Wednesday, June 30, 2010

OCON and Other Updates

We're leaving for OCON today!  First, we head to Florida for two days, where we'll drop Sammy off with her grandparents.  She will be with them (and we'll be without her) for eight whole days.  Consciously, I'm excited, but subconsciously I must be very worried because I keep having dreams about forgetting where I left her or forgetting to pick her up from school.  After OCON, we go back to Florida for two more days to pick her up and to visit.

It's going to be a long trip - two full weeks if you include travel days.  I'll be dependent on Adam's laptop for blogging so it might be light for a couple of weeks, but who knows - maybe I'll write every night about all the exciting things that I learned and experienced.  Probably not.

A few random notes:

  • I forgot to upload Adam's photos of our Farm Vacation so I'll be adding those at some point.  (I guess that's mostly of interest to family.)

  • My fertility tests all came back normal, so we're back to square one, in a sense.  It's good to know that there is nothing detectably wrong with me or us, but in a way it's the worst thing because it means we have no control over the situation and we're left with the same uncertainty as always.

  • I'll be starting our summer school as soon as we return from vacation, so I'll be writing about that quite a bit, hopefully.  I started setting up the Montessori-like environment two days ago.  I had no choice but to do it when Sam was around, so it's been very difficult to keep her from going wild with the materials.  I'm going to have to spend some time at the conference teaching myself how to demonstrate how to use them and finalizing my plans.

  • Adam posted this hilarious status update on Facebook regarding our travel preparations:  "Adam Mossoff is going on a lengthy trip and thus the dog and cat will be enjoying an extended stay at the local kennel, or, given their vastly differing attitudes about the kennel, I refer to it as 'doggy summer camp' for Toby and 'kitty concentration camp' for Jinx."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Little Thing

I started setting up our "summer school" yesterday and when Sammy saw all of the Montessori materials she beamed and said, THANK YOU MOMMY, FOR GETTING ME SUMMER SCHOOL!


Although Sammy has stopped begging me to sing Christmas songs to her, she will still sometimes sing them herself.  One of her favorites (mine, too!) is Feliz Navidad.  But, also like me, she often changes the words of songs just for fun.  And now, I am pleased to make Sammy's first entry into the Songs category of this blog:

Feliz Mommy-Dad
Feliz Mommy-Dad
I want to wish you a Mommy Christmas
I want to wish you a Mommy Christmas
I want to wish you a Mommy Christmas from the bottom of my heart

Just about the cutest thing I've ever heard!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Farm Vacation

A couple of weeks ago we went on what we’ve been calling our Farm Vacation.  We stayed in a bed and breakfast on a working livestock farm.  We never would have thought to do it ourselves, but some adventurous friends invited us and we went with them and another great couple.  Sammy was the only kid there (except for the baby goats), but apparently, this is a family vacation kind of thing.  It’s also known as a “farm-stay.”  We stayed for three days at Cornerstone Farm in southwest Virginia, which is just a four hour drive for us.  The owners, Barb and Ward, helped to make it such a great experience that we definitely want to go back again someday. 

It started out with the drive.  We brought our dog, Toby, along with us, figuring that we’d take him on hikes on the farm.  So the car ride was a preview of what it’s like to have two kids in the car.  There were horrifying screams followed by things like: MOMMY, TOBY ATE MY GRANOLA BAR! and HE’S LICKING MY HAND!  MAKE HIM STOP! 

In the end, we enjoyed having Toby with us, but the poor guy didn’t get to do much because it was incredibly hot – too hot to just go for long walks – and also because we needed to keep him away from the working dogs on the farm.  Ward and Barb have four or five working dogs that they keep solely to protect the livestock.  We were encouraged not to interact with them, and we were warned that under no circumstances should we allow Toby to play with them or even approach them at the fences.  These Akbash dogs were really beautiful.  They barked every time we approached the fences, but they were not aggressive.  I don’t know what they would have done if we had tried to hurt an animal, but I wouldn’t want to find out. 

More stuff we saw/did/experienced:

  • We got ticks (Sam called them tic-tacs).  They don’t have lime disease, so they were pretty harmless, but really gross.  Adam won the contest of who would get the most ticks over the whole weekend.

  • We milked the goats.  This was Barb’s domain and she obviously loves those animals.  They all have names, and she knows all of their personalities.  Sam squeezed a bit of milk out but didn’t have that much interest.  I did it twice.  Barb does it twice a day, every day.  It’s a lot of work and they can’t sell the milk, so they throw out whatever they don’t use.

  • We learned that male goats are really stinky, so if you want good tasting goat milk, you need to keep the genders separated.

  • We drank fresh, raw goat milk.  Soooooo good!  We also had goat cheese, which the others liked but I found bland.

  • We enjoyed watching the cows and horses roam in their pastures.  We petted the horses, but the bulls were off limits!

  • We learned that sheep say bah, goats say mah.  It’s hard to tell them apart, though.  Goats have shorter tails that point up, while sheep have longer tails that hang down.  The goats on this farm were Nigerian dwarf goats and were pretty cute, as goats go.  There were many “kids.”  We were able to go in the pasture with them as much as we liked and we spent a lot of time there because Sammy loved the goats.  They would stand up on their hind legs and put their front hooves on her and sometimes even knock her down.  They would surround her and nibble on her clothes and hair.  (Now Sam nibbles on our clothing and we call her “goat girl.”)  But she loved them.  She was fearless, and this was one of the best things about the trip – Sam was so excited that she forgot to be cautious.

