in to K. (our coordinator), none of them were immediately available.  So K. sent us fresh list of donors who were open and we picked another and we made a match!

We had to decide if we just wanted to pay for one embryo transfer or plan ahead for a possible second try.  Our clinic offers a package where you get two "fresh" cycles plus any "frozen" cycles made possible with frozen embryos.  A fresh cycle is when they take the eggs from the donor, fertilize them, and then transfer one or two of the resulting embryos to the recipient a few days later.  If there are extra embryos, they can be frozen and saved for possible future transfers.  The success rate is a bit lower, but still higher than our chances the old-fashioned way.  If you just pay for one fresh cycle, you have to pay a-la-carte for the freezing process, the storage, and the transfer of any extra embryos.  (You have to decide whether or not to freeze extra embryos before you know if you've achieved pregnancy.)  We decided to buy the "multicycle" plan, where all of that is included along with a second fresh/frozen attempt if necessary.  The only thing you don't pay for up front with the multicycle plan is the second donor's fee, if necessary.  Of course if you get pregnant immediately, you've spent more than you needed to but it's a good deal, and I figure that paying for two tries up front gives us a great exit strategy.  If we paid for each try separately, there might be more temptation to continue on indefinitely, or at least, to agonize about whether to try again. This way, I know right now that we aren't going to go on trying forever, but I also don't feel anxious that we only have one shot.  In fact, with the addition of frozen cycles, we might have more than two tries, and frozen cycles are fast and easy.

The other big decision was that we are going to do a "split" cycle.  This means that we share the eggs produced by our donor in this cycle with another recipient.  However, since our donor had nobody else waiting, we're sharing the eggs with the clinic (they provide a frozen donor egg service and so can use the eggs).  So, if the donor produces ten eggs, we get five and the clinic gets five.  We get the extra if there is an odd number, and if the donor produces less than eight, we get all of them.  This plan is much less expensive because we only pay for half the donor's fee, but we have only half the opportunities to create viable embryos. This is one reason that it was very important to me to pick a donor who had at least some history of producing a lot of eggs.  It's no guarantee, but our donor has produced an average of 22 eggs when she's cycled in the past.  The average at our clinic is 15.

Once we have viable embryos, we might have to make a scary decision: whether to transfer one or two.  Our clinic does not do more than two at a time because multiples (twins, triplets) are not considered a successful outcome.  We'll deal with that issue later, but I think since we've paid for the frozen cycles up front we'll feel less pressure to transfer more than one at a time, if that even comes up.  It's possible we'll only have one embryo, or even none.  Anything can go wrong at any time in this process.

K. is creating our "calendar" right now.  She has to sync up mine and the donor's cycles.  It's amazing - they can actively manage our cycles so that exactly when my body would have produced an egg, the donor is producing eggs.  The recipient's role is actually easier than the donor's.  I plan to document the whole thing here, but for now, all I have to do is take the birth control pills.  About a month from now, things get more intense, with ultrasounds, bloodwork, and more meds, including self-injections. Immaculate conception is scheduled for the first week of the new year.

'Tis the season for miracles.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Books for Me

So now that I've written about TV and books for Sam, and TV for me, it's time for an update on what I've read in the past couple of months.  I’ve read some really great stuff lately!

Psychologically, I'm still in great need of fiction.  Any non-fiction seems like a chore (except my Italy guidebooks).  I am in the middle of Objectively Speaking, a collection of Ayn Rand interviews, but I'm having to force myself through it.  I'm finding that there's not much new there for me.  I've been stuck for weeks in the middle section which is a series of college-radio station interviews.  The questions are intelligent but they feel planted, and Ayn Rand's responses don't feel extemporaneous.  This might be over-editing, but I suspect it was the nature of the interviews themselves.  Since I already know Rand’s positions on most of the issues, what I’m really looking for in this book are those flashes of brilliance – no, not flashes, but the consistent brilliance that she shows in her off-the-cuff remarks.  Hopefully I’ll get that in the third and final section.

From the book swap at my gym, I picked up Agatha Christie’s Funerals Are Fatal, which I found to be a complete waste of time.  I don't know why I keep going back to Agatha Christie, but hopefully now that I've actually written this down, I'll remember how much I dislike these kinds of mysteries and stop picking them up.

I’ve read two more Dick Francis books from the stack my friend loaned to me.  I was bored with To the Hilt, but I loved Risk.  I continue to be amazed by Francis’ ability to create unique, but always admirable heroes.  I'm sure that eventually I'll start getting all of his characters and plots mixed up, but for now, each book still stands in my mind as a unique experience.

Through my online book club, I discovered a new author that I love:  Elizabeth Peters.  I read the first book in her Amelia Peabody series, Crocodile on the Sandbank.  It was a benevolent, intelligent adventure mystery with the most interesting, admirable characters!  Rational Jenn has a nice post about the series and I agree with her completely.  I’m excited to have a huge new list of fiction books to read now that I’ve discovered this gem.

