News in brief

I’m home for the day with Spud while his nanny is at an appointment. We ran a lot of errands this morning, capped with half an hour at the park as a reward for us both (it was meant to be longer, but.. errands).

Some funnies from the last few weeks:

Spud: watching a lawnmower across the way: Na-nu! Na-nu! Vrrrroom. Vrrroom!
Me: Yes, that’s a lawnmower. A laawwwwwwnn mohhhhhwerrrrr.
Spud: looking at me very seriously Naaaaaaaaaa-nuuuuuuuuuuu

Pea: I think I’m going to have to buy the big Millenium Falcon LEGO.
Me: The big one? (note, it is 5 feet across when assembled!)
Pea: Yes! I’m going to have to. No choice.
Me: The small one you already have just won’t cut it, hey?
Pea: Well, I was already thinking about getting the big one, and then it went out of stock and out of print. But it is back! I am worried I will miss it.
Me: laughing  Oh dear! Yes, best get it then.
Pea: delighted wiggle dance

Whoops, Spud just woke up. More later. This was, at least, a 2 hr 45 min nap in which I edited a paper that is this close to submission.


freedom from tyranny

Or in my case, the pump.

Today is the first day I’ve left for work since July 4th of last year that I haven’t brought the pump with me. That I haven’t carved 30-90 minutes out of my day to sit, in the dark, in my office, serenaded by the whump-whirr of the motor. That I won’t have to package everything up to take home, to scald milk carefully to between 165-180 F, to wash all the little bits and bobs in hot soapy water, and leave them to air dry until they can be packaged up to go back to work the next day.

It has been approximately 245 days of pumping, not including random extras when I was away from Spud for travel or fun.

Spud has been without breast milk during the day for two weeks now, but I’ve still been pumping to rebuild the freezer stash for my week away at the end of June. He’s taken to it with no complaints, but does seem hungrier in general. We feed him almond milk during the day as a calcium-infused water – there’s not much to it nutritionally, but it’s a nice white and creamy replacement to ease the transition.

I pumped over a 24 hour period this week while away at a workshop, for a grand total of 10 ounces! Down from 18 oz/24 hours in mid-April! I was pumping twice in the day then, but morning and evening pumps were both several ounces larger than they are now. I think Spud has been ratcheting down his intake simultaneous to my dropping one pumping session in the day, or perhaps my supply is just tanking on its own. I’m distraught that it is less, but also know that less is where we are aiming right now, so am resigned to it.

I am not sorry in any way to see the pump retired*, but I am still a bit sad to see this aspect of my role as mother beginning to wane.


* until the week after next when I’m away for a conference and will pump morning and night for five days, ha. Sigh.


On Monday I spent a bunch of time running around trying to get some samples shipped to a lab in a nearby city. It was tricky because I had to leave for a workshop the next day, and so wasn’t going to be there in the morning to pack them on ice. How much ice to survive two days instead of one? Would the samples be ok? I packed them up, left them at the parcel drop off, and hoped for the best. To do item complete!

The next day, I got ready for the workshop, hopped in the car, and drove to the very building that I had just shipped the samples to. I only realized that I could have just brought the samples with me and dropped them off in person once I was halfway there.

I compartmentalize intensely, but I have never before done so so thoroughly as to miss an obvious and impeccable solution to a thorny problem!

I felt quite silly.

The samples arrived safely, and the workshop went well, but it’s still pretty funny.

Never did like riding

We are getting back on the horse.

Pea and I have a wedding in Hilly Quirky in mid-October, two dear friends. It feels very convenient to extend that trip to allow us to visit other dear friends, for Pea to work in the main office of Golden Company for a bit, for me to perhaps finish the one outstanding project with my former supervisor, and for us to try an embryo transfer.

I asked my mother to block that week just in case this all worked out, as we’d bring her with us to help balance Spud. She likes Hilly Quirky. She likes Spud. She likes being helpful. She flies for free. A good plan, and one she was very amenable to*.

I reached out to my clinic about timelines, and nursing, and feasibility of international coordination. They wrote back using their password-protected secure email system and the sight of the login prompt made my heart clench hard.

The upshot is, in chronological order:

  1. I will have to wean Spud by end of July, when he is 19 months old
  2. I will start birth control somewhere at the end of August, estrogen in late September. Lupron wasn’t in the protocol, so I’ve asked about that
  3. We will fly to Hilly Quirky a few days pre-wedding, for a lining check ultrasound
  4. Assuming all is well**, we would do a transfer the next week, and fly home a few days later. Spud flew that flight while busily burrowing, so I feel ok with that aspect

There are a lot of things I don’t like about this plan.

