Blog woes

I’m feeling a lot of blog angst today.  First, while I was on vacation they unilaterally cut access to blogs from work.  Ugh!  No blogs whatsoever!  You might remember, I’m starting work on a project to integrate social media more fully into how we communicate as an organization; this isn’t a step in the right direction.

Luckily, because of that at least I have an excuse to wave my fists and wail and demand blog access back, and my uber-cool boss has put my name at the top of the list of people who should have immediate access restored.  But this is government and nothing happens quickly.

On a larger scale, though, I think I’m finally ready to make the leap to my own domain.  I’m officially done with Blogger.  I almost jumped ship a year ago, but when they introduced Blogger Beta, they introduced the one feature I had been most coveting:  labels, or categories.  But, I recently realized that each category will display a maximum of 20 posts.  Everything else is lost to the ether, and some of my categories have more than 60 posts in them (hell, you know as well as anybody that if I’m anything, I’m prolific!)

Apparently, I’m restricted to 20 posts per category because I chose to keep my customizable "classic template", the one I understand and can tinker with.  I could move to the newfangled Widget template, but I would lose some flexibility.  I’m finally fed up.  I’m done with Blogger.

Earlier this year, I registered, so I already have the domain.  I know I ask this question about twice a year, but for those of you who haven’t yet tutored me on this, any tips for inexpensive, reliable hosting in Canada and new blog software?  I’m leaning towards WordPress, because I’ve heard MT is more of a pain than it’s worth.  I’m worried that WordPress won’t let me tinker, though.  Thoughts?

The friendly floatees

A hat-tip to Kerry, who shared this link with us last week. It’s as engaging as the idea of the escaped elephants taking a tour of suburbia from last week, and I couldn’t help but share.

Picture, if you will, 29,000 children’s bath toys – a virtual armada of red beavers, blue turtles, green frogs and yellow duckies – circumnavigating the globe for the past 15 years. Is that not the most whimsical thing you could imagine?

From the Globe and Mail article:

It’s a story that began in 1992. In rough weather in the Pacific Ocean, a container of plastic bathtub toys went overboard from a ship sailing from Hong Kong to Tacoma, Wash., and broke open. The 29,000 turtles, ducks, beavers and frogs that were freed from their container prison have been floating around the world ever since.

Their travels have been tracked by retired oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer of Seattle using findings sent to him by a network of beachcombers. The toys’ journey has been remarkable. Since going overboard, one group has circled the north Pacific between Alaska and Japan five times. But other groups have struck out in other directions.

“Some of them peeled off to the north [through the Bering Strait],” Mr. Ebbesmeyer said, “over to eastern Greenland, down to Labrador, over to about where the Titanic sank off Newfoundland, then turned east and went over to Europe where a frog was found in Scotland. On the U.S. side, a duck was found in Maine.”

(Make sure you click on the map that accompanies the article in the Globe. It shows how the currents have driven the toys through the years. Way wicked cool!)

The Wikipedia entry for the “Friendly Floatees” says that a $100 savings bond has been offered to anyone who finds one of the escaped bath toys, predicted to begin washing ashore in the UK sometime this year, and collectors are paying up to $1,000.

How can you not smile, knowing there’s a massive fleet of 15 year old bath toys floating unhindered on the ocean’s currents?

The literary education of Stephen Harper

I love this.

Canadian author Yann Martel, perhaps best known for his book Life of Pi, has taken on a project of sorts. He has appointed himself literary tutor of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in an attempt to make Harper “a more arts-friendly prime minister.” Part of that campaign is to mail Harper a new book every two weeks as long as Harper is prime minister. Not only a new book, but a book inscribed by Martel and introduced with a personalized letter explaining why a particular book was chosen. Martel is chronicling the experience on his Web site called What is Stephen Harper Reading.

Martel writes on his Web site:

Who is this man? What makes him tick? No doubt he is busy. No doubt he is deluded by that busyness. No doubt being Prime Minister fills his entire consideration and froths his sense of busied importance to the very brim. And no doubt he sounds and governs like one who cares not a jot for the arts.

But he must have moments of stillness. And so this is what I propose to do: not to educate—that would be arrogant, less than that—to make suggestions to his stillness. For as long as Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada, I vow to send him every two weeks, mailed on a Monday, a book that has been known to expand stillness.

That book will be inscribed and will be accompanied by a letter I will have written. I will faithfully report on every new book, every inscription, every letter, and any esponse I might get from the Prime Minister, on this website.

