Saturday, July 30, 2005

Magical Monkey Butts and Other Important Research

Well, hello my little bloggitiboos! No, I have not forgotten you. It's just that being on semi-bedrest for this pregnancy does not tend to lead to much to write about.

In an effort to update you on the highlights of late-

* I have discovered that, yes, just as the pregnancy books promised, complete strangers will walk right up and touch my belly. That was a truly bizarre experience! My doctor today told me that it later translates to total strangers rushing up to touch the baby. Yick! Maybe I'll hand paint some lettering on a onesie that says "ebola baby" or some other discouraging words.

* At today's doctor's appointment, I have gained 12 pounds, which is on target, and she is very happy with how I am doing overall. I have also discovered this baby has some strong opinions - hates my office chair (KICK! KICK!) and dances happily for ice cream (kickkickkick woohoo).

* At the beginning of a classically awful cable movie called "Dragonstorm," the introduction set the scene in 1785. As the film rolled through the first scene, my husband said, "Now that horse cart is clearly so 1790! The set designer was so sloppy." How I love this man :)

So, there I am, sitting in bed, web surfing and minding my own business, when I ran across a link to a fun-filled site chock full o' scientific research. Personally, I hate the distilled factoids most news shows deliver. I tend to believe there is far more to the story, and as often as not, that the missing facts change the essential nature of the story. Yes, these articles are still condensed versions of the actual research, but they seem a lot more detailed and on target, and there were several sstories covering a favorite topic of mine - animal behavior. Case in point, the recent report of an African Grey parrot who may have a zero concept. I remember another African Grey, also owned by a linguistics professor, who could name many toys and hand them to you on verbal request, etc. When he was tired of dealing with us silly bald monkeys, he would simply turn his back and stop playing. I knew right there that this species is probably at least as smart as we are, possibly smarter (although that opinion may have had something to do with running freshman psych subjects who agreed to be paid in oreos). So when African Greys make the news, I pay attention, and like many news stories, good details were absent - such as that this parrot spontaneously uttered "none" - that he was not taught to say it, as hubby speculated "none" could have been a name for the tray itself (i.e., tray without named toys). Also of interest is that this parrot, Alex, starts to purposely give wrong answers to entertain himself when he gets bored of our silly monkey games. Hah! Loving this species more and more every day.

I then moved on to an article about a study of monkeys who like to look at "celebrity" monkeys rather than regular or low ranking monkeys. You see how far back these things go evolutionarily? So, ok, these rhesus monkeys would pay to look at high ranking monkeys with fruit juice, but the researcher had to pay them in fruit juice to look at low ranking monkeys. Um hum, very interesting... then, at the end of the article, was this tidbit:

"On a more crude note, some of the findings might also shed light on humans’ taste for pornography: male monkeys in the study also willingly “paid” to see females’ rear ends."

Note that nowhere in the article did it say *why* the researchers had photos of female monkey butts, but I digress. I can also tell you, from personal experience in the Florida everglades, that rhesus monkeys are capable of staging a fake, yet convincing, intertribal skirmish on the shore in order to get the humans to run over to one side of the boat while scouts monkeys swim out, silently climb aboard, and steal our boxes of apple slices and bread. Holding their prizes above their heads to keep the food dry on the swim back to shore, the monkeys then divided up their lunch among themselves and all but waved cheerfully as the humans sailed slack-jawed into the sunset.

Last, but not least, was the article about our local black-capped chickadees, who are cute little guys with an incredibly complex vocal system. Their predator warning call can carry information about location, size, and perceived degree of threat. We have a nesting pair at our feeder and several neighborhood cats that make the rounds - ranging from the local *nerd* cat to the scary white mouser that causes backyard mayhem. Now I will be listening to the chickadee calls to see if I hear a difference depending on which cat is hanging around.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Blogging for Books 13: Trying Times

Blogging for Books #13: The Parent Trap (Guest Judge: Ann Douglas)
Parents. Most of us have them. Some of us are them. Most of us have had "moments" with our parents that either marked a greater understanding in the parent-child relationship, or signified the beginning of the end of our interaction. Similarly, those of us with kids have often experienced turning points where, in a blinding flash of reality, we truly "got" what it meant to be a parent.

For this month's Blogging for Books, write about a pivotal point in your life as a parent, OR write about a pivotal point in your relationship with one of your parents.


"But can you?" they each said, leaning close, eyes filled with genuine concern. "I mean, can you?"