  • We saw and petted the alpacas.  A baby had been born just a few days before we arrived, and there was another that was just a few weeks old, so the two mommies were quite protective.  We were warned one of the alpacas might spit, and we hurried away once when we saw the mommy pull her ears back and open her mouth just enough to show us some green, regurgitated stuff.  Yuk!

  • We petted some miniature donkeys.  I didn’t like the braying sound they made – this was probably the animal that I liked the least.

  • Went horseback riding.  This was the highlight of the trip.  Ward taught us how to really handle the horses and we got to ride on a hilly trail and gallop quite a bit.  We also had some freedom in a clearing where we were able to experiment with directing our horses instead of just following the leader on the trail.  Ward claims that horses are smarter than dogs.  I’m still not so sure about that, but riding a horse gave me much the same joy as I get from walking Toby.  When the animal obeys you and you get in a rhythm, it’s really a unique bonding experience.  I saw a snake (which I later found out was a black rat snake) on the path, which I found incredibly cool.

  • Sam got a pony ride – well, it was a miniature horse named Dusty and he was really cute.  She got the same special kind of ride that we did.  She got to sit in a saddle with stirrups and Ward led the horse along a path around the pond.  Sam only had one moment of reservation while getting on the horse, but very quickly she became obviously thrilled.  She has been on a horse before (sitting with her dad on a real horse) and she rode an elephant with us once, but this was a much more independent experience for her.  God, watching your kid grow up is the best thing in the world.

  • Ward showed us his poultry yard.  This is the thing that he loves, like Barb loves her goats.  He had all kinds of chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese.  It was stinky and noisy!  Adam and I saw this one rooster and we both immediately thought: “That’s Chantecler!”  If you’ve read the play, you’ll know this means that he was strutting about and obviously was one proud bird.  Adam got a video of this “buff orpington” macho bird crowing,

  • We held some baby ducks that were about 2-3 weeks old.  One pooped on me and I just kept holding it.  Fear of poop: conquered!

  • We saw a baby duck hatching!  Adam got it on video.  The duck had started opening the egg, but Ward just helped finish it up so we could see it come out.  Awesome!

  • Ward has set up a kind of miniature natural history museum of Virginia wildlife in a separate building on the farm.  He has dozens of insects mounted neatly with pins, some animal skulls, and some live reptiles like snakes and turtles.  Sam loves turtles, so this was a highlight for her.  We all admired Ward’s ambition regarding the project, and his obvious love for nature. 

  • We had a bonfire and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.

  • We learned why horses are so cheap right now.  All the slaughterhouses in the U.S. that were used to make glue or dog food from the older horses have been shut down, so there is no market for those old horses as there used to be (unless you ship them to Canada or Mexico, and it looks like Canada is going to shut down their slaughterhouses soon, too).  So people are forced to keep and maintain their older horses, shrinking the market for new, young horses.  On top of the rights violations and harm to humans involved, thanks to the animal rights folks, old horses are now being abandoned and left to starve to death

  • After the other couples left, Adam, Sam and I stayed another day.  It was still too hot to do much but we swam in the little plastic pool and drank well water from the hose and just relaxed.  It was really nice.

  • As always, at a B&B you spend quite a bit of time with your hosts, and we had some nice conversations with Barb and Ward about all of the improvements they are planning for the farm and other subjects.  Overall, I enjoyed their company and it was actually a bit hard to say goodbye.

We are planning to go back to Cornerstone Farm again, hopefully when the weather is not so hot.  We'd like to go fishing and goat packing (the goat carries your picnic lunch on a hike), and do some stargazing.  Adam and I plan to look into horseback riding locally.  I'm not sure if there is anything like what we did at the farm, though.  So we might have to go back just for that.  Click here for more photos.

A Little Thing

After some coloring, Sammy told me what she had drawn:


Where does she come up with this stuff?

Friday, June 25, 2010


Forgive me, Internet, for I have sinned.  It has been 358 days since my last confession. (Yikes!)

I'm embarrassed by the fact that Sam's babysitter always sees me in the exact same clothes, since I only have one "out to dinner" outfit.   But to be clear, the confession is the embarrassment, not the lack of clothing!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Judging People Objectively

On OGrownups, a mailing list for Objectivist parents, there has been some discussion of Kate Granju, a blogger (not an Objectivist) who recently lost her 18 year old son to drug addiction (he OD’d and was beaten and died after a month in the hospital).  Kate blogged the entire situation, as it happened.  At first, I tried to avoid reading her blog because I didn’t need any extra pain in my life, but when I read on OGrownups that her son had died, my curiosity overwhelmed me and I ended up spending 3 hours reading her blog from the time he was hospitalized until the present.

Before I go on, I need to say that I have so much sympathy for Kate and I think she is an extraordinarily brave woman for writing so honestly about her situation.  Her frankness about this taboo subject is exactly what I’ve tried to do here on my blog regarding miscarriage.  She is also an excellent writer and has many other virtues.  I like her. 

But what I want to talk about is something that came up on OGrownups that relates to something I’ve been working on in my own character.  A couple of people (whom I respect and don’t mean to pick on) made comments about Kate facing reality (a good thing) and acting selfishly (another good thing).  Read the linked posts for the full background, but basically, Kate is acknowledging that she did not fully face the reality of her son’s situation soon enough, and she is choosing to have an early, scheduled C-section with her current pregnancy because she can’t cope with the uncertainty of when a natural labor will occur (something that might be considered selfish).

