Sunday, December 30, 2007

Zenbit: Ancient Faces

















These are somebody's ancestors.

Location: Easter Island
Date: December 18, 2005

Friday, December 28, 2007

It Is What It Is

I've been thinking about this post for several days now, as I read other people's stories of Christmas with their kids. We had a big first Christmas planned for Pumpkin, too. My parents were going to drive over with my grandparents. We were going to buy a nice ham, and dress Pumpkin in a new Christmas outfit made by Grandma. It was going to be a traditional Christmas with a big family get together.

And then Pumpkin threw up on the way home from daycare two weeks ago Thursday. This was the first time she'd really thrown up, and it was not fun for anyone involved. I'll spare you the details, and just say that it is a good thing that the fabric part of the car seat comes off and can be washed.

Pumpkin threw up again in the middle of the night, but it was more an immediate expulsion of the milk she'd just drunk than a "real" vomiting episode. She got diarrhea. She was definitely sick. We started sanitizing our hands AND washing them after diaper changes. However, she seemed perfectly happy and wasn't having frequent episodes of diarrhea, so we went out Christmas shopping on Saturday. She didn't throw up anymore, so we allowed ourselves to believe it was just a quick bug, and she was on the mend and would be able to go to day care on Monday. We both felt crappy, but we put that down to our lack of sleep, and in my case, to the fact that Pumpkin wouldn't touch solid food, so all her calories were again coming from me.

And then Pumpkin threw up again on Sunday. And her daddy woke up Monday feeling sick. So we all stayed home on Monday. Hubby and I tried to do some work, and we took turns entertaining Pumpkin, who still seemed happy. She seemed to be on the mend. We thought we'd back at work by Wednesday.

And then Pumpkin threw up again on Tuesday. We admitted we were beat, and called for reinforcements. My Mom agreed to fly over and help us out. My Dad would drive over later with my Grandparents.

And then my Mom got the stomach bug.

My grandparents decided not to risk coming into our sick house. Christmas was... well, not off. But delayed. My Dad would have Christmas with my grandparents, and then drive over on Thursday. My Mom, my sister, Hubby, Pumpkin , and I would have a very different sort of Christmas by ourselves.

I'll admit that I struggled a bit with this. It was Pumpkin's first Christmas! This is NOT how it was supposed to be. But this is how it was going to be, and there was nothing I could do but accept it. Pumpkin wouldn't know anything was "wrong"- she's too young to really understand what is going on with this Christmas thing, anyway.

It is what it is, I told myself, and we started making new plans. I dressed Pumpkin in her Christmas Eve outfit for Christmas. We let her open a few gifts, but saved the majority for our new Christmas Day, which is tomorrow. We took a walk by the bay. We ate a stir fry for dinner, and my sister made an excellent sticky toffee pudding for dessert. We'll dress Pumpkin in her new Christmas dress and have our traditional ham dinner tomorrow. We took pictures on the "real" Christmas, and we'll take more tomorrow. They'll all be of Pumpkin's first Christmas.

Maybe this parenting gig has finally taught me a little bit of the Zen attitude I've been trying to learn. I thought I might learn it on our big trip. We were going to backpack around Thailand, after all. Isn't that supposed to be transformative? Well, it was, but I still hadn't learned to be as Zen as Hubby was when things inevitably didn't go quite as planned (I think he was born that way). I've commented before about the Zen-teaching possibilities of babies, but I continue to try to change Pumpkin's sleeping habits (and sorry, I still can't just accept those). Although I can talk the talk, I've never before been able to walk the walk. I always struggle against the way things are, trying to make them into the way I want things to be. I definitely didn't want norovirus to come into our home and disrupt our Christmas plans. I definitely don't want to be spending several hours a night trying to sleep on a Thermarest next to Pumpkin's bouncy chair as she struggles to sleep through the symptoms of croup (which she came down with on the "real" Christmas day- the poor baby can't catch a break). But it is what it is. I have to take the bad with the good, and there is plenty of good associated with Pumpkin.

