So today was an eventful day. I've been having a lot of lower back pain lately, particularly this past week, so I finally called the doctor about it. I talked to her nurse (whom I love) and she spoke with the doctor and said that the doctor wanted me (us) to go to Labor and Delivery (L&D) at the hospital to "get checked out." It was like, "Oh, ack! That's not the answer I was expecting!" Well I'll jump to the end of the story now to reassure you that everything is just fine. The doctor was concerned that I might be in preterm labor or having contractions, which at this stage in the pregnancy can feel like, and be mistaken for, lower back pain. Good news is that there were no contractions and the pain is just musculoskeletal, so Biff is fine.
We arrived at L&D but the observation room is very small so they didn't initially allow Kevin in. Which I think may have been a blessing at first, since the woman in the bed next to me was in labor and was clearly in a lot of pain. Fortunately (for her) she ended up with an epidural and being admitted. I got hooked up to the baby monitor to detect contractions. It was funny when they tried to find Biff's heartbeat with the doppler. They found it, and then he kicked the monitor, so they moved it, and he kicked it again, and then they moved it again and he kicked it again. The nurse laughed and said, "Oh, he doesn't like to be poked!" Unfortunately we haven't been able to get him to repeat the trick at home. He is pretty active and if you have your hand on my stomach at the right time you can feel him, but we haven't been able to get him to kick consistently for Kevin. I'm sure that will come as he gets bigger.
I had a very thorough exam with a very nice 4th-year med student (yay teaching hospitals! It was just like Stanford! Haha) who put me through my paces trying to determine the source of the pain--bend this way, bend that, lift your legs, etc. etc. The final diagnosis is basically just musculoskeletal pain. The unfortunate thing is that there's not a lot they can do about it. At the hospital they gave me a muscle relaxer and that was niiiiiiiiiiiice. Certainly helped a lot there! But obviously that's not a permanent solution! So the doctor suggested hot/cold compresses, getting a maternity belt (basically a belt to hold up the baby), and trying physical therapy for some stretching and strengthening. I was exhausted when we got home so I wasn't able to follow up with my doctor today, but I'll call tomorrow to discuss physical therapy. Hopefully the insurance will cover it!
Anyway, that was today's 3 hours in L&D. Hopefully the next time we go we'll come back with a baby!
My dad thinks I should lighten up about the overstimulating toys thing--hahaaha. He's probably right :).
So yesterday I decided that it was long past due to take care of the dogs' nails. Now both dogs absolutely hate to have their paws handled, let along their nails touched. We're talking trauma of the highest degree. With Scout, she's small enough that we can take her to Petsmart and Kevin can get her in a headlock and the groomer there can trim her nails. But with Digory--no can do. He's bigger and stronger and will just not tolerate the nail trim. We have had to take him to the vet and have him sedated every time we want to trim his nails, which is not only not very healthy for the dog, it's expensive.
So somewhere along the way we saw on the internet that you should try grinding your dog's nails down with a Dremel. The explanation made sense. Dog nails have a quick that is obviously painful if you cut into it (and doesn't stop bleeding, either), but even if you don't cut the quick itself, squeezing the nail with the clippers compresses the quick and also hurts. The Dremel, however, merely grinds down the nail itself and doesn't actually hurt. People swear by this method, even claiming that they can grind their dogs' nails while it's sleeping. Which, sorry, it's still a loud tool.
Anyway, we have had some success in the past with the Dremel so we decided to go for it yesterday. Kevin got Digory up on the coffee table in a headlock while I viciously attacked his toe nails. Digory was not happy about this. Kevin got completely scratched up before it occurred to him to put Digory in his car harness (which, because he's an escape artist, is essentially a search-and-rescue harness with a handle on the back so you can dangle him in midair, which is very embarrassing). Anyway, we got him in the car harness and back into the headlock and I managed to get both of his front paws done, excluding his dew claws. At that point he was struggling so much, emitting horrible tortured noises, and was so worked up we thought we'd give him a break.
Scout had foolishly shown a great deal of interest in what was happening, so we decided to attack her next, thinking she'd be much easier. She wasn't. She was only easier because she's smaller and it's easier to control her while you hold her. However, the good news is that we did get all 4 paws and the dew claws done! The bad news is that due to her struggling, I am now of the Walking Wounded, as she'd yank her foot away at the last possible moment and I'd Dremel my hand instead of her toe nail. Ouch.
We gave up after that (I was bleeding) so we still have to go back and do Digory's back legs and his dew claws, but on the whole, I'd have to call the Dremel a success. It was traumatic, but it got the job done, and it was free, which sure beats sedating Digory every couple of months. I suspect that most dogs would take more kindly to the Dremel than ours did, but really, if we can Dremel Digory, you can Dremel any dog.
Except for maybe a Newfoundland.
My poor computer has, I believe, suffered from overstimulation. In other words, it's on its last legs. There was a brief period of panic two days ago when it refused to turn on, but we finally eventually got it to boot up and transferred all important information over to Kevin's external hard drive. Now it's really struggling, so we will either get a new computer or a new hard drive for this one very shortly.
Meet Jacques the Peacock:
Jacques scares me. Jacques makes me want to pack it all up and move to Amish country. Jacques makes me want to ban anything with a battery from the house (Jacques doesn't even take a battery!) and find a cave to live in.
Jacques is extraordinarily popular.
I look at this small toy and as an adult I am overwhelmed. Could they possibly cram anything else onto a single toy? The above picture doesn't show it, but Jacques' back is covered in various black and white patterns, since we all know that newborns only see contrast, or something. Here's a picture of Jacques' butt. Anyway, just looking at the picture, I can count over 25 different elements, and that's just his front. If Jacques were a Christmas ornament, he'd be the one made by the child so taken with all of the pretty things on the table that she glued as many sequins, sparklies, doo dads, fuzzy balls, pipe cleaners, foam pieces, and as much glitter as she possibly could onto that one piece (that child would have been me, by the way).
Is more really better?
I don't see a toy that makes me want to grab it and explore every visually appealing aspect. I see a toy that makes me want to say, "STOP THE MADNESS!!!" And lest you think Jacques is an anomaly, he is joined by an entire line of "Lamaze" toys made by Learning Curve that share the same features, including whatever the hell this is supposed to be. I don't know where Lamaze changed from a childbirthing technique to a line of terrifying toys, but I suspect Dr. Fernand Lamaze is doing some hyperventilated breathing from the Great Beyond at this.
To me, Jacques looks less like a toy and more like a lot of visual noise. Which makes the product description from Amazon all the more puzzling:
Stimulates Baby's Vision and Auditory Skills When babies are first born, they see in black and white. This is why the Play and Grow Peacock strikes a balance between bright, high contrast patterns that help stimulate baby's vision, and bold solid colors that give baby's eyes a place to rest. Sounds like crinkle, squeakers and jingles also help stimulate and develop baby's auditory skills. Finally, large, friendly eyes on the Play and Grow Peacock invite baby to focus and stare at a single object, which helps calm baby while supporting healthy eye development.
Are they seriously saying that any aspect of this toy is visually calming? Seriously???
Why yes. Yes they are.
So all that said, it should seem like a no-brainer. As an adult I find this toy overstimulating. Shouldn't it be doubly more so for an infant? But here's the thing--the only thing greater than the number of features this toy has is the enthusiasm of parents who wholeheartedly endorse it. Both Babies R Us and Amazon feature product reviews, and nearly all reviews of Jacques are gushing. Parents go on and on about how this is their child's favorite toy, how their faces light up when they see it, how it makes them smile, and so on and so forth. (well, one reviewer on Amazon called it "Lame and boring"--I'll just present that without comment). One reviewer on Babies R Us paints a particularly vivid picture:
When I bought this toy and introduced it to my daughter at 6 weeks, I only showed her Jacques' backside which has black and white patterns on each 'feather' and his red backside. Newborn babies like black, white and red - it's easy for them to see. A week later I slowly turned Jacques to reveal his ultra colorful front profile and her eyes got sooooo big~ It was priceless~
Every time I read this I can't help but picture a thought bubble over the baby's head saying, "OH MY F-ING GOD--WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING???" as its colorful side is being dramatically turned around and revealed. But I digress.
On the whole I really tend to trust my Spidey Sense, and my Spidey Sense tells me loud and clear that this toy is way over the top. But at the same time, I'm fully aware that I don't actually have a child yet. And those who have children seem to love this toy so much they're buying them for all of their friends. So am I the one who's wrong here?
Going back to my earlier entry on Baby Einstein, I'm struck again by the quote about how babies' minds are being programmed to expect a high degree of stimulation, and in comparison, reality is boring. To my perception, Jacques is merely the stuffed animal equivalent of overstimulating Baby Einstein videos. Obviously a normal teddy bear can't hold a candle to Jacques. Training a newborn to expect that every square centimeter of a toy should be New! Different! Bright! Exciting! surely sets them up for disappointment later.
Unrelated studies indicate that most babies tend to filter out extraneous stimulation so toys like Jacques are harmless--the baby takes what he needs and discards the rest. However, those studies are far from comprehensive, and aren't focused on children's toys necessarily. It's well-known that some babies are more sensitive than others and can't filter out overstimulation. The next question then becomes: are we creating hypersensitive children because we're overstimulating them? I have to wonder if the children who love Jacques according to their parents' reviews would have been equally happy with a regular, boring stuffed animal?
And moving beyond the overstimulation issue--or actually broadening it--what are the larger implications? Jacques is so visually stimulating that the normal human face is completely boring next to it. But actually, the normal human face is extremely complex. We convey hundreds of emotions and messages through nonverbal, facial expressions. Most of these, however, are very subtle. A furrowed brow, pursed lips, narrowed eyes--each of these are part of a larger set of social communication tools we use. But back to Jacques--everything about Jacques is so exaggerated and in-your-face (so to speak--heh). It's so obvious. It's so right there. You don't have to look for it. We assume visual stimulation is a good thing--that it helps babies activate visual centers of their brains. But if we present so much information--so much that's right out there and obvious--are we training babies to shut down parts of their brains, removing any challenge in finding meaning? If so, are we actually training babies to become visually lazy? If babies become accustomed to everything being right there in the clear, then are we discouraging them from learning how to look harder to recognize subtleties?
A child who can't recognize subtleties in human facial expressions is a child who is set up for social problems as he or she grows. Because nonverbal communication is such a huge part of the way we interact socially, any child that struggles with correctly "reading" nonverbal cues is a child who struggles with all kinds of interpersonal and social communication. This is not a good thing.
So basically I'm saying that Jacques the Peacock causes Autism.
No, not really. But I do wonder about the overall picture here. We know that babies can be overstimulated. We know that overstimulation is a bad thing. But what are the larger impacts of overstimulation, moving beyond sleeping problems or temper tantrums? What are the causes of overstimulation? How much is too much? Beyond the obvious (television), what can I as a parent do to regulate stimulation?
I think we may have to move to Amish Country after all. I've heard it's beautiful in the fall.
I just finished reading a very interesting book, Parenting, Inc. by Pamela Paul, about the Baby Industrial Complex. Well back up a second--I actually just went shopping with my friend Sherri to Babies R Us to set up a baby registry (which I then transferred most items to our Amazon registry because if we buy a certain amount from our Amazon registry we can get 6 months of free diapers). Lord have mercy, there is so much shit you can buy for a baby! As Paul breaks down in her book, most of that stuff was created not out of filling a need the baby already has, but creating a need to sell a product.
One thing Paul spends a lot of time talking about is the recent need of parents to have smart babies. Not just smart babies--genius babies. I know from having this discussion with many other mothers that a lot of parents will buy just about anything if it claims to be educational. A primary example of this would be the Baby Einstein videos (and accompanying toys and whatnot). For those of you not in the know, Baby Einstein is a set of videos with various themes marketed toward the under 3 crowd with the express purpose of teaching the infant about valuable things such as music and reading. I've always been skeptical of Baby Einstein, so I was not surprised in the least to read an article from Time.com, published last year, about how not only is Baby Einstein not helpful, it actually can be harmful. Some excerpts:
Led by Frederick Zimmerman and Dr. Dimitri Christakis, both at the University of Washington, the research team found that with every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos. These products had the strongest detrimental effect on babies 8 to 16 months old, the age at which language skills are starting to form. "The more videos they watched, the fewer words they knew," says Christakis. "These babies scored about 10% lower on language skills than infants who had not watched these videos."
This doesn't surprise me, because a video does not provide feedback. Every hour a baby spends in front of the tv screen is one less hour he or she spends face-to-face with a human speaker who can not only speak, but validate and reinforce a child's efforts.
Mounting evidence suggests that passive screen sucking not only doesn't help children learn, but could also set back their development. Last spring, Christakis and his colleagues found that by three months, 40% of babies are regular viewers of DVDs, videos or television; by the time they are two years old, almost 90% are spending two to three hours each day in front of a screen. Three studies have shown that watching television, even if it includes educational programming such as Sesame Street, delays language development. "Babies require face-to-face interaction to learn," says Dr. Vic Strasburger, professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "They don't get that interaction from watching TV or videos. In fact, the watching probably interferes with the crucial wiring being laid down in their brains during early development."
No surprises here either. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 2 watch zero television.
As far as Christakis and his colleagues can determine, the only thing that baby videos are doing is producing a generation of overstimulated kids. "There is an assumption that stimulation is good, so more is better," he says. "But that's not true; there is such a thing as overstimulation." His group has found that the more television children watch, the shorter their attention spans later in life. "Their minds come to expect a high level of stimulation, and view that as normal," says Christakis, "and by comparison, reality is boring."
Overstimulation is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. Why is it that kids these days can't sit still? And how can I raise one who can? I think overstimulation from a very young age is a big part of the problem. More on that later.
A year ago today my beloved grampa, Theodore "Ted" Rosiak, passed away at age 94. Although I am saddened that he never got to meet our soon-to-be-here son or our daughter from China, he is very much alive in our hearts and memories. Rest in peace, Grampa. We love you and miss you.
(I created this video last year)
I have spent an inordinate amount of time reading all about ways to tie shoelaces and lace shoes at this site: http://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/index.htm . I tie my shoes using the "around the tree" method while Kevin uses the "bunny ears" method. I also double-tie them because they tend to untie easily, though I experimented with this knot on one of my shoes today and found that it held just as securely. I don't know why this site is so fascinating, but it truly is. Visit it.
So I decided to make my own buffalo wings tonight. I got everything all set up, had my oil all bubbling hot, and opened the bag of chicken only to realize I accidentally grabbed the chicken drumsticks and not the chicken drumettes. So...*sigh* I had wings from a Very Large Buffalo tonight.
Wonder why your marriage is falling apart and your life sucks? This song explains it all!