To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I emailed F today: "20 years ago I was in and out of labor, and wondering when I would see your little face."

20 years ago I had a baby due on April 23. I didn't have very many maternity outfits, and some of them were starting to get just a bit too tight. So on March 21, a Saturday, R and I went to the mall and I bought some pants, and maybe a shirt or two. We walked the entire length of the mall and back. Ha ha. I tell everyone who gets close to term and wishes their labor would start, "Go to the mall!"

Because I woke up in the wee hours with a funny little back pain that grabbed and held, and then crept around both sides to the front, squeezed, and let go. This continued the rest of the night. By morning the pains weren't any harder, or closer together, but they were undeniable. I was hungry and wanted my breakfast, but you aren't supposed to eat if you are in labor, so R and I decided to go to the hospital and let them tell me it was false labor so I could get some breakfast and get on with it. I remember having to pause a time or two on the way in from the parking lot because it was kind of hard to walk through those things.

Of course I had to put the gown on and get on the bed. The nurse hooked up the contraction-measuring belt and went about her business, then came back and looked at the printout and said to someone, "OK, call her doctor," and to my husband, "Go and get her admitted." I remember that being a bit of a shockeroo. That wasn't supposed to happen. They were supposed to send me home. I wasn't ready. Not yet. I had another month, didn't I?

But the doctor came in and took one look at my belly, and became very concerned. Even though as it turned out I was not dilating at all, she put me on terbutalin to stop the contractions. The OBGYN who did all of my prenatal care had sent me for a couple of ultrasounds because I didn't get big enough to suit her - only gained 23 pounds (from 108) and my stomach just didn't stick out very much. She ultimately decided that F and I were OK, but she was not on call when I went into labor.

One also has to remember that there have been tremendous strides in caring for preterm babies in the last 20 years. It's possible for babies born 4 weeks early to have lung problems that they can treat now, but couldn't then.

So the doctor on call told me that she just didn't think F was ready, she was afraid the due date was a mistake; left the room to make a phone call and came back and said, OK, maybe I was 8 months along, but she still didn't want to take the risk.

They kept me overnight and sent me home with that wretched medicine. I stopped it on Thursday, when yet another doctor in the group checked me out and told me I had a 6.5-pound baby and it would be OK to go on and have her. But we went to the hospital three more times, to be sent home with the cruel diagnosis of "false labor". For the uninitiated, labor is "false" if the cervix is not dilating. The term has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the intensity, pain, or frequency of contractions. That third time I knew I probably wasn't any closer to giving birth but I was absolutely frantic from lack of sleep. The contractions woke me up every 4 to 10 minutes. I thought I would die, I wanted to sleep so bad.

May I interject here that I love, LOVE, Dr. Lamaze. I do not know how I would have gotten through that week without him.

What finally happened was that on March 31, after we'd spent a good part of the night at the hospital not having F, and R was sleeping because he'd been up all night with me, I threw up. R helped me get settled back on the couch where I'd been reading the newspaper, and prepared to go back to bed. But he is the most solicitous person in the world so he didn't go back to bed right away, but stood in front of me saying, "Is there anything I can do for you? Can I get you anything? Can I do anything else for you?" and I ignored him, reading the comics and wishing he'd go back to bed.

While R was asking those questions he saw me take a cleansing breath and start the slow deep-chest breathing and said, "Are you having a contraction?" Nod. "Didn't you just have one?" Shrug. So he stood there timing my contractions by my breathing, while I ignored him and read the paper. At last he said, "These are coming every three minutes."

A wave of irritation swept over me and I threw the paper down. "Let's go back to the hospital. I'm tired of this crap. I'm through with this. Let's go back and tell them I can't do this anymore."

He helped me to my feet - WHOA. Everything shifted. I felt a tremendous weight, so that it was hard to even stand. Because I'd taken a bath earlier, I was wearing a really ratty old comfortable nightgown that I certainly didn't plan to be seen in public in. I looked pitifully at R and said, "I don't have to get dressed, do I?"

"Let me just get my shoes," he said.