I just finished Enchantment, by Orson Scott Card.  Leonard Peikoff recommended it on his podcast and I’ve loved his picks in the past (especially sci-fi author Frederic Brown).  I also dearly love Card’s Ender’s Game, but I thought Enchantment was a bore.  I’m not a big fan of fantasy fiction, and this was too wildly impossible and irrelevant to the real world for me to find much of interest in it.  I also thought it was very anti-technology, the characters were average people moved by fate, and the plot was not very exciting.  That was a big disappointment.  I wonder if I missed something.

I saved the best for last, so if you’ve stuck with me so far, you get the prize.  Go read Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day right now!  Aside from Anthem, this is the best dystopian novel I’ve ever read.  This book has a real hero who moves the plot by his choices and actions, the plot is full of twists and turns that I never expected, and it has some great themes.  I haven’t figured out the overall theme of this book yet, but it’s rich enough that I know I’ll read it again.  In fact, I almost want to read it again right now.  It was that great.

I’m still (somewhat) determined to keep going with my Great Books project.  I’m stuck on Augustine, though.  I think I’ll have to modify my plan to allow me to skip things that are just too painful for me to read, or I’ll never make it through.  So that is on the near-future agenda, along with tons of other exciting books.  They are all lined up on a bookshelf in my bedroom, waiting for me.  I love that.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Weekend with Friends

There was no Family Movie Night again this weekend due to way too much fun with friends!

On Saturday we went to the National Gallery with our Objectivist discussion group and enjoyed some art using Luc Travers' method.  I promise to write much more about that soon, but there is too much to say in a quick update. Suffice it to say that a whole new world of art has been opened up for me.

After that we hung out with friends and had a campfire and ate chili and drank beer and bitched about home repairs, old farts who get in your way at Home Depot, environmentalists, and the state of the Objectivist culture.  I hope you all have friends like that.

Sunday Sam slept in and the animals kept their mouths shut so we all actually got a decent night's sleep.  We puttered around all day in little chores mostly related to our brand new deck and patio, which were completed late last week. I'll post photos soon.

Then Sunday night we had dinner with some new friends.  We ate spaghetti, drank Chianti, and talked about Italy, amongst other things.  Sam amused herself the whole evening by playing with their pets - two dogs and a cat. Once you have children it becomes difficult to have friends who don't, but pets help.

Next weekend we're taking a quick trip to Atlanta for a wedding and we'll get to see many of our distant friends.

I'm finally satisfied with my friends in life.  I don't really mean my particular friends, but my way of dealing with friendships in general.  There will always be new friends, and old ones will fade away, but I finally seem to be able to make and nurture the relationships that matter the most to me.  I know what I want from friends and I seek it out.  I have goals for friendships and I don't just accept the people who fall into my life.  One important goal has been to find local friends.  I started my Objectivist discussion group in large part for that purpose, and it's been a huge success for me.  That is a big achievement, and I'm proud of it.

A Little Thing

The good part: Sammy finally understands that clean napkins don't need to be thrown away just because they've been removed from the napkin dispenser.

The bad part: Sammy now spits on every clean napkin that has come out of the napkin dispenser so that it will be dirty and can be thrown away.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

TV for Me

The fall season started just in time to give me something mindless to do when recovering from the last miscarriage.  I tried a whole slew of new shows, most of which I'm no longer watching. None of them were awful but they just didn't capture my interest.  The only new show that I'm still watching is Modern Family.  It's like an updated Cosby Show and it makes me laugh.  Oh, and Adam and I have watched a couple of episodes of Outsourced but it remains to be seen if we'll continue with it.  Adam is watching some kind of Zombie show and I try to watch it with him but I keep falling asleep.  I also gave up on Caprica, the Battlestar Galactica spin-off.  It would be nice to have a great sci-fi show again.

My old standbys aren't very exciting right now either.  I'm watching this season's Survivor but I have to force myself to keep up with it.  Some seasons are fantastic and some suck.  I watch it as a game show or almost as a sport, and there is no team worth rooting for this year.  I still watch House but the thrill is gone.  Mad Men was great but it's over for the year already.  The Office is always good for a couple of laughs, but it's really past its prime.

I guess my favorite show right now is Intervention.  I'm totally addicted to it! There's something about seeing drug addicts totally self-destructing that is fascinating to me.  I don't think I'm enjoying seeing them suffer or reveling in depravity.  I think part of what fascinates me is the "co-dependence" of the families involved.  (I don't really like the term co-dependence; I think it's more accurate to say that the friends and families of the addicts are evading the consequences of the "help" they are giving.)  I have some firsthand experience in this area and it's good for me to get a reminder of how counterproductive and self-destructive it is to try to "fix" another person.

