Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Helpful label information!

As found on our box of generic Aldi's corn flakes (because we're frugal and we likes our cereal):
"Corn Flakes
Toasted Flakes of Corn"

This amused me to no end last night (which was further evidence that 1. I needed to have gone to bed half an hour prior and 2. I've been home long enough now and my brain has begun to atrophy).

I can understand why "Cheerios" has "Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal"* under the title - cheerios does not adequately describe the box's contents. But who would be confused by a box labled "corn flakes"? Would anyone assume that the contents are puffed rice? Dried pasta? Cake mix?
The "Rice Krispies" in our cupboard were subtitled "Toasted Rice Cereal" but the "Honey Bunches of Oats" had no subtitle at all. (Which is fine with me - I think they're really Sweetened Clusters of Gravel. I'm no fan of the uber-crunchy cereals.)


*I don't have a box from a year or two ago before the "whole grain" hype was ramped up, but I suspect they only said "Toasted Oat Cereal" then. Sneaky.

Monday, January 30, 2006

About, version II

In the unlikely but not completely improbable chance that new readers arrive here by virtue of my finally listing this blog as a Pgh blog, a reminder of what "Unreserved" is about (in no particular order):
Home improvement
Random unrelated nonsense that no rational person would be interested in reading, particuarly when the author is a complete stranger (but there's a little voyeur in each of us, no?)

To learn more about the author, see my 100 things post.

New Template

I finally got around to tweaking the layout, which has been a "to do" that has been keeping me from posting. I do believe it still needs further tweaking, but it should be an improvement.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Many of my colleagues have college-aged children, and are paying the way for their children to attend colleges of their own chosing with the understanding that said children will get good grades and make something of themselves. These colleagues were horrified to learn that my parents held high the value of their children having the honor of paying their own way through school. There was no "college fund" waiting for my brother or me to turn 18. This is not to say that my parents don't value higher education - quite the opposite. However, they understand what a source of pride it is to know that you've paid your own way in life. They also know what students who aren't paying for English Comp 101 are likely to do, or not do. My colleagues feel strongly that it is the parents' job to provide every advantage possible for their children, even into adulthood.

I can see both sides of this situation. I was fortunate enough to land a full scholarship that paid my way for the first two years, and when science courses (physics in particular) kicked my butt and I lost said scholarship, I was fortunate in that the university I chose wasn't very expensive. By my reckoning, I only have 3.5 years of student loan payments to go! Woo!

Today DH and I were struck with a blinding flash of insight - we realized why parents save for their children's college educations. It's not so much to assure they will be able to attend hallowed institutes of higher learning. It's not to pave their way to becomming adults capable of functioning as valued members of society. It's not to reserve them a solid place in the middle class free of cumbersome loans.
Parents save for their children to go to college so that in 18yrs or less they can be assured that their children will LEAVE THE HOUSE. College is not so much an opportunity for the children so much as a society-approved method of getting RID of the children. No, we're not kicking you out, Billy and Suzie, we're sending you to college! Lucky you! Here's some quarters for the laundry and don't forget to write!
College funds are a sort of life insurance to ensure that the parents will someday have a life again. Of course, by then they will be so worn down by the years of screaming and diaper changing and wrestling crabby toddlers and wiping bottoms and force feeding infants Mylecon drops and dancing and patting and hushing and picking dog hair off pacifiers and coloring Pooh Bear and doling out jelly beans three at a time and explaining that you don't need another bun because you already have a bun on your plate and don't step on your sister and holy crap the baby's crying again please God make it stop that they will have no energy left to do more than sit and drool by that point.

It's been on of "those" days. Now if you'll excuse me, my naked two year old is running around the living room dancing to some bluegrass polka something from "Prarie Home Companion." A few more hours and at least one of us will be blissfully asleep.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Oh, the irony of the comment on my last post

Last Friday (Or was it Saturday? The days all blur together right now.) I had managed the feat of showering before 4:00 in the afternoon (go me!) and was drying my hair.
Peanut was napping, as was DH (he works nights at the moment). All was peaceful in my house, until the dog started going nuts. I never heard the doorbell ring, but the dog's bark was enough to tell me that someone (perhaps those evil girlscouts she tried to chase off a few days prior) was on the porch.