So we went flying down Walnut Grove Road to the hospital ... got there around 3:00. I couldn't walk in from the parking lot this time. I could barely sit upright in the wheelchair. When they checked me, I was dilated 5 cm.

They had told us in childbirth classes that if we got to that point when we went in we could not have an epidural but I did get one. R says I was quite insistent. I was just so exhausted from lack of sleep and the unrelenting, UNRELENTING contractions that I couldn't control with Lamaze anymore.

With the epidural slowing things down, F was born at 4:52, not quite two hours after we got to the hospital. I suppose that if R hadn't stood there when I wished he would leave me alone, asking what else I needed, and therefore noticing that my contractions were close together, I would have had her at home.

So I got to wear those new maternity pants maybe a couple of times before I didn't need them anymore.

I do remember this: I wanted to make the crib bumper because I'd read that babies need strongly contrasting patterns to look at. All the bumpers I saw were pastel colors, and they were out of my price range anyway. I consulted my mom, who researched how to make crib bumpers, and bought a white sheet and some red, yellow, green, and blue taffeta. I set about appliqueing a row of primary-color tulips onto the sheet. I thought I'd have lots of time to get this done before my daughter was born, but during that last week it was pretty clear that things were going to go faster than we'd anticipated. My mom came up to see me on Wednesday of that week, and while we were visiting I finished those tulips. She took the sheet home with her and constructed the bumper, and brought it back the next week in time to put it in F's crib when we put F in it. I remember F staring at those tulips when she was a little newborn. Probably the first of many parenting issues I have given thought to over the last 20 years (and don't seem to be slowing down, though one doesn't usually think of parenting a grownup) and one of the ones that actually worked out.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Still pretty tired.

I worked from 9:45 to about 5:00 Friday, and from 12:00 to 5:00 today. I'll go in tomorrow afternoon after church, too. It's not, like, backbreaking labor or anything. I'm physically tired but I'm mentally kind of drained. Lots of thinking, which we actually all enjoy.

They're taking one of my peeps into the plant. As I told him, it's good for him and good for the company but it sucks for me. But he's very smart and curious and organized and CALM and REFLECTIVE although he is also a man of action and initiative, all of which they definitely can use. My boss told me yesterday that my lab runs like a well-oiled machine. It's true, and that's mostly because of my group. We have to be careful when we replace that person, that we don't upset the group dynamic. Nothing worse than having a person who doesn't pull his weight, or who is always anxious to see that he isn't doing more than his fair share. Or who complains and tries to get his coworkers in trouble.

F is in town for MidSouthCon.

I have to tell the story of how F began attending this con.

Years ago, when F was 14, she tried to distance herself a bit from her parents, as all teenagers must do so they can finish becoming their own persons. She was nice about it, but one thing she did was to decide that she did not like science fiction. This was about the first thing R and I found that we had in common when we met, and we still love it.

I had read a book called Rider at the Gate, (which I see is out of print,) and I kept telling F she would love it. Not interested, no. Thank you, no.

So we were on our way out of town one day, and I saw that she did not take a book with her. I scooped up Rider at the Gate on my way out the door. When from the back seat she sighed, "I didn't bring a book," I tossed Rider to her. More sighing and looking out the window. Finally she cracked the book and began reading.

After a few minutes I glanced into the back seat. F had fallen into the book with almost an audible click. And that was that. The next day she came to me and asked if there was another. So I gave her the sequel, Cloud's Rider, and she took it away immediately to read it.

The next day she came to me and asked if there was another. No, I told her. F then fell headlong on the floor, all 14 years of her, b/c without a sequel to Cloud's Rider she could not support life. With age I have learned to be philosophical about such things, and perhaps she will too. But we both were actually kind of bummed out that there was no third book. I told her we'd try to email C.J. Cherryh and ask her to write another book, and I meant to but I never did.

Not too long after that F went to a kind of hippie coffee-house with some friends, and when she came home she came to me with a grim look on her face. She had seen a flyer.

"There's going to be a science fiction convention in Memphis."

"MidSouthCon," I said. "They have it every year. I've never been, but I know about it."

"C.J. Cherryh is going to be there."

