Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Sleep Quest -- Day Two

I won't dole out every detail of my day in the trenches today, but it's worth noting that today saw some notable improvement. Oliver slept according to his usual pattern last night, even though he went to sleep 3 hours earlier than normal. Tonight looks like a repeat of that, which is very nice. Today he took three naps, without waking up after 10 minutes. His first was from 8:30 to 9:30 this morning, the second was from 11:10 to 12:00, and the third was from 4:30 to 5:15. The second two naps were mostly in his crib, so he didn't even require motion or being held. I don't know if this is a one time fluke, or if getting more night time sleep improved his ability to settle down for his naps. It's also possible that I was aiming too much for two longer naps and his rhythm is geared toward three shorter ones. All I really do know at this point is that once I feel like I have this figured out, it will all change again.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Quest For Sleep

As Oliver's birth approached, I thought my biggest sleep concern would be getting enough at night. But our children always like to surprise us with the unexpected. As it turns out, naptime is the biggest struggle. Oliver must fall asleep a dozen times a day, but he never stays there. So I am beginning a concerted effort to teach this wee one to nap. For my own bleary eyed use and your amusement, I thought I would document our progress here.

Day One

7:00 AM - Wake up (this is generous, since we were mostly awake from 5:00 AM on) and eat (him, not me)
8:00 AM - Finished feeding
9:15 AM - Eating again
10:00 AM - Full and happy
10:36 AM - Walked to sleep and put down
10:45 AM - Startled self awake
10:55 AM - Startling finally over--back to sleep
11:05 AM - Awake and crying
11:10 AM - Walked back to sleep and held
11:20 AM - Awake and not going back to sleep for anything
11:30 AM - Eating again
12:15 PM - Full and happy--Mommy gets to eat
1:30 PM - Eating again
2:00 PM - Full and cranky--looking sleepy
2:22 PM - Into the car seat for a nap-inducing drive
2:43 PM - Home and asleep--Mommy gets to give doggie a bath
3:00 PM - Awake and seriously cranky
3:15 PM - Eating again
3:45 PM - Dozing off while eating, so into the swing we go
3:50 PM - Sleeping in swing
4:00 PM - Awake in swing
4:10 PM - Still awake in swing
4:20 PM - Asleep in swing--Yay!--Mommy gets to bring the neglected swimming pool supplies indoors at last
4:50 PM - Awake again
5:15 PM - Eating again
6:00 PM - Full and babbling--Mommy gets to binge on Chinese food
7:15 PM - Crying, possibly hungry
7:30 PM - Sleeping in Daddy's arms--lucky baby
8:30 PM - Eating again
9:00 PM - Back to sleep
9:30 PM - Still sleeping--he looks to be out for the night, starting so early is a first for him--I wonder how this will pan out

Total Daytime Sleep: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Total Nighttime Sleep: to be determined, fingers crossed

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I'm sure that every parent frets a little over a new baby. Such a helpless, vulnerable little creature naturally inspires extra watchfulness and protectiveness. After having two children already, I would have thought I would feel more confident in the care of my third. Maybe I do on some levels, but I still find myself checking to see if he's breathing and worrying over every sniffle and bout of fussiness. Those who know me well, know that I worried my way through this pregnancy; afraid my "advanced maternal age" might bring with it some devastating genetic disorder. For the first couple of weeks after Oliver was born, I still found myself dreaming that he'd been born without arms and legs or other frightening deformities even though I knew he was healthy and whole.

Now, as I tiptoe past that stage of worrying, I am confronting the darkest fear of all those in my arsenal. The latest statistics are out regarding the prevalence of autism and the news is bad. Autism disorders now affect 1 in 100 children, with the rate among boys being a scary 1 in 58. Having a sibling with the disorder increases the risk to some figure I don't even want to contemplate. When my oldest son was diagnosed, it was the darkest time of my life. Fourteen years into his life, my heart still aches for him everyday. Those are not steps I want to retrace. Nor do I want to see my second son sandwiched in between two special needs brothers.