It is what it is, and in our house it is Christmas Eve. Happy Christmas Eve, everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sleep Games

I've started thinking of Pumpkin's sleep as a game of Chutes and Ladders. Hubby and I work our way along slowly, taking thirty days to drop a couple of night wakings, pleased with our progress, and then WHOOSH! Down a chute! Go back 20 spaces! Pumpkin's sick. So we start working our way along again, and then WHOOSH! Down another chute! Go back 10 spaces! Pumpkin wants to practice standing up in her crib. And before we know it, we're back at the beginning, up five times a night, and I'm dozing on the couch between 4 and 6 a.m. with Pumpkin in my arms.

I'm still waiting for a sleep ladder, though.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Zenbit: Cup of Love

















This was almost enough to make me drink coffee.

Location: Vancouver, Canada
Date: October 4, 2004

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Why I Love to Travel - Reason #83

I came across a blog called Just Eat, Lah at random today. I saw the name and new the author was from Singapore. I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't been to Singapore and heard how so many of the people there end sentences with "Lah". I love to travel because you learn random things like that, and you remember them- if I'd just read that in a book, chances are, I would have forgotten it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rodents of Unusual Size!

They've found giant rats in a remote part of Indonesia.

I wonder if they have flame spurts and lightening sand, too?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dairy-Free Brownies

We're experimenting with removing dairy from my diet to see if that helps Pumpkin sleep. She had some trouble (i.e., gas) when I ate dairy during her earlier months. I'd been adding dairy back in, but we think the gas returned, particularly at night, and was disrupting her sleep. So I reluctantly cut cheese and milk back out of my diet... I'm not super strict, but I am always on the lookout for good dairy-free things to make me feel less sorry for myself.

I found this recipe in an old Betty Crocker cookie cookbook, and it is surprisingly good. I think I might add more applesauce next time, though, to make the brownies more moist.

Chocolate-Applesauce Bars


1/2 cup shortening
2 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat shortening and chocolate over low heat until melted; remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients (I did this all in a large saucepan- bonus! easy clean up). Spread in greased and floured baking pan, 9x9x2 inches. Bake until top springs back when touched, 35 to 40 minutes (I found it took closer to 35 minutes). Cut into bars while warm.

Enjoy!

(Oh, Pumpkin is sleeping better, so the dairy stays out of my diet for awhile longer. I haven't figured out what to do about Christmas Dinner yet. Do I make the scalloped potatoes everyone else loves and that I won't get to eat? Or can I get away with substituting mashed potatoes made with broth? How selfish do I feel?)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Zenbit: Kanchanaburi Sunset


















The view down the river Kwai from the deck of our floating guest house.

Location: Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Date: February 28, 2006

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Great Sleep Experiment - 30 day results

We have seen definite progress on the sleep front! Here were Pumpkin's sleep statistics from last night:

Asleep time - 7:50 p.m.
Awake time - 5:15 a.m.
Total wakings - 2
Longest sleep span - 3 hrs 15 min
Total sleep - 8 hrs 45 mins
Average time to get back to sleep: 20 minutes (she ate both times she woke up, and then went straight back to sleep)

(You can see the original sleep statistics here, the ten-day results here, and the twenty-day results here. No one said this was a quick sleep fix!)

I think she wanted to sleep longer, but I couldn't get her to go back to sleep after 5:15. She dozed in my arms for another 15-20 minutes, and then she stood up in my lap and started looking around. She didn't cry when she woke up- I woke up to hear the funny little grunting noise she makes when she's working on something coming over the monitor. When I went in to check on her, she was standing in her crib, which looked very cute, since she was still wearing her sleep sack.

I don't know if any of the no-cry sleep solutions are responsible for the better sleep. We did move to putting her down quite awake, and just patting her/stroking her head to get her to go to sleep. She wasn't too impressed with this plan the first couple of nights we tried it, and I still have to pick her up a couple of times and calm her back down most nights. However, I think I have heard her wake up and go back to sleep a couple of times. So maybe this worked?