"Really! She's going to be the guest of honor?"




"Do you want to go?"

Grim, reluctant nod.

So we went. And there, amid all the funny people in Spock ears and Darth Vader costumes and barbarian princess outfits, F found that she could not escape her destiny. She quit fighting SF and succumbed.

Cherryh was there, by the way. She gave a nice talk, and then had a question-and-answer session. I put my hand up and asked if there could be a sequel to Cloud's Rider. She said that there could. "Because we're all wondering what's happening to Brionne," I said. She said that she knew exactly what was happening to Brionne. When and whether she wrote that book depended on her agent and publisher and all ... I don't really remember. But she talked about those books a bit, and that was cool.

The next year F wanted to go in a costume. I had to make a dress for her so she could go as "some random elf" from Lord of the Rings. It was a very nice dress, if I say so, pale blue with silver embroidery around the neck (my sewing machine did it) and leaf-shaped sleeves I had to figure out how to make. She made the leafy brooch for her organdy cloak out of Sculpy. Her blond hair was waist-length at the time and we pulled out a few small sections for braids. She really was recognizable as an elf if you accept that they look like they do in the movies.

We went to the hotel and parked the car, and as we walked through the parking lot together F said, "I feel like a dork."

"Well, you're going to a dork convention, so that's probably all right," I said.

Just then a dirty, low-slung little yellow car came through the lot, with a couple of fat guys with buzz haircuts and t-shirts with wild fantasy pictures. The driver slowed as he approached us and rolled down the window.

"I take it this is where the convention is?" he said.

"Yes," we said, and they drove on to find a parking spot. After they passed us we both just died laughing.

"I guess it takes one to know one," I told F.

She called me today to say that her costume this year won some kind of award and she gets in free next year. I'm proud of my little nerd.

Friday, March 23, 2007

It's midnight - just got home from work. Long day. Long, long, LONG day.

I am not a poulet de printemps.

To be honest, I'm not sure I ever was.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Interesting article here about how our minds wander.

I am very apt to be distracted. I always used to hate having the radio on in the lab and now that I AM THE QUEEN it isn't. Because I can't concentrate and think. I suspect other people don't concentrate and think as well as they think they do with all that yackety-yack, either. Even so, when I'm reading something boring and tedious it is very hard to keep my mind on it so that it makes sense. I usually have to read it aloud. At one time it would have bothered me for people to hear me reading aloud when I am alone in my office, but I don't care anymore.

"You are old, father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head--
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "as I mentioned before,
And you have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door--
Pray what is the reason for that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment - one shilling a box--
Allow me to sell you a couple?"

"You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak--
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life."

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose--
What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said his father. "Don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down stairs.

- Lewis Carroll, of course. I find that his little verses have meaning for me somehow. When F and I were at the zoo looking at the Chinese alligator I inflicted How doth the little crocodile on her, which inexplicably I seem to have memorized.
Tsiporah is making a concerted effort to eat right. Today her routine was off, so she had to eat her fallback breakfast: vanilla yogurt with blueberries and sprinkled granola. Doesn't that sound delicious? I am partial to blueberries and cottage cheese, myself, and could eat that till it comes out my ears.

Her rushed morning, and the age of her son (8), remind me of a time when F was about that age and our morning routine was off. F didn't have time to eat breakfast, so I made her a peanut butter foldover and shoved it at her as we walked out the door - "Get on the outside of that!" (I used to say that when I needed her to go on and eat, but one day she looked at her food in bewilderment and said, "I'm already on the outside of it!") Halfway to school, with a mouthful of sandwich, F sneezed explosively. I had to pull over to the side of the road, retrieve a roll of paper towels from the trunk, and wipe chewed peanut butter sandwich and snot off her jumper, her seatbelt, the dashboard, car door, and book bag. Both of us laughing our heads off the whole time, and me thinking, that's what you get for being in a hurry. I've gotten to where I try very hard not to be late anywhere, but if it's unavoidable I'd rather be late than get in a hurry and make myself even later.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Well, poor Tertia. It wasn't meant to be.