The first book is Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych. I haven’t read it, but I’m thinking about it now. Here’s what Martel said about why he recommended it in the introduction to his letter:

The Death of Ivan Ilych, by Leo Tolstoy, is the first book I am sending you. I thought at first I should send you a Canadian work—an appropriate symbol since we are both Canadians—but I don’t want to be directed by political considerations of any sort, and, more importantly, I can’t think of a work of such brevity, hardly 60 pages, that shows so convincingly the power and depth of great literature. Ivan Ilych is an indubitable masterpiece. There is nothing showy here, no vulgarity, no pretence, no falseness, nothing that doesn’t work, not a moment of dullness, yet no cheap rush of plot either. It is the story, simple and utterly compelling, of one man and his ordinary end.

He goes on for quite a bit longer; you can see the full text of Martel’s first letter to Harper on the Web site. But I loved the concluding paragraph and wanted to share that, too:

I know you’re very busy, Mr. Harper. We’re all busy. Meditating monks in their cells are busy. That’s adult life, filled to the ceiling with things that need doing. (It seems only children and the elderly aren’t plagued by lack of time—and notice how they enjoy their books, how their lives fill their eyes.) But every person has a space next to where they sleep, whether a patch of pavement or a fine bedside table. In that space, at night, a book can glow. And in those moments of docile wakefulness, when we begin to let go of the day, then is the perfect time to pick up a book and be someone else, somewhere else, for a few minutes, a few pages, before we fall asleep. And there are other possibilities, too. Sherwood Anderson, the American writer best known for his collection of stories Winesburg, Ohio, wrote his first stories while commuting by train to work. Stephen King apparently never goes to his beloved baseball games without a book that he reads during breaks. So it’s a question of choice.

It’s a question of choice. I’m tempted, so tempted, to turn this into my own personal book club and read along, but I acknowledge that there are simply too many other priorities competing for my time right now and I choose to delay reading these books until some future date when my life is a little bit less full of the joys of life with preschoolers.

But I do love the idea. If you could recommend a book, any book, to send to Stephen Harper – or, for our American cousins, George Bush – or to any national leader, for that matter; if you could choose a single book to send to your prime minister or president, what book would you choose?


You know how sometimes you’re in a room crowded full of people, and everyone is practically shouting to be heard, and all of a sudden you say something particularly intimate as loud as you can – just when the rest of the room falls silent? Or when you’re in the middle of telling an anecdote and you’re suddenly so aware of the people listening to you that you lose the thread of your story?

That’s how blogging feels lately to me. I’ve suddenly become aware of all of you out there on the other side of the fourth wall. I’m self-conscious, and I can’t seem to shake it off.

This hasn’t been a problem for me up until now. I’ve been content to just blather on shamelessly, without really contemplating who might be reading. Usually I am thinking of a particular person or a small group of people when I write something – sometimes it’s just for me, and I’m remarkably good at blocking the rest of you out – but lately all I can hear is your collective expectation. All of you, even the random googlers looking for information about pineapples and infertility  <>or the Ikea dog weiner <>.

When I write intimate stuff about the boys, or how I’m still coping with the aftermath of the miscarriage, or any of the personal dreck, I am suddenly picturing some of you out there tapping your toes and checking your watch and wondering when I’ll get on with it.

But when I blog about the world outside my head (sometimes it’s hard to remember there IS a world outside my head), I feel like I’m trying too hard, like I’m fishing for comments. And when I write what I think is a really great post and I get minimal feedback, I’m perplexed. (I know, I’m spoiled for comments. I know.)

More than a year ago, a friend of mine was talking to a friend of hers who happened to read my blog but didn’t know me in person. The comment that got relayed back to me was something along the lines of “I can’t believe how open she is about personal stuff” and I was never quite sure how to take that. Is that a compliment or a criticism?

And more recently, as the news of my miscarriage spread through the gossip channels at work one woman, instead of saying ‘Did you hear about Dani?’ asked our mutual colleague ‘Have you read Dani’s blog lately?’ You know too many people at work read your blog when…

I think that’s part of the reason why I’ve been posting so much lately (and this is the third post I’ve written today, and so far the only one remotely worth publishing), because I am so self-conscious that I want to put up not just any post but a good post. Every day. Just don’t ask me what the criterion are for a good post, because I have no idea. I’m holding myself accountable to a set of rules that don’t exist.

(Plus, my head is overfull these days. Too much time in my head leads to both an excess of blogging and an excess of neediness. Bear with me, this too shall pass.)