I don’t want to force Spud to wean. He’s gradually reducing his requirement for milk, but he’s still very much interested in nursing. I am less and less interested, so I think we would hit a breaking point eventually, but I could see myself being stubborn well past September if Spud was still on board.

I only have ~three months before I’m back on medication, and that seems blindingly soon. Not least because I recently used a fancy pharmacy kiosk to determine that my body fat percentage is way above where it should be, let alone where I want it to be. I want to be fitter than this if I’m going into another pregnancy. I want to be fitter than this in general, but a three month timeline to a pregnancy is a decent sized bonfire under my flobby butt.

I’ll be looking at essentially back-to-back restricted diets, which is supremely annoying. At least some cheese will be back on the table. Literally.

I am sad I’m not likely to have time for a natural cycle to reassert itself, should it wish to. I am NOT sad to step away from the “will I/won’t I” mindf**k that is hoping to ovulate.

Reasons why we are going to pursue this plan:

  1. We both feel the earlier the better for starting this second try, as we are both older, and we know it might take some time, especially with coordinating cross-country transfers***
  2. Two fertility clinics lost their embryos this month, sooooo maybe we should get ours out of storage while they are still viable? Terrifyingly, one was the clinic we had gone to for all the IUIs, but swapped to our current one for IVF because of Pea’s insurance. It is very clear that it could have been us losing our embryos suddenly.
  3. It is very convenient as we will already be in Hilly Quirky, and the timing of the pregnancy would be excellent for my teaching schedule and current commitments. June is a nice quiet spot in the year here, an easy time to step away for a while.

I am not at all sure I am ready for a second child. We are both fairly sure we do want a second child, and we are both positive we want to at least try for one. Based on my visceral stress reactions to this whole conversation with the fertility clinic, I’m not sure I’d ever naturally become ready, so I don’t think postponing would really change anything about how I’m feeling.

I am even less ready for this to fail, or for this to go down the familiar road of half-failure. I wonder if it would be easier, because I have Spud, or harder, because I have Spud. I can see it going both ways. Or perhaps it is always its own tragedy, unconnected to other facets of life. Hopefully I won’t find out.

Saddle up.


* “Ooooh it’ll be migration season!” Good birding, and you’ve got my mother in the palm of your hand and in the bush.

** hands up if you think all will go smoothly! sits on hands  Siiiiiiiigh.

*** we are both currently agreed that no new egg harvesting will happen. These three embryos and any natural cycle should it appear are fair game, but no fresh IVFs. We agree. Right now. I can see Pea wavering on this later, perhaps, but I genuinely do not think it will make mathematical (we will have tried with FIFTY ONE eggs and nine embryos at that stage), physical, or career sense for me to do another full IVF. We’re both much less invested in this than we were in the first trial (right now), so I think we’ll have a very different stopping point. I don’t know where the stopping point was for Spud’s try – we were nearing it when he caught.

Setting the bar

My chair and I have been putting together a set of metrics for renewal of my fancy chair – a study in conflicts of interest that I wrote about here previously.

As it developed, more and more categories were added, as we sought to cover what counted as “excellence” and “leadership” and what would quantify the potential to develop into a scholar with an international reputation.

Along the way, I felt a growing sense of apprehension, watching the bar rise and rise and rise. I challenged a few of the metrics (with data! Because I have no power in this, really, and so have to illustrate my point with graphs!*). I increasingly felt like I was being set up to fail – many of the metrics were well beyond what I felt was reasonable for pre-tenure, and to merit “above average” in all of them would require unmitigated excellence and a hefty dose of luck. I mentioned these concerns, repeatedly. We came up with a weighted scoring plan that made it a bit better, but some of my concerns had not been allayed.

This process came up in an unrelated conversation with some colleagues. One took me aside after and offered to put me in touch with someone who recently stepped off the renewals board for the fancy chairs program. We reached out to this person, and they assessed our renewal metrics. Their (only very slightly paraphrased) reply: what on earth is this? Why are YOU doing this and not your research office? Why would you ever NOT request a renewal, it is win-win? So then why do you need internal metrics to determine if you request a renewal? Your metrics are insane, and way above what is expected for renewal. Also your categories are crazy, and half of these things will be seen as negatives by the chairs program because you are meant to be focused on research.