Also, I don't think all the addicts are totally immoral, hopeless losers.  Many of them had severe trauma in their lives and they never figured out how to deal with it and they've put themselves in this kind of limbo as a way to cope.  And then they have the physical addiction which makes it that much harder to get out of the whole mess.  I do believe that their problems are 100% a choice, but that doesn't mean that moral, healthy choices are equally easy for all people.  So I root for the ones who seem like they want to face reality, but just haven't figured out how yet.  There are some addicts like that.  There are also some who are too far gone, and some who are nihilists at heart and just slowly committing suicide and burning a path of destruction while they do it.  Sometimes I can't watch the show if it is about someone like that, but usually it's not.  Most addicts are somewhere in-between, and I like to try to guess which ones will make it and which ones won't.  Unfortunately, at the end of the show you find out how they've done, but only a few months later.  I'd like to know how some of them are doing years later.

The other thing I've been trying to watch on TV is football.  I joined a Fantasy Football league as a way to try to jump-start my efforts to watch more football, but it didn't work.  I've watched about 2 half-games all season.  There is no reason I can't invest 2-3 hours a week to watching one single football game on Sunday or Monday night.  Sam is asleep and I watch that much other TV in a week anyway.  I think I'd enjoy just that much, but there is another problem: the games are on way too late here on the East coast.  I just can't make it through a night-game, and I have no interest in watching the last half the next day if I record it.  So, I think football is going to have to wait for a while.  I'm hoping Sam will want to watch with me on Sunday afternoons when she is a bit older.

It's interesting to me, though, that my favorite shows, reality television shows, do seem to replicate watching sports.  Survivor, American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, and even Intervention, all involve rooting for someone who is trying to accomplish something challenging.  They all require a lot less time-investment, though, and the challenge is not usually purely physical.  Everyone seems to mock "reality TV" as something that panders to our baser instincts, and some shows do.  But as a genre, I think the appeal of reality TV over the past decade has been due to its similarity to sports and game shows.  So, I miss football, but I'm glad to have an alternative.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Family Movie Night - Monsters, Inc.

Our on-demand cable service has a category just for Pixar movies.  Saturday night I read off the titles and brief descriptions to Sam:

  • Cars (it's about cars)

  • Toy Story (it's about toys)

  • Monster's Inc. (it's about monsters)

  • A Bug's Life (it's about bugs)

  • The Incredibles (it's about superheroes)

  • Ratatouille (it's about a rat)

  • Wall-E (it's about a robot)

As I expected, she said, "MONSTERS?????????"

Then she said, "What's that called again?" and I told her, "Monster's, Inc."  She said, "I want to watch that one.  Yeah, yeah."

The whole movie, she kept asking where the ink was.  The fact that one of the main monsters was a kind of octopus didn't help.

Adam and I loved this movie when it came out but both of us had forgotten all of it except for that amazing scene with the doors in the warehouse at the end.  The movie has some really sweet parent/child love moments.  When Sully's friend Mike berates him for taking risks for the sake of the child, Boo, he tries to remind Sully about all the values they have given up: their work, their goals, their friendship.  Sully replies, "None of that matters now."  And Adam chimed in, "Not now that he has a child."

I totally missed that the first time around.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Little Thing

Sam has finally learned to open the refrigerator!  (Well, it's more accurate to say that she has finally chosen to begin opening the refrigerator, since she refused to try at all until now.)  The day when she can prepare her own meals and snacks is just a little bit closer.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Planning for Italy with Sam

Besides the new deck and trying to make a baby using an egg-donor, my biggest project is planning our spring trip to Italy.  I've always enjoyed the process of planning a vacation, and this one is especially exciting.

The first thing I had to do was to get a new passport. I lost all of my important papers, including my birth certificate and passport, during the Great Moves of 2007-2008.  I was very worried when I read on the Los Angeles County web site that it might take up to 14 weeks to get a certified copy of my birth certificate, but they got it to me in just one week. The passport was fast, too. Huge sigh of relief!

I also double-checked Sam's passport.  She went to Mexico when she was three months old so this is all old-hat for her.  I'm glad I checked because a minor's passport is only valid for five years.  We'll need to renew next year. Put that in the tickler file now!

Next, I asked Facebook to help.  I got lots of advice, and I compiled it all into a Word document (thanks, friends!).  I also asked a couple of real, live friends who gave me invaluable advice.  Based on all of that, we decided to stick with two cities for a ten day trip: Rome and Florence.  We'll also spend at least one night on the road in between, exploring the Tuscan (or maybe Umbrian) countryside via automobile.  I'm as excited about that part as I am about the big cities.

Now we need to book accommodations and flights. A quick search on Expedia told me that there are plenty of good flight options, so I started researching hotels and inns, figuring that availability might affect when we fly.  But then I realized that I needed some good maps and guidebooks before I could figure it all out.  Today I received Rick Steves' Rome, Florence & Tuscany, and Italy guidebooks, plus Streetwise maps of Rome and Florence. (I love those Streetwise maps for the US, so I'm hoping they will be reliable overseas.)

