Friday, September 22, 2006

If I were a professional cyclist, I'd be banned...

So in the continuing "what's wrong with Marsha" saga, I have a new culprit to report. My docs tested all my hormone levels to see where I sit. They suspect that funky hormones are responsible for the migraines and regular headaches I have been having. My estrogen and progesterone look good, they are finally rebounding from pregnancy and nursing for 9 months. But guess what I am deficient in - testosterone. Doc said she likes to see a level of around 40 and I am at 12. 12 what, I dunno, 12 something. Is there a specific unit of measure for testosterone? Heh, why don't we call them joules. So I measure 12 joules of testosterone - a similar level of a post- menopausal woman.

This probably doesn't have much to do with the headaches, they think my estrogen levels coming back up are a more likely cause. But the lack of testosterone has many effects on a girl. I know, cause I googled it. Seems that testosterone helps the body make muscle and bone, which is why after menopause women tend to get softer and are susceptible to osteoporosis.

But the single most common complaint of women with low testosterone is low libido. It is responsible for sex drive in women the same as it is in men. And I must confess this is something I have suffered from - or should I say that poor David has done the suffering - since the baby Jackson joined us. I was happy to hear that there really is a cause and not just the old standby - that having a baby kills your sex life forever and that is just the way it is.

I was prescribed a supplement in the form of a cream that I use twice a week. I do fear growing a mustache or getting bacne, but they assured me that in this dosage that was very unlikely to happen. David says, "Who cares? You can shave like me..."

So we shall see how it goes. I can report preliminary success though. But we are getting into TMI, aren't we? I apologize for any lingering imagery. Just think of me as the Floyd Landis of the bedroom...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Home School anyone?....
I just read this on a website I visit often - Hatrack River - the site of one of my favorite Authors, Orson Scott Card. He is a big-time Mormon and too trusting of Republicans in general, but sometimes he sure hits the nail on the head. Like today. I have been thinking a lot about home schooling Jackson and if any of you with babies of a similar age are interested, I say let's start our own co-op home-schooling group and not send our kiddos off to public school. Anybody with me?

Here is Orson's rant:

