That time we all got the rabies vaccine

To try to get out of my blogging rut, I thought I would share more of my experiences and stories from everyday life. I usually think this type of blogging is boring to read, but it seems to be what most bloggers do, so why not.

Last summer when we lived in Colorado, my husband and I saw a bat flying around our house late one night after AJ was asleep. We chased it around for awhile until it disappeared, then KJ did what he always does: he googled the shit out of it. He read about how bats are the number one source of human rabies transmission in the U.S., how they can squeeze under doors and through tiny gaps a quarter of an inch wide, how they can bite people while sleeping without them ever knowing, and their teeth make such tiny puncture wounds that you could never know you’d been bitten. Rabies is nearly 100% fatal, has an incubation period of anywhere between a week and a year, and is 100% preventable if you get the vaccine before symptoms appear. We decided that we would all need to get vaccinated, unless we could capture the bat and have it tested for rabies.

We coaxed the bat out from its hiding place in a small gap in the bricks of our fireplace, and after many attempts KJ knocked it out of the air with a plastic box. It fell on the ground unconscious, and we threw the box over it and placed books on top so it wouldn’t escape. The next morning we called animal control, who came and collected the bat for rabies testing. I was relieved we had caught it and I felt confident it would test negative, as the vast majority of house bats do.

A day later, animal control called to say our whole family needed to get the rabies vaccine immediately. The bat tested positive. So the three of us drove 40 minutes to the nearest hospital emergency room, where we spent the next 6 hours. The doctor and nurse on duty had never given the rabies vaccine before, and they were concerned because I was 4 months pregnant with Buddy and they weren’t sure if it was safe during pregnancy.

(It is. Though it’s listed as a Category C drug for pregnancy, that’s only because there have been no trials on pregnant women, and not enough data from the small number of pregnant women who have been vaccinated. But it’s an inactivated vaccine so the risks are really no more than for any other vaccine. Plus, if the vaccine is given during the first two trimesters of pregnancy, the baby will be born with rabies immunity.)

The post-exposure rabies vaccine requires a lot of shots. The vaccine itself is given in a series of five shots at 0, 3, 7, 14, and 28 days after being exposed. With the first dose, you also have to get several shots of human rabies immune globulin, which helps confer immediate immunity while the vaccine takes time to build active immunity. The immune globulin dosage is based on body weight. In total that first day, KJ had 6 shots, I had 5, and AJ had 4.

KJ got his shots first; after the first five, he turned very pale and said his vision was going blurry and he felt like he was going to pass out. I thought he was having a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine. It turns out he’s just scared of needles.

AJ was two and a half at the time, and she took it the easiest of all of us. Her ENFP personality really does have its advantages. I mean, she throws a crying fit if I give her dinner on the wrong color plate, but spending hours in a hospital getting shots is a big adventure to her. She has always loved going to the doctor; she loves having her temperature and blood pressure taken, trying to get her hands on medical equipment, being around new people and machines, exploring new places and charming the nurses into giving her stickers. She even likes getting shots. The small ouch of the needle is far overshadowed by all the other stuff.

After our day-0 shots, I tried to find a non-emergency clinic where we could get the rest of the series without having to spend hours in a waiting room. It turns out there aren’t any, so we traipsed back to the ER several times for the next month. It was a huge hassle and not a fun experience for anyone except AJ, but infinitely better than getting rabies. Vaccines are awesome.

By the way, soon after that we called a bat remediation expert to examine our house. He found evidence of multiple bats, and several entry points around the exterior of our 50-year-old house. He made sure the bats were gone, sealed the entry points, and we didn’t have any more pest problems except for that time we had a mountain lion in our front yard.

I hate cooking

I mean, I really hate cooking. I hate everything involved with cooking, including thinking about what to make, grocery shopping, food prep, and the actual cooking itself. There’s a long list of things I would rather do than cook or prepare food, and it includes doing laundry, changing diapers, and getting a rabies vaccine.

What I hate most is the fact that the entire process of getting food ready to eat takes so much longer than it takes to eat it. And then you have to do it all again a few hours later. As an INTP I really don’t care about sensory things like how food tastes or how it looks, so I get no enjoyment out of this Sisyphean cycle. I try to do as little as possible, and let my husband or the slow cooker do as much as they are able. Even so, eating happens so often in our family of four that I pretty much have to constantly think about or work on getting food ready to eat.

