Delicious.

Carol (or, as I much prefer to call her, Food Lady) seems to have finally recognized that my tank was getting filled with algae.

So she put some shrimp in the tank with me.

Hey, look! Prey!

Hey, look! Prey!

PROTIP, FOOD LADY – when you’re choosing algae eaters, choose ones that are less DELICIOUS.

At least, if you're delicious

Watch out, I’m coming for you next!

Does Not Happen

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‘Not this one, Mau thought, as loudly as he could. Not now. No one goes alive into the dark. I served you, Locaha. I walked in your steps. You should owe me this one. One life, back from the dark!

And a voice came back from the gloom: I recall no arrangement, Mau, no bargain, covenant, agreement or promise. There is what happens, and what does not happen. There is no ‘should’.

[….]

Does not happen, he thought, and the words became a declaration of triumph and defiance. ‘Does not happen,’ he said, and the words got bigger and dragged him to his feet, and ‘Does not happen!’ he shouted at the sky. ‘DOES NOT HAPPEN!'” – Terry Pratchett, Nation.

This is me, standing in front of my husband, refusing to let him die.

When he tells me to stand aside, because he does not want to hurt me, but he can’t take the pain any more.

When I think about telling our little son that his Daddy is dead.

When I think about telling my mother in law that she will never see her son again.

When I think of a life spent next to an empty space in the bed, a ring on my finger with no match to it, a daughter who doesn’t remember ever having a father, a son who grows up wondering why his father left him behind.

Does not happen.

So I stand outside in my bath robe, leaning on the car door, calmly telling him that I will crush his fingers if he tries to pry it open again. He will have to hurt me. He will have to push his pregnant wife to the ground, knock me unconscious maybe, because I can not stand aside.

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The Gift of a Magi

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This was the second Christmas we have spent at home, away from family. The first time was really difficult for me. This time was easier. We had done it before and we’re slowly working out our own traditions. For example, we had to have a big discussion about how Santa would deliver his presents.

As I’m sure you know, Santa doesn’t have a set technique. He tailors his deliver methods (and even delivery dates) according to the traditions of the local country and microtraditions of the family. In PH’s family, stocking stuffers were just… extras. The REAL presents, the big ones that had been requested in letters, were wrapped by Santa’s elves and put under the tree. In my family, on the other hand, everything was unwrapped, assembled, and sitting in or around the stocking.

After much discussion and some compromise, we asked Santa to wrap anything particularly asked for that was too big to fit inside the stocking. That was made easy by the fact that Owl only asked for two things this year – a crokinole board and a bow and arrow set.

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So Owl got his gifts from Santa, as well as many gifts from doting relations, and it was a nice Christmas.

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I wasn’t all that excited for Christmas this year, because there wasn’t much I wanted or expected. The only thing I really wanted (other than a book that was sold out) was something that PH had long vetoed – another pet.

I’m an animal lover. If I had my way we would own two dogs, the cat, a bird, a rodent of some kind, a tropical saltwater tank complete with coral, and a couple of farm animals. Unfortunately, time, money, space, and PH interfere with that.

PH is not a fan of buying pets that are going to die on you within a year or two of purchase. Nor is he a fan of taking up space in our already-cluttered 1000 square foot townhouse. I get all of that, but I haven’t had a new pet in eight years and I was itching for someone new.

So I asked for a fish for Christmas, and was told “absolutely not.” Not only does PH fail to see the charm of fish, but he didn’t think we have space, and no matter how much I pointed out that a 5 gallon fish tank would take up no more room than one of the MANY boxes of collectables he has sitting around awaiting sale, he held firm.

It got to the point that a friend of mine, who also loves animals, was starting to threaten to buy me a fish no matter what, and I worried that if she did, that PH would be mad.

But then guess what I pulled out from under the tree on Christmas morning, not from Santa but from PH himself?

A fish tank. And a heater. And a filter. And gravel. And decorations.

So on Boxing Day I dragged my family out to get a fish, and live plants. I spent nearly half an hour hanging over betta fish, trying to pick just the right one. PH preferred the blue ones, so I focused on those. I was torn between two – a pale blue one who was definitely the perkiest of the lot, and another one with a beautiful aqua glimmer that I loved. But this lovely one, whose scales had a gleam that reminded me of the Caribbean sea, spent most of his time at the bottom of his tiny cup, coming up to the surface only to breathe.

PH agreed with me that he was prettier, if more listless.

“I think he’s still healthy,” I said, scrutinizing him. “His colors are bright, and there’s no spots on him… and he DOES move around…”

“Take him then. If he’s not very active, oh well,” said PH.

So I bought him, and the live plants, and then I happily spent several hours setting up his tank on my book shelf. Then I floated his cup for a night, slowly adding more tank water to his sad little cup and measuring the pH occasionally. His tiny cup water was so full of ammonia that it was really acidic.

