Hubby and I had decided on a relatively quiet holiday period. After all, I'm 33 weeks preggers and there is only so much I can do in any given day. In spite of that, we had plenty going on over the past few days. We spent Christmas Eve at a friend's house with her parents. This was a lot of fun since we got first-hand insight on what Xmas looks like in Quebec. Although we were assured that none of the food was traditional - thank goodness, my friend opted for a "light" meal instead. After about 9.30pm we pretended it was midnight and presents were given out to each individual. I got a very nice new fantasy/detective book - one of those new-style urban fantasies that are popular these days.
The following day we attended a Yankee gift swap party at our American friends' house. The house was filled with little kids (and people of various religious orientations), so it was a fun-filled chaotic mix of finger food, chatting, a Xmas reading and prezzies for the kids, followed by an adult gift swap. In the morning, I prepared some food in the form of a gingerbread house. Took me over an hour to decorate, with resultant aching shoulders and sore back. It seems like my capacity of doing any kind of activity is rapidly diminishing. Of course, I found out after we got there that I was supposed to do a side dish rather than a desert - the house was filled with cookies and pies of all kind, so all of us had a bit of a sugar rush.
Since then, hubby and I have been at home, mixing things up with various shopping trips. It's "boxing week" here, meaning all the stores have their big sales on. And while I'm not exactly hanging out at large shopping malls for fear of getting trampled (or a least elbowed in the stomach), we have done some "smart" shopping: mostly for baby stuff. I've been waiting to see if anyone was planning to throw me a baby shower, but apparently that's not to be (I even asked Steve for insider info). So instead, we did the reasonable thing and bought simply the essentials, in all the colors we like (neutrals), and as few plastic items as possible. Mostly, the purchases have involved onesies, pjs, socks, hats, and the odd warm baby outerwear or an irresistibly cute outfit for when we visit someone. To a large extend, we plan for the baby to be in his (her) diaper, hanging out with us for body warmth, so no need for tons of stuff. And we've bought no toys whatsoever since I've got about 2 bags full given to us by friends.
Apart from the shopping, which is stressful on my feet, I've been "keeping fit" with painting the baby cradle, washing and folding all the new clothes, working (yes, it's an effort to sit up and be on the computer), and grooming the dog.
Believe it or not, the latter is happening in stages. I'm simply not able to lift my arms for longer than an hour when she's on the grooming table, or bend over her for more than that when she's laying quietly on the floor for me. But I did ask hubby to buy me a nifty new tool in the form of a dematting rake -- it's the best thing ever! No more endlessly patient untangling with a metal comb. I can now rake through matted sections much more quickly. The end result is looking good, although the dog remains somewhat lopsided, since only her head/chest and left hand side have been done. Tomorrow I do the right, and the next day her legs/feet. We'll see what that brings by the end of the week. Really, she should just get a decent groom but I've been rather unhappy with the groomers of late, so this is a good alternative for her and for me: she gets attention, I get some exercise and something to occupy me during this quiet and pregnant time.
As for the baby cradle; I've purchased a new mattress (Naturepedic), and a mesh bumper pad (the regular bumper pads are safety hazards, apparently). I'm eagerly awaiting their arrival so that we can finalize the "baby section" of our bedroom. Really that just means two items: the cradle and the changing table. But it's more than enough and I'm really happy with what we got.
Tomorrow is an exciting day: our 33 week ultrasound. This time we'll try to remember to ask for some pictures!
For many professors, the end of term does not mark the end of work. Often, it's only the beginning. First, there are those pesky exams to grade. Next, the final grades need to be calculated. Meanwhile, students are demanding to see you because they've suddenly realized that their class contribution grade is abysmal (how that can be a surprise to people, I will never understand - I give them an interim grade and remind them every class that they need to contribute in order to get a decent grade).
Then, of course, comes the "real" work. The research that's been laying around for 3 whole months suddenly needs to be submitted to The Big Conference that'll be held next August. Deadline: January. Only academics would torture themselves this way by completely ruining any notion of a holiday/break after 3 months of teaching and student-induced headaches.
In short, while teaching has been officially over since Dec 6, I've been busy. This week is no exception, and I even had to cancel a planned shopping trip for desperately needed Xmas prezzies in order to finish editing/revising a paper that needed to be emailed back to co-authors. My other two papers that require my lead, have been dead in the water for at least two weeks, and will need attention next week, during the Xmas-New Year "break". My goal is to get all of these things out before I go on maternity leave. At least I don't have to teach next term, because that would have started on Jan 3 ... not much of a break if you ask me, when my students' grades are due on Xmas day (yes, Dec 25th, seven days after the final exam), of all days.
In among all this, I feel like I'm visiting a doctor or hospital every other day or so. Last week I had Rhogam shot to mitigate potentially damaging effects of having Rhesus negative blood (if the baby is Rhesus positive). Sounds easy, right. But the hospital insists on a full blood panel first and so I found myself traipsing all over the building in my -40C snow boots, winter jacket and laptop bag in order to pull a ticket and wait (of course) to do a blood test first, then hike back to the "vaccine" place and wait there (of course), until the one doctor managing about 40 patients could inject me. My patience wore thin, I cried on hubby's shoulder to relief the tension but eventually it was done and we headed home.
This week, the visits consist of seeing my own doc, my osteopath/physio, and the hospital again tomorrow for a 3-hour information session on breast feeding. Next week, I have an ultrasound (perhaps baby's gender will finally be revealed!).
In the meantime, my PUPPP has partially returned, and I'm trying to manage it as best I can. Not taking baths seems to help, as does plenty of anti-histamines. My doc prescribed something new that is specifically for itchy skin and makes one sleepy (supposedly). I tried it last night and it seems ok except that I woke up groggy and with a dry mouth. At least it didn't give me hives like the Benadryl. I'm hoping that this phase of PUPPP is not as bad as the last one. I sure itched like heck for two days on my belly, wrists/hands and neck, but most of it has abated again.
Oh, and the baby still hiccups about 2-3 times a day. Awwww.
Another snow-plow early start this morning, at 6am. This time it also woke hubby who asked "how the fuck did I sleep through this before?". My sentiments exactly.
So yes, more snow. An ever growing pile of cleared snow is growing outside of our building. There has been a little bit of melt which means our window view now also sports an icicle in "our" tree at least a foot and a half long. Very cool.