I think it is a mistake to attribute to Kate the virtues of facing reality and of selfishness.  It’s the kind of mistake I used to make all the time—well, I’m sure I still do, but I’m working on it.  I am only speaking for myself here, but I have a long standing error of psychologizing others based on my own motivations.  I am not objective in my view of other people.  More concretely, I see others’ actions and words in terms of my own character, and since my own character is pretty damn good(!), this means I end up being much too generous in my judgments.  (Occasionally I make the revserse mistake, too, though.)  If I could see myself saying or doing the same thing, then I attribute my own reasons to the other person, even when there is no evidence for it.  So when someone is, say, afraid to drive a car, instead of asking myself if that person has a pattern of acting fearfully or if they have something in their past which could explain it, I ask myself, “Have I ever been afraid of something for good reason?” and then I assume that they have as good a reason as I would have.  It seems ridiculous when I write it out, but I’ve used this pattern of judging people for my whole life!  It is very difficult to change, but I believe it explains a lot about my difficulties in judging and dealing with people.

So I’ve been working hard at being more objective in my evaluation of others, and the comments about Kate Granju set off my red flags.  I don’t mean to make my usual mistake here and assume that the comments on OGrownups were made based on the same problem I have, but I did have to think through the evidence to figure out if I agreed that Kate Granju acted selfishly and was focused on reality, espcially since I already do like her and want to believe that.  Here is a sample of my thought-process:

I don't think Kate is really facing reality in her self-condemnation regarding her son's drug problem.  She blames herself for not seeing it as a disease sooner.  It may be true that she made mistakes and did not face reality in the past, and it’s good if she can see that.  But I note that on her blog she is more and more often calling her son’s addiction a "disease" and saying he was "sick."  I think this is a new evasion, not a recognition of reality.  Calling addiction a disease is a way of evading the choice involved in using the substance or engaging in the behavior one is addicted to.  I do not accept the "disease" label of addiction, and I can’t overlook Kate’s use of it as irrelevant.  (I’m not going to make an argument here for that position – the point is just that I hold that principle and I can’t overlook it and assume it has no bearing on my judgment of her.) 

I also don't think that the idea that "this could happen to anyone" (an idea Kate seems to be really pushing) is valid in the case of addiction.  That is the same as saying, "becoming a wife-beater could happen to anyone."  Becoming addicted ultimately rests on a series of choices, even if there are huge physiological factors involved.  (Again, I’m not making a full argument here, but stating the principle I hold which applies.)  There is an element of truth here, though, which is that parents cannot directly control their children’s behavior.  Maybe Kate doesn’t mean that “addiction can happen to anyone” but that “anyone’s children could become addicts.”  No matter how well you parent, your child has free-will and could indeed become an addict.  But, paired with the “disease” theory, I can’t assume that Kate means it this way.  And my hackles are raised just with the phrase itself.  Cancer can happen to anyone and car accidents can happen to anyone, but we all know this so we get checkups and wear seatbelts and move on with our lives.  We also teach our children the facts about drugs.  Kate’s insistence upon this point sounds to me like she is looking for another way to evade awareness of the choices that were involved for her son, as if it were mere bad luck that he was an addict.

As for the C-section, Kate questions whether her decision might be “selfish,” (which she seems to define as better for her than for the baby) but I don’t think that means that she is acting selfishly, in the proper sense.  Kate is religious and has lauded altruistic principles many times in her blog.  There is no reason to think that she is acting out of selfishness, even if it appears so in some ways.  In the past, I would think how I might make the same decision for selfish reasons and assume that she is doing the same (and I do, in fact, think it is a good decision).  But there is no evidence that this is the case with Kate because of what I already know about her beliefs.  This seems to be an instance of inconsistency, and as we Objectivists know, the bad/evil/immoral requires inconsistency since it is incompatible with life.  Kate’s decision to have a C-section to satisfy her own needs looks to me exactly like those mothers who talk about how it’s ok to have “me-time.”  They are not acting selfishly, but granting themselves an exception to the rule of altruism.  Often, they will justify their “me-time” by claiming that it makes them better mothers, and it’s true – it does.  For me, that would be an instance of “no conflicts of interest” but for them, it’s a rationalization.  That is not selfishness, and neither is a choice like Kate's.

Again, I don't mean to denigrate Kate.  I do think that she is virtuous in many ways, and I love her writing, and I certainly don't think her son's problem was her fault.  Despite my views, I don't think her son was necessarily a bad person because of his addiction.  The whole thing is tragic and horrifying.  And even though Kate Granju is not an Objectivist and is not just like me, I can still like her for what she is.  And I’m starting to see how wonderfully clarifying it is to see people for what they are, instead of just through Amy-colored lenses.  Now, that's facing reality, if I do say so myself!

Objectivist Round Up

Trey Givens hosts The Objectivist Round Up this week!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Little Thing


Because the maids came today and they didn't put it back the way they found it.


The maids must have done it.


The maids vacuumed it.

I DON'T LIKE IT. THAT'S NOT FAIR. HEY, WHY IS MY ROCKET UP THERE [getting up from her chair at the dining table and moving the rocket]?


[Coming back to her seat at the table] THAT'S NOT RIGHT THAT THEY PUT THOSE THINGS THERE. I DON'T LIKE THAT!

So what did you do about it?


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cycle One, Day One, Take Four

That's what I write on my calendar each time: Cycle One , Day One.  Then, the next month, I write Cycle Two, Day One, and so on.

This one, Take Four, began on Saturday.  I'm feeling pretty excited - again.  I don't know how on earth I can be excited about something that has caused me so much pain, but I do seem to emotionally reboot myself each time.  Damn, I'm really proud of that.

On Sunday I had my FSH test blood draw, and I should have the results tomorrow.  They're testing a few other things, too, but frankly, I didn't pay much attention to those.  There are only so many brain cells I can dedicate to this project.  But if I have high FSH levels, then it could mean that I have a higher-than-normal-for-my-age egg-quality problem.  This is the biggest outstanding question.