"Back to school.
Nightmare time.
When I was a kid, I loved school. Because I was good at it, and so were my teachers. We learned stuff. We learned it better than kids do today. And I never had homework.
Well, almost never. But the philosophy was not to pile on homework so that parents will be reassured that school is doing a good job. Except for special projects, homework consisted of work that you did not get done in school. And I usually got it done in school. Voila! I had free time.
You know -- the time in which you get to be a kid.
The time that is being stolen from our children -- especially our smartest kids -- by homework that either forces them to go over and over material they've already mastered, or that plunges them into material that was so badly taught they haven't a clue what the homework is about.
What happened to the old-fashioned idea of doing the teaching in class?
Yeah, I know, the teachers are beleaguered and the last thing they need is another parent carping about stuff. The thing is, kids are doing far more homework at each grade level than I ever did -- and yet they're learning far, far less. Why?
Part of the problem is textbooks. Part of the problem is that teachers are so fenced around by idiocy from the district that they can hardly keep their minds on teaching. Part of the problem is "helicopter parents," who hover until their child screws up, and then come in to attack the teacher -- how can a teacher help a student whose parent invariably screams that their nasty little child can do no wrong?
All kinds of problems. A lot of good teachers simply can't teach as well as they know how. But at least we know that at the district level, we have the best bureaucrats tax money can buy.
One thing there is no shortage of in middle school, at least, is obsessive micromanagement. There is, however, a dearth of competent micromanagement.
Take the lists they mailed to us before the start of school, specifying supplies that our children must have. Leading the list was the Texas Instruments 34II calculator. It had to be that model. Naturally, this datum had not been communicated to the local office-supply stores, so they were out. We have ordered it online.
But the real question is, why that model? Is this the only calculator in the world that has all the functions that the students will be required to use? Why not just tell us what functions the calculator should have, and let us buy what we prefer?
Apparently the school district mentality that all decisions must be made in a central location is now to apply to parents. Central planning worked so well for the Soviet Union all those years. And central planning did a splendid job of making sure those new schools they've been building would be competently engineered. By all means lets extend central planning to what parents are allowed to buy their children for school. Because each home with school-age children is just another unit of the school district, under their complete authority, right?
But that was just the first annoyance on the list. What I loved was the fact that the list we were mailed was far from identical with the lists we were given when we showed up for the open house a couple of days before the start of school.
Suddenly we discovered that the "blue, black, and red ink pens" we had been ordered to buy -- and had bought -- were no longer needed, because now what we needed were those crappy little erasable-ink pens -- you know, the smeary ones that don't really erase completely.
The #2 pencils they asked for in the mailed list -- which we had already bought -- suddenly became mechanical pencils. Why? So that kids wouldn't constantly be getting up to use the pencil sharpener. (Heaven forbid children should actually be permitted to walk about the classroom.)
At the open house we learned about items not on the list, like 3x5 cards and a dictionary-thesaurus. (We ended up getting a separate dictionary and thesaurus -- I hope our child won't be booted out of school for unauthorized purchasing.)
And why is it that we had to buy a separate 1.5-inch binder for every subject? While it's true that our child doesn't have to bring them home -- which is good, since the four of them completely fill her backpack-- she does have to clog up her tiny locker with this stuff. Plus, of course, the two classes that each required her to buy a 3- or 5-subject spiral notebook. Considering that each of those classes was a single subject, why did we have to buy separate multi-subject notebooks?
When I was in school, I was allowed to make my own decisions about how many notebooks I wanted. During my three-ring binder phase, I used subject dividers and carried a single notebook. Later, I used multi-subject spiral notebooks that I chose myself, and organized them as I chose.
I bought my own pens -- the brand I wanted, or my parents could afford -- and when I needed to make corrections, I did the civilized thing and neatly drew a line through words I was deleting. I didn't have to smear things up with erasable ink that makes every paper look ugly, whether you make mistakes or not.
In short, I -- and my parents -- were able to make our own choices, and you know what? I got a superb education, I got along well with my teachers, I never lacked for the supplies I needed, and my parents weren't treated like untrusted employees of the school district.
The crowning blow, however, was the teacher who insisted that his students had to have Pentel click erasers. Why? Because mechanical pencils always run out of eraser before they run out of lead. Isn't that nice of him? We couldn't provide our child with a standard handheld eraser. No, we had to get this brand. He said we could get at Office Depot. He was wrong -- they were out.
So we ordered it online. Thus a $4.49 item cost us $13.31, after tax and the "small order handling fee."
All to do a job that is better done by a small handheld rubber eraser you can buy for less than a buck.
Ironically, this requirement came from the same teacher who, during the open house, did not meet parents inside his room, but instead came out into the hall, thereby creating a huge clot in the traffic flow as parents had to stand around waiting for a chance to find out which inconvenient nonsensical piece of erasing machinery they had to buy to please him.
I'm sure every single one of these contradictory, expensive, and/or flat-out inferior decisions that were made on our behalf were well meant. But this is America, and in America we generally tell people what our purpose is and give them the freedom to decide how to accomplish it. At least now and then.
So are our schools becoming robot factories? Do they really think they have the right to force parents to become robots, too?
I look at my friends who home-school with increasing envy. Their kids learn far more, spending less of their day on schoolwork. And they don't have to go wait in a gym if they get to school early, where they are forced to stand near the edges and not cross the line to get out onto the courts.
I suppose that as the public schools have lost the ability to discipline kids in any meaningful way, they impose discipline in the few areas left to them. Precisely the areas, I might add, that make even hard-working, obedient students feel oppressed.
I know everybody's doing the best they can. I'm not really angry. I'm just frustrated by meaningless, time-wasting, money-wasting regulations -- especially from people who aren't accomplishing their core assignments. I'm also irritated by people who assume authority over adult citizens who are perfectly capable of making our own decisions -- especially when those decisions are nearly irrelevant to the actual teaching of the subject matter.
And just so you know, I wrote this column despite the heartfelt protests of my child. I hereby affirm that none of the opinions expressed here are hers. She absolutely loves all her teachers, agrees with all their recommendations, and approves of all the regulations at her school, so please do not hold her responsible for the wild-eyed, horrible things her father is saying. Except about the homework. "

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Johnson's & Johnson's does not seem to be poisonous...

Tonight I placed myself in the running for the Mother of the Year Award. After Jackson's bath, in a desperate attempt to stop the baby acrobatics, I usually give Jackson any item that he shows interest in from the counter in the bathroom so that I can diaper and dress him without using too much physical force. Tonight, he chose the bottle of J&J Vapor Bath. He usually shakes the bottle or bangs it on something. Or tries to eat the label. But tonight, as I was concentrating on applying cream to his rear end while avoiding being kicked, Jackson learned a new trick. He can now pry the lid open with his teeth! Exciting discovery. Especially when it leads to a mouthful of menthol/eucalyptus goodness.

I finally noticed his discovery when I heard a little gagging sound. The poor boy had the most classic baby-ate-a-bad-thing look on his face and I just had to laugh. I sat him over the sink and did my best to wash his mouth out. He wasn't really upset by the terrible taste. He just kept sticking his tongue out and smacking his lips.