Very cool indeed: -14C this evening, but with windchill this comes down to -22C.
I'm therefore cozily huddled up in the house. In fact, I don't recall going out today at all. Instead, I got a lot of work done now that I'm no longer itching all over. There is still the odd patch here and there, but KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED, that the worst of it has passed for now, and I'm really really really hoping it doesn't come back.
My new freedom from the ailment means that I can pay attention to other stuff. Like the fact that baby is hiccuping in the womb, at least once a day. It's very cute although I feel a bit sorry for him. Apparently it can do no harm at all and is a sign that the nervous system is working and his diaphragm is getting in some practice workouts.
Up again in the wee hours, having slept pretty much no time at all. It's 3.30am.
Although my rash has abated in most areas, lots of itchy patches remain. And the rash has spread all over my back, which is now the "inflamed" area. Not as bad as having it on your legs, if you ask me. Mostly, it just feels like a sun burn. The problem is when I lay down to sleep everything starts to itch, and then I can't fall asleep.
In spite of that, I slept about 11 hours last night. Probably catching up on lost sleep all this week, but I guess I'm paying for it tonight. I'm still taking Zyrtec (no more Benadryl after the hives), but it doesn't seem to be helping much today. Maybe the bath routine is more effective - it brings up all my bumps and makes the itching worse, but also seems to help settle things later if I slather on the Calamine lotion.
On a brighter note, we picked up a baby crib today that a friend is loaning us. It's been in his family for well over 40 years, and thus a time piece. It's entirely made of metal, painted white, and therefore heavy. But our friend helped hubby to load it up in the back of the car, and he was able to carry it up the stairs in spite of his shoulder.
I've been told we can add a coat of paint if we like, so I might top up on the white if I decide to paint the larger cot as well. Other small fixes will include felt pads on the legs to avoid scratching our wood floors, and perhaps finding a new mattress for it. The one that came with it seems too thin, and for sure needs a wash from past use. Given my intense allergies for dust and dust mites, I'm not sure I want to use it at all. It might be time for some modernization of the mattress at least.
Other than that, the city is still covered in snow. We observed at least three types of snowplows in action today. One clears up sidewalks - very clever and convenient, otherwise you'd never be able to walk anywhere. Another two clear up the parking spots on the side of the road. Mostly, the initial plowing just takes care of the middle of the road, so that people can drive. It seems once this plowing is done and the snowing has stopped, the city takes care to remove the piles that people have scooped off their cars and that plows have shoved over there.
So there they were today. Temporary orange "no parking" and "you will be towed" signs were up all over the city. One medium sized plow pushed all the snow from the side to the middle of the road (weird), while a bigger one then came and pushed it all back to the side of the road, but I guess in an organized and neat fashion, without completely covering the sidewalk again.
It makes for interesting viewing and tricky driving while trying to dodge both the plows, the piles of snow and oncoming traffic...
No snow plow today - there is a break in the weather. Even so, I'm up at 5am because of PUPPP. The itching is driving me almost insane, and I don't know what to do about it other than apply a distraction technique.
The PUPPP seems to be abating a little on my forearms and lower legs, areas that were full of intensity in the beginning. I suppose that is somewhat good, except that it is spreading, and this morning, the most itchy places include the backs of my hands and knees. I also seem to be more bumpy in the neck and am really hoping this thing doesn't spread to my back. It's bad enough that my bum looks like a large purple patch.
I did a lot of research yesterday and even took a taxi during lunch time to a pharmacy that sells dandelion root extract. Only to find out that the bottle clearly states "do not use during pregnancy". After a telephone consultation with a naturopath, I learned that it's really not advisable to use this stuff when pregnant. So there went my number 1 idea for "curing" this itch.
On the advice of my doctor, I have been taking Benadryl (rather than Zyrtec) at night, but as far as I can tell, it's useless other than to make me sleepy. I still wake up some 6 hours later with intense itching. I suppose I shouldn't complain about 6 hours of sleep; once the baby is born this will probably seem like a luxury. But I was really hoping to be well rested before the little one arrives, and at the moment that seems like an unachievable goal.
I haven't yet used much of the 1% steroid cream that the doc also recommended to me. I'm worried about thinning out the skin too much and other possible side effects of using steroids. The patches I'd have to use it on are simply too large.
For the rest, it's back to Pine Tar soap (unclear if this is helpful) and lotions such as Calamine (helpful against itch but dries the skin tremendously and a bad combo for winter weather and indoor heating), or hubby's Cetaphil (an eczema lotion that keeps the skin nice and moist but really doesn't abate the itching much).
Oh, and I'm still on Dandelion tea, since that is made of leaves and not the root, and therefore ok to drink. But I'm doubtful about its ability to help my itch at this point.
Of course, the naturopath thought I should avoid all "white foods" in my diet, such as milk, flour, sugar, rice, etc. Apparently that is what she advices for clients who have pregnancy-related acne. I immediately discarded this option. Without milk or flour, I have no diet. And PUPPP isn't acne.
In fact, very little is known about PUPPP. I researched the medical journals yesterday and came up with very little information that was useful, as far as treatment goes at least. So much for science.
If any man ever had to suffer this, I suspect this "harmless" itch would have been solved by science decades ago.
A 2.15am start this morning thanks to a very large, and very loud, snow plow. The "light snow flurries" as the weather forecast has been describing it have added up to several feet of snow, making for a magical winter wonderland and one ass that decides 2am is a good time to clear the parking lot near our house. I'm beginning to think I can't be the only one who hears this - we have a ton of residents in this area. I'll need to investigate who to complain to. At least, he could wait till 6am or so.
The "scattered flurries" are supposed to continue till Saturday. Already, it is nearly impossible to get out of the house because while they've managed to plow the roads, many sidewalks have not yet been plowed. Makes for good exercise for an expectant mom, as long as no sliding is involved.
With the windchill, it's supposed to feel like -15C out there (5F). All I know is that I'm wrapping up big time whenever I go out.
There is a downside to wrapping up, of course. Yesterday I was wearing my -40C snow boots which are great except that because I have PUPPP (yes, it was confirmed by my doc), it led to some intense itching on my legs. Too much heat.