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“Can’t you just put him in?” PH asked, “look at him, poor guy.”

The fish was showing much more animation than at the store, bonking his head on the side of the cup, trying to get to the watery paradise he could see around him. Even Perfect Husband, who doesn’t see the appeal of fish, could practically hear him yelling “LET ME OUT!”

But I was afraid to let him out. The pH of the two waters was so different, and a sudden pH change can kill a fish, even a hardy betta fish.

So I added some more tank water to his cup and by the next morning the pH was better. So I put him in the tank.

Oh, man, you never saw a fish so happy. Our previously listless fish is listless no more.

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He spent the whole day zipping around like a mad thing, obviously revelling in his freedom. It was adorable.

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We’ve named him Melchior, after one of the three wise men. My Christmas gift.

He was a great gift, and it was a good Christmas.

In Which I Find Everything Unnecessarily Difficult And Fight Hormonal Reactions To It

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My friend Hannah from Hodgepodge and Strawberries recently said to me that ‘pregnancy is like 9 months of non-stop PMS’ and I thoroughly agree. Life is hard enough on general principle, but when you’re trying to do it while surfing on a wave of irritation and overreaction it becomes just that much more difficult to navigate.

Picture trying to hold sixteen different items in your arms at once, while sobbing.

I have become a ball of horrible crippling anxiety and tears.

On top of the two jobs not to mention the “gee I haven’t bought any presents and now there’s no time to mail them back to Nova Scotia in time for Christmas” stress, I’ve been trying to deal with my medical situation.

So, you won’t have forgotten the mysterious disease of May/June. Well, a month or more ago I went back to the specialist because the itchy rash kept coming back. It usually starts on my chest and neck, burning and red, and then fades away while the itchiness spreads over my whole body and causes me to scratch my skin off for days. Antihistamines don’t help. Cortisone cream doesn’t help. So I went back to the internist. I was thinking that maybe this thing was autoimmune after all.

The internist listened carefully, and narrowed her eyes. “I think you should go back to the opthamologist and see if your optic nerve swelling is back,” she said. “If it is, we should probably do a lumber puncture, and you might need to talk to a neurosurgeon.”

I’m sorry, what now?

Yeah, it turns out that itching which isn’t soothed by cortisone or antihistamines can sometimes be NEUROLOGICAL.

I hadn’t mentioned it to her, but the wooshing noise in my left ear had returned a few times, too.

So I went back to the opthamologist, having spent the last three days at work saying “I MIGHT NEED A BRAIN SURGEON” whenever someone asked me a question I couldn’t answer.

The opthamologist looked in my eyes and said, “Yeah, the swelling is back again. Not nearly as bad as the first time I saw you, but definitely worse than the last time I saw you.”

Then, when I went in to my family doctor, she said that the bloodwork that the internist had done showed that my CRP (inflammation) values were up again, too.

So… what does this mean? Lumbar puncture? BRAIN SURGEON (FUCKING  BRAIN SURGEON OH MY GOD)?

Well, I don’t know! Because NO ONE SEEMS TO KNOW.

I called the internist’s office on Monday and was like “Uh, what do I do now?”

And they said “We don’t know… doesn’t say in your file… we’ll ask the doctor tomorrow.”

Today is Wednesday. I still haven’t heard back. So I called and left ANOTHER message asking what the hell I do now.

And that ain’t all.

The internist also apologetically told me that I should be considered a high risk pregnancy because they have no idea what’s wrong with me. Better safe than sorry.

That means that I need an OB, not a midwife.

I decided the last time I was pregnant that I wanted a midwife this time around. Midwives are covered in British Columbia, and you can still have a hospital birth and epidural and all that wonderful stuff. The big benefit to a midwife, as I saw it, was that she will come to your house and check your dilation so you don’t need to go back and forth to the hospital UMPTEEN TIMES and wait for two hours just to be told that you haven’t dilated in the slightest EVEN THOUGH YOU’VE BEEN HAVING CONTRACTIONS EVERY 3 MINUTES FOR THE LAST 18 HOURS.

Not that that wasn’t wonderful and all.

Besides, it sucked that I saw one or two doctors throughout my prenatal care and then my baby ended up being delivered by a stranger who didn’t even remember me when I went in for my 6 week post delivery checkup.

So I got a midwife for my last pregnancy and had all of one appointment with her before the baby died in the womb and all that stuff happened. 

This time I held off for a while – partly because I was half-convinced that the baby would die again so I didn’t want to jump the gun and partly because my doctor was like “let’s make sure your weird disease doesn’t cause any problems.”

So I’ve been seeing my family doctor for prenatals which she said she could do through 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Then the rashes and the head wooshing started and now the internist has officially said that I should be considered high risk.

