Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Baby Class #5: In Which We Face the Odds

This class was, for whatever reason, not nearly so irritating as the last. It was mostly focused on births that go differently from the way they've been planned, and we watched a video about C-Sections. Now given that 30% of all births in our area are done this way, it is hard to say that such a thing is exactly unexpected. Nevertheless, every couple in the room planned to do things the more old-fashioned way.

It's quite sobering to realize that five of the fifteen women in that room were likely to go through surgery in order to have their babies. As I've mentioned once or twice before, I'm trying to keep an open mind, so that if a C-Section does become necessary, I won't feel to concerned. I have noticed that the babies delivered by this method seem every bit as cute, lovable, and healthy as those who come the other way.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Elder Brother

Happy birthday to my elder brother who is 35 years old today! You never fail to be yourself, and that is something I admire very much. Remember though, no matter how long we both live, you'll always be older than me!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ravel Startles Baby

A few days ago, M and I joined several of our friends for a symphony performance in Seattle. The first half of the show was a lovely version of Brahms "Double" Concerto. Most of that piece was soft, sweet, and, well, very much what I would expect of Brahms. The baby did not hardly move during this piece.

After the intermission, we moved on to Ravel’s Daphnis et ChloĆ©. I can't say I know Ravel very well, but from my experience, he tends to be much louder and more, ahem, exciting than Brahms. This piece was no exception with a full choir and a wide array of percussionists including a man to turn the "wind" machine. This music was LOUD, and the very first crash of cymbals made the baby jump in my tum. She continued to move quite a bit through the rest of the performance. I don't know if this means she loves Brahms and hates Ravel, or perhaps it is the other way around? I will have to test this out after she is born.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Global Warming Eats Island

How much more real can you get? This article is about the submersion of an island in the Bay of Bengal due to rising sea levels. At least ten other islands in the chain could be lost in the next few years. Bangladesh faces serious coastal losses.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bob Herbert on Healthcare

Bob Herbert, a longtime syndicated op-ed contributor, has long been one of my favorites. I began reading his work as a teenager, and I am often amazed at the way he can crystallize the thoughts and ideas that are still just half-formed in my own head. As usual, his take on the healthcare debate, or the Republican response to it, is far more erudite than anything I could produce.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Baby Class #4: In Which I Get Annoyed

This class consisted of two parts. The first was a trip up to the childbirth center which is something we'd already done. While half of us were on that tour, the other half were supposed to think about our "birthing plans" and watch a video about epidurals. Neither went well for me. Birthing plans because I think its naive (stupid?) to make plans about something over which you have no real control. The more people try to be in control of an experience like this one, the more disappointed they are likely to be. Besides, I've never done this before, so how am I to know what sorts of "focal points" or "pushing aides" will be best?

However, it was really the epidural video that put me over the top. We all watched the short video about how the epidural works, and then we had a break before discussion time. During the break I got to hear more than one woman go on and on about how "icky" the process seemed. It wasn't that they were morally opposed to the idea, but rather creeped out by the mechanics. Once the question round began, it became very apparent that many of these women do not really understand basic biology enough to know how this (or lots of other things?) works.

"Isn't there anything else they can do for the pain?" (no) and "Why can't they just give me narcotics?" (!) were common themes. The poor instructor tried to explain how breast milk can be impacted by drugs, and one woman said "well then can't I just use formula the first few days?" One dumb question just brought on a cascade of other dumb questions, and by the end, my nerves were frayed and my behind was sore. Quit being such whiners! Either man up (ha! ha!) and get the epidural, or accept the reality of natural childbirth. And you can put that in your stupid birth plan!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Healthcare Win!

On Sunday, March 21st 2010 history was made in Washington D.C. Most everyone is willing to agree on that statement. However, your political leaning will determine if it was a good kind of history or not. M and I spent much of the day watching C-Span as the congress debated (heatedly at times) the merits of the healthcare bill that had already passed in the Senate. Just before 10pm PST, they finally got down to the business of voting. Nearly down party lines, the bill passed with a slender margin.

For my own part, I am thrilled to see this legislation. Yes, I know it will be riddled with problems and difficulties. Yes, it will probably lead to some unnecessary waste, fraud, or over-regulation. Yes, it will probably end up causing some form of sad hardship for somebody. However, I also think it will be a huge help to millions upon millions of ordinary people to get, keep, and use the healthcare they need. More than anything, this bill is a place to start, and that start has been WAAAAY overdue.