The PUPPP is annoying. Calamine lotion seems to help a lot, but it's drying out my skin too much and with it being full blown winter already and lots of dry hot air indoors, this is hardly and ideal combination. My routine consists of a morning shower followed by lotion and lots of dandelion tea (supposed to help). Then I distract myself with work during the day. At about 6pm, the itching hits me and drives me insane. I then try to bear it as long as possible before taking an oatmeal bath (virtually cold yesterday as we seem to have some issue with our boiler running out of hot water), followed by more calamine lotion and tea, and at some point in the evening some kind of anti-histamine.
The doc did prescribe me a steroid cream, but lots I read online talks about how this leaves dark patches all over your body (no thanks). So I've limited the use of this cream to two locations on my body: my bumm, since itching is intense there and no one will ever see the dark patch other than hubby, and the back of my neck which is so itchy I scratch myself at night. The cream doesn't seem to be any better at killing the itchiness, so I'm not sure it's all that useful.
Given my dry skin, I changed tact yesterday and am now using Cetaphil lotion (designed for eczema). Not nearly as good as the calamine if you ask me, but it does keep the skin nice and moist, so am gonna try it for a day or two and see how it goes. Also switched the anti-histamine to Benadryl (instead of Zyrtec). The one effect that seems definite is that it makes me sleepy - so I fell asleep at 8.30pm last night.
This morning I woke up at 6am, with the most intense itching. I suspect I'm suffering from PUPPP, an irritating skin condition that some pregnant women get and is more likely if you are having a boy. In my case, it translates as a bunch of little red bumps all over my arms and legs, and also parts of my belly and breasts.
For the moment, I'm treating it with a small dose of antihistamine (doesn't help much), and some topical lotion that I bought way back when I had a poison ivy outbreak. The web further suggests loose clothing and seeing your doctor (duh). I'm due to see my doc on Monday for a regular check up again anyhow, so I'll bring my PUPPP along (no that I have much choice in the matter). I'm just sincerely hoping it doesn't break out into the blisters that appeared when my hand was undergoing something similar a few weeks back. We'll see.
I can't do much about the PUPPP except deal with it. Which is very different from my Sony products that are bringing me an equal amount of irritation, if not worse. On Monday my laptop went poof, displaying a blue-screen-of-death. It's been a week now and the IT people have still not told me if they've contacted Sony. They did determine that the hard drive is corrupted. Yippie.
Now, of course, I am smart enough to have everything backed up online via Sugarsync. But even so, it's a bit of a pain since the "home" folders were all on my Sony and I know have to "download" each file I want to work on and re-save it on my trusty MacBook Air. My personal laptop, I'll have you know, that I am using for work. I refuse to have yet another stupid piece of rubbish equipment in my office as a temporary replacement with someone else's fingerprints all over it. I'm tired of it. Tired of electronics.
It's been nothing but electronic issues all year. Not only did my Dell laptop give out on me with a similar blue-screen-of-death as my Sony, but my Blackberry wiped out on me several times so I'm on my third phone. Add to that the fact that our cable TV connection gave in recently, and now the surround-sound system has died. Oh, and the 2-hours of pictures I took yesterday of the department curling challenge didn't work because my Olympus digital camera, for some obscure reason, decided that using a flash in an indoor environment would make all my pictures incredibly dark.
And then this morning, to cap it all off, when I woke up at 6 am crazy with itching, my Sony E-reader claimed that it had no battery power. Which is a ridiculous statement because I only just loaded it a few days ago and it should last more than 7,000 page turns (I read fast, but not THAT fast).
So I couldn't even distract myself with a good book. I have a mind just to dump all my electronic products (minus one necessary computer for work) into the nearest recycling bin and go back to basics. Pencil and mini calendar for appointments, pen and paper for notes, and a regular old landline for a phone.
I'm sick and tired of spending time and money on these things. And my grumpy and itchy mood is adding to the feeling.
GGGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. (insert your own tiger image here)
This week is fast slipping out of control. We took our house guest, a visiting professor from another uni, out and about on Sunday to show him the Montreal scene. Of course, it being Quebec, we had ice rain on Friday, followed by snowfall on Saturday, creating a lovely winter wonderland with perfect sticky snow for making snowmen (very rare here).
But this winter wonderland was also a treacherous one. Walking the dog on Saturday, I slipped, but thankfully did not fall, on a flat surface of snow that was covering underlying ice. All was fine and I didn't hurt myself in the slightest but it was a reminder of how slick the conditions were.
We were reminded again on Sunday during our walk up "the Mountain". As we went up to view the Montreal cross, a woman who was on her way down warned us that it was slippery in places. I decided to stay at the bottom of the rise and let hubby and our guest go up for a closer look. Next thing you know, from a perfectly still standing position, hubby goes arse-over-tit as we say, and slams his head and shoulder into a rock hard pavement.
Luckily, he didn't seem to have any kind of concussion since there was no nausea or dizziness, but he was developing a very black bruise on top of his shoulder and the area was very swollen. We waited it out another day, but this morning, the bruising has extended down one side of his chest, looking rather a lot like pictures of broken collar bones we've seen on Google Images. So hubby's off to the doctor right now, probably at least a 4 hour affair by the time he sees someone and gets a probable X-ray. I'll let you know about the results, but given how restrictive his movements have been the last day or so, I'm inclined to think it's at least cracked if not broken.
At the same time, my mom had a biopsy done of an area of broken skin and it turns out to be skin cancer. She's had this before in the same area, but it was still a surprise that it came back. Apparently it's only on the surface of the skin and not deep, so she'll get a light-based treatment in January. I'm hoping it'll do the trick.
All in all, with grandpapa's funeral this week, things are not looking too bright.
Not to mention that my work laptop yesterday gave in to the "Blue Screen of Death". The faces of the IT people when I brought my laptop down to them were hardly encouraging. But they were sweet to me and told me not to stress out at all while eyeing my 6.5 month bump. At least I've got everything backed up online. I learned my lesson the last time! Still, it's a hassle. I'm working from home today just to chill and stay away from all the madness.
Hubby's granddad passed away two days ago. Even though he was old and had been unwell, in-and-out of hospital for nearly two months, something like this always comes as a bit of a surprise. And it's affected hubby quite a bit.