Which means that I need to have an OB.

Which sucks.

So I asked my family doctor to refer me to my previous OB clinic. After all, if I have to have an OB again, it might as well be the place that gave me a healthy baby last time, somewhere I am familiar with and with some faces that I’ll recognize.

Does that seem too much to ask? DOES IT?

APPARENTLY IT IS.

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Oh Sears, You Bastion of Traditional Sexism, You.

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Catalogues have been known for over a century as a great way to entertain children. Owl will sit quietly for long stretches as he flips through Sears’ Toy Shop Christmas Catalogue.

He may love it, but Perfect Husband looked over Owl’s shoulder one day and was horrified.

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The Sears Christmas Catalogue is supposed to catalogue toys, but it also catalogues gender stereotypes, to the point where you wonder whether this is supposed to be tongue in cheek.

Surely nothing in this day and age could be un-ironically THIS sexist?

A quick flip through the catalogue shows boys playing with cars and dinosaurs and boxing bags and discovering amazing science, while girls wearing pink hold dolls and use knitting machines and quietly paint, while totally ignoring entire shelves full of awesome cars and tools they could be playing with.

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When they do touch something that could potentially be interpreted as masculine, such as a bow and arrow or a car, they are interacting with a pink version of it, because obviously things need to be pink for girls to play with them.

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But it goes deeper than that.

Even the way that they are STAGED with the toys reeks of 1950’s style sexism. Like, to the point where you have to wonder if they’re being serious.

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It’s Alive! And Female.

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And thanks to confirmation bias, I feel like my worrying paid off!

I think that was the most harrowing half hour I have experienced in a very long time. My ultrasound technician was a serious Eastern European man who had a tendency to lean back in his chair while moving the wand back and forth over my belly, and then suddenly sit up and lean in, starting at the screen intently as if the baby had suddenly started using sign language at him or something.

Every time that happened I imagined he was discovering that my baby was an octopus or cerberus or experiencing some kind of death spasm.

And he asked questions like “was your last baby a big one?” and “you say your last pregnancy was a miscarriage?” which thoroughly unnerved me.

Finally, (FINALLY) he called in PH and Owl (who remained uncharacteristically silent) and showed us the baby, including the part between the legs which didn’t seem to have a penis and so he felt it was “pretty definitive” that it is a girl.

She seems to have a beating heart, a head, two arms, two legs, and a vulva. He didn’t mention any cysts or defects or soft markers, although then when he went out to “speak briefly to the doctor on staff and print the pictures” he took a disturbingly long time.

But when he came back it was without any doctor and holding some print outs for us.

We went for panacakes.

THANK JEEBUS.

Also, a girl! That’s a nice bonus. I would have been fine either way, but I’ve HAD a boy so the girl thing adds some novelty to the pregnancy.

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In Which I Try To Use Worry As A Weapon To Fight Off A Bad Ultrasound Outcome…

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My 20 week ultrasound is tomorrow, and I’m doing my Anxiety Girl thing.

Back when I was in my Generalized Anxiety CBT group, they talked about how pathological worriers will often suffer from the superstitious belief that  their worrying is actually productive.

Then I raised my hand and told them my own personal theory of worrying, which stunned them for a moment, and then the leader said,

“That is the most COMPLEX rationalization of anxiety I have EVER heard.”

Wanna hear it?

Of course you do.

Okay, as you may know, one of the many bizarre and perplexing things suggested by Quantum Mechanics is that we could very well exist as one universe in a vast multiverse – that there are alternate universes created on a quantum level for every possible outcome. There could be thousands of YOUs out there, all living similar but slightly different realities.

And yet we only experience it as one lifetime, right? My particular consciousness is separate from the consciousnesses of all the other Carols out there – thousands of things could happen to various Carols throughout the multiverse but I will only experience one of those.

Maybe in another universe, my last pregnancy didn’t end in a miscarriage.

Maybe in another universe, I stayed with my first boyfriend and never married PH.

Maybe in another universe, I didn’t contract that weird disease (I went back to the internist the other day, by the way. The rash keeps coming back, so I spend half my time scratching off my own skin, and lately I’ve been hearing wooshes in my ears…).

Anyway, here is my theory: if I concentrated hard enough, maybe I can CHOOSE which reality my consciousness stays in. Maybe by WORRYING that a certain bad thing will happen, I can consciously AVOID it happening to THIS PARTICULAR iteration of my consciousness. Of course bad things still happen, but aren’t they always different bad things from what we expect? Aren’t we always blindsided by the one thing that DIDN’T worry us?

My GAD group used that as proof that worrying doesn’t help. I suggested that maybe it means that our worrying needs a broader spectrum.

Of course, it’s crazy, and the CBT stuff helped me drop a LOT of that. I don’t worry nearly as much as I used to and look what happened! I had a silent miscarriage and walked around with a dead baby inside me for weeks.