I sometimes wonder (briefly, before I get over it) whether we weren't better off before we had all these tests available to us. In my grandmothers' day women knew they were menopausal when they stopped menstruating, although both mine had babies at 43 so possibly they had a bit of a surprise there.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I had A Thought today.

I think we can teach the cats to read. No, I'm serious. F needs to do this for her senior project.

Here's the plan. We'll make two posters, maybe about the size of a piece of copy paper. Each will have a single symbol on it, something large and simple like an X or an O. Maybe an X and an I. Something like that. We'll show one or the other poster to the cats at various random times, but one poster will be followed by treats and the other one will not. The cats will learn to interpret these symbols as meaning "I will get a treat" or "nothing will happen." To verify this, the treats will have to be given in a certain spot. We'll know the cats can read when they see the treat poster and run to that spot.

What do you think?
Ophthalmologist this AM. My correction is getting "tuned up" as he said, not a big change but a noticeable one. I'm glad b/c it's gotten to where I can't see a dang thing. You know the stereotype about one's vision going to heck in one's forties - "does it seem like there's never enough light?" Yes, I find myself glancing at the ceiling in an annoyed manner wondering why they don't replace the burnt-out bulbs, only there aren't any. I suppose the lenses will come in next week when it will not be convenient for me to leave work to get them. It was expressed to me at the optical shop that I should "upgrade" my 6- or 7-year-old frames, but I declined. The lenses are expensive enough.

Took F to lunch at the Vietnamese restaurant we like. She thinks the waiter is cute. To me he looks like a spotty, surly teenager, but what do I know. I was made to eat with chopsticks so she would not feel dumb eating with hers. I really miss F when she's at school. I suppose we'll take her back Saturday or Sunday.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Texas House Votes to Reject HPV Vaccine Requirement (Update3)

March 14 (Bloomberg) -- The Texas House of Representatives voted today to overturn Governor Rick Perry's executive order that sixth-grade girls be vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer.

The measure passed 118 to 23, according to Chris Cutrone, a spokesman for House Speaker Tom Craddick.


The vaccine is there. People can get it for their kids, or not. Young women can get it, or not. I just don't see mandating that all 6th grade girls be vaccinated against an STD. And why girls, and not boys? There will inevitably be girls who can't or won't get the vaccination, or for whom it isn't effective (I don't believe the 100% effective hype). If the boys don't get vaccinated, these girls aren't protected. Not to mention that gay men are at risk of cancer from HPV. I know a man that happened to. Is it even legal to mandate that only girls get this thing? I'd be very surprised if it is.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tertia is now an urban myth. You know, the kind of "I know a woman who...." myth that all infertile women hate.
: )

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Zoo this PM.

I think half of Shelby County had the same idea.

The other half probably had the right idea, as did these cats.

Meerkats doing their keeping-guard thing:

Snacking on hay and carrots.

Zebras never look real to me.

This was a baby. F wanted to stay until one of the other giraffes walked over and nudged it. We didn't have to wait long at all.

Live yard ornaments.

Looking at the funny people.

The new jeans were satisfactory.

I could have taken a picture of the kimodo dragon EATING DEAD RATS but I refrained.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

F is home for spring break.

We tried to buy some jeans this morning. No luck. Every pair of blue jeans in the world is bitter ashes and snake venom.

The jeans must:
1 Be actual denim, and not have the fake distressed or obviously faded look. (That eliminates 90% right there.)
2 Not come up to her belly button, but not be so low as to ... you know.
3 Have a reasonable flare. No taper.
4 Not be excessively tight in the thigh.

And finally -

5 Fit. F has a knockout figure. She has a tiny waist, and apart from that is actually quite curvy. It's hard to find pants that don't fit too tight around the butt and don't stand out from her waist in the back. If she can find some not-too-low low riders, that should help the waist issue. Levi's size 6 slims would probably do the trick except that this year she can't find any that she can STAND. After her nap (and my nap) we might go to Sears to check out the Lee and Land's End brand stuff they have there.

We did find some cute shoes at Target.

They're just crying out for some new jeans, don't you think? Or maybe capris.