Next week I get to have a hysterosonogram to test for any abnormalities in my uterus.  Fun!  My history indicates this is highly unlikely, but it is an easy test and the problems it can detect are relatively common.

If both tests are normal, we can start trying to conceive again right away.  If not, we'll reassess.

I also found out today that no determination could be made for the cause of my last miscarriage.  The tissue was too "necrotic."  I wish I had opted for the D&C right away - then maybe we'd have more information - but I also hope that I'll never have to put that "lesson learned" to use.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Reports

With all of my medical problems lately, plus two vacations in one month, I've been doing almost nothing but light fiction reading.  I've read a few really good ones, though.  Here's a brief (ha!) report:

Void Moon, Echo Park, and The Brass Verdict, all by Michael Connelly.  As I've mentioned before, I really like Michael Connelly's detective fiction.  I didn't like The Brass Verdict, though.  The hero was not heroic and I found the plot a bit contrived.  It wasn't awful, but it was a disappointment.  Echo Park was good, but dark like some of his others (especially The Poet).  Void Moon was excellent.  It was told from the perspective of a criminal, but Connelly makes her likeable enough to make you root for her, even while you are not necessarily rooting for her to pull off her crime.  He did it by means of both characterization and plot, or at least situation.  I thought it was ingenious!  It had a good story and some other elements I liked a lot.  I might even read this one again some day, and that's saying something for this kind of book.

Raising Your Spirited Child, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.  I've been hearing about this book for years, but never read it because I never considered Samantha to be unusually "spirited."  But, I figured, it might be worth a look.  A look is about all I gave it - I mostly skimmed it.  I don't think it's a bad book, but I just found nothing in it that applied to my daughter, or that I didn't already know.  I guess one thing I learned is that I was right that Samantha's temperament is pretty average.  She didn't fit into any of the categories in the book, and in many cases, she had such a mixed set of traits within the category that pegging her down was impossible.  For example, she does not stick with difficult tasks, but she has a really long attention span - these are contradictory elements within the "persistent" temperament.  Is she the persistent type, then?  My answer was "no" to that one, and all the others were similar.  It's possible things will change when she is older, though, and I would consider reading this book again.

The Great Bridge, by David McCullough.  (Wow, two non-fiction books in a row!)  McCullough is the author of the hugely popular, recent biography of John Adams and other well-respected books.  Adam has been reading this one, about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, out loud to me for at least four months.  We are about 50 pages from the end, but I can safely say now that this is a wonderful book.  It reads like a work of fiction, with heroes and villains and even a bit of a climax and resolution (I think).  This book is not good as a straight history; if so, McCullough would need to essentialize more than he does.  But the amount of detail that he includes is what makes it read like a story, with virtual characterization and plot.  Sometimes it is actually too much detail for me, but Adam can't get enough.  (He tends towards empiricism while I tend towards rationalism, so he is much more comfortable in an ocean of facts than I am.)

McCullough's translation of facts to story is amazing.  The example that comes to my mind occurs when McCullough was describing the dedication of the bridge builder's wife.  When the builder became ill and couldn't write, McCullough tells us how she had to transcribe his dictation onto paper as instructions for building the bridge.  There were massive amounts of these instructions.  The author tells us how she would get so weary that she would forget to sharpen her pencil.  Or maybe the point was that the builder would dictate in such a frenzy that his wife didn't have time to stop and sharpen her pencil - I don't recall exactly.  What I do remember is that when I read that, I thought, "how in the world could the author know that, about sharpening the pencil?" and I realized that he must have copies of those transcriptions, and that he must have noted the thicker lines of her writing.  Whatever the implication he drew, I was amazed at that detail that he must have noticed and then considered to write that passage.  The book is full of great things like that.

McCullough also seems to have a great respect for the achievement of the men who built the bridge.  That's me reading between the lines, but I think it's there.  I haven't yet read any of McCullough's other books but I definitely will now that I've tasted his storytelling ability.

The Long Lavender Look and Cinnamon Skin, both by John D. MacDonald.  I'm getting a bit tired of this author.  He has some good plots but the cynicism I noted before is starting to turn me off.  I'll try at least one more before I give up on him since he has other good qualities.  I don't recall either of these two books very well; neither made a huge impression.

I tried to read Fletch, by Gregory Mcdonald on the recommendation of a friend, but I couldn't stand the glib, supposedly witty banter, and gave it up in less than 30 pages.

Straight, In the Frame, and Dead Cert, all by Dick Francis.  I continue to love Dick Francis.  His characters are so admirable and his stories are always interesting.  I actually liked Straight, a more (most?) recent one, the best of all I've read so far.  Usually, the quality of an author's writing deteriorates over time, especially when the author is as prolific as Dick Francis.  But I heard or read somewhere that Francis' son collaborated with him towards the end of his career, and that might account for my love of Straight.  Or, maybe Dick Francis just remained good up until the end.  I only learned last month that he died earlier this year.  Too bad.

The Targetby Catherine Coulter.  Oh my god, this book was so bad.  I picked it up from the library at my gym.  I should have put it down by page 30, but it tricked me by starting off ok and getting worse and worse.  Seriously, I can't believe this book was published.  I was constantly confused about who was talking during the dialog, or whether characters had entered or left scenes, and that's just the technical details.  The story was obvious and trite and corny and the dialog was embarrassing.  When I was telling Adam about how bad it was, he said, "Why do you waste your life reading books like that?  You should have stopped as soon as you hated it."  I said, "I know."  But then I went on and kept telling him about how awful it was.  He interrupted and said, "Stop telling me about it right now.  Now you're wasting my life with a bad book.  Your punishment for reading it is never getting the satisfaction of venting to me about it!"  I thought that was hilarious.  But I guess Adam forgot I have a blog and I can vent to anyone and everyone as much as I want, so there!