It’s a classic ‘be careful what you wish for’ scenario. All along, I just wanted this little blog to be popular in a way I never was. I’d love to be cool enough to admit that I write for me and that the rest of you out there don’t matter, but you do. I’m an attention junkie to the core, and I thrive on the affirmation that you like blog – through the comments, the hits, the eco-system ranking. I kind of wish I could get over that, but it’s not likely to happen any time soon. And yes, I’m well aware of the fact that you just bathed me in the affection of your votes for the CBAs just two short weeks ago. What can I say, no matter how good the high, a junkie still needs another fix.

In closing, I either want you to remain silent and ignore me so I can forget you are all there, or shower me with comments and compliments so I can bask in the warmth of your affection. I’m not sure which. Can you do both?

Goodbye to Greg Wiggle

No fewer than three people have e-mailed me today to flag this important breaking news, and who am I to hoard the information all to myself. Heck, if it’s important enough to appear in the Globe and Mail, it merits attention in blog.

We’d been hearing rumours for a while now that Greg Page, also known as Yellow Wiggle Greg, is quite ill. When the musical quartet visited Ottawa last month, the yellow shirt was worn by a fellow called “Sam”. (We didn’t make it to the show this year. $200 for Wiggles tickets once in a lifetime is more than enough for us!)

It’s surprisingly difficult to find any references as to who exactly Sam is. In the words of one of my faithful sources *waves to Fryman*, “Isn’t this on the same scale as the break-up of the Beatles or Beyonce leaving Destiny’s Child or at least David Lee Roth leaving Van Halen? Isn’t there supposed to be tons of rumor and speculation? I mean, what is this world coming to when we can’t speculate and spread false innuendo when something like this happens.”

According to the Globe article, Greg Page is sick with an undiagnosed but severe illness that has been plaguing him since June. An official announcement is anticipated on Thursday.

The one thing Simon has consistently asked for this Christmas is the Hot Potatoes Live DVD, and his absolute favourite piece of clothing is a long-sleeved Wiggles shirt donated by a dear friend. He takes it off, puts it in the hamper, and turns to ask me if his Wiggles shirt is clean.

I don’t think I’ll use Greg’s departure as a teaching moment myself. I think we can safely keep Simon immersed in pre-2007 Wiggles paraphenalia for as long as required. There are some realities that a not-quite three-year-old shouldn’t have to face. (I’m just glad I was well beyond my Sesame Street years when Mr Hooper died!)

The Quickening

I’m still not 100% convinced, but yesterday morning in the pre-dawn silence, I was lying in bed concentrating very hard on my uterus, and I’m pretty sure I felt the baby moving.

Cool, eh?

It was that indistinct, barely-there sort of flutter that I once read described as similar to the flick of a goldfish’s tail.

I’d thought maybe I’d felt it a few times before, but then the bubbling feeling passed its way down my digestive tract and I realized what I had been feeling was indeed gas from the previous night’s guacamole and refried beans.

But this time, the movement was more fluttery and less, er, bubbly, and it stayed in one place for the few minutes that I indulged in just lying there feeling it. It’s a long way from those seismic tremors that will visibly shake my whole belly in three or four months, but it’s a start, and I love love love being able to feel the baby move. It’s my hands-down favourite part of being pregnant. That, and the whole excuse for being centre of the universe for nine months. Ahem.

But I got to thinking… don’t you think it’s rather, um, undignified that the poor fetus in utero so closely resembles so many of our less savoury bodily movements? I mean, the baby’s first kicks feel like gas, and I clearly remember being astonished when pushing Tristan out how much birthing a baby feels like the world’s largest bowel movement.

So much for the romanticism of pregnancy and childbirth!

By the way, there seems to be a rash of pregnancies where I work. Last count there were five of us all due between March and May, and most of them are first-timers. I know at least a few of them read the blog, so it will be fun to share our horror-stories honest accounts of pregnancy and childbirth with them in mind over the next little while.

Speaking of being pregnant, I’ve been trying to think of a more clever category name for my pregnancy-related posts than “a little bit pregnant.” For one thing, a woman who births 9 lbs and 10 lbs babies and who has switched to maternity clothes by the 15th week is hardly a “little bit” pregnant – especially with the sky-high beta numbers I had. And then of course, the name is also dangerously close to a rather well-known somebody else’s blog.

So speak, bloggy friends. Today is “name that label” day. What should I call my pregnancy posts?