Readers, I am much relieved. My chair and I are off to talk to our research office to figure out the disconnect between what they are asking of us and what the chairs program will ask of me.

This has been a considerable waste of time and a low-lying source of stress (only low-lying because (a) my chair is nice but not essential, and (b) it is in literally everyone involved’s best interests that a renewal be applied for, so I couldn’t see me being scored badly even if I was just average or even below). BUT I am a die-hard straight-A student, and having a (semi-impossible) list of things I have to achieve was bound to cause problems for me, so I’m very pleased we are revisiting it.


* one such – that my citation count would increase by 10% each year, a metric I have absolutely NO control over, and which handy graphs illustrated was not the case for any of the pre-tenure or tenured folk in my department, including the other research chair. Nor would one expect this to occur – citations are not a linear accrual, they build in fits and starts. But times this metric by 25 and you had the growing list of ridiculous things I was meant to achieve in the next two years.

How now, brown cow?

Spud’s language is exploding! It’s really fun. A great many of his words are not intelligible to anyone beyond myself, Pea, and our nanny (e.g., a Mork-ish “Na-nu! Na-nu!” means lawnmower and “da-dun” is downstairs). An almost equal number are clear as a bell to anyone who wanders by (Spud exclaims “Bubble!” to passerby while chasing jumbo bubbles around on the lawn, and his “dump truck” is clearer and clearer each day). At current count, Spud has ~50 words, with new ones daily. “Watermelon” was yesterday’s, and “green” popped up this morning.

An unexpected consequence is that I’m really bad at saying no to Spud if he asks for something and uses the right word, because it is SO CUTE. But we can’t have mango after every meal (“Mingu!” emphatic pointing “Mingu! Miiiiiiinguuuuu!”), not least because we don’t always have mango in the house. If Spud wakes up at 2 am inconsolable from teething pain (canines! how are they worse than molars!), we send Pea in to maintain our night weaning. It is NOT EASY listening to Spud wail “milk! mum! MILK! MUM!”, and if I go in because Pea has already settled him once or twice, well… night weaning shmight weaning.

My absolute favorite is how Spud will light up when he sees Pea – “Da”, he says, smiling and pointing. “Da!” He will then turn and lightly touch my nose “Mum”. And if we ask who he is, he’ll point at himself and say “Tus”, which is pretty close and entirely adorable.

Service providers

I fired our diaper service two weeks ago.

I’m firing our lawn service today.

I liked our diaper service. I thought our lawn guys were fine, if sometimes rough around the edges (of the lawn).

In the month preceding my firing of the diaper service, our “50 diapers a week” order was delivered as 20, 30, 40, and 20 diapers. We never had any warning that we’d be short. I called each week to mention the shortage and request more diapers. They were never able to deliver more, and instead credited my account the shortfall, but I had to call each time for that to happen. They put a note in bold on my account that we really did need 50 diapers the second time it happened, to no avail. When I fired them, nicely, the customer service person admitted they had a severe diaper shortage of that size. “That would have been ok”, I said, “as long as you guys told us what was going on and what we should expect – if we knew it was going to be 30 diapers for two months while you sorted it out, and you charged us for 30 diapers, we’d still be clients”. She agreed. She mentioned there was a two week cancellation period, to which I pointed out we were short 90 diapers in the past month, roughly equivalent to two weeks of service. She agreed, and waived the cancellation period.

Pea and I then discovered the other diaper service in our area has gone out of business, and we are now in a conundrum as to what to do. Right now Spud is in disposables while we figure it out, which is less than ideal.

Learning from this mistake, I’ve called around to a few other lawn services to get quotes before I cancel my lawn guys.

This morning, I walked into the backyard to let the main supervisor lawn guy know that we need him to park so that he doesn’t completely block either our or our neighbour’s driveway (there is lots of space in front of our house, it is a very bizarre choice to park across a driveway). Last week he blocked my neighbour in when they needed to get to work. This week he blocked my nanny out, so that she had to park on the street – she can’t move her car until Spud is napping, so this is not ideal. That’s not a fireable offense though, obviously. However, when I got into the backyard, I surprised the lawn guy PEEING IN MY BACK GARDEN.

So they’re out. But I’ll hire new ones before I fire them to avoid a jungle of a backyard equivalent to our current diaper dilemma.