Getting Through to People, by Jesse S. Nirenberg.  I accidentally bought two copies of this book because, quite some months apart (which is longer than my memory works) it was recommended by Jean Moroney and then by Dr. Ellen Kenner.  Those are some good creds!  However, I liked this book, but I didn't love it.  I'm looking for help with assertiveness, and this book was more focused on persuasion and breaking through others' barriers to listening.  Most of it was really worthwhile stuff but it just wasn't exactly what I was looking for.  I'm looking forward to reading Asserting Yourself, by Sharon and Gordon Bower, another recommendation from Ellen Kenner, to see if it is what I'm looking for.

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.  I suppose I'm the last person in the world to have heard of this book.  Was there a movie, too?  I had never heard of it but I picked it up at the gym.  Despite my trepidation about a story set in Afghanistan and a weak ending, I really enjoyed it.  I loved the main character's father, even though I'm not so sure that was what the author intended.  (As with most modern fiction, all the characters were mixed.)  But, really, I just enjoyed the story of redemption.  It was the book version of a good chick-flick - very emotionally charged.  When it is well done, as this book is, that can be a really good thing.

Friday, June 18, 2010

My Day

Tuesday was a typical day of my life in every way except that I wrote down everything I did.  Even the stuff about Adam's birthday is typical in that I have unexpected emergencies every day.  This is what I mean by fractured time:

  • The cat woke me up so I pet him for a half hour and thought about my story idea.

  • Woke up Sammy.

  • Laid in bed with her and snuggled.

  • Dealt with her minor tantrum regarding getting dressed; helped her get dressed.

  • Dressed in my workout clothes.

  • Coffee.

  • Breakfast for Sam (I can’t eat first thing in the morning).

  • Read one email.

  • Cleaned up humongous milk-spill (BP has nothing on Sam!) while Sam changed her clothes. Left the wet chair for later.

  • Gathered tennis shoes and water for the gym, and an apple for Sam to eat in the car.

  • Decided to write up “my day” and started recording everything I was doing.

  • Got Sam out the door for summer school.

  • Ate some nuts and Sam’s leftover half apple for breakfast in the car.

  • Walked Sam into school and filled out permission slip for Thursday’s field trip.

  • Gave the teachers a brief review of the Farm Vacation and talked to them about whether it would be a good thing for the elementary students to do.

  • Two important phone calls in the car on the way to the gym.

  • Worked out for 45 min and thought about my story. Noted some ideas on my voice recorder.

  • Picked up an Umberto Eco book at the gym's library.

  • Listened to 6 minutes of Leonard Peikoff podcast on the way home. 

  • Took a shower.

  • Jumped out of the shower to reset my (really loud) alarm clock whose settings had been inadvertently changed while we were on vacation.

  • While dressing, talked to Adam about his latest idea for his OCON lecture.

  • Snack.

  • Spent 10 minutes helping Adam find his car keys.

  • Spent 40 minutes transcribing voice memos to my task list and story notes. 

  • Did some research online for future blog post.

  • Picked up Sam from summer school. Listened to the end of LP’s podcast on the way there and told her a Little Bear story on the way back.

  • Made a quick (20 min) stop at the playground on the way home since it looked like it would rain later.  While there, read a few emails but mostly played with Sam.

  • Prepared and ate lunch with Sam.

  • Opened two packages that had come while we were on vacation.

  • Read one page of my book while Sam went to the bathroom.

  • Read Sam 2 books and got her down for nap.

  • Read my book for a half hour.

  • Put away the things from the 2 packages that I had opened earlier.

  • Emptied the dishwasher, did the dishes from breakfast and lunch and straightened up the kitchen.

  • Made a bullet list of things to remember from the Farm Vacation. 

  • Finished transcribing my voice memos.

  • Cleaned the chair.

  • Took photo of the "2 d's" (I'll tell you that story later) and was about to send an email about it when I realized that...

  • It is Adam’s birthday tomorrow and I don’t even have a card for him and I need to tell the babysitter what time to come!

  • Called Adam about seeing a movie but decided the movies are crap so we’ll just go to dinner.  Advised the babysitter.

  • Frantically searched for a gift idea for Adam and planned a trip to the mall.

  • Cleared out some new emails and spent 5 minutes on Facebook to try to relax.

  • Tried to make an appointment for a blood draw that I’m over a week past due for, but the lab’s web site is down. Decided to take a chance and walk in tomorrow.

  • Sent the email about the "2 d's."

  • Woke up Sam, who had been sleeping for over 2 hours.

  • While she was waking up, pulled the sheets off our bed.

  • Put Benadryl cream on the 7 mosquito bites Sam got at the playground.

  • Listened to 10 minutes of Jenn and Kelly’s podcast on the way to the mall, where we planned to buy a present for Adam and get ice cream.

  • Dealt with a poop in the pants (not mine) at the mall and realized that I had not restocked my purse with extra underwear and pants after our vacation.  Sam goes Commando.

  • Dealt with a 15 minute major tantrum in the bathroom when Sam learned that we would not be getting ice cream since we had to spend the time cleaning up her poopy accident.  MAJOR tantrum, but wonderful resolution.  I did a good job and it was the proudest moment of my day.

  • Got the gifts and came home. 

  • Hid the presents.

  • Backed up my blog database.