I wasn't sure what to do or if I needed to do anything. But I didn't want to give him anything to drink before I found out. So I called the phone number on the bottle. No answer - J&J was closed, they suggested I call my doctor. Uh no. Not calling my doctor after hours to admit to the crime of not being a good mother. So I got online. J&J website was no help. But I did find the gov't website that had a spec sheet for vapor bath and other household items. Turns out that while probably not good for him, drinking mentholated soap probably did him no harm.

Here is the link in case my friends with babies ever need it...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Serial killers around every corner?

I go through day to day life in paranoia about being abducted and murdered by a deranged stranger. I don't know why it started but in the back of my mind every day is the awareness of the presence of crazy people everywhere, and the fact that you can never be truly safe from them. I had nightmares as a pre-teen about shopping in a convenience store when a man with a knife comes in and gathers all those present to torment and kill at his pleasure. The nightmares never end in my death, though. I usually wake up after what seems like hours of my dream self negotiating with the killer. I tend to try to win his trust or sympathy in some way, to talk him out of hurting me. In my dreams I try desperately to have the power to stop the attack.

In my day-to-day life this translates into a hyper-awareness of my surroundings. For instance, I just got home from a quick trip to HEB. I went alone after David got home from rehearsal. He stayed home with Jackson. When I pulled into the parking lot, I looked for a well-lit parking space near the exit so I wouldn't have far to go after I came out of the store. I found one super close and pulled in. Except in the space directly in front of mine was a large man sitting alone in his old beat up car. Warning bells! Man sitting in parking lot waiting for his wife to come out or man sitting in parking lot waiting for a woman not paying attention to get too close? I didn't want to risk it. But I didn't want to be an idiot either. I sat in my car for a minute thinking about it before I opened the door and hustled into the store.

As I crossed the driveway another man in a yellow car drove past and distinctly slowed down and looked at me. He was white, 40ish and had a balding blonde pony tail. Serial killer or man with no class eyeing my bod? I hurried into the store.

As I shopped, I kept watch on anyone shopping near me? Is that a man alone? Did I see him in frozen food a minute ago when I was there? I study people as they pass; I make sure there is no one behind me or following me. I gather my items quickly and find a checkstand with a family in the line in front of me.

As I left the store, I resisted the urge to ask the bagger to walk me out. I didn't have a full cart and I didn't want to admit to being paranoid about serial killers. As I rolled the cart into the parking lot, I stopped in the well-lit doorway for a moment to survey the area around my car. The man in the car parked near mine was gone. Great. I saw no sign of the man in the yellow car. I hurried to my car, threw my bags in the back and left the cart a few yard away, not risking the trek to the cart return. As I drove out of the parking lot, I watched my rearview mirror for anyone following me and headed home.

So what is the verdict? Is this abnormal behavior? I have been known to drive past my house and cruise the neighborhood to lose a car that may not have been following me, but took a few to many of the same turns that I did. They probably just live in my neighborhood, but if they did follow me, I don't want them knowing where I live so they can come back later know.
I am constantly on the alert for anyone showing interest in me at the Walgreen's; rushing my shopping so I can check out before him so he isn't waiting for me in the parking lot.

Don't get me wrong, I am not always hopped up on adrenaline fear all the time. This is just my normal behavior. I honestly don't think I would really be surprised to be the target of a serial killer. Not that I am special, I just almost feel...well...destined.

In fact, when I was a teenager at a slumber party playing around with the Ouija Board, it (or whoever was moving it and wouldn't admit it) told me that I would be found dead on the banks of the San Gabriel in Georgetown, the victim of a killer. And I wasn't incredulous. It (or the prankster) even told me the year. 1996. Of course, it didn't happen. I was a student at Southwestern University in Georgetown in 1996 and I was certain that each day would be my last. And when it didn't happen, I was relieved but I didn't feel off the hook.

So I am crazy in my own small way. Except this stuff does happen. Chillingly often. Tonight I watched an episode of Forensics Files. They profile cases and how they were solved using the forensic evidence gathered. Tonight, they profiled the 1995 murder of a mother and her 1 1/2 year old daughter. They went for a quick run to a local children's clothing store at 4 pm on a Sunday afternoon. The young mom just happened to have porcelain skin and black hair, which just happened to be the sick fantasy of the clerk at the children's store. She and her baby were the last customers before closing so the clerk simply locked the doors and attacked her right there in the store. And even more horrifying to me, he killed the baby too.

It just proves that you can never be safe. She didn't do anything dangerous or risky. She wasn't out at a club at 2 in the morning. She didn't park in a dark corner or walk down a dark alley. She simply took her baby into a children's clothing store in broad daylight. And that was that.

It is sad really, that I feel like I have to act like a paranoid lunatic so that I feel like I have some measure of control, some token protection against something so random and so unlikely. But then again, what is that saying? Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you...