These days, people are always trying to talk to me about cooking. “Do you like to cook?” is to moms and married women what “What kind of music do you listen to?” is to the high school and college set. And when I answer “no,” they look at me and laugh uncomfortably as if I’ve just said something shocking.

I used to enjoy cooking. When I was single, childless, and had tons of time to pursue all of my interests and then some, cooking was one of my hobbies. I made all of my meals from scratch using produce from a CSA, baked bread and made granola every week, experimented with recipes, and baked cakes to give away just for fun. With an enormous amount of free time and energy, I can enjoy just about anything.

Becoming a parent is a great magnifying glass to identify the things that actually are important to you and the things that aren’t. Now that my free time and energy levels are always in deficit, very few things make my priority list. In fact, I now actively hate a lot of things that I used to enjoy or care about. In addition to cooking, they also include shopping, making things by hand, occasionally going to parties, keeping up with politics, and recycling. (Okay, I don’t hate recycling, but I don’t have the energy to care about it anymore.) Taking care of young children is too exhausting and all-consuming to spend an extra minute doing anything that either doesn’t have to be done or doesn’t fill my tank. Or to spend an extra minute being apologetic about it.

INTP vs. INTJ: Social Skills

This is part of an ongoing series on the differences between INTPs and INTJs, and how those differences are evident in myself and my husband. If you’re not familiar with them, you should first read this primer on Myers-Briggs and cognitive functions.

In my recent interactions with a number of INTJs, I’ve noticed a trait that they all seem to share: in casual conversation, INTJs often seem incredibly smug. This holds true for my INTJ husband, who often seems like a completely different person when he’s interacting with other people compared to when we’re alone. He tends to come off as a smug asshole when talking to people he doesn’t know well.

I thought this air of smugness might be because INTJs think they’re smarter than everyone else, but according to my husband it’s actually a façade of false confidence meant to hide their insecurities in social situations or when interacting with people they don’t know well. (When INTJs actually do think they’re smarter than you, it’s usually so obvious to them that they’re more matter-of-fact or exasperated than smug.)

This got me thinking about the differences in how INTJs and INTPs approach social situations. Both types are obviously not socially adept, and each has their own coping mechanisms to deal with their social ineptitude. INTJs rely on a formulaic approach to social conversation that causes them to appear smug and overconfident, while INTPs are more likely to be caught with a deer-in-the-headlights look. INTPs are always using their Perceiving function to take in new information, which slows down their ability to form a response, because social situations are full of foreign information for INTPs. INTJs use their Judging function to organize and interpret what they already know, shutting down their information intake until they feel they need more information. This helps them in social situations because they know from the start that they are likely to be uncomfortable, and therefore need to put on a mask of confidence (which comes off as smugness). INTPs are unable to put on this mask because an INTP needs to know the particulars of the situation before they can decide how to respond to it. The response is usually slow and inelegant because INTPs lack knowledge of social conventions.

When faced with social situations necessitating small talk, both INTJs and INTPs tend to come armed with a repertoire of stories they can tell. INTJs are more likely to use tried-and-true stories that they have told several times before, while INTPs are more likely to spin new stories out of more recent occurrences, but both types tend to ‘rehearse’ their stories and other avenues of small talk. I will rehearse an anecdote in my head to make sure I can tell it well, the same way I’d rehearse an important presentation. But in conversation I speak extemporaneously, taking into account the context of the conversation and the reactions of my audience. If they look bored I’ll skip part of the story, or if they seem interested in some particular aspect, I’ll elaborate more on that.

When an INTJ tells a story, he tells it the same way every time, with nearly the same words and phrasing. Because of their lack of Perception and their need to plan everything in advance, INTJs are unable to gauge their audience’s reaction and amend their storytelling on the spot, so they plow ahead until they reach the end of the story and can bounce the conversation into someone else’s court.

I even notice this difference in phone conversations. When my husband talks to friends and family on the phone, he tends to talk for a long time without pausing about everything that has happened in his life recently, then expect the other person to talk for a long time about him or herself. He can then use the time while the other person is talking to prepare what he’ll say next. When I talk on the phone, I prefer a livelier back-and-forth, taking turns telling one anecdote at a time and pausing often to elicit a response. I don’t like to talk for too long without pausing to see if my friend is still interested or if they have something more important to say.