The first thing I did was open the Rome guidebook to the chapter on "Rome with Children."  It begins:
Sorry, but Rome is not a great place for little kids. Parks are rare. Kid-friendly parks are rarer. Most of the museums are low-tech and lack hands-on fun.

The good news for kids? Pizza and gelato.

As much as I like Rick Steves, this was a little bit offensive to me. Does he have kids? Or is my kid weird? My kid goes to parks and eats ice cream all the time. I'm confident that she will be utterly fascinated with just strolling the streets, and even with the art. Sure, we can't count on spending four hours straight at the Vatican Museum, but I can't believe that any of us will be jonesing for a playground.

Here is the first sentence in the next paragraph:
Rome's many squares are traffic-free, with plenty of space to run and pigeons to feed while Mom and Dad enjoy coffee at an outdoor table.

Sounds like a heavenly break from sightseeing to me. Actually, it sounds like New York without the cars. And Sam absolutely loved New York, including the walking, the subway, the buildings, and just being in a new, totally foreign environment.  Oh, and yes, especially the pigeons.

Anyway, we'll get into the sightseeing planning later.  Now we want to focus on getting inexpensive hotels in good locations for both cities - ones with private bathrooms and elevators and air conditioning, and maybe, if we're lucky, a little bit of ambiance. But really, we just want a comfortable place to sleep and watch videos and rest. I think we're going to try to hit Rome first because it will be hectic, then have a lazy day or two getting up to Florence, where I'm thinking the pace will be a bit slower.

Like I said, I love planning. I love trying to figure out all of these little details to make the trip as great as possible.  Planning doesn't mean scheduling every little thing, but it does mean being prepared.

Next up, I'll start working through Rick Steves' Italian Phrase Book and Dictionary, which has been sitting hopefully on my bookshelf for eight years.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Objectivist Round Up

The Playful Spirit is hosting this week's Round Up.  Head on over now, ya' hear?

Deck Builder PeopleGuys

The deck builder PeopleGuys have been working at my house for two weeks now. This was my big summer home improvement project, but it took me until now to get the thing started. We're tearing out the rotted old wood deck and patio in our backyard, and replacing them with a new wood deck with stairs, and a concrete patio to cover most of the back yard. I'm paving paradise (not!) so that I have as much man-made material surrounding me as possible. Grass, plants, and all the bugs and mud that go with them can be had at the park.

The day the workers arrived, Sam and I spent a lot of time watching them. They tore out the old deck so quickly - it was amazing. Sam was very concerned that the deck builder PeopleGuy would fall off:

I also got a kick out of this dude wearing a dress shirt and vest:

These guys never wear gloves. They use their bare hands to saw, to pull up the splintering wood, to shovel - everything. I get to teach Sam what all the names of their tools are (I had real trouble remembering the word "crowbar") and to gently note how hard they are working and what an improvement this is going to be. This is educational stuff! Every day on the way home from school Sam asks me if the deck guys will be working. I think she is fascinated.

Here is what our back yard looks like now, which is really not much worse than it was with the wood patio:

We had some back luck in the beginning - they had to order more wood, I had to move our cable box, one of the workers got sick, then it rained. Otherwise, they'd probably be done by now. But as it is, we've needed to actually walk the dog for two weeks for him to do his business, and it will probably be two more. What a hassle! But once the project is complete, we'll be able to let Toby out from the main level of our house, and he can go down the stairs to the yard. (We don't have stairs now outside, so we have to go to the walkout basement to let him out.  I find this appallingly inconvenient.)

Despite the delays, they've made a lot of progress.  Here is the deck now:

I'll post some photos when the project is complete. It's super-exciting - we're adding almost 600 square feet of outdoor space to our home and I won't have to look at that rotting hulk of crap anymore. And as a bonus, I get to shop for new outdoor furniture.  Woohoo!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


We don't have a lot of rules in our house for Sam.  Mostly, we correct inappropriate behavior when it arises.  We don't have a "rule" about speaking kindly to each other - when Sam yells or whines we just remind her that she is more likely to get our cooperation if she uses kind words and a friendly tone. We don't have a "rule" about bringing dishes to the kitchen when finished - when she forgets, we just remind her.  If she doesn't want to do it, I tell her that I'll have to do it for her, and that if I have to keep doing things for her, I might start to think she is not ready for so many responsibilities. (Responsibilities are a positive thing in our house - I guess almost the positive way of stating rules - and Sam does not like to lose them.)

When we do have rules, they tend to be transitory.  We use them to move Sammy along from one set of behaviors to the next.  For example, we have a rule now that she must look both ways and check with an adult before crossing the street, but the rule used to be that she had to hold an adult’s hand.  We also have a rule that she can’t jump on the couch.  She only needs a “rule” because she used to jump on it but now she is too big and that’s a tough transition to make.  The rule makes it easier for her to deal with.