I have fond memories of grandpapa. Whenever we passed by hubby's hometown, we always made a point of visiting him to say hi. And he was always cheerful and bright - clearly a highly intelligent man with a zest for life in spite of his age.
The cutest thing just happened. I was slouching on the sofa and the kitty came to sit on my lap. She's been put out these last few months because I won't let her sit on my stomach/chest while laying back on the sofa as usual. Mostly because I didn't know if in my early stages of pregnancy, it would be very good to have a 12 lb lump sitting on you.
The kitty has learned to adjust to the situation even if her snout is slightly out of joint. She's been laying next to me, curling one paw over my body and resting her head against my side. Today, however, she decided it was safe to sit on my lap (I invited her). And she rested her head on my bump, with one paw stretching as far over it as she could.
I thought it was adorable because I could see her little face and eyes squeezed shut. The baby seemed to like it too. When she purred loudly, he started moving towards her face and then kicked in that direction. The kitty's ears pricked up as if wondering what was going on. Not in the "I'm going to catch whatever lump is moving under the blanked" kind of way, but more in a "I'm intrigued by this new thing" sort of way.
She stopped purring and opened her eyes. She did not otherwise move. But simply waited for the next kick and swiveled her ears again. Somehow, I can't help but think the two of them were communicating. Very sweet. Eventually, kitty decided she'd had enough of the thumping in her face and moved to my side.
It'll be funny to see what happens when the baby is actually here. Started my third trimester today. Hurray.
On a more miserable note - they came to change 9 of our windows today. The workmen obviously seem to think a working day starts at 7am, because no sooner did the clocks hit that hour and they buzzed our door. As if they were waiting for it.
We stumbled out of bed, followed shortly by an argument in (my not so great) French/Quebecois about who's job it was to remove the blinds from the windows. Guess what, not mine buddy. I ain't getting up on no window sill with a 6 month preggers belly to do you any favors. He got my point eventually.
They did 7 of the nine windows and then pissed off by 12.30pm. Why they couldn't finish the job with the other 2, I have no idea. I'm kind of glad in that our bedroom remains glue-smell free until tomorrow. However, it does mean another rude 7am awakening in the morning.
I know this doesn't sound early to most people, but you have to remember I'm an academic. I have my own hours, and they usually don't involve 7am.
Much I might like things to be otherwise, the grading dilemma isn't entirely over yet. This is the part of the semester I despise the most: the bit in between when students start to realize they're not doing quite as well as they'd hoped in class, and there are only a few chances to recover. Of course, 50% of their grade are in the final two aspects of the course: their group project and their final exam. So all-in-all, plenty of room for improvement.
But in the meantime, I have to manage their concerns. Some students are brave enough to come see me in my office, to ask how they could have improved their work. I don't mind these meetings -- at least they aren't coming to moan about nothing, and showing initiative of wanting to improve. Usually, these students are open to feedback and they suddenly see (when I point it out to them) how their performance doesn't match up to the standards of the assignment.
Then there are those students who've for some reason been entirely asleep in the first two thirds of class only to wake up to the fact that they're close to failing the course. Can I see them, most urgently? Of course. Not that it will help much. I'll tell them they need to do X, Y and Z to achieve a more reasonable grade. But they'll do none of it. By my experience, students who perform poorly are rarely able to recover. They just panic instead.
Other students come in for no other reason than to weasel their way into a higher grade. These students enter the room full of gung-ho approaches, with a list in their head of their arguments, with an agenda to push while sitting in my office. These students are incapable of absorbing any response I have. Typically, they don't like to hear that their grade won't be changed. They keep hammering on about the same point, as if saying 6 times will make me more likely to change my mind, rather than more likely to want to strangle them.
Still, I offer these misguided hopefuls my time. I even offer them more personalized feedback on their assignments, i.e. if they really cared about improving their performance, they'd take constructive criticism. Unfortunately, most of these students tend to be ok or even good students. Maybe they got a B+ on the assignment and for whatever reason they need an A.
One such student was in my office today. His GPA is 3.99, he explained, and his boss will give him a $7,000 bonus if he gets a 4.0. I understand your motives, I told him, but it doesn't change your work. I have a fair and consistent system of grading everyone. I can't just randomly go around changing people's grades. It wouldn't be fair.
Oh, but he had many arguments. He worked 40 hours on this assignment. He has As in all his other classes. He repeats his high GPA. (Am I supposed to be impressed by all this? I work hard too and have an award winning dissertation, but that doesn't mean my papers get published.)
Seeing that I'm going to give him very little room to manipulate me about the mid-term assignment, he eventually he turns to his other grades. What about his participation score? Why is it "just" an A and not an A+. (What's wrong with an A? It's a perfect score ...). No but his friend got an A+. Yes, because your friend got a higher score than you; and again, I have to assign grades fairly.
Then he turned to the quiz. He got a B on that. Not much room for argument there, since it's multiple choice. I show him his quiz, but he barely glances at. He tries to argue one answer which is CLEARLY the wrong answer and I point that out. He drops the topic quickly (and wisely). The quiz score, after all, shows me that perhaps his understanding of the conceptual frameworks is less perfect than he thinks, and it might explain why his assignment isn't A work.
Running out of options, he launches into an argument with me about using letter grades (i.e. the GPA system) to calculate the final grade, rather than the actual percentage (i.e. like they get on the quiz). How exactly am I supposed to mix the two methods, pray tell me? More relevantly, I clearly state in the syllabus AND in the class folder online that I will use the letter grade method to determine the final grade. So this is not news.
Oh, but it's not fair.
I came THIS close to quoting my father: "Life isn't fair. Deal with it." (Dare I point out the privileges of living in a Western country as an upper middle-classer, compared to the poor buggers in Bangladesh who don't even learn how to read ... I would dare but I fear it would draw out the stupidity of the conversation even longer).
I wonder if he realizes that by pissing me off both in the classroom and in my office by wasting an otherwise perfectly good and usable hour, that I'm that much less likely to give him the benefit of the doubt should he have a borderline mark at the end of the day ...??
I've just come out of the weirdest class ever - virtually got lynched by all my students about the grades they got for their mid-term assignments. For some bizarre reason, they all seem to think they deserve an A.
And they're all highly emotional about the fact that they didn't.