The "science" of predicting gender

I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of brain power lately speculating on whether this little baby of mine is a girl or a boy. I know I’m not supposed to have any preference, and I’m probably going to have to go back and do a lot of revising of this blog one day so the boys I do have don’t think I only kept them around because I was holding out for a girl, and I certainly don’t want a potential future boy to think he was unwanted.

But, let’s face it – I really do want a girl. *cringe* (That cringe is partly because I feel bad stating it so baldly, and partly because I feel like I’m tempting fate. Knock some wood for me, wouldja please?)

There’s lots of reasons I want a girl. I want a girl because I think it would be an easier family dymanic to have two boys and a girl rather than strand Simon in the middle of three boys. I want a girl because I was a girl, and I’ve always had such a wonderful relationship with my mother, and she with her mother before that, and I would love to carry that on to the next generation. I want a girl because when boys grow up, they tend to move away and girls stay close. I want a girl simply because I don’t have one.

Another day, I’ll blog about why I want another boy. Because I do. Ambivalence, thy name is Dani.

I’ve heard a lot of women say they just ‘knew’ what the baby’s gender is. So far, I’m two for two – I was convinced in my heart of hearts both Tristan and Simon were girls, right up until they exposed themselves on the ultrasound. (Exhibitionists they both are to this day.) This time, I can admit an absolute lack of insight – I have no inkling whatsoever.

The waiting, it is making me a little squirrelly. Four more weeks to the day – not that I’m counting – and we’ll hopefully have some resolution to this mystery. What I will do with a result like “well, it’s about 60% likely that it’s a …” remains to be seen.

In the interim, I’ve succumbed to folklore to tickle my fancy. I came across an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, where they set about to disprove three common “old wives’ tales” for predicting gender. Sad though it is, I was more than happy to run through them all to see if I could glean any inside information.

The three tests they examined are the fetal heart rate test, the Chinese calendar test and the Draino (!) test.

The fetal heart rate test implies that babies with heart rates greater than 140 bpm were girls, and heart rates slower than than were boys.

Check! Baby’s heart rate at the last ultrasound was 169 bpm. Girl.

The ancient Chinese birth gender chart, “buried in a tomb near Beijing for 700 years”, apparently predicts gender with “over 90% accurracy” based on the month of conception and the mother’s age at conception.

Check! Conceived in August, when I was 37 years old. Girl.

The third test involves peeing on some Draino, and even I, the queen of impatience, am not willing to risk a chemical burn to my nether regions to try this particular test. Call me crazy. We’ll leave a question mark beside that one and call it a day.

And in case you are wondering, yes, it was always in the back of my mind that the whole predicate of the article in the CMAJ is the fact that the tests did NOT have any statistically significant value in predicting gender. I know, I know.

So anyway, I was willing to fold this up and keep it in my mental hope chest as a good omen when it occurred to me that I have my own control group to work with. I ran through both tests again given the same information I had for Tristan and Simon and the results, although somewhat deflating, are hardly surprising.

Turns out Tristan and Simon are both girls, too.

Twelve week update

I’ve just been for my 12 week OB appointment and prenatal screening ultrasound. Baby looks lovely in every way!

The ultrasound tech was having a little trouble getting the images she needed because the baby was in an awkward position and seemed to be sleeping. She gave my stomach a jolt hard enough to leave a residual sore spot an hour later (I’ll stop worrying about damage from wayward preschooler elbows now) and my heart soared as the baby began to swim and dance on the screen. It’s easy to forget in these early days that there’s an actual baby in there with moving parts!

The tech pronounced the baby a docile soul, and wouldn’t that be a gift? Truly, the third child should by some cosmic law be the most docile and good-natured of the three, right? RIGHT?

I myself am doing equally well as we head into the second trimester. Although I haven’t had any actual morning sickness, my stomach has turned rather greasy and sour every day around 4 pm for the last month or so, lasting until bedtime. Not exactly the best time to be planning, making and eating dinner, let alone trying to accomplish domestic tasks and bedtime rituals. Thankfully, after feeling particularly crappy all last week, I’m feeling a whole hell of a lot better. Maybe there’s something to this ‘second trimester as honeymoon trimester’ after all.

The earliest we can find out whether this baby has indoor or outdoor plumbing is six weeks from now, and we officially have the ultrasound booked for December 4, first thing in the morning. It’s Beloved’s birthday – can you guess what he wants for his birthday?

Ugh, six more weeks. How do people go an entire pregnancy not knowing? I’ve said every time someone has asked me whether I want to know the gender that if I could pee on a stick in the morning to know I’m pregnant, I’d like to pee on a stick in the afternoon to know the gender.

Six more weeks…