You guessed it. Verizon FIOS sales pitch. (only it was a female salesperson)
I informed her that I had just signed up for another year of DSL and was very happy with it.
She countered with, "Were you aware that we're going to be offering cable acess in the next year?"
So the baldface lie of "Yes" that popped out of my mouth was entirely her fault. Darned salespeople, making me lie.
Time to start work on that trap door in the porch. I've got a doormat that will cover the hinges nicely.

The problem with a "no knocking/ringing" sign is that we have the dog, who believes it is her sacred duty to save us from people that have the nerve to step foot on our porch. Or the neighbor's porch. Or the street in front of the house. Or anywhere within a mile radius of our house. Normally she's not so much of a barker, but she's got cabin fever and it manifests as hyper-vigillance. Hype-vigillance that fortunately in this case only woke the sleeping husband. Now that we've been visited by the FIOS fairy (and the aforementioned girlscouts), and it seems that the majority of the neighborhood school fundraisers have run their course, we might be safe for a few weeks, or at least until the dog can be walked more regularly. (crossing fingers)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Changing the subject: Life with the girls

Peanut usually takes a 2hr nap, starting after lunch. For two hours now, she's been upstairs, singing, talking, yelling, and prattling on. She's now switched to calling "Mommy!" over and over. Apparently, it's more effective if you vary the calls, so now we have, "Mommy? Mommy! Moooooooooomy! Mummy? Mummy! Muuuuuumy!"
Am starting to give up all hope of her ever sleeping this afternoon. Apparently DH has as well, becuase he just got up and went to her. (he worked last night and is running on about 45 minutes of sleep.) So much for naptime, which will make her a treat this evening. (we are expecting company)

Claire, who remains nicknameless to date, IS napping, but only on my lap. Napping elsewhere is unacceptable.

Gotta go pacify a cranky, napless toddler.

Fun with Veriz*n

We have Verizon DSL, and for the past year have been enjoying a reduced rate because we signed up for a 1yr commitment. For a month now, we've been getting renewal notices in the mail, via e-mail, pretty much every way short of having someone knock on our door and beg us to renew.
When I tried to renew online, the system was down. When the system was back up the next day, the only option was to renew the current plan we had. (I wanted to switch to a different one, which wasn't an option) There was no phone number to talk to a person. So I clicked around until I found Verizon's "contact" page. The automated voice at the customer (dis)service number informed me that switching anything regarding my DSL could not be done at that number. Rather than give me the proper number, the automated voice told me to try the webpage. Right.

So back to the webpage, where the automated system paused two minutes to verify that DSL was available at my number approximately seven separate times (ironically, while I was connected to the system BY the DSL that it was trying to verify). Each time, the webpage came back with the "GOOD NEWS!" that FIOS is available at my residence. Which would be fine, if I wanted FIOS. Which I don't. And from the FIOS page, the only options were to learn more about FIOS or order FIOS.

It took me about an hour of fiddling around at their wonky webpage to find a phone number to call to change my DSL service. Which I called. Only to find out that it was only staffed during regular business hours and call back some other time.

Which I just did, and I am here to inform you, dear reader, that Verizon has, without a doubt, the absolute worst hold music I've had the misfortune to discover to date. Initially the music was a 80's Casio keyboard and strings type arrangment of "I Love You Just the Way You Are." It was followed by some pseudo-italian bistro piece of crap that made my ass twitch.

Normally I would do Verizon the favor of sticking a little asterisk in there so that this post didn't come up on search pages (not that it would ever be anywhere near the top, but I'd do it for the principle of the matter) but I think the public has a right to know. People must be warned, so that they can brace themselves against the horror that is tinny, schlocky hold music.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I do love me some maternity leave.

All this time on my hands! Or it would be, if I had hands free. Roughly %80 of my time is spent nursing the tiniest family member. I'm happy to say she's putting on weight like a champ - she went from 7b 7oz on Monday to 7lb 15oz by Thursday. She's well on her way to fat cheeks and chubby fingers. Anna, for her part, has learned not to freak out every time the baby squeeks, and mostly ignores her.
Things about nursing, mostly learned from experience with child #1:
Don't question whether it's time for baby to eat or not - chances are it is.
Or at least baby thinks it is.
What you think doesn't matter.
The very concept of nursing will traumatize a younger brother.
The sight of a baby eating, completely covered, will turn said brother to stone.
That's okay. Sisters don't like to think of brothers as having naughty bits either.
Your inlaws will think you feed the baby too often, but they will be much too polite to say so.
Their other comments, however, will lead you to understand that they think you're crazy but harmless.
You can nurse and type, although it's tricky.
Nursing and knitting is even trickier.
Nursing bras are not sexy.
Victoria's Secret is missing an untapped market.