So I find myself analyzing every nuance of Oliver's development. I worry over whether he's interactive enough. I worry over every bout of gassiness; every sign of allergy. I worry over the vaccine schedule, trying to strike the right balance between overwhelming his system and protecting him from dangerous illness. I keep him constantly by my side--afraid he will slip away if he doesn't receive enough social stimulation and determined to be alert to the earliest possible sign of a problem. Part of me believes I can stop the inevitable if I'm vigilant enough. The other part just wants to savor every time he looks into my eyes, every time I hear his voice, and every time he lets me cuddle him--just in case.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


It has been four weeks since the arrival of our new little family member. I still can't quite believe that there's a baby in my world. You would think the constant diaper changing, middle-of-the-night feedings, and crying would help it all sink in. In reality it's all the quiet moments when I find myself looking down at this angelic little being and feel myself full of awe and wonder at the fact that he's mine to keep. There's nothing like snuggling a newborn to make all the normal daily worries about housecleaning and to-do lists evaporate into total insignificance.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cows and Politics

I've been doing a lot of decluttering in my house lately. This process mostly involves slogging through a good deal of junk, but there is the occasional glad discovery. I found the following tucked in with some old college papers of mine. It is not my creation and I have no idea to whom the credit belongs, but I thought it worth sharing.

The Intelligent Human's Guide to Cows and Politics

Socialism - You have two cows. Give one to your neighbor.

Communism - You have two cows. Give them both to the government. Government gives you milk.

Fascism - You have two cows. Give milk to government. Government sells it.

Nazism - Government shoots you and takes cows.

New Dealism - Government shoots one cow, milks the other, and pours milk down the sink.

Capitalism - Slaughter cows. Compete with McDonald's.

Anarchism - Keep cows. Shoot government. Steal another cow.

Conservatism - Freeze milk. Nuke cows.

Liberalism - Give milk back to cows. Let them escape.

Monday, June 29, 2009


My wonderful-in-every-other-way husband loves the beach. Me--not so much. I can't really blame him, though, as he grew up in Ocean City, New Jersey, just a block from the ocean. So every year, we spend a week there, soaking up the salt air and enjoying Mack and Manco's pizza, Curly's fries, and fresh seafood. I must say I've come to love the Jersey shore in my own anti-sand way. There is also a certain charm in the ritual of vacationing in the same spot every summer. However, our youngest declared last year that he would like to see someplace new. Not being willing to completely abandon our traditions, we decided to split our week between the old and the new. We spent half our time in Ocean City and half in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. It worked out great and we had a lot of fun (even our teenager, who was grumpy over having forgotten to pack his laptop).

First stop: our traditional ride across the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. This is what parked next to us:

I have to admit, even I was impressed, though prudishly less so with the pierced-lipped, pants-below-his-butt teenaged driver. (Insert eyeroll here.)

Ocean City was great. Though it rained every day, it never shed a drop on us while we were outside. It would always clear up just as we were arriving somewhere, then begin again as we were leaving. It was as perfect as beach weather can get--warm enough to be comfortable, but cloudy enough to not cook us. However, the new Pennsylvania sights we got to enjoy stole the show this year. First, we went to Crystal Cave.

It was the hottest day of our trip and we welcomed the natural air-conditioning. This view below is the point at which they turned out the lights. I'm proud to say we all coped very well, even after the tour guide had shown us the fault line that will someday cause the entire cave to collapse.

This is known as the prairie dog formation.

This was the best picture I could get of the crystals that line the walls of the cave.

Our next adventure was a hike up Hawk Mountain. I had some trepidation about the hike, since hauling a pregnant body with swollen feet up a mountain didn't necessarily seem like a great plan. But I'm not always the most sensible person around and I've been known to be a bit stubborn, so I decided to try it anyway.

We made it just at the end of the blooming season for mountain laurel. I took these flowers to be a good omen. They lined the entire first 100 yards of the trail which was a little steep, but pretty easy going.

This was our first view of the valley below at the Southern Lookout. Only one mile from here to our ultimate destination--the Northern Lookout. No problem.

From that point on, this was the "path". They had to periodically mark the trees and rocks, because you really couldn't tell where the path was.

This was the stone "staircase". I have to say, just because you put a railing next to something, does not make it stairs.

This is the view down from the top of the staircase.