This was the nearly universal response when we told the few people closest to us we were trying to have a baby. On the outside, I tried for a mix of philosophy and confidence, that my body knew if it could do this and like everyone else, we would have to wait and see if a baby was in our future. On the inside, I tried to quiet my fear by focusing on each step. Exercise. Stop taking meds. Start taking prenatal vitamins. Read about conception and pregnancy. In quiet moments, the rheumatologist from the pain clinic years ago would whisper in my mind, "The ligaments in your spine suffered some sort of trauma, a virus perhaps, that has gone but left damage. This is why your vertebrae sublux. As each one is freshly injured, it scars over, and becomes stronger but less flexible. Be careful if you ever get pregnant - there is a hormone that causes the spine to relax and that could be dangerous for you."

Hush, please, Doctor. That is just one theory and I need to be calm and focused now. I do not want to arrive at the end of my life without even trying to do one of the few things that really matters to me.

At three months of trying to conceive, the little home test displayed two pink lines. I ran up the stairs and leapt onto my sleeping husband, waving the white stick in his dazed, sleepy face. "We did it!" I sang. And then I slept. I slept anywhere, anytime - waking with my head on my arms, on my keyboard, waking in bed without any memory of how I got there. My back ached. My migraines continued. I scooped all the little pill bottles from my nightstand and put them away where I would not be tempted to seek relief. My right hip burned with pain until the leg went numb. I could not walk or sit well, could not eat or drink.

At eight weeks pregnant I entered the hospital. It is such a strange assortment of medications that they are willing to give a pregnant person. Muscle relaxants, pills for pain and for sleep, anti-nausea, anti-anxiety, antihistamines. Some made me numb from the neck down. Some gave me nightmares. But the pill I really needed was labeled "Category D" which is known to be unsafe for pregnancy. Damn. Every day I struggled to eat and drink as my weight slipped down.

"If you can't eat, we are going to have to run a central line and give you TPN."
"We may have to move you to a nursing home. Your insurance is getting antsy about the length of your hospital stay."
No! No, I can do this!

Finally, my doctor researched exactly why the drug I needed was put in that category. At ten weeks my baby was beyond the problem it was known to cause. I was cleared to take the medicine. Within a day I was eating. I went home, hurting and miserable, but hopeful. Friends and family pitched in to help us. We are now at 23 weeks and all our tests show a healthy baby. I hurt, but I am managing and the day I can hold this baby beckons with the strength of the first star in the night sky.

Monday, July 11, 2005

New bird sighting!

Some of you may recall the saga of the Squirrel-B-Gone TM birdfeeder in our yard. It can be viewed from the bathroom window and back deck, so we both check out the happenings at the feeder a few times a day. In June we had a large group of baby chickadees and finches fledge and start to eat at the feeder. Now they are all - well - somewhat chubby. We fill the feeder every day or two, which is actually an impressive amount of seed. Birds fill every perch and more birds swoop in and shove them off to get a turn. Birds on the ground. Birds on top of the shepherd's hook. Happy well-fed birds and they were all black-capped chickadees, brown chickadees, rosy-headed finches, and one red-breasted robin. And of course, Mr. & Mrs. Squirrel. Until today.

When I peeked out at the feeder today, this is who was looking back:

Blackheaded Grosbeak Posted by Picasa
(thanks to teacher Mr. Slichter for the photo, used without permission but with credit and many thanks!)

This is either a female or a first-year male, due to the fashionable stripe of white over the eye. My guess at this time of year is a young male out looking for a territory. He is a sizable bird with a beautiful red chest and black striped head and wings. I hope he comes back and sings for us!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Sometimes a banana is just a banana

Oh sure, many of my ongoing life goals are no secret.

1. hug a koala bear and have him/her hug me back.
2. have a sign language conversation with a chimp at the primate center in Ellensburg.
3. kiss an alpaca on the nose (accomplished 2003 at Alpacapalooza!)
4. visit Idaho's Potato Museum ("Free Taters for Out-of-Staters")

Sure there is more, but you can see the direction my mind works. So how did I not know about this Seattle wonder?

If you follow the link, you can see many heretofore unknown banana wonders and historical artifacts plus there is a link to a web ring for Unusual Museums on the Internet. Ooohh baby! Everything from glass buttons to toilet paper. My favorite from that list has to be the Weird Fortune Cookie Collection. I grew up with a specific method for handling the vagaries of fortune cookie predictions, thanks to a mother who does not believe in blindly accepting whatever fate happens to throw your way. First, crack open the cookie. Then read the fortune and decide if you find it personally appealing. If you want the fortune to apply, eat the cookie; if you reject the fortune, you must reject the cookie. Fortunes may also be shared by sharing the cookie. Tonight's sweet & sour chicken combo plate #1 ended with the fortune:
"Your love life will be happy and harmonious."
Stephan got: "You are open and honest in your philosophy of love."
Wow! Two different love cookies. Double happiness! I'm definitely keeping these.