One set of rules we have is The Dinnertime Rules.  We had to make rules because dinner was becoming an unpleasant nag-fest every night:  "Sam, stop banging your fork. Sam, don't spit your food in your milk.  Sam, don't pour your milk on your plate. Sam, stop interrupting."  Seriously, this would be the entire conversation every night and I realized that it was my most dreaded time of day instead of the idyllic family time that I had always envisioned.

So I wrote up The Dinnertime Rules on a whiteboard:

We started with the first five and added the rest as they became problems (the last one is mostly a joke – we do all of this with some humor – but yes, she was biting the table).  We explained that, in order to enjoy our meals together, we all needed to follow some rules (and yes, Adam and I ask to be excused if we leave the table before the others).  Sam understands this and she loves the rules.  In this case, clear structure and guidelines were necessary to break her old habits.  I mean, she did all of these things when she was younger and it was developmentally appropriate.  It was really hard for her to understand that she couldn’t keep spreading mashed potatoes in her hair forever. We had to send Sam to her room quite a few times in the beginning, but now we mostly just have to remind her.  Come to think of it, it’s probably time to get rid of these rules.  A whiteboard is a parent's best friend!

Monday, November 1, 2010

More Nepotism

Adam was interviewed for the Wall Street Journal's blog, Digits, about how his work relates to the current lawsuits over smartphone technology.  Pretty much the whole article is about Adam and his work and he is quoted extensively.  Cool!

What Smartphone Makers Can Learn From the Sewing Machine Patent War

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Weekend Update

There was no Family Movie Night this weekend because it was jam packed with other fun stuff: school field trip to a pumpkin patch on Friday, then a two-and-a-half hour nap, dinner and bonfire at friends' house Friday night, Objectivist discussion group Saturday morning, another nap, Halloween party Saturday night, sleeping in late this morning, and of course, the grand finale: Trick-or-Treating tonight!

After a year of talking about how she would be either a witch, a ghost, or a monster for Halloween this year, Sammy saw the princess costume at the store and there was no turning back.  I can't really blame her - the dress lights up and everything!  After she decided to be a princess, she insisted that Adam be a prince, which I thought was just about the sweetest thing ever until tonight, when she kept yelling at Adam, "I turned you into a frog!"  Well, it's still pretty sweet.

I decided to stick with scary and go with the witch.  I intended to do the whole green face paint thing but my nose was raw from the sneezy allergies of October, so I had to count on whatever ugliness I have naturally.

I think the last time I really dressed up for Halloween was about 10 years ago when Adam was in law school.  (He dressed as a judge, and I as a prisoner. Ha ha.)  We've enjoyed handing out candy and oooing and ahhing at the kids' costumes since then, and Sam has Trick-or-Treated the past 2 years, but I think we're entering a new era of big-time Halloween revelry that I hope will last at least another decade.

There's candy stuck between my teeth and The Monster Mash stuck in my head. It doesn't get much better than that.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Sam is going through a little potty training regression.  She's had four or five accidents in the past month or so, including one at school this week.

This confirms my claim from last year that what she was having then were NOT accidents.  I don't know why other parents talk about regression and accidents so much, and are so concerned about it.  All the potty training materials warn you about accidents as if they are a horrifying thing that will make you freak out and lose your mind.

But having accidents implies that the child normally uses the bathroom, and that there are exceptions here and there.

Hallelujah for accidents!  I never thought I'd live to see the day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lupus and Lipo

For those of you who are just dying to be updated on my other health quest sagas, here is a quick report.

I'm not going to get liposuction until I'm sure I'm done with pregnancy. Both plastic surgeons I interviewed thought I'd be disappointed if I did it now.  And now that we're going forward with donor egg, there's no time, energy, or money for this project.

I repeated the bloodwork to test for lupus and everything remains negative. Since I found out that my fourth miscarriage was another trisomy, it is less likely that lupus is involved in my fertility issues.  And this means it is less likely overall.  Again, because we're going forward with donor egg, I am limited on what kinds of drugs I can use, so empirical treatment is on hold.  I saw a rheumatologist but she was a terrible doctor.  I couldn't get a word in edgewise so we never even discussed lupus.  I'm not exaggerating - this doctor never even found out what my pain symptoms are.  She had her own agenda and her own questions and she was a complete waste of time.  She ended up ordering an MRI of my right foot because that was the only place on my body she seemed to hear me mention as having pain.  After speaking with my concierge doctor, we agreed that I'd go through with the MRI since it's been a long time since I did this, and it might provide some evidence of psoriatic arthritis (another suspect).  There's not much else we can do while I'm working on getting pregnant anyway.  I just hope that I'll be able to stay on the new NSAID (diclofenac) through the cycling process, and into early pregnancy if we get that far.  After that I might be in a world of hurt.  But I'll deal with that if and when it comes.

Objectivist Round Up

Lynne is hosting this week's Round Up at her lovely blog, 3 Ring Binder.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mexican Jumping Beans

Every time he goes on a business trip, Adam gets Sam a little gift.  He's made a tradition out of keychains because they have city-specific keychains in every airport in America, apparently.  Sam has quite a nice collection.

