Throne of Jade

Throne of Jade begins with the immediate separation of Will Laurence and Temeraire after the revelation that Temeraire is a Celestial, one of the rarest dragon breeds in the world. Celestial dragons are only permitted to be companions to the Chinese royal family and the Chinese government is furious that Laurence has become Temeraire’s captain. The Emperor’s envoy demands that Temeraire be returned immediately but grudgingly agree to allow Laurence to accompany the Chinese entourage back to China with Temeraire.  During the voyage, violent storms, crew unrest and murder plots keep the action interesting. But when they arrive in China Laurence must face the biggest danger yet to his relationship with Temeraire.  This book is nearly as exciting as the first, but lacking many of the minor characters, such as the other dragons of Temeraire’s formation, that helped to make the first book so engaging. However, intrigue, espionage and explorations of Chinese draconic roles provide wonderful background on the treatment of dragons worldwide and additional dimension to Temeraire’s personality.


Kathryn Blundell’s Attitude is Much Creepier than Breastfeeding Could Ever Be

The true irony of feminism is when it actually manages to demean women. I understand how the roots of feminism began with the desire for equality and opportunity. But somehow the belief that women are equal to men in intelligence and ability has been replaced with the goal of being as truly “free” as men. So instead of being women we end up becoming men with breasts.

The comments of Kathryn Blundell are truly disturbing not because this woman chose to formula feed her children, but because of the reasons she gives. First of all, it reeks of insecurity. Someone who feels she has made the right decision to formula feeds her children simply does so, and doesn’t feel the need to constantly defend herself.  But she describes breastfeeding as creepy. She can’t seem to separate the nutritional and sexual purposes of breasts. This is not a sign of a liberated enlightened woman, but that of an oversexed insecure woman who seems to value the ability to drink in excess over her desire to nurture and bond with her child.

I believe that breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby, and in many cases the easiest. But I also know that for some women it is not feasible. I think that many of the difficulties that cause women to quit breastfeeding could be solved by better education and support, but I understand that for some women it just isn’t possible whether for health reasons or job situations that make pumping during the day unworkable. But never would I consider this woman’s disturbing reasons for rejecting breastfeeding to be legitimate ones.

First of all, you can drink occasionally in moderation while breastfeeding, especially once your child is on some solid foods. But clearly this woman wants to drink regularly and to an excessive level not conducive to breastfeeding, though I would find such high levels of alcohol consumption as incompatible with caring for a child as I would with breastfeeding. Formula feeding your child will not protect him or her from the behavior of an intoxicated parent.

For some women, breastfeeding can put a damper on their sex lives. But this is partially related to the relationship between a woman and her husband. Barring an infection of some kind, breastfeeding doesn’t cause any pain that would hamper an intimate relationship, except perhaps during the early weeks, and let’s face it, most women aren’t much in the mood during the first two or three weeks after delivery anyway. Plus, there are those pesky doctors’ orders that recommend that intimate relations be suspended until at least six weeks postpartum. Yet this woman seems to think of breasts as sexual items first and nutritional items second, if at all.

By putting down breastfeeding, she is actually diminishing her own femininity, and setting herself up as a sexual object rather than a complete woman with multiple roles including those of mother and lover. By insisting that her breasts belong to only one of those roles she devalues the other. These are symptoms of a larger problem with what feminism has become. Instead of giving women choices, feminism now dictates how a woman must behave if she wants to be seen as liberated. But if we must give up all that makes us feminine to be liberated, then we have simply shackled ourselves to a different culture than that which enslaved women in past centuries.

She’s Weaned, She’s Sleeping, and Life is Glorious

My daughter is officially weaned. It has been almost four weeks since she nursed last. The remnants of whatever varieties of breast infections that drove the weaning seem to have subsided, along with any post weaning blocked ducts. After two weeks of sleep training, my daughter seems to be finally sleeping through the night and napping as well. After 13 months of sporadic cat naps and multiple night wakings, she now sleeps from 8:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. and takes two, hour and a half long naps a day. It’s amazing how great it feels to get a good night’s sleep and have a few hours to myself during the day. This is how I thought it would be with a baby. Except when most of my friends were experiencing this bliss, their babies were four or five months old.

I could feel bitter about it, but I’m too busy enjoying this new found freedom. Mind you, I do treasure those naptimes and feel like I can’t get nearly enough done during that time, but at least, I finally have them. I’m hopeful that I may finally be able to write regularly, the way I always imagined I would when I was a stay at home mom. I know that a 13 month old probably won’t keep taking two naps a day for too long, but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts. I enjoy being with my daughter more during the day when I’ve had a good night’s rest, and finally having time together in the evening is doing wonders for my marriage. Let’s hope it continues and that we can enjoy it for a while before we decide to have another child and start this process all over again.

Squirrels are Evil

This year I tried to plant a vegetable garden, yet again. In the past, other than a few gargantuan tomato plants, I’ve never had much success. I don’t have the proper soil or sun exposure. Then I tried container gardening with even less success. Apparently I didn’t have proper drainage. Just when I was getting ready to give up, a friend recommended The Square Foot Garden by Mel Bartholomew. I immediately fell in love with the concept. Managing a couple of 4 X 4 raised bed gardens seemed much easier than what I had been trying to do. So I decided to attempt it. My family gave me a beautiful cedar 2 X 4 raised garden bed. It was a little smaller than what I had planned for, but cedar will last a really long time before needing to be replaced. I decided to start small rather than get in over my head. But unfortunately, I had a few early set backs.

While my lettuce transplants did well, my broccoli looked questionable. Then I began the big job of seeding the rest of my squares. I had planned Carrots, Broccoli, Lettuce, Tomato, Cucumber, Bush and Vine Beans. But I bought my Tomato plants too early and had to keep them in the house. By the time I put then outside, they looked anemic and sickly. The worst part was the first night after I put them out they got zapped by a frost, even though it was supposed to be safe to plant them! So I waited and figured I would buy more plants later. Then the siege began. Something was digging in my beds. Every time I would plant something new the next day I would find soil scattered around the raised bed. I figured my seeds had been taken or eaten, but I couldn’t be sure. So I waited a few weeks to see if anything came up. Only a few sad carrots ever emerged. So I replanted the beans and corn, only to have the same game repeated again. Now I decided to build a cover for my bed out of chicken wire. Mind you, Mel recommends building a cover in his book, but I’ve never had a problem with garden pests before. But due to time restrictions, it took quite a while to finally get the cover built and installed. So I replanted everything again. I had also decided to plant a few climbing varieties of vegetable so I installed a vertical sheet of nylon netting with holes small enough to keep out animals. This time everything worked beautifully. My broccoli looked great and everything else was looking healthy. Then the day before our vacation a visiting friend looks out my window and comments “Is that fence designed to keep out squirrels, because there is one hanging out inside your garden right now?” I was furious. My broccoli was gone, snapped off and completely uprooted, then left next to the raised bed, shriveled up. This creature didn’t even have the decency to eat what he dug up! My corn was gone as well. Fortunately, my beans plants seem to have been left alone. But elsewhere in my yard, perennial transplants which I had started as seeds indoors in peat pots were all dug up, the peat pots strew throughout the yard. I’m not sure a single transplant survived. I discovered that the squirrels had gnawed through the nylon webbing to make a hole large enough to climb through. I tried to patch the area, but my work was mostly in vain. I feel like I have a lost the battle, at least this year.

I’ll keep working with my existing plants of course, but I have two beds sitting empty. My recently harvested carrots were a disappointment, but I may still try to replant them for a fall harvest. I have finally succumbed to the belief that has been told to me by many others: Squirrels are evil. They may have cute fluffy tails but in the city, they are a menace. They empty bird feeders, and dig up plants.  Then even shred my mother’s hanging baskets. As if they have any shortage of food. I think perhaps it is simple boredom. Like many people, squirrels trapped in cities have too many idle hours without proper entertainment to keep them out of trouble. Maybe the city government should organize a vast resettlement to the rural regions where these poor deprived city squirrels can run free. Or maybe we city gardeners should simply build better fences, set traps and buy pellet guns.

The Weaning Has Begun

I’m so tired of being in pain. I love breastfeeding, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. I’ve also been blessed with few problems, except for the first two weeks of adjustment, until two months ago. It started with one blocked duct, followed by another and another. But every time, I was able to treat them with hot compresses and the blockages were cleared. Finally the pain became severe enough that I went to see my doctor. She looked at me and said that I looked fine, prescribed some nipple ointment and sent me home. Four weeks later, I had severe pain every time I nursed my daughter. The  burning pain would shoot through my breasts for two or three hours after every nursing session. Then I spiked a fever, so I went back to my doctor and was prescribed an antibiotic. After a week on the antibiotic my symptoms got worse. The pain kept me awake at night. I would rock myself and weep trying to remember the breathing techniques I used to deal with labor pain. So back I went to my doctor, this time we decided to treat for a fungal infection. I began to treat my daughter for Thrush as well, using over the counter remedies. Two weeks later, my symptoms have diminished, but so has the time spent nursing. I have cut my daughter down from four nurses a day to one in an effort to better control the pain. I have tried practically every home remedy and over the counter remedy I could find. I have now concluded that my daughter is actually chewing on me. My guess is that the chewing caused abrasions which led to the infections.

I never thought that this process would be so difficult. I knew that my daughter would wean eventually, but I always imagined it would be a slow process of her own choosing. Now I find myself counting down the days until we are done, hoping that the pain will subside as well. This is not what I had in mind. My worst fear is that when I’ve finally weaned her the pain will still remain and I will have put us both through all of this for nothing. Breastfeeding gave me a special bond with my daughter and I feel like I’m losing that. There were times when I wondered if she only loved me for my milk. Will she still love me when it’s gone? I know that these are silly questions, and my logical mind tells me that everything will be fine. But it’s hard not to feel insecure about your abilities and decisions as a mother. I find myself constantly wondering if I’m making the right choice. Is giving this up a selfish choice? My daughter is almost 13 months old. She has trouble sleeping, so my evenings are rarely my own. Now what time I do have is spent ravaged with pain. I find myself taking two Tylenol PM and going to bed at 9:30 with ice packs on my breasts, hoping to sleep through the worst of the pain. This isn’t the life I had in mind. I imagined that by one year my daughter would be consistently sleeping through the night, going to bed by 7:30 or 8 so that I could have some time with my husband in the evening. I thought she would nap regularly during the day so that I would have time for myself. Instead I find myself beginning sleep training yet again at 13 months, and every hour of sleep she gets is a struggle.

I knew parenting would be hard. But I don’t think I realized that it really will lay you bare, taking away any small amount of self. While I want to become a selfless mother, I want to preserve something of myself. Otherwise, what will I have left when my children are grown? I have interests, desires, dreams I want to pursue. I always thought that those things could be made compatible with parenting. All I can do is keep hoping that things get better and pray that I won’t have to face all of these same challenges the next time around.