I'm trying to figure it out in my brain. I'm not upset, but of course it's something that sits with me. There are a number of possibilities:
1. Students are used to getting As from other classes/teachers, because there has been massive grade inflation over the past 5 years. In other words, instead of the usual 15% or so of class getting an A, some 30-40% of people are getting A's ... even if they don't deserve it. This makes me want to strangle the other instructors who give these things away because they don't want to "argue" with students about why they don't deserve them.
2. This is generation Me: highly direct, high on self-esteem, high sense of entitlement, doesn't respond well to critique, "it's not my fault", and "why bother working hard" generation. Blame the Baby-Boomers, apparently, for these characteristics who raised these kids. This makes for a highly-emotion, very entitled debate in the classroom, let me tell you, when I give feedback on what was expected in the assignment (versus what they actually delivered). Clearly, they're not afraid to be direct and confront me, even coming out with bold statements such as "I want to negotiate my grade" ... as if this is something to be negotiated. Whatever happened to actually producing the work in order to "get the grade"?
3. I have a new grader. Someone who marks the papers. Perhaps he did a shitty job. The thing is, I actually read through about 25% of the work and agreed with his assessments, barring a few minor differences. In general, I tend to be tougher on the work than my graders are. But even my grader said: "Maybe my expectations are too high, but most of the work seems to be in the B or C grade range". That was before we added up all the points. People should feel lucky that they got an A at all.
All I can say is that the next week is going to be a busy one with lots of students visiting me in my office. To me, that's largely a huge waste of time. But I feel a twisted sense of responsibility towards the students in which I (a) don't crush their efforts entirely by at least giving them a platform to vent and (b) explain with painstaking evidence why their work is C work.
What else can I do? (Ideas welcome ...)
I probably need about 2 hours to calm down after today's evening class before I can even think about sleeping. And I will try not to get personally emotional about stuff (I'm not Generation Me), about all the damned hard work I've been putting into the classes, the grading, the group projects, face-to-face meetings -- none of which seems to be appreciated.
Well, apart from one student who came forward after class and said: "I'm glad that you don't just hand out A's to everyone. That makes me feel like I really deserved mine."
Dang, girl, do you think you could have said that aloud to the whole class? But I guess I can't ask a student to put themselves in the firing line on my behalf. Fair is fair: I am the one who handed out the grades.
(Update at 1.30am: the outcome of all of this, of course, is that I can't sleep. Even though I'm exhausted! Idiotic.)
Insomnia is nothing new to me. But for a short while, during the first trimester I experienced something wonderful: the ability to put my head on my pillow at 10pm and fall asleep and stay there until about 9am the following morning. Sure, I was feeling more exhausted in general and I'm really glad that the second trimester is not proving to be as debilitating.
Unfortunately, the second trimester also brought back the insomnia. In a slightly different format than usual. Typically, I can still fall asleep, but I wake a few hours later. Tonight, for example, I was in bed by 11.30pm but woke up around 2.30am, after hours of restless tossing and turning and half-sleeping. And when I say woke up, I mean: really awake.
I tried to make myself more sleepy by reading some of my e-book. I finished it, and sleep is still eluding me. It's now nearly 4am and I feel wide awake, and hungry again. I can't sleep when my stomach is growling, especially not on top of the baby-party that seems to be a regular occurrence in the middle of the night.
I don't mind so much. It's a new kind of insomnia, and secretly, I'm quite enjoying the kicking and pounding that's coming from the little one. Besides, it's Friday morning - finally the end of a long and arduous week of work. The end of October earmarks a slight change in work routine for me, and I'm seriously hoping that it means way fewer meetings and class preparation and way more research and rest.
It's starting to get chilly here and will be freezing tonight with 0C and a real-feel of -4C. I sure felt it when walking to a local eatery this evening. I'm borrowing Steve's down jacket as I can't fit into my own anymore.
While one advantage of being pregnant is that I don't feel as cold as usual, my nose was still frozen by the time we got there. I drank lots of hot tea to warm up again. Brrrr.
At the moment, I'm running just to be able to keep up. October is proving to be a horrendous month for work. Not only am I teaching 2 courses, that requires me to prepare a new case study every week and run a pilot group project for the students, but it's also the mid-term season, so I'm preparing a grading grid for my grader (another case study), giving students feedback about their group project progress reports and racking my brain on how to keep the class busy next week when we have no reading assignments.
Amidst all of this, I'm also trying to work on several papers with my co-author who is visiting until the end of the month, while keeping 3 other research projects afloat. It's not proving to be easy. Not to mention all my new service obligations: I'm now an official member of the department's PhD committee which means I'm involved in several new initiatives including marketing material to attract new students.
At the same time, our department is recruiting new faculty. Two positions to be exact. So this month I'm attending 8 job-talk presentations and meeting with candidates. While it's better to be on this side of the coin than be the candidate, it adds up to a lot of work. Meanwhile, our own PhD students as well as some at other schools are asking me for input on their job market packages -- not lightweight things at the best of times. I am trying not to say no to any of these requests, as I see it as a "pay it forward" activity. Without similar such input two years ago from a meaningful mentor, I never would have made it through the job market.
All in all, life is hectic. I'm trying to fit in various doctor appointments, physio therapy (for my back) and gym/workout activities. No wonder that I was up at 3am this morning, dry-eyed with my brain running wild. The only solution: do some work till I feel sleepy again.
The baby is taking it all in his stride, growing fast and kicking happily while I get on with things.
Friday we saw our baby again and this time it was for a scheduled 20+ week scan. Of course, I still managed to make a mess of things by forgetting to bring my prescription - actually I had no idea I even needed one. They gave it to me so long ago that I had stored in neatly away with all my other baby-medical files and it didn't even occur to me to think I would have to bring it. So it was a big rush for hubby as he zoomed back home in our car to find said missing piece of paper so that I wouldn't lose my place in the (long) line at radiology.
About an hour after our appointment time we were called in and the process began. It was quite lengthy and my pants were soaked with gel afterwards. The man in charge of the stick showed us pretty much every baby part you could think of: heart, organs, brain, vertebrae, arms, legs, etc. He said everything looks spot on. And that we will have our hands full - apparently our baby is super active. Sure looked like it on the scan, and I know to some extent because I've been feeling it kick around.
He measured everything too. And the average timing would determine the "final" due date of the baby. Which hasn't changed, so it's still a Valentine's day baby for the moment. The one thing he could not confirm was the baby's gender. The baby was facing upside down or backwards, so the legs were hidden from the ultrasound waves. He tried a different approach, but my navel got in the way by casting a shadow. In the end, there was no way to confirm whether our boy is indeed a boy. But we're going with it for now and we'll see! I have another scan after Xmas, so perhaps we'll know for sure then.
In the meantime, we're babysitting a hyperactive Spaniel. She's cute but boy, she has a lot of energy. Though as I write this it seems both dogs have finally worn themselves out after the breakfast sugar spike, and are now lying in their respective slots across the room. Off to brunch with a friend, and then catching up on about 2 days worth of work because this week has been hectically filled with meetings, wasteful photoshoots and who knows what else.
The longer I live here, the more convinced I become that Quebec has a massive shortage of operations management professors, or just operations management professionals perhaps. Today was yet another failed example of Queuing Theory, or the mathematical study of queues or lines which "has applications in diverse fields, including telecommunications, traffic engineering, computing and the design of factories, shops, offices and HOSPITALS" (capital emphasis added by author).
Yes, as you can guess, we spent an entire morning in the hospital. We were first advised to arrive half an hour early for our 9:30 appointment, which, as good citizens, we did. Within five minutes my chart was created so I was in the doctor's waiting room by about 9:10. Then there is a process of tickets, lines and waiting. As we already experienced in other parts of the hospital. We took a ticket to "register" with the doctor (don't know why, since I had a set appointment). Then with a bare nod in our direction we were told to sit and wait. About 9:55pm, some 25 minutes late, I was called by my doctor.
There, things were well. The baby's heart is still beating at about 140bpm, and my uterus is about 20cm long, both in line with the number of weeks I'm pregnant (19 weeks and 2 days). I weigh 62.5 kg including my jeans, sweater, and shoes. Probably about the same as the most I've weighed naked. The doctor was her chirpy self and gave me a nice blue sheet to make a series of follow up appointments: one in four weeks time, the next another four weeks later and after that, every two weeks until about a month before the birth, then every week.
"Just go back and take a ticket," she smiled confidently, "and book all the appointments now."
But I think she didn't count on the fact that when I pulled a ticket back in the waiting room, there were some 13 people ahead of me in line. Mass confusion ensued. Some people had been waiting so long to "register" that their doctors called them before they got a chance to do so. Others, heavily pregnant or with babies, were being pulled in for weighing, measurements and vaccinations, and thus missed their number when it was buzzed. Still others, entirely confused about the system, kept going up to the window to be told that there were people waiting in front of them and they should take a ticket. And don't even get me started on the fact that the receptionists were (a) taking phone calls and (b) taking their breaks while there were some 20 people waiting in line.
I waited patiently for my number to be called, knowing that if I tried to phone them to make hundreds of appointments, I'd never get through nor would they ever phone me back.
Of course, by the time my number was buzzed, a flustered looking nasty woman was in no mood to book hundreds of appointments.
"Well, I can't do this now," she shouted at me, "I've got 23 people waiting in line."
"Yes, I know," I shot back, not about to be put off by a 5 foot dwarf pretending to be a Nazi. "I too, have waited for some 45 minutes so that I could make these appointments. Everyone is waiting. It's my turn now."
I don't think anyone has ever dared talk back to this woman. She seemed kind of shocked by my ire, and then actually apologized. She was very sorry, but could only book me for the next appointment, and someone would call me to make the rest. Only, once she'd booked me for four weeks hence, she claimed that I would have to make all the other appointments NEXT time I came in.
As if the queuing system will have improved by then.
I let it be, the Beatles song lyrics running through my head to calm me down. But next time, oh, next time, the dwarf will have my mother's blood that runs through my veins to contend with.
It was my mission this weekend and week to relax. On doctor's orders. So I cancelled all my meetings and a gym session and instead went on a walk on Saturday (a beautiful sunny day) with a friend and my dog. We ended up spending about 2 hours outdoors, at a slow walk, interrupted by occasional stops and of course, an ice cream, since this is probably one of the last summer days to enjoy something that cold in Montreal.
I declined my friend's offer to go shopping in the latter part of the afternoon, begging tiredness, and instead we hung out on my sofa and later went to a movie.
Sunday followed a similar pattern of late morning naps, and a trip back to the Bay so I could switch the newly purchased Betsey Johnson bras. Turned out when I tried them on at home, they were suddenly too tight around the back, leaving a sizable dent in my rib cage. With my newfound enthusiasm to be a responsible preggers woman, I decided to go up a size so instead of a very scary size of 32DD, I'm now a slightly more reasonable 34D. And still able to fit in the very pretty and comfie BJ bras.
The sales lady in the store roped me into getting a store credit card. So far I've resisted because at about 30% APR who really needs that kind of credit card. But she attacked me with it in French and I was so proud of my fluency that I obliged, realizing only to late it wasn't a POINTS card she was signing me up for, but a CREDIT card. Oh well, at least this one has about 4 times the limit of our other one and we can pay for something other than a tank full of gas with it. I'll just have to make sure to pay it off each month. Meanwhile, I'll happily be collecting points from the Bay, whatever those are good for.
My Monday routine followed the new resolution. I cancelled another gym session and my physiotherapist. Unfortunately, though, I couldn't get out of any more meetings, since I rescheduled all of the Friday ones to Monday. So Monday turned out to be only semi-relaxed. Instead of being able to stretch my body during the day, I ended up in my office, fielding phone calls, holding meetings, thinking about research, preparing for teaching (analyzing a case study and writing up my notes), trying to reach my own doctor, reaching my doc's assistant only to find out the only time she can see me is when I teach(!), finding a substitute professor for that class, and who knows what else. Hubby met me for lunch. I called my bro to say Happy Birthday. And came home Monday evening, completely exhausted.
Only to realize that hubby would be out all of Tuesday, the dog needed walking, and we had bought the wrong dog food. Hence, a very farty and smelly dog. As a diarrhea preventative (we have LOTS of that experience with our dog), we gave her some pills and they seem to have done the trick. I fed her some other food this morning, so that my day spent working from home wasn't going to be surrounded by sulphur-like gas.
Topping these days and the weekend, of course, was a series of student questions about wanting to get into my course (go see the registration people), having missed the first class because they "were on holiday" (too bad for you), and all else. Not putting me in the best teaching mood for Week 2 of classes. When will they learn that if you don't show up, you have no right to ask for anything?
So two days spent sitting doing work. Although today was less hectic than yesterday, I'm starting to feel an exercise withdrawal. But I'm sticking to my promise to the doc. Tomorrow, I'll field a set of questions to my own doctor, to find out what exactly I'm allowed to do, or not. I'm fairly certain that shouting at students would go into the "not" category.
After yesterday's mini-panic, we went for a follow up at the hospital today for an ultrasound, as suggested by the emergency room doc. We got there in plenty of time (half an hour early, in fact), and I hadn't peed for about 2 hours. Of course, they told me to come with a full bladder, so added to our early-ness and waiting time, it was a good 3.5 hours since the last bathroom visit by the time I got in to see a technician.
She showed us all sides of the baby, and all looked well. The heartbeat is normal, and the baby has two legs and two arms, ribs, a stomach, you name it. She checked its age by sizing the head and other body parts, and we're still exactly on track for a February 14th due date -- currently at 17 weeks and 4 days old. And ... she asked use if we wanted to know the baby's gender.
"Oh, sure!" I replied enthusiastically. In yesterday's preoccupation, I'd nearly forgotten that by now this would be possible.
She pointed to some little squiggle on the ultrasound picture -- looks like a boy. She did it again and confirmed her opinion. But warned: "We'll know for sure when you come back at 20 weeks."
So probably a boy. Really cool. I had a feeling this morning that they would tell us that.
Of course, we thought we were done now and ready to head out of the hospital. Not so fast, keen one. Nope. We were sent back to the emergency room to follow up with a doctor there. The information was to be faxed down.
So back we went. Yet another series of tickets, and registration, etc. It seems that wherever you go in the hospital, it requires a ticket-wait-register-wait-wait some more-see someone-wait-see someone else-wait, etc routine. Not that I truly minded. By this time my mind was at ease from hearing the heartbeat and seeing the ultrasound.
The wait was not impossibly long and it turned out that this doc (unlike yesterday) was a bit more thorough. He did an internal exam and also asked my blood type -- a critical factor that I'd forgotten about. I'm Rhesus negative meaning that if you have any bleeding you should get a shot of RhoGAM to prevent any difficulties for subsequent pregnancies.
You guessed it: more waiting while they ordered the drugs. Then, administered it, and asked me to wait another 15 minutes before leaving to make sure I didn't have some kind of adverse reaction.
Well, at least they were thorough and like yesterday, everyone was tremendously kind. I'm glad that my 50% tax rate goes to some decent things.
I've been giving some restrictions: no bouncing exercise, no lifting, no gym therefore. For now, it will be walks with the dog and skipping the personal trainers. I'm to follow up with my own doctor as soon as I can, which I will do.
All of this is fine by me. Mostly, we're both just extremely happy with the news today.
Today was a bit scary. I experienced some discharge, which is nothing unusual in any pregnancy, but in the past week, it has looked different. By noon, I also noticed some clotted blood. Alarm bells immediately started ringing in my head. Having gone through one miscarriage is enough to trigger panic based on tiny bits of evidence. And I don't know if it was my panic or a real symptom, but I started to feel some cramping in my lower belly.
So off to the doctor's walk-in clinic I went, around mid-afternoon. Luckily, I'm able to go to the university health centre, which has a relatively short waiting time compared to your average Quebec clinic. I took a ticket to registering for the walk-in appointment. Once called, I promptly burst into tears explaining what the matter was. The administrative person was a complete doll. She gave me tissues and said she'd rush me in to see a nurse. As promised, I didn't have to wait very long. The nurse, likewise, was a sweetheart. She tried to contact the hospital where my family doctor works and when that proved difficult, she ran to the nearest doctor in the clinic when she heard a door open in the hall. The doc prioritized my case and I followed her straight into her office.
The doc didn't seem too worried, but said it would be better if I went to the emergency room right away and try to get an ultrasound to confirm everything was ok. She even offered me a taxi receipt to get there, but by this time hubby had made it to the clinic and we drove ourselves to the hospital. Of course, by now it was about 3.15 in the afternoon and, as usual, traffic in Montreal was horrendous. We stupidly decided to follow the GPS's advice which routed us to the highway; it quickly became apparent that was going to get us nowhere fast. Some clever map reading and we made it to the hospital by 3.50 or so.
At which point, of course, I had to take another ticket to wait in line for triage. The lovely triage nurse, like the one in the clinic, was super sweet, although she did laugh at my doctor's note mumbling something like "the way she wrote this is ..." (my doc had underlined the word URGENT and ULTRASOUND TODAY about three times).
"I doubt you'll get an ultrasound today," the nurse said honestly. "They close at four." She glanced at the huge clock in the emergency room which indicated it was now 3.55pm.
But she promised that I'd get seen by a doctor and when hubby inquired about waiting times, she said I was coded as a level 3 priority, which I guess means that you'll be rushed through. Because a few minutes later, another lovely nurse was taking my blood and then took me to a more isolated spot to wait for my next call because I was crying again. The next call came almost right away - this one to put a hospital wristband on my arm. Only then did I notice that most other people in the waiting room had similar wristbands.
Then, I had to wait. For about 45 minutes. It was at this point that many different thoughts went through my head. Everything from recalling the last time I was in an emergency room, just after my miscarriage. And how I had just told almost everyone I know - even my students - about my pregnancy, and how sad it would be if something went wrong and I had to tell them. And numerous other things: like how I was better off than the poor sods being carried in on stretchers, or they guy in the wheel chair who looked about as sick as my dad had when he was dying of cancer. A hospital emergency wait room is an odd, odd place.
Eventually, I was called into one of the treatment rooms and asked to change into a gown. I kept my shoes on and put my sweatshirt back on too, as it was so darn cold. Hubby found me there with some food and magazines to pass the time.
Some 15-20 minutes later a doctor came in. He asked a few questions, basically didn't look too worried but asked if anyone had checked the baby's heartbeat.
"No. Not yet."