But sometimes Adam gets her an additional item, and Louisville, Kentucky brought Sam some Mexican jumping beans.

I don't know that I'd ever seen real Mexican jumping beans before.  They really do jump and Sam loves them.  Besides the novelty of it, I think this is a great gift for preschoolers because if you want them to jump in your hand, you have to hold very still.  The larva inside the bean jumps to get away from heat, so normally you keep them in the fridge.  When you take them out, you can hold them in your hand to heat them up and make them start jumping.  But if you move around too much, they don't jump.  It's a nice way to practice being still.

They also do require a tiny bit of care, so if your child is begging for a pet, maybe this is a good first step.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Own Personal Eugenics Program

In just a few days, we've moved from, "we're probably going to move forward with donor egg" to actually starting the process.  I figured out that, because of the timing of our vacations in the upcoming months, it didn't make sense to try to conceive naturally again.  If I miscarried, we wouldn't be able to try donor egg until July or August.  I didn't want to delay that long, so now I've started the meds (ironically, birth control pills) and we're sorting through photos and background information on potential egg-donors. Yikes! Yipee! Holy shit!

When it comes to picking a donor, we benefit from the irrationality of others. Apparently, most people get extremely caught up in the donor-selection process, sometimes shopping around at various egg banks and clinics to find that "perfect match."  Women seem to want to pick a donor who exactly like themselves, or who they think they would like as a friend.  (You would not believe the wealth of information they collect on these donors - audio interviews and written essays and what their favorite animal is and more!)  But I found out today that these women can donate their eggs multiple times, so that some of them have a history.  The case manager assigned to me (I'll call her K. because I have a feeling that I'll be talking about her a lot in the coming months) said that there are superstar donors - women who produce a lot of eggs with no complications.  So, aside from some basic criteria like race and maybe a couple of other things like that, we're going to narrow the field based on the donor's history.  We're going to pick someone with a track record of success.

We're also going to pick someone who is available soon.  Apparently, some donors have a long waiting list.  At least one that K. told me about has ten people on her waiting list.  She can only donate nine times total (each donation is called a "cycle" and during the process the donor is "cycling").  That tenth person put herself on this waiting list and may never get this donor.  Why?  What does she think she's going to get out of it?  I can't imagine the donor's genes being more important than moving quickly and having a good chance of success.  There are plenty of good donors that will work with my schedule.

As for genetic health issues, we have nothing to worry about.  Only 3% of the women who apply get accepted into the donor egg program at my clinic.  They screen for everything imaginable.  It's a much higher quality gene pool than my own, that's for sure.

Still, after those considerations, we probably will make our choice based on the photos more than anything else.  And I have to admit, it's easy to get caught up in the idea that we could have a baby that might look like this one or that one.  It's quite a power trip.

There are other things we'll have to decide - do we do a split cycle (split the donor's eggs with another recipient to save money), pay up front for multiple cycles (at a discount), sign up for the exorbitantly expensive but partially refundable pregnancy guarantee, freeze embryos for future use, etc.  The options are amazing.  We've come a long way since that first test tube baby.

The process is also quite interesting.  It's a major time investment, as well as financial, but it's not nearly as intense as IVF because I don't have to go through both the retrieval and the implantation - just the latter.  I'll be sure to document the whole process here in great detail.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Webcast on Intellectual Property

Here's an exciting announcement from Diana Hsieh of NoodleFood:
I'm delighted to announce a new project that I'm helping to organize: the hosting of live online events (i.e. webcasts) with notable intellectuals and producers about their work. Even better, our first webcast will be law professor Adam Mossoff speaking on questions about intellectual property!

Yes, I find it exciting because my husband is the inaugural lecturer, but I also think the project itself is a great idea.  Here's the proposal for Adam's webcast:
Ayn Rand was the first to recognize that all property is at root intellectual property. The law and history support Rand's view that all property rights, whether in land, factories, consumer goods, securities, or inventions and books, are made possible by innovators who first conceived of these new values. Professor Mossoff will give a brief overview of the evidence supporting Rand's view and answer questions about the theory, history, and law of intellectual property.

Dr. Hsieh is experimenting with the pledge system that she innovated to fund these webcasts.  That means that you make a pledge to pay whatever you think the webcast is worth to you, and if there is enough interest (meaning money), then the project will go forward.  Go to NoodleFood for the details. The webcast is on November 15 and you need to get your pledge in by November 6, so don't delay!

Age-Appropriate TV and Movies

You know all about what kinds of books we're trying to read with Sam. Now I have something to say about TV and movies.  I already wrote a long post about the "how much" issue a year and a half ago, and there I talked about my general principles in selecting TV and movies for Sam.  (Wow, I still agree with everything I said then.  That doesn't always happen when I re-read my old posts!)  What I want to write about this time is simply what kind of TV and movies Sam is ready for now, at four instead of two and a half years old.