  • Got Sam a snack of yogurt since we never got the ice cream.

  • Set Sam up with some paper and crayons to begin making a card for Adam.

  • Got a new set of backup clothes and wipes for my purse.

  • Let the dog out for the first time since the morning.  He's a sport.

  • Helped Sammy finish the card – cutting and gluing were involved.

  • Helped Sammy hide the card so her dad would not see it before his birthday.

  • Got the steaks out of the fridge for dinner and then decided to check Facebook for a few minutes of rest, but then Sammy pooped in her pants again and I spent the next half hour helping her clean up and take a shower.

  • Gathered the laundry while she was showering. 

  • Adam came home and took over the steaks, so I popped some mashed potatoes in the microwave and popped open a beer.

  • Zoned out on Facebook for the 10 minutes it takes the potatoes to cook.

  • Sorted the mail (2 Geico ads, 1 Triple-A ad, and 1 community college ad, all sorted into the trash can).

  • Dinner.

  • Played with Sam for a half hour while Adam cleaned up from dinner.

  • Kissed Sam goodnight (it was Adam’s turn to put her down).

  • Finished up the dishes and started a load of laundry.

  • Wrote a short blog post.

  • Put new sheets on the bed.

  • Cleaned the toilet.

  • Did some clutter-clearing and restocking of supplies.

  • Read my book for 2 hours and went to sleep.

Objectivist Round Up

Lynne at 3-Ring-Binder has your Objectivist Round Up this week.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Little Thing

I just noticed that Samantha has finally stopped begging me to sing Christmas songs.  I get a 6 month break!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Baby Making Update

Adam and I had our first appointment at the new fertility clinic a couple of weeks ago and we were very pleased with the entire organization, and especially with our doctor.  Of course, I often seem to like each doctor I try early on, only to discover the problems later, but a good first impression is at least a good start.

We met with our Reproductive Endocrinologist for about an hour, and he explained the results of the testing we did with the previous doctor.  We needed this review because the old R.E.'s entire explanation of the results so far was, "You are homozygous for C677T and need to take folic acid."  Everything else that I wrote here on the blog came from my research on the Internet.  My research was generally correct, except that I had an inflated idea of how relevant my MTHFR issue is.  Our new doctor (Dr. U.) said he would not even test for this gene except that it comes automatically with the battery of genetic tests.  He claims that the science does not show any correlation between the mutation and pregnancy loss.  He does look at homocystiene levels, which can cause clotting problems, and mine are normal.  Even if he is wrong on this issue, the folic acid would still be the only treatment.  I am doing that, and there are no side effects, so the whole thing is just a non-issue.  I was close to that same conclusion based on my research, but I had some lingering doubts until I heard his explanation.

Dr. U. then explained what had been ruled out, which the previous doctor never did.  I won't bore you with the details, but any identifiable genetic issues that could be the problem have been ruled out, and that was my main concern.  Just about every other common issue has been ruled out as well, but we have two more easy, safe tests that we can do.  I have to wait for my next cycle to perform the tests, and this time we are being more careful!

However, before Dr. U. explained the additional testing, he gave us a lecture about accepting the unknown.  He didn't realize that he was preaching to the choir!  Using statistics and citing results of controlled studies, he told us that, especially after the testing we have already done, we will probably never know why I have had recurrent miscarriages, beyond the guess that it is an egg-quality problem (which is normal at my age).  He talked about how there are dozens of "treatments" for this or that, but that most of the things people try either have no evidence for improved outcomes, or have positive evidence for worse outcomes.  He was obviously warning us against something I'm sure he sees all the time:  people's desperate grasping for some action to take - something that they can do and control.  I'm sure you can imagine the wacky things people will try in order to make a baby, and the thing is, sometimes they are actually making it harder on themselves.

(This is an issue that I've been thinking about a lot lately:  the seeming human need to eliminate the unknowns and deal with uncertainty.  Personally, I have great trouble with uncertainty, but I tend not to cling to fantasies to solve the problem, and instead build up psychological defense-mechanisms that cause me great anxiety. That's a mistake that I'm working on.) 

After we agreed on the tests, Dr. U. told us that based on my history so far, I still have a 60-65% chance of having a successful next pregnancy.  I asked him about IVF with PGD and he said (despite the fact that he himself is a pioneer in this area) that PGD will not give us better odds than that, and it might even worsen the odds.  If you know anything about genetics, the reasons are, 1) mosaicism (in PGD, they test only one of less than ten existing cells), and, 2) the limited number of problems they can test for in the short time available before they have to implant the embryo.  Dr. U. said there have been at least seven controlled studies on this and that they show a slightly worse outcome for PGD patients in circumstances similar to mine.  (The best uses of PGD are for weeding out known genetic problems or for gender selection.)  The doctors might be able to somewhat increase the likelihood of a healthy embryo with the testing, but that is outweighed by the problems inherent in harvesting the eggs, fertilizing them outside the womb, and then reimplanting them.  Since we have no trouble conceiving, we'd be lowering our odds overall.

One of the additional tests we are doing will tell us if I have a bigger egg-quality problem than would be expected for my age.  If that is the case, then we will reconsider our options, but otherwise, we're going forward naturally. 

So, believe it or not, it looks like three miscarriages at my age really is quite normal - maybe a little unlucky, but not unbelievably, shockingly, devastatingly unlucky.  I want to scream to all my young friends to start trying NOW, but I think it's a bit tacky so I'll just do it here on my blog instead of in person.  Did you hear me, young friends?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Fact Is a Fact

I was driving around town with Sammy, listening to Cultivating the Virtues, a parenting podcast by Kelly and Jenn.  Kelly was discussing a situation where her daughter, Livy, was trying to glue something for an art project and having a hard time.  Kelly said that Livy was frustrated.  Now, we've been really working hard on helping Sam to identify her own emotions, so "frustrated" is a word that she knows and is really working to understand.  She piped up:  FRUSTRATED, MOMMY!  I paused the podcast and said that, yes, the woman had said that her daughter was frustrated.