Some parts of the bill will be enacted right away, barring legal challenges, while others will be phased in over the next four years. A slightly more detailed description can be found here at CNN. Obama is all set to sign on Tuesday. Let's hope it doesn't get too bogged down in the meantime.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Discussing Gay Marriage in the Classroom

Well I must be really losing it because this week I broke my "nothing that could be remotely considered political or religious" rule in the classroom. Don't get me wrong, we often discuss politics and the impact of religion, but I make it a habit never to relate personal beliefs. However, this week, during our regular discussion time, one kid asked what I thought about gay marriage.

I told them that I was in favor of gay marriage because of at least three things (I was trying really hard to keep it simple, but this is a hard topic for simplicity). First, because this issue shouldn't be left up to me or any other straight person. Why should I get to impose my opinions on somebody else when it doesn't really impact me if two gay people get married. I used the famous line "If you don't approve of gay marriage, don't marry a gay person." I was glad this got a laugh.

Second, I told them that all American citizens are supposed to get equal protections under the law according to the constitution. It seems to me that equal protections would extend to the rights that go along with marriage. We then discussed what "equal protections" really means.

Finally, I said that when I consider the issue of gay marriage it makes me think of my own marriage. I was so happy to get married to my husband, and it would have made me really sad if somebody had said I just wasn't allowed to marry him. In this country, where we pride ourselves on freedom and justice, that idea just doesn't seem fair. No parent complaints so far. Let's just hope it stays that way.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Baby Shower

Not long ago, three lovely ladies did something quite wonderful for us. They threw us the perfect baby shower. It was a sunny afternoon, and the cherry blossoms made a stunning backdrop for a tea party in pink and white. All sorts of delicious dainties surrounded the cunning "pram" cake on the table, and there even proper tea cups to go with two different pots of tea.

It was a small enough group, just the real friends and family, that I got to chat with everybody. I'm glad there are so many people willing to indulge in my endless need for baby conversation, and I collected much good advice. We were lucky enough to have two babies who kept the adorable factor very high, two younger kids to keep things zany, and two older kids to show the rest how it should be done.

I know I have a tendency to gush, but this really was one of those "golden" moments I won't soon forget. Thank you to all the guests for the sweetest gifts and the nicest company. Thanks to M and the other men who didn't turn a hair at the idea of a couples' shower. Thanks most particularly to the hostesses who made the whole day possible.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blazing Bagels Redmond

A few days ago, hungry and in a hurry, M and I finally stopped at the Redmond bagel shop, Blazing Bagels. Now I knew the bagels would be good because I've had them in other places, but I've never been to the storefront. This is largely due to the fact that they're located in a really odd little commercial park several blocks back from the main road. However, the search for them was entirely worth the effort.

This is not the best bagel I've ever eaten, but it is in the top three. Toothy on the outside, soft, but not too soft, on the inside, and oh the flavors. They must have three dozen different flavors. I know many people have strong opinions about what makes an acceptable bagel flavor, but everyone should get what they want here. Add to that the tasty schmears and other toppings, and you can create the dream bagel. I had a Chevy cheese with garlic/herb schmear and tomato on top, and it was heavenly. M says the lox are good too. Did I mention the array of sweets and the funky yet comfortable seating area? The only problem with this place is the danger to your waistline. We will definitely be back.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Faces of America

Many people are familiar with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. because of his recent run-in with a police officer which later led to the "Beer Summit" with the president. Nevertheless, his real fame should lie in his incredible career as a Harvard professor, literary critic, film maker, and historian. His latest work is the PBS series Faces of America.

The general premise of this new show is to look into the genealogy and genetics of twelve famous Americans. Questions about personal history are first to appear, and it was quite interesting to watch Mario Batali, Kristie Yamaguchi, and Yo-Yo Ma learn more about their origins. However, where this story becomes truly fascinating is when questions of race and identity begin to come out. Both historical research and genetics bring several of these people up against the reality that they are not exactly who they thought they were.

For example, more than one of these figures, including Dr. Gates, discovers that the "race" which they most closely identify is not actually the majority of their genetic make-up. Some are happy about the discovery while others are clearly left somewhat bemused. It cannot be a comfortable feeling to discover that along with blood ties to the "victims" of American history, many of us are also descended from the perpetrators. This serves as a powerful reminder that history is rarely the clean "good vs. evil" battle that we sometimes think. You can watch the four episode series on the website linked above. I recommend it highly.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Baby Class #3: In Which I Burst Forth

Literally. This class was not overly exciting in most regards. We discussed different topics of interest to new parents such as childcare, breastfeeding, circumcision, etc. Everyone tried very hard to participate even though we are all strangers. Then we all sat on the floor and pretended to be in labor. I find it VERY hard not to laugh while we are playing pretend. M does not help in this area because he always makes faces at the most inopportune moments.

No, no, it was not exactly a thrilling class, but one event kept it from being too dull. At this stage of pregnancy, both babies and mommies tend to be growing at a rapid pace. This is true of several different aspects of the mommy and not just her belly. In this case, about an hour through the class, I noticed that my bra strap had simply given way under the, ahem, increased strain. I spent the second half of class trying not let any of the dangling bits escape from my clothing. Not exactly the best way to learn about breathing and focal points. Definitely time to go shopping.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

February Food Challenge Reflection

Just a brief note on our February Food Challenge becuase I know you've all been on the very edge of your seats about that one. As you may remember, I was attempting to reduce the huge pile of food in our pantry by only purchasing non-pantry items such as milk and produce. I am happy to report that we did reduce the teetering collection by a good bit. We also managed to save a fair amount of money in the process since so many things were off limits. I think I may eve have learned a few things about not stocking up quite so much. The only failure in this experiment was the fact that we went on vacation for a week in February. This meant we didn't get through quite a much as I'd hoped. Next year maybe we'll give up processed foods for the whole of Lent and see where that gets us.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Baby Class #2: In Which We Hear Angels Sing

We knew this class would go better when we saw that there was actually a teacher in the room. She gave a brief apology for the confusion, and then got down to business. Once again I was struck by how odd it was to be in a room with so many other women in their third trimester. It's not that common to see another pregnant woman outside of the doctor's office, but here we all have bellies of remarkably similar size. We took turns introducing ourselves, and then it was time to look at diagrams.

Our teacher is someone desperately in need of a laptop. She used several poster-sized anatomy pictures in spite of the fact that a projector and screen were all set up. We learned that our babies are already quite large, but that most will still double in size before they are born. We also learned that life is about to get much more uncomfortable due to that extra weight. Then we learned the best, most wonderful thing that she told us all evening.

She had each woman take the chair in which she was sitting and turn it around. Then, she had a straddle the chair with our bellies resting again the chair back. Then, we placed a pillow again the chair back to cushion our bellies. This way we could lean into the chair, rest some of our baby weight again the pillow, and still not squish anything vital. Did that make any sense? Anyway, it felt incredible. The moment we each accomplished this technique, you could hear sighs of relief from all around the room. This pose is SO much better than sitting, hunched up, at computer or desk.

We did several other stretches and poses, but none were as wonderful as the first. When it came time to watch stupid videos, I was still feeling very generous due to the sense relief in my back and hips. However, this video was hard going. Made in the early '90's, it depicted a woman with shockingly bad hair who had decided to have a natural childbirth. She grunted and sweated her way through the various stages as a voice off stage reminded us that we have an innate knowledge of how to deliver our babies. I could see that M's shoulders were already shaking by this point, but then it got far worse. Just as the baby began to crown, a choir of angelic voices burst forth. Personally, I am hoping that no music will issue from any part of my baby during the birth of our child.

Monday, March 08, 2010

House and Senate Whips

Not long ago, as M and I were listening to radio coverage about congress, the subject of majority and minority whips came up. M asked their purpose, and all I could remember was some vague idea about "whipping up" support for the different bills. Then, lo and behold, my old favorite, Slate, decided to do a column on that very topic. I especially like the image of the whip standing in the doorway with a literal thumbs up for the bills the party supports.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Double Oops

I can't believe this happened. Yesterday, I was waiting for a meeting with my boss when I decided to make a run to the bathroom. The ladies was occupied (I could tell by the "occupied" on the knob) so I went to the Men's. I do this all the time since they are single toilet bathrooms in our office. The knob on the Men's read "unoccupied" so I didn't even bother to knock (nobody does).

Imagine my surprise when I got an eyeful of a male co-worker who'd forgotten to lock the door. I was so embarrassed that I bolted for my classroom, and forgot all about my scheduled meeting with the principal. Now my face is red for two reasons! Can haz maternity leaves?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Eight Months and Still No Name

Gah we're getting closer and closer to our big day, but still the baby does not have a name! This is not for lack of trying. We've read a dozen books, visited all kinds of websites, and discussed it ad nausea. Nevertheless, we've come up with no firm decisions. I admit this is largely my fault.

The problem, as I see it, is three fold. First, I am a teacher, so there are lots of names out there I simply don't like. M will suggest a name that sounds perfectly lovely to him, and I will shriek "no!" because that is the name of a kid who drove me crazy one year. Whole lists of names are off the table for this very reason. For example, Brittany (in all its spellings), Nicole, Andrea, Jessica, Michelle, Tiffany, Jolene, Jade, Destiny, Jasmine (again with all its spellings) and many others are simply right out.

The second issue has to do with how common the name is on current baby name lists. I've had classes in which five of the thirty kids have the same name. In our school right now, there is a class (not mine) with six boys named Jacob. I fervently do not want to subject my child to being one of a huge crowd. Therefore, I won't entertain any name that is above about fifty on the Social Security Administration's list of baby names.

Lastly, I'm just plain old picky. I don't want to give our baby just any name. It needs to be strong, elegant, and suitable for both a little child and a grown woman. I keep thinking of her, all grown up, in a serious profession. Could she get by with a name like Daisy or Lucy or Brandee? I do not buy into the "Boy Named Sue" theory at all.

Thus we seem to be stuck. If it were up to M, I think he would have chosen something months ago. I just keep waiting for that perfect name to come to me (on a flaming pie?), and I will know in an instant that it's perfect. Then again, we might choose something, finally meet our daughter, and realize we're totally wrong. I wish, like ten million other baby items, you could order the perfect name from

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Baby Class #1: In Which Nothing Happens

The title pretty much says it all. M and I went to the women's hospital last week for the first day of our seven part "So You're Having a Baby" series of educational courses. There were about twelve other couples with us in the waiting room, and it was quite funny to see how all the women were at almost exactly the same stage of pregnancy. We all had our required two pillows and one blanket.

Then we all just sat there for a while. And then we sat some more. And yet more sitting. No teacher ever appeared. I was actually surprised by how well most people took the delay. Maybe it's true that pregnancy does make you more laid back. Eventually, M got tired of waiting and went to find out what had happened. Everyone back in the waiting room was waiting to hear what he would find out. Finally, we were told to go home. It seems that a scheduling mix-up caused our teacher to not show up. Now we're back on for this week. Fingers crossed that she shows up this time. One friend joked that this was our first lesson: false labor.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Whale Watching in Maui

As I mentioned in my earlier vacation post, M and I have tried to go whale watching in Hawaii before. A few years ago, when we were visiting Kauai, we took a boat ride up the Napali (sp?) coast. The goal was to see whales, but the weather was so rough that we ended up turning back after an hour of very rough seas. This time, on Maui, we set off under perfectly blue skies.

We left the little harbor on our 150 seat catamaran, and not two minutes later we saw a mother Humpback and her calf. They put in a little show for us as they splashed and blew right off the side of the boat. The naturalist on the boat told us about how the mother whales will often swim along with the baby balanced on their nose. This allows them to help the baby through the water, and keep it near the surface where it can take frequent breaths. We got several good looks at the "tiny" flippers and tail of the baby who weighed "only" about 3000 pounds.

Another few minutes of travel brought us to a point where another mother and baby could be seen. These two decided they could do better than the first pair, and they each breached three times. You should have heard the sounds coming from the people on our boat. Each huge splash brought on the classic ooo's and aah's of the crowd. I have to say the first big jump made me leap out of my seat. The nieces were absolutely floored.

It was the perfect trip. We saw dozens of whales, the scenery was incredible, and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Just as we turned back for shore, three whales flipped their tails at us in a full dive. It seemed just like they were waving goodbye.