When Sam was two and a half, she was not ready for movies.  She could not follow a storyline that long or complex.  Now, she can and does.  I'm not sure when it happened, but I clearly recall a spurt of growth when I could tell that she was finally was able to follow some of her longer books.  This coincided with her readiness for movies.  When Sam was two and a half, she watched Little Bear almost exclusively on TV.  Nothing has changed in that department.  She loves that show to the exclusion of everything else.

I'm open to Sam watching all kinds of TV and movies - even ones with bad ideas or themes, within reason.  It's easier to talk about what I am NOT open to:

  • TV or movies that have fast cuts.  This technique is obviously an attempt to reduce the medium to the perceptual or even sensational level.  I find it particularly offensive in children's cartoons.  Sam is not allowed to watch Phineas and Ferb, which I think sounds pretty funny otherwise, but I only made it through about 3 minutes before we turned it off.

  • TV or movies that are primarily senseless noise and/or meaningless action.  Sam is not allowed to watch Sponge Bob or anything like it.

  • Anything with scenes of violence or visible suffering such as starving children in Africa.  I don't mind a movie that deals with these issues in the abstract (there's that Sound of Music/Nazi thing again), but I don't want her to see it.  I also don't care about "violence" in cartoons much since it doesn't involve real people, but I wouldn't want her watching nothing but The Road Runner either.  This will change slowly with Sam's age.  I think it's fine to see images of violence or suffering as an adult (whereas I don't think fast cuts or senselessness are good at any age), but not at four.  Sam is not allowed to watch Fight Club or Schindlers List.

  • Anything with a heinous theme or no other redeeming values.  When she's older, she can try any movie she wants and form her own opinions, but I'm keeping her away from the worst of the worst for now.

Again, I'm trying to limit Sam's environment to things that she can process.  There are some notable things that I will allow her to watch.  Unlike a year and a half ago, I no longer think Dora the Explorer is inappropriate.  Sam can understand it now.  I'm just glad she has little interest in it since I still think it's a stupid show.  The point is that there is a lot more that Sam can make sense of now, at four, than she could at two.

I'll allow Sam to watch anything with sex in it, including body parts.  I don't mean pornography, just sex scenes and nudity.  (I suppose I wouldn't let her watch porn.  I guess I'm a controlling mom that way.)  There's no reason she'd really be watching anything like this, but it wouldn't bother me if I turned on the TV and there was a sex scene on the screen before I could get Little Bear queued up.  I've actually watched a childbirth show with Sam and she saw the whole process of a baby being born.  There was nudity and it was bloody and the woman screamed in pain (which is different than suffering), and Sam understood exactly what was happening and had no problem dealing with it - and this was over a year ago!

I also don't mind Sam watching "scary" things like children's movies with dragons or witches or what-have-you.  I've found that what I think might be scary to her is quite often dead wrong.  This is the child who fell in love with the Grinch but wanted to fast-forward through the Whos, and who felt more sympathy for the Abominable Snowman than she did for Rudolf.  If a show is too scary, we'll just turn it off.

In my post from last year, I mentioned that I was coming to like Rational Jenn's approach to screen time for her children.  In a nutshell, Jenn doesn't limit their time on the computer or TV at all, but she does only allow them to choose from a huge selection of parent-approved choices.  Contrary to conventional expectations, her children do not sit in front of a screen all day.

I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet when it comes to TV.  Somehow I've managed to raise a four-year-old who still doesn't know how to work the remote.  But Sam just inherited Adam's old computer.  I'm going to leave it up and running right next to my desk and let her have at it as much as she wants and see what happens.  If she can handle that, maybe she can have that freedom with TV, too.  She's due for an expansion of her freedoms.  I can tell because she's becoming defiant again.  But that's another post...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Family Movie Night - Bad Guys

Something dreadful has happened that makes me realize that I have way too much on my mind:  I forgot to mention that we watched The Princess Bride on one of our previous Family Movie Nights.


I have no idea what Sam took away from this movie.  She kept asking us why we were laughing, and I know she hated the end because I cried and she still doesn't understand the good cry yet.  But I do know she was fascinated by the "bad guy" in black with the mask who turned into the "good guy."  If I haven't mentioned it, Sammy is obsessed with good guys and bad guys.  She only wants to watch movies with bad guys in them.  She also likes classical music because it has bad guys in it. (Think about it - half of classical music could be visualized as bad guys chasing princesses through the forest.)

We watched Mary Poppins this weekend.  There was a policeman in the opening scene and Sam was transfixed: "Is that a bad guy?  Does he kill people?"  (She's still confused by the whole Nazi thing.)  No real bad guys in this one, but she seemed to like it anyway.  I didn't remember the movie very well, and I fell asleep for part of it.  Some of the musical numbers were fun, but otherwise I didn't like it.  Wasn't there a speech by the chimney sweep about how selfish the father was?  I was dozing at that point.  But any movie that gets Sammy screaming, "They're dancing on the roof!  Look, mommy!  That's SO funny!" is a hit.