Couple Christmas with Anna's 2nd birthday and we now have just about every toy manufactured for the delight of 2yr olds somewhere in our livingroom, most likely underfoot. It occured to me yesterday that poor Claire is only going to get clothes for gifts, as we already have all the toys.

Next week there will be a Pgh blogfest. I have mixed feelings about attending. On the one hand, I'd like to meet the locals I read regularly. On the other hand, if I were a social butterfy I probably wouldn't feel the need to blog. Mostly I don't know how to explain it to DH - he's still getting a grasp on what a "blog" is, and only recently expressed interest in reading this one. Having him join me would involve getting a sitter for the girls - not really practical at this point.
I've been active in online communities for about 15 years now, back before "the internets" were a big thing. Back when I was a young whippersnapper, I was on local bulliten boards. We'd have get-togethers and meet-ups and I'm pretty sure my mother was convinced that all the attendees were axe murderers (it turned out that only one sysop was a pedophile). I'm accustomemd to people looking askance at the idea of meeting people you only know virtually.
As if people could only want to meet for devious and/or nefarious purposes.

Must think on it further and discuss. For now, the nipple shark demands an audience!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Birth Story

This post is going to be long. Consider yourself warned.

Announcing: Claire Louise T_____
Born: December 29th at 6:19p.m.
Weighing: 7lb 14oz
Measuring: 20.5"

When last I posted, I was disgruntled and ready to meet our mystery baby. I was glad to be past the holidays, as I really didn't want to spend Christmas timing contractions for my sake, and for baby's sake I didn't want him/her to have a Christmas birthday. On the other hand, constanty wondering when the braxton-hicks were going to turn serious was getting old.

On Wednesday, I noticed a regular pattern to the braxton-hicks, and they were finally starting to get uncomfortable. Still, they were 15 -20 minutes apart. It was unseasonably warm out (if cloudy and gloomy), so I grabbed my portable cd player and the dog and set out to hike the entire neighborhood. I walked for about an hour and 15 minutes, and had 15 contractions. They were definitely getting my attention, but not so strong that I couldn't pretend that I was just a huge woman out walking her dog. The dog, by the way, was thrilled. My shoes are still covered with road salt.

DH was scheduled to work that night. I debated asking him to call off all afternoon, and by dinner decided that it would be best to have him home, even if things weren't progressing quickly. My biggest fear was a long labor - with Peanut, I started with contractions 5-10 minutes apart on New Year's day. By that afternoon, they were getting hard to talk through, so we went to the birth center for a check, only to find that I was only 2cm dilated. We filleld a prescription for Ambien, picked up a frozen pizza, and went home. The sleeping pilled allowed me to get 6hrs of sleep. The next day, I was still having contractions every 5-10 minutes, only now I had a death grip on the back of the couch and a heating pad on my lower back. Miserable and unable to get any rest, we went back to the birth center, convinced that these more painful contractions must be doing something, only to find I was still only 2cm dillated. Completely discouraged and exhausted, we scheduled an induction in the hospital to be started the next evening and went home to endure more contractions and take the 2nd sleeping pill. Two hours later (around midnight) the contractions proved stronger than Ambien and my yelling woke DH, who rubbed my back for the next nine hours. Around 5:00 a.m. I couldn't take it any more and we went back to the birth center. I was still convinced I was only 2cm dilated, so the midwife was surprised to find me pushing involuntarily and 9.5cm dilated. Anna was born after 2hrs of pushing. It was a good birth, but DH and I were fuzzy-brained with exhaustion.

This time, my biggest hope was that labor would be shorter than 54hrs. I was promised that statistics were on my side, with 2nd babies usually coming faster than firsts. Still, I was reluctant to accept that labor had started or that the baby would arrive any time soon.
That evening, we watched "Willy Wonka" and I knit most of the left front of the cardigan I was working on. At bedtime, contractions were still 20 minutes or so apart, so I vowed to ignore them and went to sleep. By 4:00 a.m. I was fed up with being woken by contractions. They were easier to deal with if I could feel them coming. During contractions, I was bracing my feet against the bed as if trying to climb away from my own abdomen. Between them, DH and I chatted good-humoredly. At 6:00 I called my mother and told her that it would be a good morning to come get Peanut, but not to rush. I really wasn't setting my hopes on seeing the baby that day, but knew it could be a possibility. Plus, Peanut is extra sensitive to seeing anyone or anything in discomfort, so I didn't want her distressed by seeing me uncomfortable.