At the peak at last. There was just one thing missing from this awesome view: hawks! We climbed Hawk Mountain and saw a turkey vulture and a cedar waxwing. Since the waxwing was one for my lifelist, I decided to call it a success.

The hike down was probably more difficult than up. I'm pretty sure my roundness had something to do with that. One stunningly humorous trail volunteer there pointed out that, if I fell, I would probably bounce right back up. You know, you usually have to pay top dollar for that amount of laughter. Anyway, we saw many chipmunks and a garter snake, but still no hawks. I was disappointed to discover that the gift shop did not have a t-shirt saying, "I hiked Hawk Mountain at 32 weeks." I guess it would appeal to a somewhat limited market.

So, home again and glad to be at sea level.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Adventures in Nature

I love this time of year. Being able to go outside without having to gear up against the cold is pure bliss to me. It makes me feel like I gain the whole outdoors as an extra room to my house. At my oldest son's request, we took off to do a little sunset birdwatching at Bombay Hook a couple of weeks ago. We saw a few interesting birds, but the outing was definitely all about the foxes. We first came across a pair of kits on their own. They were right at the side of the road--maybe 10 feet from us--pouncing on each other and wrestling around.

A short time later we saw an adult running through a field with a rabbit in its mouth. Then, as we headed back toward where we had seen the babies, there was another adult in the road. When we approached, it lay down in the road and made itself as flat as possible.

We also saw this nasty looking snapping turtle.

That one can't compare, though, to this massive one we caught about to slip into our own pond.

I don't have much love for these creepy looking, duck killing dinosaurs, I must say, but they are fascinating in their own way.

So, back in our own yard once again, Carter has been working on his snake wrangling skills. This week he has progressed from this cute little ring necked snake:

to this considerably more formidable black snake:

On the cute and cuddly front, we discovered a baby tufted titmouse in our yard this morning. It apparently fell from its nest before it was quite ready to fly. It spent most of the day under a tree in our yard while its parents took turns bringing it food. As was inevitable, our cat discovered it. We were at a loss as to what to do to keep the little creature safe. Well, we took the top off our hanging birdfeeder and made it a little makeshift nest. It seems quite happy there and the parents have been continuing to feed it.

Good luck, little bird!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Aural Fixations

This post is dedicated to Kimberly, not only for her request of the subject, but also to show her that I do not intend to reserve this blog for strictly serious topics.

This, for those of you who do not watch American Idol out of principle, lack of time, or complete disinterest, is Adam Lambert--one of two remaining contestants on the show. I must confess--to my certain embarrassment--that he is the reason I have found little coherent to say on my blog for more than a month. The majority of my internet time has been devoted to scouring YouTube for examples of his flamboyant brilliance or reading articles analyzing his voice, his lifestyle, and his fashion sense. I am, in a word, addicted.

In my own feeble defense, I must say that Adam has one of the finest voices I have ever heard. His range is mind-boggling and his tone is exquisite. He has such control that he can move from chest voice to head voice to falsetto or from soft to loud with no hint of a transition. The timbre of his voice is versatile enough to adapt seamlessly to any vocal style (okay, maybe not country) without losing its distinctive qualities.

Of course, Mr. Lambert has plenty to appeal to the fangirl in me, too. His pretty mouth, piercing eyes (guyliner and all), the wild hair, and the expressive hands (with or without fingerless gloves and nail polish) make him the picture of lovely decadence. And the way he moves and presents himself onstage exude a sensual charisma that is as much a part of his singing as his voice itself.

It is, perhaps, this sensuality that has been the most polarizing thing about him as an American Idol contestant. Those who hate him have called him over-the-top and theatrical, accusing him of acting a role rather than delivering a sincere performance. I understand that it's probably a simple matter of personal taste, but to me there is nothing more goosebump-inducing than a singer who can embrace the character of a song without inhibition or reserve. Give me the passion and angst of a committed performer willing to hold nothing back with the skills to deliver it like it's the most important emotion of his life.

Tomorrow night is the Idol finale and I will be devotedly voting my little fingers to the bone, because that's the kind of girl I am and because it feels great to be so obsessed, I mean, inspired. :-)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bogus Bonus Brouhaha

How outraged are you over AIG giving bonuses to employees after accepting bailout money? Do you agree with Iowa Senator Grassley that the AIG executives should either resign or commit suicide? Or do you agree with me that our illustrious elected officials should sit down and shut up?