This FMN thing is also a hit.  Sam is just the right age to start watching these movies (as I'll write about in my next post) and it is pure joy to share them with her.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Age-Appropriate Books

A friend of mine made some comments about my Family Movie Night post and got me thinking about how we choose books and TV/movies for Sam.  In this post, I'll focus on books.

I'm a bit ashamed to say that I didn't start discriminating about the content of what Sam read until fairly recently.  When she was a baby, it was just words, voice, and pictures, so I chose books based on whether they had pictures I thought she could perceive as related to real-life objects.  I also chose books based on whether they were the right length and whether they had the right amount of words on the page - too many and she would lose interest, too few and the page-turning would become distracting and chaotic.

I think this was a good set of criteria for book-choosing up until Sam was verbal. But at that point, I should have thought more carefully about what she read.  Looking back, I think in her early verbal stages (18 to 30 months old or so) I would have looked for a few things:

  • Books with words on one page and a picture on the opposite page.  About 6 months ago (when Sam was 3.5), she expressed confusion about how there were "two Cliffords."  There was a picture of Clifford (the Big Red Dog) on the left page and on the right page, and she thought there were two Cliffords!  She didn't understand the temporal advance from left-to-right.  I was surprised that she had never figured that out.  Of course, she learned it (we focused on that for a while), but I would have isolated the skill of matching one set of words with one picture early on if I had thought about it.  (I strongly agree with the Montessori principle of isolating the difficulty, but it is a huge challenge to do it properly. Scroll down to "I" in this glossary of Montessori terms to learn about isolation of difficulty.)

  • Books with a story-progression.  The purpose of fiction books is to tell stories.  Pre-verbal children obviously follow stories.  By the time they are verbal, they need to be challenged with more and more complex stories.  I think this is good preparation for literature (it is early literature!) and also a way of focusing and ordering the mind.  There are so many children's books (obviously targeted to toddlers and pre-schoolers) that just have no story whatsoever.  There's nothing wrong with those books - some have great language or pictures or are just fun.  My second favorite book (listed below) doesn't have a real plot.  But if I could do it over, I would have limited them and focused more on stories.  I think we did pretty well by default, though, since we all like stories so much.

  • Books with more real-life characters and less fantasy and nonsense.  I wish we hadn't read quite so many Dr. Seuss books to Sam.  Adam and I had purchased a bunch of them for ourselves before Sam was born because we like them as adults.  I don't think they are entirely worthless, but they are full of nonsense words, nonsense characters, and nonsense "stories."  They're probably appropriate later, as silly fun, when the child has a firmer grasp of reality versus fantasy.  But it's not just Dr. Suess (though he is probably the worst offender).  Why are children's books so full of senselessness and fantasy - and even animal characters?  I laughed with derision when I heard that some Montessori teachers recommend no books with talking animal characters at all, but now I'm not so dismissive of it.  Again, I don't think I'd eliminate all of those kinds of books (it would be so limiting!), but I'd certainly be on the lookout for real people in real situations as much as possible.

  • Poems.  We did read a lot of Mother Goose when Sam was about 18-24 months old.  She loved them, but maybe I would have differentiated poems from stories for her by only reading poems at a certain time of day or something like that.  We read her some more advanced children's poems now, along with adult poems that seem intelligible to her.

Now that Sam is four, we're looking for books with all of the above characteristics (except the word/picture issue), plus we are more concerned with the themes and messages. We recently got rid of one book that was explicitly altruistic and one that was pure subjectivism and egalitarianism in a sickly sweet, moralistic way.  Those pedantic books with conventional values are out.  But we have no problems with books with themes like "loyalty" or even "cooperation," even though those are not on our list of top virtues and values.  If a book shows that loyalty is good when it is loyalty to one's own (objective, not subjective) values in the face of pressure from others - that's a good theme.  When a book shows that a child who cooperates with others has more success than a bully - that's a good theme.  And "show, don't tell" applies here.  Overly pedantic books are irritating.  The theme must be part of the plot, just as in adult fiction.

We also like books with more advanced vocabulary or interesting language, but it's hard to get all of that in one package.  This is lower on the priority list for now, but I think it will become more important later.

Here is a partial list of some favorite age-appropriate books on Samantha's shelf right now.  Not all of these meet all the above criteria, but each has at least one special thing about it:

  • Brave Irene, by William Steig

  • The Napping House, by Audrey and Don Wood

  • The Wishing of Biddy Malone, by Joy Cowley (best book ever!)

  • Rickki Tikki Tavi, by Rudyard Kipling and Jerry Pinkney

  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton

  • The Rusty Trusty Tractor by Joy Cowley

  • The Fancy Nancy series, by Jane O'Connor

  • Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

  • Buford the Little Bighorn, by Bill Peet

  • Adios Oscar, by Peter Elwell

  • All the Places to Love, by Patricia Maclachlan (second best book ever!)

  • Dr. DeSoto, by William Steig

  • The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf