Life-isms

{End of November}

Reading:

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. I grabbed this when I saw it at a thrift store because it’s been on my to-read list for a while and the wait list at the library always seems to be pretty long. And it’s kind of a long book, so that makes the wait even longer. The plot bounces back and forth between WWII era and the present, and I think the two perspectives build well on each other. It’s hard to describe this book without spoilers (and you definitely don’t want it spoiled), but it’s an adult daughter trying to figure out her dying, dementia-ridden mother’s past, especially during the war years. Discovering your family’s heritage is a theme I always appreciate, so I really enjoyed it, but it felt a little longish–it was pushing 500 pages. But I’ve had less time to read lately, so maybe it was just my life timing that made it feel overly-long. 

Watching:

Stranger Things. It’s been a thing for forever (ok, maybe only since this spring), but we only do Netflix occasionally since we already do Amazon Prime and Sling and really don’t need all three at once. So we wait around for a good occasion to get Netflix for just a month. And an upcoming baby paired with winter seemed like a good time to mix up our options. I’m really liking Stranger Things (it’s sort of X Files meets Twin Peaks meets E.T.) but it sort of gives me anxiety. But once again, I think it’s more of a life-timing issue than a content issue. I mean, I’m getting ready for a newborn and Christmas simultaneously. Elevated anxiety levels are to be expected.

Listening to:

Hidden Brain podcast. I’d heard much about this podcast, but hadn’t really had the time to start listening. And then my beloved How to do Everything randomly came to an end, so I had a good excuse to start Hidden Brain from the beginning. It’s really good–shortish, entertaining, and smart with real-world applications.

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Life-isms

{End of October}

I’m a week late… it’s been an insane couple of weeks. I decided to do book 2 Suzuki training while I still only have one child–even though I’m taking a break from teaching for a while (between church callings, a toddler, and a newborn, I just literally have no time). I had to do 8 hours of observations of other teachers, and the due date snuck up on me. And that isn’t even code for “I procrastinated it.” The due date was several weeks sooner than I was expecting, so I ended up cramming all 8 hours in a two-week span. Fortunately, most of my students have already switched to other teachers so I have a tiny bit more expendable time, but still it was a herculean task to coordinate other teachers’ schedules with my limited schedule (considering I have a toddler to find a babysitter for). But it’s done now. Largely in part due to my mom randomly asking if she could come watch the small child. Heaven sent. And now I only have a billion other things to accomplish before the younger child comes. Oh, and there’s normal Christmas stuff to deal with as well. I’m considering adding “give up” to my to do list just in case. Anyway, here’s the brief rundown…

Reading:

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart. It’s the prequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society series (which I haven’t read yet), and I enjoyed it. It’s a kid chapter book, and it was a fun and smart read.

Listening to:

In the Dark podcast. It’s along the same lines as Serial season 1, but with a little less speculation and amateur sleuthing. But with good reason–this cold case was finally solved a week before the series was set to premier. They switched everything up to reflect this huge development remarkably well; it’s all so well told. It’s about the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling and the social and legal repercussions of his case.

Watching:

Spotlight on VidAngel. This movie is the true story of the Boston Globe’s investigation into the child sexual abuse cover-up scandal in the Catholic church. So very interesting (and sad). This movie is rated R, but with a few VidAngel filters it was pretty tame. I chose to keep the descriptions of sexual assault un-filtered (because that’s the whole point of the movie), and I didn’t think it was terribly disturbing–but I’ve heard many, many similar stories from various child welfare classes and in Good-Touch/Bad-Touch training, so maybe I’m not the best judge of that. I thought the descriptions were portrayed really respectfully (and sparingly), and they gave the message that there are safe places where victims can talk about horrendous things they’ve been through, which I think is important.

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Possibly Educational

You Don’t Have to Share a Room with Your Baby

Maybe this is just the perma-grouch stage of pregnancy talking, but I’m bugged by some of the (really pretty benign) articles about the new SIDS recommendations. Namely the ones that put emphasis on the room-sharing suggestion.

My issues with this go several layers deep, but let’s start shallow: The official AAP report all these articles are based on only dedicates 6 sentences to this specific suggestion. This isn’t a little report, people. Six sentences is a drop in the bucket. And half of those 6 sentences refer to room-sharing just in terms of being safer than bed-sharing. One sentence states the convenience of room-sharing, and just one sentence refers to a startling statistic with accompanying citations (but more on that in a moment). If the official report can’t come up with more than 6 (not particularly well articulated) sentences on this suggestion, it must not be that important. Even if this is the only new addition to the recommendations, it certainly doesn’t warrant a full article highlighting the change.

What the report does describe at length is the risks of bed-sharing and also the dangers of falling asleep while feeding/holding a baby. It also devotes at least a paragraph each to about a dozen other recommendations for parents, including prenatal care, breastfeeding, immunizations, pacifiers, avoiding cigarette smoke, avoiding alcohol, avoiding overheating, avoiding breathing/pulse monitors etc. Several of these recommendations I hadn’t heard of before! All of this information in one report and journalists are choosing to do an entire article on a flimsy 6-sentence excerpt?

But let’s go back to that impressive-sounding statistic I mentioned. “There is evidence that sleeping in the parents’ room but on a separate surface decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.” Fifty percent!? Wow, that’s a significant decrease! But compared to what? Compared to bed-sharing? Compared to sleeping in separate rooms? It doesn’t actually specify, but the difference changes the meaning of the stat drastically. And given how much they they talk about bed-sharing in the subsequent paragraphs (and in the statistic sentence itself) I’d guess there’s a 50% decrease in SIDS when parents aren’t bed-sharing. Just a guess, though. I looked through some of the citations and couldn’t find which one had the 50% number.

Also, a 50% reduction may not be as significant as it sounds. Potentially it could mean that in the sample there was one case of SIDS that room-shared and two cases that did not. Fifty percent reduction! In a sample of 20 total babies this is kind of a significant fraction (but only kind of–the sample size is much too small to apply any sweeping statements to the general population), but in a sample of 500, that ratio isn’t really a big deal. Percentages can be so misleading without the context of the actual numbers from the sample.

Let’s also talk a moment about the logistics of this kind of research. The best type of research is randomized and all the other potential factors are controlled for. So to prove that the location of the crib is better in the parents’ room, participants would be randomly assigned where to put the crib (at a predetermined, exact distance from either the parents’ bed or the parents’ room). And then everything else across the participants would have to be the same–same crib, same bedding, same pajamas, same temperature, same feeding, same immunizations… all of the known factors in SIDS would have to be the same, and there are tons. The crib location has to be the only difference in the participants in order to conclusively say whether the crib location (and no other contributing factor) impacts SIDS.

But I can guarantee none of the studies were conducted like this. Partly because it’s unethical, and partly because it’s impossible. When measuring risk, researchers can’t make random assignments. For example, when measuring the risk of smoking vs non-smoking, it’s unethical to assign someone to be part of the smoking group when it’s suspected that smoking has a negative impact on health. It has to be voluntary. Likewise, crib placement would be left up to the parents, along with all the other factors that may or may not contribute to SIDS. And ethics aside, it would be physically (and financially) impossible to ensure that every single factor is the same across all participants. It’s just too much–this is sci-fi territory.

So the best researchers can do is ask as many questions as possible about decisions parents make and hope to notice some trends. And even then, trends aren’t a slam dunk. Repeat after me the stats 1010 mantra: Correlation does not imply causation, correlation does not imply causation. Even if a researcher notes, “Hey, SIDS happens 50% less often in the people who room-share vs people who put babies in a separate room!” this doesn’t necessarily mean room-sharing itself reduces SIDS. It could be that in the sample, people who room-shared were also more likely to breastfeed than non-sharers, and breastfeeding caused the reduction. Or maybe the non-sharers just coincidentally happened to over-bundle their babies more often than room-sharers and that’s the cause. But more likely it’s a combination of multiple factors. Hence the medical mystery that is SIDS–apart from cases of suffocation, it’s not known what causes SIDS, so it’s also not known what prevents SIDS. It could be environmental and preventable, but it could also be something inevitable due to undiscovered physical problems with the baby.

Lastly, with all research complications and poor reporting aside, this recommendation of room-sharing is basically saying, “If you listen to your baby’s every breath while he sleeps, SIDS is less likely to occur.” Which is true, but not actually helpful advice. Constant, 100% vigilance is not a sustainable parenting method. It’s not possible! And frankly, it’s not safe. Sure, you might reduce the risk of SIDS by never sleeping, but you simultaneously increase the risk of car accident, falling asleep while holding the baby, forgetting the baby in the car, and just a multitude of bad decisions. As parents and human beings in general, we have to be ok with allowing a certain amount of risk in our lives, and in the grand scheme of things, the placement of a baby’s crib is a really low-risk parenting decision.

The point is: put the crib wherever works best for you, and don’t feel obligated to share the room because it’ll magically protect your baby from SIDS. Some parents prefer sharing a room with their babies–maybe the parents sleep better having them in the room or maybe they like the convenience. And some parents share out of necessity. But for some of us, not sharing a room works best. Do your thing.

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Life-isms

{Mid October}

Reading:

Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier. Based on the cover of the copy I got from my library, you’d guess this was a trashy paperback romance. Not so! It’s a spooky, mysterious modern Gothic. And it has (tasteful) romance, but I wouldn’t really call it a romance novel. There are a lot of parallels with Jane Eyre (a complicated, wealthy husband with a very hushed past, etc), but it definitely has its own spin. The narrator (who remains unnamed) is so likable and also a familiar flavor of insecure. My heart hurt for her during some of the things she felt and experienced.

I also finally (after 8 months) finished Don Quixote! I mostly listened to the audiobook checked out from the library, which meant sometimes I had to be on a waiting list for a while between checkouts. But even then it was 40 hours long! I wouldn’t read it again, but I can see why it’s important. It’s so very meta. Ironic, clever, funny, mocking, contradictory… you name it. Really pretty masterful. But if you read it, read the Spark notes.

Listening to:

One Last Thing Before I Go, Act 1: Really Long Distance by This American Life. I generally make a practice of avoiding tear-jerky things. Motherhood messed with my emotions and I just don’t want to feel the feels. But this story makes you love your fellow humans.

Working on:

Staining a stupid bed frame. Yeah. I’m fairly significantly pregnant and staining something. My husband and I had a miscommunication about which bed frame belonged in which room, and he took great pains in setting the already painted one up in the wrong room. And I didn’t want to put the ugly bed frame in Little Boy’s freshly painted bedroom (another situation where one small project inadvertently led to a much bigger project). And I had some leftover Polyshades from my bathroom vanity I redid a year ago… so that’s what I went with. Fortunately it’s a 2-in-1 stain and poly and you only have to sand the gloss off the existing finish, not strip it completely. So it’s not much different than paint. But geez. Not a fun job for the girl who struggles to get socks on her own feet. But it’s mostly done now. Apart from a few nooks my foam brush couldn’t reach. Jury’s out whether I’ll actually do that in the next year.

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Life-isms

{End of September}

Reading:

Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson. After reading Station Eleven, I was in the mood for something Shakespeare-related (Shakespeare plays make several cameos in that book), so I grabbed this one from the library. It sounds like it should be dry, but it’s Bill Bryson. He makes things pretty entertaining. In reality, it was an entire book about how little we know about Shakespeare, which sounds terrible. But it was actually super interesting. For example, just about anyone could recognize a portrayal of Shakespeare, but nobody actually knows what he looked like. The main paintings our mental image of him is based on are either poorly drawn or possibly not even of him. Crazy. 