The girl was trying to glue something and she got frustrated and said, "I can't do it!" just like you do sometimes.


We've been working on that, too.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Daddy Goat

We love animals in this house.  We have a dog, a cat, and a fish, and I think I mentioned recently how much we love going to the zoo.  We give our pets lots of affection.  Our dog won't eat his breakfast until he's had some attention from us.  This usually means that someone has to get down on the floor with him as he lies on his side and hug him and rub his belly.  We call it "giving him some lovin'."  Toby has his priorities straight: lovin' comes before food.

Sammy's school had a field trip to the local zoo today.  We saw some cool things, including watching a python squeeze and then devour a rat.  But the best part was that we got to see Daddy Goat again.  Sammy named Daddy Goat last time we visited this zoo - over a year ago.  She just fell in love with this goat, and we were tickled when she named him after Adam.  She talked about Daddy Goat so much that we actually framed this photo and put it up in her room:

[caption id="attachment_3347" align="aligncenter" width="375" caption="Daddy Goat"][/caption]

So when we arrived at the zoo today, of course we sought out Daddy Goat.  The farm animals are all kept in a big barn and there must be at least 40 goats in there, but we recognized our favorite right away.  He's the biggest goat they have, and he was just lying there, and wouldn't eat much food.  I got a little worried when I saw how lethargic he was, but I didn't say anything to Sam.  After touching his horns, stroking his ears, petting his fur,and trying to get him to eat a bit of those strange food pellets, Sam finally said, DADDY GOAT IS SAD.  WHY IS HE SAD, MOMMY?

I told her that I didn't know, but that I agreed that he looked sad.  Later, she said:


Objectivist Round Up

We're off on our farm vacation tomorrow where there will be no blogging, and all I can leave you with is this link to the Objectivist Round Up.  Sometimes the curse of blogging is sitting in front of an empty screen with nothing to say, but more often (for me anyway) it's having a life and a mind bursting with things to write about, but not enough time and energy to do it.  I like my way best.

Here are some things I'm thinking about and will hopefully be writing about soon:

  • a new fiction story idea

  • baby making update (yikes, I promised that a week ago)

  • school fundraising programs

  • my new exercise program

  • report on books I've read lately

  • my implementation of the personal productivity ideas in Getting Things Done (not working so well with the blogging, eh?)

  • home improvement updates

  • Sammy's first official extracurricular activity

  • Results of my physical exam with my concierge physician

  • My love of driving and running errands

  • How I get Sammy out the door in the mornings for school

  • A report on a thrilling and relaxing (not a contradiction!) farm vacation

Monday, June 7, 2010


Our family marked two milestones this weekend, both courtesy of Toys-R-Us.

The purpose of the trip was to buy a new car seat.  (We finally realized that we're not too poor to splurge on one for each car instead of moving the seat back and forth all the time.)  We told Sammy ahead of time that she could choose one item at the toy store - anything under $10.  She chose Silly Bandz, these little rubber/plastic bracelets shaped like animals or other cute things.  Adam and I only became aware of these bracelets about a week ago, when we noticed 3 different girls in the neighborhood wearing them, and now they're everywhere!  I'm not sure when Sammy became aware of them, but the moment she saw them in the store, she didn't want anything else.  This is officially Sam's first fad!  Instead of being horrified, I actually think it's quite cute.  I probably won't think so when the next fad costs more than I spend on a night out on the town, or when I hear an argument like, BUT EVERYONE ELSE HAS THEM!

One thing Sammy's teacher suggested we do this summer is to play board games with her.  (There are many good, educational reasons to play board games with your kids.)  At the toy store, we noticed Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders, so we bought them, and played them both for the first time yesterday.  I must say, one of the main reasons that I want a second child is so that we have four players for board games.  Playing board games is one of those images I have in my mind of what families do, and I've been looking forward to this since Sam was born.

Hurray for toys!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Teaching Moment

Sam and I were watching a slide show of random old photos on my computer.  A picture of Geddy, my cat who died before she was born, came up on the screen.  Sam knows all about death.

Me: Yes.
Me: Yes.
Me: Yes.
Me:  No.  I don't bother wishing he would come back because I know he never can, so I just think about all the happy times with him and how much I loved him.

She actually paused and thought about that for a moment.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Sam Update - Three and Three Quarters

I've been slacking on the blog so much lately that a lot of great Sam news has piled up.  Then I noticed that today was Sam's 3.75 birthday, and I realized that a Sam Update was in order.  I can't seem to summon any deep thoughts lately, and I know the blog is really suffering, but I want to record this, even if it's just for myself.  I'm also really sad that I don't have any pictures for this update.  I haven't taken a single picture of Sam (except on my phone, which takes crappy photos) in almost two months.  I hope I'm not neglecting her real needs, but I suppose I'm entitled to a little imperfection right now.

It's been exactly two weeks since my last potty training update and it's been the easiest two weeks I've had, potty-wise, since last September when we got rid of the diapers.  Sam is finally, FINALLY, using the potty regularly.  She now has what I would call "accidents:"  occasionally, she'll leave a track or get so excited that something will come out, unbidden.  But she has completely stopped using poo as a weapon against me.  Making her clean herself up did the trick.

