Monday, January 29, 2007

Recent Reading

A few of the books I've read recently – at least those I remember at the moment:

The Ghost at the Table by Suzanne Berne: A mostly enjoyable fast read with an only slightly untrustworthy first person narrator. It's a dysfunctional family Thanksgiving in Concord, MA populated by a few too many unnecessary characters and eventually focusing on a central conflict that just wasn't a big enough deal to me. I read this one for a book group I belong to, and most of the women in it enjoyed the book more than me. It was, however, an excellent book for discussion purposes.

March by Geraldine Brooks: I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to. It was another book group choice. Like say, Ahab's Wife, it takes a barely mentioned character from a famous book and imagines their story. In this case it chronicles Mr. March, the father who is absent throughout Little Women and his experiences with the US Civil War. As Little Women is much based on the Alcotts real life, and I grew up visiting their house in Concord and idyllic Fruitlands in Harvard and learning about the transcendentalists of the time, I was fascinated.

Three Junes by Julia Glass: This would also make a likeable book group book. It takes place over several generations, with different related narrators telling each third of the book. It has some nice contrast between gay male New York eighties culture and Scotland countryside with hunting dogs going on. Not quite the contrast of say, the movie Babel, but perhaps more interwoven and familiar. I enjoyed this one, and found myself staying awake a bit too late to finish it.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls: This is a good pair with the next one. It's a memoir of a fucked up childhood – and not your average dysfunction here but a fascinating mix of intelligence, imagination, and addiction with extreme poverty and kids just trying to cope as their parents drag them about in various moves and schemes and non-realistic solutions for getting by.

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre: This is a novel about a kid in the wrong place at the wrong time in an ignorant southern town. School shootings, media frenzy, and border crossings all play parts. It's very entertaining.

Parenting from the Inside Out by Siegel & Hartzell: This is a book written by an early education specialist and a brain scientist that explains how an infant's mind forms and the implications of how we communicate with our kids. I found this book extremely informative and helpful.

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell: I loved these short stories. They are snippets into fantastic other worlds where animals play other roles than you may be used to. Kids row around or get stuck in the shells of giant creatures we don't see, are literally raised by wolves, and other fun. A good jump start for the imagination.

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott: This is a memoir of this writer's first year with her kid and all the ups and downs and honest realities of her experience. It's a welcome relief in the midst of the fantasies people have and support about being pregnant and having kids. And it's funny.

I've also of course been reading various pregnancy books. I reference the What to Expect book but something about its tone here and there puts me off and I find it more useful for the latter half of pregnancy than the first half. All said I've much preferred the newer book written by a doctor at Mass General, You and Your Baby Pregnancy. It's another week by week book but seems a bit more grounded in just scientific facts and a bit less chastising in tone.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Zero Going on Fifteen

Today we got to watch Baby TV again (ultrasound). We confirmed that she was indeed slam dancing in there. She has notable muscles in her legs. She also appeared to be talking or singing and we could even see her tongue. She is a rock star; see below as our baby demonstrates her early ability to drink a can of beer and then give us the finger while laughing:


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How You Begin to Remember

Pregnancy books have started to totally bore me. So now I'm reading about parenting. I'm reading a fascinating book at the moment and just learned the following about how we develop memory, our ability to respond to experience by altering the connections among our neurons. These connections are make the structure of your brain and how it functions and makes your mind. There are two kinds: implicit and explicit.

First, we form implicit memories and "mental models." These are not things that feel like conscious recollections, because that part of the brain is not formed yet. Instead they cause emotions, behavioral responses, perception, etc. They are generalizations we form from repeated experiences. So for instance you may have cried and your mom comforted you again and again. Mom becomes safe and responsive and you become capable of impacting people and getting needs met. So many years later, after you've managed to have a totally messed up relationship with her say, you still might really have the urge to call her when you're sick or in distress.

After we turn about one year old we start to develop our hippocampus and have some new circuitry that allows us to begin having explicit memories. By one and a half we can have some semantic or factual memory, and by two years old we can have autobiographical memory. Before two the period is known as "childhood amnesia," not from trauma, but from not having the right wiring in our brains yet for these recollected, "explicit" memories that require a sense of self and of time. This kind of sense comes with the prefrontal cortex development, which is where we process much of our self awareness abilities.


2006 Music

At the request of my dear hubby, some of my favorite songs I listened to in 2006 (though not all from 2006) were by:

American Ambulance – Particularly good when driving or singing loudly. This winter I sang "Leave This City" and "Ain't Life Good" in the car a lot. See Pete's blog linked in the sidebar here.
Belle and Sebastian – Mellow, calming.
Better than Ezra – I was in a phase of this, and then fell out of it. Extra produced, but moving, earnest alterna-pop.
Bettie Serveert – Love the new acoustic album. It's mellow and interesting and wonderful.
Bright Eyes – I love the album I'm Wide Awake It's Morning. Love. Maybe overplayed it. It hits me in some poetic, gut-real place.
Jeff Buckley – A lullaby every now and then of "Hallelujah. "
Neko Case – Also good for belting out while driving. Especially like "Rated X"
Death Cab for Cutie – Mellow, and "I'll Follow You into the Dark" was so lovely.
Tanya Donnelly – She's constantly in rotation, particularly when I'm writing.
The Essex Green – "Don't Know Why (You Stay)" got lodged in my brain a bunch this year.
The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightening, Strike is still my favorite get psyched or get moving at the gym album.
Ida – A bit down in the Low realm, but so moving and pretty. I really loved "Laurel Blues"
Kasabian – I know it was overplayed, but I did love "Club Foot" and listened to it a bunch.
The Killers – Again, overplayed, I did love "When You Were Young"
Kings of Convenience – This always calms me down. Kind of a modern Simon & Garfunkel effect I suppose.
Love is All – "Talk Talk Talk Talk" pleased me in its thrashy throwback to Blondie era stylings
Luna – I couldn't have told you I listened to "Still at Home" as often as I did without iTunes telling me.
Magnet – "Where Happiness Lives" I love.
Morningwood – I found 5-yr-old glee in singing "Nth Degree" to glenn repeatedly until it showed up in some TV commercial.
My Morning Jacket – "Off the Record" and "Gideon" made me really happy. "Off the Record" put me in the Clash/REM/late '80s mode of reminiscence.
The Raconteurs – I don't think I'd like a whole album, but I did have fun bopping around to "Steady as She Goes"
Shout Out Louds – I liked the whole album, but especially "Hurry Up Let's Go"
Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped was a Rather awesome album, best in many years of subpar Sonic Youth
Le Tigre – "T.K.O." again in the silly bopping around the house department.
M. Ward – Enjoyed the Post-War album and especially "Right in the Head"
Wheat – Not new guilty bop pleasure in a the strummy pop of "I Met a Girl"
World Leader Pretend – "Bang Theory" was a good get up and go anthem in that same rising mood of say "When You Were Young" (Killers)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Like Garbage, gets into that threateningly powerful but pained mode.


No to Iraq War Escalation

No to Iraq War Escalation
BOSTON COMMON - Park St. & Tremont St. (in Boston)
Thursday, Jan 11 2007, 4:00 PM

If this event doesn't work for you, click here to search events in hundreds of other locations around the country.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Idea for You

I'm behind in giving you new inventions. Here's an idea for you; please take it and make lots of money: Voice activated alarm clocks. You're tired, you have to set the alarm, you hate pressing the stupid buttons until it gets to the time you want. Wouldn't it be great to just press ALARM and say "seven forty five AM" and be done with it? I don't know how it will work without some big server to process the voice recognition, but I bet it could connect wirelessly to your computer and be an online subscription service.


Friday, January 05, 2007


Let's make a list. Do you have any favorite songs that make good lullabies, or compilations of lullabies?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Invisible Enemies and the Kick Inside

My back pain returned with such a vengence. I was fine in the morning, and in pain, but dealing with it in the afternoon, and then suddenly, in the middle of watching a movie at home, I got to redefine ten on my pain scale again. I thought I'd met it before, and I know I haven't experienced labor yet. I realize now that one of the key characteristics of this higher level is that no thought is involved. There is no room for brain activity when I'm at that level of pain, just a primative animal fear as an invisible assailant relentlessly gnaws on me.

There is no getting to detach from the pain and be survival girl thinking rational thoughts despite some fog. I was not even thinking "I'm going to die" or "I must make this stop." This was not the thing I imagined I'd feel if shot, and crawling toward some survival ability like a movie character. It is pure, overwhelming, pain. It replaced me. I've been told I have a high tolerance for pain numerous times in the past. I think the definition of pain is the key to that sentiment. I have no tolerance for this. I needed an off button and could barely even think to ask for help. I understand better now why some people never call 911 in emergencies.

I fell to the floor in agony and tears streamed down my face and I started to hear an odd wailing noise that I realized was coming from me. So, yeah, I spent last night at the hospital. Glenn had dialed the phone before my language skills had returned to tell him what was wrong. At least they take pregnant people right to the ER part of the baby ward pronto, no regular emergency room crap this time. Can you imagine...New Year's Day? I'd still be there.

So at the hospital I was tears and drool, biting the pillow case. They put the kid on a fetal monitor and made sure I wasn't in preterm labor, then ran labs. They gave me Demerol in my IV and a special heating pad that had warm water pusling through it while testing me for a million things and ultrasounding my guts and ruled out kidney and urinary infections, they looked at my kidneys for stones, and made sure there was no aneurysm involved in the aorta and looked at the cysts I have on my liver that have been being watched but didn't think that was the cause. It took another dose of Demerol for me to think maybe I'm okay with living. I asked the nurse if she could just hit me with a really big hammer since I'm not allowed to take so many things while pregnant and I am allergic to opiates (morphine was their first choice to give me). She said they were funny about hammers there at the hospital.

Kicky McKick is doing just fine in there. In the end because they ruled out the deadly things and because of where it is and the extremely specific narrow line of pain it is, they think maybe I injured my back somehow and aggravated it the other day or it's a nerve compression problem. If it is muscles they should be better in a couple of days, if it's nerves I'll have to keep experiencing it until a neurologist figures it out apparently. I have had seized muscles many times in my life and never have I felt anything Close to this. Once again, there is another mystery.

I never knew, by the way, just how much a baby kicks. I mean people have put my hand on their pregnant stomachs and had me feel a kicking baby, and I've heard "oh! that was quite a kick!" from people before, but I didn't know it was like this nearly constant writhing, punching little storm in the guts. I can actually See the baby kicking some of the time now, which was entertainment as I spaced out a bit with the drugs. I asked the doctor if all babies are so busy and she said "the healthy ones!" There is Some possibility my little slam dancer caused some kind of nerve freak out with her activity, but it wasn't the top of their list of guesses.

This entry was brought to you by Demerol, the only "Real" drug I've taken in 17 years of being clean and sober, last seen when all four wisdom teeth were ripped out over a decade ago. It's my new best friend.

Labels: ,