When Mom arrived to get Peanut, I was parked on the couch in my pajamas, and I wasn't talking during contractions. DH informed me that they were sitll about 7 minutes apart, as they had been since around 4:00. I refused to time them myself. I didn't trust time between contractions to be a good indication of progress after last time.
At 10:00 I paged the midwife and was delighted to find that the same midwife that caught Peanut was on call. I asked if she still wanted me to come in for my scheduled 11:40 check-up, seeing as I knew it was still early on. We decided I could skip the check up, and she said to call her if things seemed to progress, or she would check on us later on.
A little after 11:00, my worst fear seemed to be coming true - the contractions that had been 7 minutes apart spread to more than 15 minutes apart and decreased in intensity. I had lunch and a nap, trying not to give into the feeling of disappointment and impending doom. The nap was cut short at 12:30 by a four-headed contraction from hell that would NOT let up. By 1:00, I was getting noisy and the contractions were back to their 5-7 minute intervals, only now instead of being 30 seconds long, they were 1.5-2 minutes long. I decided that if they kept up like that for one hour, I'd call the midwife back at 2:00.

The midwife was apparently psychic, as she called us back at 1:45. At that point, I had to tell DH to wait to answer the phone until I quit yelling, as I was in the middle of a contraction and figured he wouldn't be able to hear who was on the other end. We all agreed that it would be a good time to go to the birth center and see how things were going. Our neighbors cheered when they saw us leave the house, as they'd been on pins and needles every time they noticed a vehicle missing from our driveway for weeks.

In the parking lot, it took me four tries to leave the truck, as the tail end of a contraction was making moving too painful. I hobbled into the birth center to be met with a smiling midwife in the same room where Peanut was born almost exactly two years prior. She checked my dilation, and before telling us, asked what we wanted to hear. I told her that if it was 2cm, she should lie and say it was either 1 or 3 because I never wanted to hear 2cm again. To my delight, I was 6cm dilated. Hooray! I got as comfortable as possible and continued to ride out the contractions. Around 3:30, I asked to use the Jacuzzi tub. I had been holding off on using it as long as I could, since I was afraid to use what I figured was my best relaxation tool too soon. It turned out to be great timing. In the water, I felt like the contractions were manageable, and even quit moaning through most of them. DH fed me oranges and cinnamon toast to keep my energy up. We chatted between contractions, as I was still in a relatively good mood. I told him I was leaving him and marrying the Jacuzzi tub, as it was now my best friend.

I was having a lot of back pain, and the midwife said that there was a good chance the baby was turning posterior. I eventually consented to her suggestion to get on all fours in the water with an ice pack on my back to try to convince the baby to turn the other way. It sounded like a miserably painful idea when she suggested it, so I admit I balked at first, but the ice wasn't bad and I was able to rock on my hands and knees, which felt good. I can pinpoint the exact moment when I decided that labor wasn't fun anymore and I'd had enough of it. Another four-headed contraction had me in its grasp and wouldn't let go. I quit talking to anyone and stared sullenly at a reflection in the water. The tone of my moaning changed, and the midwife heard it from the kitchen and asked if I felt pushy. I did, so it was out of the tub an back onto the bed.

I was on my side, covered in toasty warm blankets, but still having a lot of back pain. I was helped up onto all fours with a stack of pillows to rest on between contractions, and I was now completely grouchy. I'd had enough contractions, I was sick of them. I was sick of labor. I was sick of back pain. The midwife checked my progress - the bag of waters was still intact, and was likely the source of the pushy feeling. Unfortunately, Baby had moved back up, so it was too risky to break the membranes as the cord could have come down before the baby. We had to wait until the water broke on its own or the baby moved down. After what seemed like an eternity, but was really less than an hour, my water broke. On checking, the midwife found an anterior lip. I had two options - I could continue to labor and wait until the lip went away, or I could try a push while she held the lip back. If it stayed out of the way, I could continue pushing the baby out. We went for option two, and that's when things got REALLY loud.