The more interesting part is that she has blossomed in many other ways in the past two weeks.  Her teacher says that she suddenly became much more independent at school, we've gotten rid of the booster seat on her dining room chair at home, and she has started working on putting on and taking off her shirt - the last major hurdle in dressing until we get to tying shoelaces.  It's kind of strange how that one issue seemed to be holding her back in many ways.

In a week or two, we're going to try nighttime with no diaper.  If she's not ready, it doesn't matter.  The ability to wake up to urinate is something that is largely physical and out of the child's control, so I don't plan to put any pressure on her.  But at least we're at a point where we can try it.  I am now willing to wash sheets daily if need be, since I'm not washing out thousands of pairs of underwear.

We just returned from a great trip to New Orleans.  Adam and I lived there for a year (and got married there!), and we went back for a reunion of all the clerks of Adam's former employer, a federal judge.  He's been on the bench for 20 years and has had 64 clerks, and I think 47 of them came for the reunion (one from Tokyo), which shows you how deeply this man touched all of their lives.  Do you have any former employers like that?  Adam is really lucky.

We told Sammy all about "The Big Kahuna," as the judge is called.  She seemed very nervous about meeting him and finally admitted she was scared.  With some gentle pressing, I finally found out that she was scared because she thought he was going to be really BIG, like a giant or something.  So cute.  But she met him in her usual shy manner and by the time we had attended the four scheduled events with the judge, Sam had fallen in love with him, and was really sad to leave.  For some reason, this touched me.  Sam definitely responds to some people more than to others.  It's just another instance of her growing personality and values, and it's wonderful.

(Incidentally, this was my first trip back to NOLA since Katrina, and I thought the city looked better than ever.  When we lived there, nothing at all looked new.  Now, there are many brand new homes and a lot of fresh paint.  This says nothing about the health of the city, since much of the restoration came from the federal money which was stolen from others, but I was still glad to see that, at least for now, The Big Easy is doing ok.)

We also ate a lot of good food, went to the Audubon Zoo (we're zoo connoisseurs now, and this is a great one!), walked through Audubon Park, took the streetcar, drove around a lot just looking at our old haunts, walked through Jackson Square in the French Quarter and explored a bit, and swam in the hotel pool a couple of times.  Sam came everywhere with us and I feel like we filled her to the brim with new and exciting life-experiences.  She started out the trip very cranky and I was feeling like we were doomed to horrible vacations, but by Saturday night her mood improved and we ended up having a very nice time. 

A few weeks ago, Samantha got her very first "report card."  Of course, they don't give out real report cards in pre-school, but we had the end-of-year parent-teacher conference and Sam's teacher filled out a form that is supposed to tell us how she is progressing.  I must say, I kind of like the formality of it and I learned a lot from that meeting (including the potty training advice that saved my sanity).

Sam's teacher had been telling me for a month or so that Sam never chooses her work on her own, but always asks a teacher if she may use something.  In Montessori, this is not necessary, so Sam was just doing it on her own for no reason that anybody could discern.  Adam thinks that she might have been confused about it being ok for her to use someone else's property - that she didn't understand the idea that these things that weren't hers were ok to use without asking.  While it's true that Sam has a great sense of "mine and thine" (not a big issue when you eliminate the misplaced "sharing" lessons and don't chastize your child for saying "mine" when it truly is hers), I suspected she was doing it as a way to interact with the teachers more.  When I'm with her, Sam is extremely social and talkative.  She seems to desperately need to tell every stranger about the boo-boo on her foot, the pie she had for dessert, and how Toby rides in the car with us.  When we are out and about, she is constantly talking to people.  And yet, at school, her teachers say she is "shy."  So it made sense to me that Sam might have used the "may I use this?" questions as a way to have more interaction with the teachers, since she didn't know how else to interact with them.  We're not sure what the issue was, but it disappeared after that meeting, according to Sam's teacher.  I really do think that the potty issue might have broken some kind of dependency thing in her, but that's  just a TOOMA.

We also learned much more about what kinds of work Sam is doing in school, and it turns out that the summer activities that I picked were right on the money, as things that are both developmentally appropriate, and which Sam has interest in.  I got quite a few other ideas of activities from her teacher as well, and she is available for the first six weeks of summer if I have any questions.

I learned a few new things.  One is that Sam needs to work more on her fine motor skills.  I had always thought that she was advanced in that area, and slow on the gross motor skills, but her teacher says it is the reverse.  When you only have one child, you just have no way to know these things.  She is also more advanced in math than I had realized, having done many of the early exercises in the Montessori program.  She never talks about math, and only recently showed her interest in numbers to me, so I had no idea!  Of course, she is progressing very quickly with language, but I already knew that.

It's hard to believe that Sam is completing her first year of school.  I know it's pre-school, but Montessori is real school and real work.  There have been times throughout this year that I've thought, "Sam is spending three hours a day away from me doing the most challenging and interesting things, and I don't get to see it."  It would get me down, to think of all that I'm missing out on.  I want to see her write her first letter "P" and to see the look in her eyes when she first grasps that numbers are quantities.  But looking back on the year, and especially since the meeting with her teacher, I feel like it's the best thing in the world that she spends that time apart from me.  She and I are so close, and we spend almost all of our other time together.  She has a needy streak (hence the need to talk to people constantly) and I don't want everything to be about mommy.  The richness of her experiences at school is something I could never replicate at home.  Later, when her learning will be more abstract, it will be a completely different matter (although, of course, I'll rethink it when the time comes).  But right now, I feel that our decision to send Sam to Montessori is one of the best parenting decisions we've ever made.  She is really flourishing.