The INTP approach is likely to lead to awkward silences in which they don’t know what to say, and the INTJ approach is likely to make acquaintances feel cornered or like the INTJ is a know-it-all. I am comfortable with silences and used to them, so it doesn’t really bother me. What makes me really uncomfortable is talking when nobody cares what I’m saying, or having false confidence be disproven. I never try to be overconfident because bravado can be easily deflated by those who are actually more confident or knowledgeable. But to an INTJ, whose J makes them need to be as prepared as possible for every situation, unpreparedness breeds anxiety. Being caught without something to say, or stumbling over their words, is worse than a bored acquaintance or seeming arrogant.

Since I have pointed out my husband’s tendency to be smug, he has started pointing out times when I am smug. This usually only happens when we’re alone, because he is the only person who I feel comfortable enough with to be smug– while I am the only person he feels comfortable enough with to not be smug.

New baby

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I had a baby boy in December. He’s awesome. He’s named after a glacier in Alaska, but on this blog I’ll call him Buddy. (We actually do call him Buddy often, so much that he probably thinks that is his name.)

I have two kids! Holy crap.

Version 4

 

Five years (part 2)

I’ve always thought it was hokey to celebrate dating anniversaries, but our first date is the only anniversary that my husband and I celebrate. We can never remember when we got married, and I prefer not to think about it because it was one of the most stressful days of my life. As an INTP who hates all kinds of parties and being the center of attention, I should have known better than to have a wedding at all. So I like to pretend it never happened.

At the time I thought that the day we became husband and wife would be a special occasion. It was really important for us to write our own vows and say them in front of our friends and family. Words are important to me, and I thought our wedding vows would be the most important words of our life, sealing our lifetime commitment to each other. But they turned out to be pretty insignificant, just as our wedding day turned out to be pretty insignificant.

The more time goes on, the more I realize that some words we said to each other X months after falling in love and deciding to spend our life together don’t define what our marriage means now or what it will mean in the future. The words that matter to me are the ones of consequence– the conversations we had at the beginning of our relationship that showed each other who we were, the first time he told me that he wanted to grow old with me, the words of support and reassurance spoken over the years in moments of crisis, the words of love we share daily over the din of toddler shouting. Those words are the touchstones of our commitment, and all of them hold more meaning and weight than our wedding vows. All the days we’ve spent together in the past five years are more important than our wedding day.

It’s too bad that we only recently moved to a state with common-law marriage, because that’s how I view our marriage. It didn’t start with a ceremony or a certificate on any particular day. When someone asks how long we’ve been married, I answer “five years,” as I think of the entire time we’ve been together as being part of our marriage. (And also, because I can’t remember the actual year our wedding took place.) Our love and commitment to each other grew continuously from the first moment we saw each other. If there was one day when everything changed, it was that day five years ago when we met with a handshake.

Five years

Five years ago I got on a plane to spend the weekend with a man I’d met online. The flight was delayed and as I sat there I suddenly thought, “what the hell am I doing?” It was the craziest thing I’d ever done, and I briefly considered getting off the plane before it took off. I had a contingency plan to change my return flight to an earlier one if the first day was awful.

We met in a hotel lobby with an awkward handshake, and the first thing I noticed was that his smile was crooked and he talked out of the side of his mouth. Later I would discover to my endearment that whenever he lacks confidence, he subconsciously becomes paralyzed on one side of his body. Neither of us knew how to make conversation, and we resorted to rattling off questions that made it seem more like a job interview than a date. I knew he was a Republican, so over dinner I made sure to tell him about the life-changing experience I had at a Hillary Clinton rally in 2007. He sat really far away from me and I had no idea if he even liked me until we kissed at the end of the night.

Only an INTP and INTJ could have a first date that is so incredibly awkward be unbelievably romantic at the same time. For some reason that I still can’t explain, it was love at first sight. For him, anyway– INTJs are decisive like that. 30 hours after we first laid eyes on each other, he asked me to move to his city. I couldn’t change the subject fast enough, but I knew something magical was happening. I never believed in the concept of romantic chemistry (in fact, I was totally against it), but every time he touched my arm or held my hand I felt full of fireworks.