Let's set aside for the moment the fact that AIG, like many other similar companies, factors such bonuses into employee compensation contracts making them obligatory payouts rather than discretionary gifts, meaning that those handing over all that government money should have easily foreseen that some of it would be spent in this fashion. Let's also disregard the glaring fact that we should not have begun bailing out private companies in the first place.

Let's just consider some of the numbers. AIG has received about $170 billion dollars in federal money, $165 million of which has been used to pay these so-called bonuses. Barack Obama received $5.3 million for transition operations. There is a very interesting article about how this money was spent at Politico.com which you can read here. Among other worthy expenditures, $15,000 was spent for Blackberry services, $5000 for document shredding, $126,000 for a charter jet to transport the Obamas to their Hawaii vacation, and $7000 for installing and removing protective window film in the transition offices. Then, of course, there's the Economic Stimulus Bill. The final price tag on that was in the neighborhood of $800 billion. The discretionary portion of that total is a staggering $308 billion. Discretionary meaning, in this case, blatantly unnecessary. I'm not sure how our economy is stimulated by $600 million for new cars for the federal government or $200 million to design and furnish the headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security. (More info on what the stimulus money is being used for can be found at US News and World Report and The Wall Street Journal.)

At this point, I'm having a very hard time accepting all the senators and representatives stepping in front of television cameras to claim some type of moral high ground. After all, the last I heard, they were not planning to forego a raise they intend to vote in for themselves. What about all of the benefits they enjoy, from healthcare to generous pension plans? Will they be giving those back to the taxpayers who fund them? Do not insult my intelligence by handing out money to companies who have shown an inability to succeed, then pretend outrage when they use the money the way they always have. It is a flimsy smokescreen designed to distract the public from the true incompetence on continual display within the walls of the Capitol.

If the irresponsible expenditure of taxpayer dollars is the criteria, than I would suggest Senator Grassley redirect his comments to his colleagues.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


And so it begins. Spring. It doesn't matter that we had 10 inches of snow less than a week ago, nature has already begun to respond to that mysterious signal that brings everything back to life.

Our crocuses are always first to show themselves. It's like magic. One day you see nothing; the next, there they are, peeking up through the grass and leaves.

I love it--you can smell the difference in the air and hear it in the birds' songs. The buds are opening on the trees. The red-tailed hawks are competing for nesting territory. And I'm shopping gardening supply catalogs. Good stuff!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Healthcare Headache

Yesterday I got the statement from my insurance company regarding my recent trip to the emergency room (some kidney stones simply require IV drugs). It left me asking myself the same two questions I often find myself thinking with regards to health insurance.

1. If the hospital can bill my insurance $515 for a service, how is it that my insurance company only needs to pay them $159?

Of course, I don't really want the insurance company explanation for how they have negotiated this special rate with the hospital, or my doctor, or the lab, or any number of providers that will accept less money than their billed rate. I want to know why they can't just provide the lower rate to everyone--insurance or not. I can't help but feel that one of the main reasons for the high cost of healthcare stems from the fact that, by-and-large, the consumer has no direct contact with the price being charged. In a free market, the consumer will shop around and find the provider with the best price. This competition helps to keep prices reasonable. In the healthcare system, the price is being artificially set through bureaucratic negotiations between two providers and no consumers. How can we help but expect an aspirin administered to you in the hospital to cost less than $10 when this is the way price is managed?

2. Why on earth does health insurance work this way anyway?

I have homeowners insurance and automobile insurance. When I need to put gas in my car or need to make home repairs, I pay for these things myself. If I were to ask my insurance company to pay all or part of those costs, they would laugh me out of the room. And yet, we all expect our health insurance to pay for routine care. How much more affordable would health insurance be if it worked like other insurance--covering the calamities only? How much more selective would we be in the services we choose to receive if we were paying for them ourselves? And, with lowered demand on routine services, how much would those costs drop to a level that would be more affordable for everyone?

I just paid $25 for a $267 visit with a urologist, during which he gave me a list of foods I should avoid, told me how much water I should be drinking, and asked me to come back for further testing after my pregnancy has ended. The doctor was very nice and helpful, but I have to admit, if I had been paying that $267 amount, I would have opted out of the whole visit.