Watching:

Protect Runway season 15. It’s back! This is the only show I follow fairly closely. That being said, I’m already behind.

Listening to:

What’s the deal with Stradivarius violins? by Stuff You Should Know. This was fascinating to me. But I also play the violin, so it figures.

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Life-isms

{Mid September}

Reading:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. All I knew about this book beforehand was that it was about a group traveling around in a post-apocalyptic scenario, so I was expecting it to be an action-packed thriller. And it was a page-turner, but not in the way I was expecting. It’s much more about the seperate characters’ stories and their (often unknown to them) connections to each other before and after everything changed. It’s a little bone-chilling  (which is to be expected since the story is centered around the fall of a civilization) but unexpectedly poignant and lovely.

Listening to:

Playing God by Radiolab with the Stuff You Should Know episode How Triage Works recommended (by me) as a prerequisite. Triage, especially in disaster situations, is such a complex moral dilemma. And it’s something I hadn’t even considered until these two episodes.

Watching:

The Busy World of Richard Scarry. I realized that my child would love Richard Scarry books, so we’ve been slowly going through Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever! And then I saw that a bunch of seasons of the TV show are on Amazon Prime, and now he looooooves that show. It wins out over Bob the Builder pretty often, which is high praise. It’s nostalgic for me because we had a Richard Scarry VHS tape of several episodes when I was growing up.

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Life-isms

{End of August}

Reading:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. This was her very first book (and the first in her Poirot series) and I can feel it a little bit. Still really good, but I didn’t like it as much as some of her subsequent work I’ve read. Mostly because the narrator (Hastings) is kind of obnoxious. I think he’s meant to be sort of like Watson, where Poirot is like Sherlock–sort of a bumbling little helper constantly trying to figure out what’s going on–but Doyle manages to carry off the character in an endearing way, whereas it doesn’t quite hit the right note with Hastings. But Hastings aside, it was a fun read. I’m tempted to make a goal of reading all of Agatha Christie’s work, but there are 80ish books, so I’m not sure I’m ready for that commitment yet.

Listening to:

This American Life’s “Are We There Yet” and “Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee.” Both episodes talk about refugees living in various camps in Greece, and it’s really interesting to hear their various perspectives. The part where they talk to the one (one!) lady in charge of taking the Skype calls for thousands of refugees trying to get asylum each day especially stuck out to me. She can only help a tiny portion of the people waiting to be helped, but is still so polite to each person and just keeps at it though it seems like her work will never ever be done.

Happy about:

KT Tape. Also called kinesio tape (KT Tape is just a brand–you find it at Target, etc.). Earlier this month I took my achievement day girls to a day camp (a cub scout camp near us hosts groups of girls on certain days), and the next day I was so sore from all the walking and standing. And for the next week my lower back and hips were so out of whack that I could barely walk. When I was pregnant the first time around I never really got uncomfortable until the last month or so, but then here I was only halfway through and completely miserable. A friend said her doctor suggested kinesio tape for her pregnancy aches and pains, so I found some  (the non-fancy kind is about $12 from Target), watched a bunch of videos, and stuck some to my back and one side of my hip, and it actually worked! You don’t really notice it or feel it while you’re wearing it, but it somehow magically works. I wore it 4ish days, and I think I kept it on a day too long because I got a bit of a rash in a few spots, but I was on vacation and didn’t want it to start hurting again (plus it was still sticking just fine). But it’s continued to feel pretty good even after taking it off, so it was well worth the minor itching.

Enduring:

Potty training. We started at the beginning of July and (pretty literally) day 4 went about as well as day 40 (and not in a good way). But then we hit day 53 last week and completely unexpectedly it clicked. We had a great week and only had a couple little accidents. And then yesterday went off like the past week had never happened. And after cleaning up an accident that I’ll never be able to unsmell (second major one of the day) I thought I was going to lose my mind. But we watched some Bob Ross (Bob the Painter, as he calls him) together and felt a little better. Those potty accidents? They’re happy little trees now. Or something like that.

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