For me it was more like love at third sight. By the end of our third date a month later, after he started talking about our future children and made an Excel spreadsheet showing why I should move in with him, I was 95% sure I would marry him. I have always found Excel spreadsheets incredibly sexy.

Five years later, we’re now expecting our second child and it feels like we’ve aged about fifteen years (having children will do that). Our life is crazy in the most ordinary ways. There have been a lot of broken dreams, and there are moments (or months) when I look at my husband and think, “what the hell am I doing with this person?” But most of the time, I am wonderfully amazed at how eminently we belong together. 

I don’t believe in soul mates at all– except, when I think about the two of us, secretly I kind of do. We worked hard to find and keep each other, but there’s still an element of magic when we look into each other’s eyes and see each other the way no one else can. I can’t explain it, but it’s my favorite thing in the world.

When does the STEM gender gap really begin?

I recently read about a study showing that the STEM gender gap is perpetuated by teacher bias. Sixth graders were given a math test, which was scored by a group of teachers who didn’t know them. When the tests were anonymous, the girls performed better than the boys. But when the teachers knew the names of the students whose tests they scored, they scored the boys higher than the girls, suggesting that the teachers had subconscious prejudices that underestimated girls’ math abilities and overestimated boys’. When the same students reached middle and high school, the girls who had received lower scores from their teachers in sixth grade (but had actually outperformed the boys, objectively) had lower math performance than their male classmates, and were less likely to choose to take advanced science and math courses.

I happened to be at a playdate with my daughter when I read that article. (On the rare occasions that I go to neighborhood playdates with other stay-at-home moms anymore, I usually read science articles on my phone instead of trying to talk to them. It makes the time pass more tolerably.) Several moms in the playgroup are pregnant with their second or third child, so this time there was a lot of talk about baby names and the sexes of the babies. In the midst of this, I could not believe all the gender stereotypes I was hearing.

(AJ loves trains and has never even heard the word ‘princess’. Once at a playdate she found her friend’s toy trains and the boy’s mom said to me, “I didn’t put out the train set because I knew there weren’t going to be any boys here.”)

“It’s going to be so crazy having another boy. The two of them will be so active and boisterous all the time, I don’t know how I’m going to handle it. You’re so lucky that you’re having a girl so she’ll be calmer and quieter.”

“He’s always running around and banging his toy cars together. He’s such a boy.”

“I’m glad we’re having a boy this time, so my husband will have a little fishing buddy.”

“I’m so excited to have a little girl to shop for. I already started pinning hairbows for her.”

This blows my mind, but the sad fact is that almost every single conversation I hear among stay-at-home moms is full of similar stereotypes.

With as much talk about how different aspects of the school environment create a gender gap in STEM fields, I have to believe that the gender gap begins with parents. After all, we have much more influence over our kids than teachers do, and parental influence begins from birth. If a teacher’s subconscious gender bias can affect the academic performance and interests of students over the course of an academic year, parents who stereotype their kids from toddlerhood, infancy, and even before birth surely have a huge impact on what subjects their children will prefer in school, their academic performance, and their career choices later on.

If little girls aren’t encouraged to play with toy helicopters and robots and toolkits, how will they develop the desire to become pilots or engineers and the desire to learn about STEM? If parents dress their daughters in clothes that are meant to be pretty rather than functional, how will they be able to climb, dig, act like dinosaurs, or practice blasting off into outer space? (I cringe every time I see a toddler girl wearing shoes that don’t allow her to run safely; little boys are never physically restricted by their clothing.) And if the above are labeled as “boy” behaviors and interests from before age 2, is it any wonder that by the time they reach high school, girls have little interest and declining ability in math and science?

The thing is, I know most of these moms would call themselves feminists and say that they want their daughters to have all the same opportunities as their sons, and some may even wish for their daughters to go into STEM fields. But a few words of encouragement when a girl is already in school are not going to be enough to counteract years of subconscious messages from funneling her towards certain toys, books, and hobbies and away from others.

Of course, staying away from gender stereotypes has many other benefits for kids that have nothing to do with their interest in STEM. But I think it’s obvious that if you want boys and girls to have the same opportunities in STEM fields later in life, you have to give them the same opportunities from the very beginning of life.