So he went and got the doppler. Within two seconds he found the heartbeat. And I can tell you that there was never a better sound in the world.
Up till this point, I had been stressing out that everything might have gone wrong. But hearing the heartbeat was solid evidence that things were probably ok. The doc asked me if I was due for an ultrasound soon.
"Not till October 1st," I replied. That would be my 20th week or so.
He began to say that it was probably fine to wait till then; that there was probably little difference. But something, I don't know what, stopped him mid-sentence and he said:
"It's probably better if you get one done tomorrow."
So, about 10 minutes later, having gotten fully dressed again, he came back with an ultrasound form and appointment time, and a new blue hospital card (not sure why I need a second one, but I guess I'll find out tomorrow).
The entire experience today left me exhausted. Once in the car, I felt all my muscles getting sore - perhaps I'd been holding a lot of tension in them. At home, I fell asleep for a little while.
This whole week has been way too stressful. Five hours of standing/talking/teaching yesterday on top of a successful party on Monday and the preparations several days before. Well, perhaps I just need to do less, eat more and rest. That's what I'll be doing for the foreseeable future.
Hubby has been wanting to take a pic of preggers me. So here it is. After a fairly average week of weather, we are having a beautiful weekend - so hot, in fact, that our personal trainer asked if we wanted to join him in a trip to a waterpark. Hubby thinks it will be too mobbed on a Sunday and past experience of Montrealers on hot days tells me he's probably right. So we're passing on the water park but maybe we will catch some more rays today. After all, summer is almost over.
I've been busy. After the conference was over, I had a sudden realization that it was less than three weeks before classes were due to start ... and that I still had two papers to finish and prepare for the arrival of my main co-author.
The thought of not using the two months that my co-author is visiting our school to the fullest, got the fire lit under my arse, and I started doing some real work. Or, at least, I tried to.
It was hard kicking back into full gear, weeks after slacking off due to morning sickness and general exhaustion. So I spent a few days moping around the house doing a few hours of work a day, and then taking off to enjoy the sunshine or do chores. Of course, this didn't do much to relieve the anxiety about having to finish a bunch of work.
So I spent an afternoon writing up a solid to-do list and plotting the dates on a calendar, which helped me to focus. I was all gung-ho to kick start the process on Monday. But I didn't count on fate. The very frustrating experience of trying to do your airmile filing and retroactively submitting boarding passes. First off, for some reason I didn't save all my boarding passes (unusual for me, but I blame e-tickets that don't look like boarding passes and therefore easily get thrown out). Next, I found out that one of my airline loyalty cards - apparently - was now inactive. Huh? But didn't I fly on this airline's loyalty program at least twice a year, and each time submit my card number. So when the hell did it run out and why didn't they tell me? The short of the long is that I have been unable to claim back some 20,000+ miles I collected on our trip to Asia in April. Bastards.
The frustration stayed with me for a few hours and was quickly reinforced the following day by other sources of frustration: our cleaner broke my bedside table and lamp (I luckily managed to rescue my wedding/engagement ring from the trash). I think we have the clumsiest cleaner in Quebec -- this must be about the sixth item she's broken over the past year. And a trip to the cleaning company's office revealed that the manager was out that day - marvelous.
In an attempt to replace said items, our "quick" run to Ikea turned into a 5 hour ordeal with traffic jams and random side-trips. I was more than annoyed. My grumpy disposition leaving hubby baffled and in the dog house for no reason.
So the only thing to do at that point was to get back to work. I spent the last two days hiding in my office, giving myself an eye-ache and a head-ache from manipulating data all day. That, of course, isn't ever a painless experience ... I've already had to redo things several times and there seems to be some sort of weird bug in my software. But at least it makes me feel happy to be working on it.
Finally yesterday was a slightly better day. It started off with a check-up at the doctor's office and I heard baby's heartbeat again, which once again pasted a smile on my face for the rest of the day. And, I also managed to find hubby a doctor - a minor miracle in this province.
Any residual grumpiness can be blamed on having to teach again soon.
It has been a big week. There was the conference, which lasted 5 days and as always, through the weekend. I spent a lot of my time and energy on attending workshops, symposia and presentation sessions. And I spent even more time catching up with friends, acquaintances and co-authors. I heard gossip about a professor emeritus stopping the dance floor with his moves in the Musee des Beaux Arts where one of the receptions was. And about my fellow colleague who got hit by a ladder that shot off the roof of a truck when he was crossing the road in front of one of the conference hotels (he's ok, but limping badly from a leg full of bruising).
In addition, I managed to catch up with my good friend and running buddy who was this year's president for the entire organization and conference (which hosted no less than 9,500 academics). After all, I had exciting news to share with him which would mean almost as much to him as it does to me and hubby ...
I'm 13 weeks pregnant.
Yes, it's exciting, scary, thrilling, new, weird, all of that. What makes it really great for us is that it's been just over a year since I miscarried Baby K. We had a long grieving period and we only recently started trying again.
Not surprisingly, both of us were happy, but cautiously so, for the first months. Every time I went to the bathroom, I checked for blood. Every twinge in my abdomen had me hold my breath. To the point where my osteopath told me to start breathing properly because my diaphragm and ribs were "in the wrong place". Eventually, I began to calm down and deal with the reality of the first trimester: nausea and vomiting, sudden exhaustion, bizarre pains in my hips and knees, and an increased need for thyroid hormones (my doc upped my dose).
But as the weeks passed, I got happier and happier. In the beginning, I welcomed the morning sickness and took it as a positive sign of things going well. While I tired of that very quickly, we heard a heartbeat around week 11 and it took all day for me to wipe the smile off my face, followed by prenatal testing last week - an ultrasound and blood. The ultrasound technician told us all looked normal, but we still had to await the blood results. Seems we are in the low risk category for two major birth defects, and we need no further testing.
I do love the Canadians. They're very relaxed about the pregnancy and I see my doc every 4 weeks. I've gotten great vibes from everyone we've told, and found out that I get 55, yes that's correct, 55 weeks off work (!!!) at 95% pay. Sometimes, academia is the best job in the world.
I'm now feeling less ill and generally relaxed about being pregnant. I have the occasional bout of anxiety, of course, but I just keep hoping all will be well.
Due date: Valentine's Day. What a romantic notion.