There is so much talk among conservatives right now about how our country will become socialist under Barack Obama. I have to say that I think we've moved a lot farther in that direction already than we realize. It is the capitalist ideals that we've already abandoned little by little that have the potential to truly reform the healthcare system. Unfortunately, I am starting to get the feeling that too few of us buy into those ideals anymore.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Goodbye, February!

I believe I lost the month of February. I have to say that I am glad to see it go--it didn't treat me very well. Between residual morning sickness, crippling back pain, a ruthless kidney stone, and a cold/bronchitis/flu that never wanted to leave, I admit I found very few moments of joy during the month. I have high hopes for March. After all, it is the beginning of spring--a natural season of hope and renewal. Add to that the fact that, by the end of the month, we should know the gender of our bundle-0f-joy-to-be, and it can't help but be an improvement over the-month-that-shall-not-be-named.

As I said, February had few moments of joy, but they were present. There was one day in particular that the entire family was actually functional--not healthy, but at least upright. We managed to sneak off for a day at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland. We saw wild turkeys, many geese, the most swans I've ever seen at one place in my life, and, of course, bald eagles. The day ended with a drive home beneath the moonrise.

Since then, we have been hooked on the refuge's bald eagle cam. It's trained on the nest of an eagle pair which has been busily incubating two eggs. During Sunday night's snowstorm, the first egg hatched. The stoic mother hunkered over her hatching eggs, spreading her wings like an umbrella, while the snow covered the nest and her.

The eaglet has its first meal--fish (eww!)

The parents bring more fish for the chick

The second egg begins to hatch

Both eaglets are hatched!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gerbil Show?

Yes, gerbil show. This past weekend I attended the 8th Annual World of Pets Expo in Timonium, Maryland. The American Gerbil Society, of which I am a member, was one of the exhibiting groups and held a sanctioned gerbil show on Saturday. For those of you who don't know--almost all of you, I'm guessing--a gerbil show is run in similar fashion to a dog or cat show. The gerbils are divided into various categories, most of which are determined by colors/markings. They are then scrutinized by trained judges who evaluate body condition, temperament, and how well they adhere to the standards of the class. The winner of each class is a candidate for the Best in Show prize.

Judge Kelly Johnson of Wisconsin working on the "Other" class

The show tables

This was my first time attending a gerbil show, which I'm sure was more than obvious to all of the seasoned pros in attendance, but everyone was very nice and helpful. I entered the maximum number of gerbils I could because, whether your gerbil placed or not, every entrant got a very nice comment card from the judge detailing the gerbil's strengths and weaknesses. The whole experience was very educational.

Judge Judi Poirier sits by the blue-ribbon females during the long wait for the Best in Show decision

I had a lot of fun talking to the Expo attendees--answering a lot of questions about gerbils and correcting a few misconceptions, most of which began with, "Look at the rats!" The children were the most fun to talk to. I had to snap a picture of this one cutie in particular as she peeped in on the pups I had brought with me.

I was proud of my little gerbil clan. They got second and third place ribbons in the pup class (the fact that my pups made up nearly the whole group only dims my happiness slightly). My big granddaddy, Jet, took third in the senior class. His sweet wife, Wren (bred by Rebecca Ward), captured a blue ribbon in the spotted class. Their lovely daughter, Violet, took a blue ribbon in the pied class as well as winning the People's Choice award for favorite gerbil in the show.

Pretty Violet--photo by Lorien

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Life is certainly full of surprises. Some of them take a little more adjusting to than others. Finding myself expecting a third child at this point in my life was not only unexpected, it was almost impossible to wrap my head around. So it's amazing to me that this little grainy image would have the power to instantly erase so many of my fears along with my disbelief. Okay, it wasn't just the image, it was the sight of a tiny little beating heart that did it. Because more than anything else, a beating heart means life. So many people debate when life begins and yet we have no trouble determining when it ends. It ends when the heart stops. And so, even somewhat reluctant parents like my husband and I melt in the presence of that little heartbeat, knowing that whatever scientists or politicians might have to say about it, that tiny creature is already a living being and our child. Oh my.