I was yelling every television birth pushing cliche in the book - I can't do this! It hurts! I want to stop! - as DH held my right leg with one hand and continued applying counterpressure to my lower back with the other hand. My vocallizations went from being a coping mechanism to a pain response. I was pushing all right, but pushing in a vain attempt to get the midwife to quit holding that lip up. Fortunately it stayed up. For all my yelling, I was greatful, even though I knew I didn't sound it at the time. The remaining pushes weren't much more quiet, as I was losing the control I'd been struggling to maintain for so long. Then I heard DH telling me that he could see the baby, that I was doing great, that I was almost done. Even though I had the same reassurances from others in the room, DH's voice was a light at the end of the tunnel. It reached the remaining rational part of my brain and gave me the strength to keep going, to know that I COULD do it, to believe that it WOULD really be over soon. The midwife was coaching me to ease back on pushing as the baby crowned. The last thing I wanted to do was prolong the feeling of the ring of fire, but I complied as much as I could with tiny, pulsing pushes. I was rewarded with the sensation of the baby's head out and no tears. On the next pushes, the rest of the baby followed, and I could hardly believe it was over as they placed the baby, wailing with indignation, on my chest. After we all had a moment to catch our breath, the midwife held the baby up so that DH and I could see that we had a second daughter.

DH cut the cord, and the birth attendants went to work cleaning us up, and getting us situated. We were tucked into bed as a family to get to know our new baby and bond together. Claire nursed like a champ, latching on as if it was old hat to her. Our midwife makes a mean omlette, and english muffins never taste so good as when you're famished.

After the shell shock wore off, we called the families and shared the news. My parents brought Peanut down to meet her new sister. She decided that, "Baby nice." She gave her a kiss and a hug, held her for a moment, and spent the rest of the visit playing with a rubber glove. Four hours later, we were all stable and healthy and ready to go home.

It's true what they say - no two births are the same. Anna's was exhausting, but I don't remember it being as painful. The midwife pointed out that birth amnesia makes us forget the pain so that we have more than one child, but I think it's more than that. For instance, I pushed for two hours with Anna, and had no idea that much time had passed. DH felt the same - we were shocked to find out it had been that long. I had a cervical lip with Anna that the midwife held back, or at least I remember telling me that she was doing so. I don't remember feeling it. Three days of sleep deprivation (and possibly the lingering effects of Ambien) made my entire recollection of Anna's birth furry round the edges - even the pain was in sort of a soft focus - and I knew that my grasp of what happened was shaky the day of the birth. I often had to ask DH what happened at different points because I wasn't sure.

Claire's birth, in contrast, stands out laser sharp and clear. I was completely lucid throughout. The nurse even remarked at how funny it was that we were having coherent conversations punctuated by my moaning loudly through a contraction. I suppose if I had to pick one experience over the other, I'd pick the 2nd because it was faster. However, I'm wasn't happy to lose my handle towards the end. I didn't like the feeling of losing control, of not being able to listen to my attendants' reminders to breathe and to keep my vocalizations low. DH says that my conduct was excusable given the circumstances, but I admit to feeling a little sheepish.

Above all, I am eternally grateful to the midwives and the birth center. I know how fortunate I am to have access to these devoted caregivers, and the midwife who caught our daughters in particular. They've been serving in the Pittsburgh area since 1982, and they are a gem that I wish more people were aware of. These women have devoted their lives to ensuring that women have the option to birth in peace and comfort, surrounded by loving support. They know what birthing women need, they know the little tricks that make the big difference. They know when to give you space, and when you need a hand to hold. They make decisions with you rather than at you. They educate you without being the least condescending or patronizing.
There is, without a doubt, a culture of fear regarding birth in our society. I wish more people had access to caregivers like these. I wish more people could see birth as the beautiful right of passage that it is, rather than a medical procedure to be feared. I plan on doing what I can in the coming years to support them in their efforts, and only wish I had more time to assist in doing so. In the even that we are blessed with another child, I look forward to having a third birth experience to treasure in my mind. It is my hope that when it comes time for my daughters to have their own children, that they find the same wonder and amazement at the power of their bodies, the strength of their relationships with their partners, and the beauty of the first cry of their newborn child as I did.

About me

  • I'm Sarah
  • From Pittsburgh, United States
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