So, this time of course I was terrified of a bad outcome and my 8 week ultrasound was clear. The baby is still alive – I can feel little kicks and twitches at night and sometimes around noon. But all kinds of bad things could happen at tomorrow’s ultrasound. The baby could be hideously malformed. It could have soft markers indicating Down’s Syndrome, or worse, another Trisomy that is seriously deadly. Heart defects, spinal defects…

So far I have googled Trisomy 18, Trisomy 13, Anencephaly, and have read over 20 personal stories from people who had horrible news from their 20 week ultrasound and either ended up deciding to terminate or carrying to term and then taking photographs of their dead/deformed and dying baby. For some reason, ALL OF THESE people are deeply religious and use the word “sweet” and “angel” multiple times.

Not sure if seriously defective babies are some kind of Trojan that Jesus uses to infect people or if only religious people have the strength to document their experiences. Could be both.

I’m also wondering what we’re going to do with Owl if the news is bad. We haven’t out-and-out told him that I’m pregnant. He has noticed that my stomach is getting bigger and has asked several times if I have a baby in there. PH finally  told him that my body is TRYING to grow a baby but we don’t know if it has been successful yet. This prompted him to say loudly “You can’t be making a baby, Mommy! Daddy’s PENIS isn’t in you VAGINA!”

We were in Cost Co at the time. Several people looked around. Kids are great.

Anyway. We told him that tomorrow we will go see a special doctor who can look in my belly and tell us if there is a baby in there. In an ideal world we will be able to bring him in, tell him he is going to have a little brother/sister, and show him the baby on the screen.

But if it’s terrible news, how do we keep his infernal curiosity silent long enough to receive the bad news, discuss the options and digest it all? How do we explain to him that yes, there is a baby in there, but it may not be okay? What do we say to him when we’re told that it’s a boy/girl but it has a hole in the heart/no brain/appears to be an octopus?

 

I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

Now if you excuse me, I need to google more weird things that can be found on a 20 week ultrasound so I can ensure that our baby doesn’t have them.

Mockingjay, Part 1: Philip Seymour Hoffman Does It Again, But For The Last Time…

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Well, PH and I got to Mockingjay last night. As you may remember, we LOVED Catching Fire, which you folks are simply not used to hearing after I’ve gone to see a book-to-movie film. Mockingjay shoot

We went in extremely hopeful. We were disappointed with the original Hunger Games movie, although it was acceptable, but then Catching Fire actually had us slow-clapping when the credits rolled.

Our hope was that the presence of Philip Seymour Hoffman would keep the good ball rolling (we’re convinced that he somehow infused his essence into Catching Fire, thus perfecting it).

Overall, I’m happy to report that it did.

Critics have complained that there is too much exposition in this movie. I personally disagree. I LIKE exposition.

One of the things that frustrates me is when movies skip over extremely important plot points because they assume their audience will be too stupid to sit through two more minutes of dialogue.

Besides, it actually has a lot LESS exposition than the book. One of the best things about translating a first-person narrative into a movie is that they can show you things that you don’t get to see in the story because the main character didn’t see those things.

Mockingjay Part 1 actually SHOWS the effect of Katniss’s “propos” in the districts. There are multiple very-cool, very-exciting rebellion shots which you totally don’t get to see in the book, because Katniss is too busy moping in an underground bunker.

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Critics have also complained that the movie just builds towards Part II, but I disagree there, as well.

The focus of the first movie is on Katniss’s concern for Peeta, and to me, getting Peeta back seems like the obvious goal and building-point.

Those of you who have read the book know how well THAT goes, and I think the movie ends on a great “what next?” note.

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Overall, much of the dialogue is word-for-word, which I value. The sentiments of the movie are very well expressed. The desolation of District 12 is not understated.

They leave in stuff I thought they’d cut, like the Hanging Tree song (VERY NICE), and the white rose in Katniss’s house. They even left in Buttercup chasing the light in the bunker.

Other than removing some of the best Boggs lines, the only things that got cut were very specific – they cut everything that shows District 13 and/or President Coin in a negative light.

Which I thought was a little odd.

The prep team? Gone. Instead Effie Trinket is there, which I accept because the first movie basically eradicated the Prep Team when they should have left them in. So Effie is there instead as damage control. But she is treated very well – no complaints there.

The restrictive lifestyle, Coin’s coldness… all of that is cut.

It struck me as an interesting choice. Are they trying to build up our trust in 13 and Coin, only to tear it down? Or have they decided to wipe out that whole aspect of the storyline (surely they can’t??).

If the first option is correct, then they had better do it fast and well in Part II, that’s all I can say.

And with Philip Seymour Hoffman lost to us, I don’t know how much faith I have in their ability to do so…

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