Edit: Success, sort of. Levi's 515s. They do not flare as much as desired, but they are viewed with resigned acceptance rather than overt dislike. Sears had exactly one pair in her size.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sometimes people try to tell me that I am mistaken in thinking that X is stupid and wrong. If I only had enough information, I would see X their way. I listen more or less politely to the other side, but frequently I end up even more convinced.

Example 1: I used to work for a lab that was owned by a chemical plant. For about 18 months the lab was actually located at the plant, and we had to undergo special safety training. I watched the videos about chlorine gas (!!!!) and learned that if there was a release, I should look at the windsock and go cross-ways from it. OK, made sense. Then they decided to have a drill, and told those of us that were in the lab building (outside the actual plant) that we should walk to the gate to be counted. Because if the chlorine gas release were bad enough, the phone lines would be down. I argued against this. The windsock was clearly visible to us from the lab building. We had just sat through scary videos that they showed us, telling us to flee in a direction cross-ways from the windsock. Walking toward the gate pretty much meant walking toward the plant, which I couldn't see as an advisable strategy, no matter which way the wind was blowing. Well, we need to be able to count you, I was told. There was no radio in the lab building. There was one in the administration building next to the lab building, but they would be sealing the doors and windows so we would not be able to get in.

So I thought that for their drill I would walk to the gate, but if there was an actual release I would go cross-ways from the windsock. Then we had the actual drill, and we lab folks walked like a bunch of sheep over to the gate; from which the guard came out and said, "Y'all are dead." OK, I said, this is stupid and I'M NOT GOING TO DO IT, not even for a drill. No. No sir. The entire group let me take point on this and I was willing to do it. The guard should not have said that, I was told. Why not, he was RIGHT, I said. It was again argued that the administration building would be locked down. Can we not knock on the door? I asked. It finally became too much to continue to suggest that we should be left outside for the chlorine cloud to strip our flesh from our bones, and it was agreed that the administration people would open to our knock.

But I still thought that I would go to the administration building for any drills, but if there were an actual chlorine release I would go cross-ways from the windsock.

Example 2: Wrenches and hex keys. WHY do they have to be made in 1/32" increments, and why do there have to be both English and metric versions? I have to change a fan in a GC. The set screw needs a hex key. I have most of a set at work, which I was able to line up from small to large; this was convenient for figuring out which two the set screw is between. Naturally there is no way for me to determine the sizes of these two because they're not marked - they can't be, they're too small; and the pouches they go in aren't marked either.

This kind of thing has bugged me all my professional life. Tekmar purge-and-trap valves have tiny little handles that fit onto D-shaped shafts. Are the holes in the handles D-shaped? No, they are round, with extremely small set screws. You have to identify the exact hex key that fits that screw, line the screw up with the flat side of the shaft, and then turn it enough to grip the shaft, but not so much that you strip the screw (depressingly easy to do.) Why, why do these things have set screws instead of D-shaped holes? I asked their instrument tech once. Probably because somebody's brother-in-law owns the set screw factory, I was told.

Wrenches are just as bad. They and hex keys ought to come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. I see no reason for anything else. R tries to tell me that if I were an engineer I would understand the need for there to be these tiny increments in size, having to do with the amount of torque needed to do the job, efficient use of materials, etc. Just this evening he explained all of this to me. When he was through, I told him, "I understand what you are saying. I reject it." Fortunately he does not feel the need to police my opinions.

Monday, March 05, 2007

OK, here's a little more:

We're hot-shot spotters of rotters and plotters.
And we’re going to save our sons and our daughters from you
You’re a dastardly gastardly shnastardly shnook,
and you’re trying to brainwash our brains with this gobbledygook!
We know what you’re up to, pal. You’re trying to shatter our morale.
You’re trying to stir up discontent and seize the reins of government.
You’re trying to throw sand in our eyes and kill free enterprise
And raise the cost of figs and dates and drive up compound interest rates
And shut our schools and steal our jewels
And even change our football rules and lock us up in vestibules!
But fortunately we're no fools!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

See if you can remember what this is from (and if you can, you're telling your age):

We're hot-shot spotters of rotters and plotters.

What's the next line?