I also started nursing her at day care when I pick her up. I had dropped the after work nursing, because it seemed too late and therefore liable to interfere with dinner by the time I got home from work. I added the nursing at day care three days ago. The first night I did that, she slept better than she has in months- she only woke twice, and slept more than four hours before waking the first time and more than three hours before the second waking. This was the start of the improved sleep we're seeing. So maybe the extra nursing is what is important?

Sleep deprived parents are the most superstitious people on the planet. We aren't changing anything as long as she keeps sleeping!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Camel-bodies?

One of the side benefits of the before bed pumping I had to institute to deal with my recent supply issues is that I have actually had time to read some of the issues of Science that routinely pile up around my house. One of the back issues had a feature on camels. Sadly, they are dying at an alarming rate, and scientists don't yet know why. This was an interesting story, but what really caught my eye was a sidebar on camel antibodies. Apparently, they are less likely to cause an adverse reaction than the usual horse antibodies used in antivenoms, possibly due to their unusual structure (they lack light chains). The camel anitbodies are also more heat resistant, so are being tested for biodefense purposes such as biosensors designed to function in hot environments.

I love science stories like this. Someone discovers some random odd fact and publishes it. Someone else notices it and thinks "hey, I wonder if that would solve this problem I've been working on?" and then before you know it we have some great new thing. That is how basic research and applied research are supposed to work!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Zenbit: Jellyfish


















Does it know it is in a cage?

Location: Birch Aquarium, San Diego, California
Date: December 5, 2003

Saturday, December 08, 2007

My Mommy Moment

I continue to read through the Ask Moxie archives, and last week I came across a post where readers wrote in with their moments of clarity about parenting. I think I had my first real "mommy moment" this week. I've been sick- first I thought it was just a little cold, then it became clear it was either a big, bad cold or the flu. I was pretty miserable on Thursday night, so I crawled into bed super-early, and tried to get as much sleep as possible before it was my shift with our sleep-phobic little Pumpkin. I got about six hours of sleep (which is pretty darn good these days) before Hubby came in to the bedroom to get me up for Pumpkin's 3 a.m. feeding. I could tell I still had a fever and I had the chills. So I sat on the floor in Pumpkin's room, with the little electric heater we use in there blasting out hot air, shivering and nursing her. I looked down at her, snuffling away peacefully as she does in her middle of the night nursing sessions, one hand reaching towards my back, and the other hand going between her lovey and her hair. I was tired, and cold, and my nose was running, but I still couldn't help but smile. I sometimes don't feel like a "real" Mommy- so much has changed in my life so quickly, that I occasionally feel like I'm just playing a role I haven't even had a chance to learn. But that night, I felt like a Mommy, and it felt great.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Time Flies and Other Cliches

Today is Pumpkin's 8 month birthday. I can't believe that it has been 8 months since she arrived. It has been a wild, wonderful, exhausting time. I love our little girl more than I thought possible, and am really enjoying watching her personality start to show itself. It is already abundantly clear that she will have strong opinions- in fact, that has been clear since she was about 6 weeks old, and would scream if we didn't choose the right item from our limited menu of "things to do with the baby" at any given time. She still lets us know if we have chosen the wrong thing, but most of the time, she shows us her playful, happy side. She also seems to have a bit of a devilish streak- sometimes I swear she is teasing us (like when she kicks the tray off her high chair).

The usual depredations of time on memory are definitely exacerbated by the sleep-deprivation of early parenthood. Already, I have forgotten what the early days at home with Pumpkin were really like. Here is a random list of things I don't want to forget:

1. How hard breastfeeding was at times, but how wonderful it has become. Nursing Pumpkin is one of my favorite things. I'm so glad I stuck with it.

2. The amazing feeling of holding her in my arms for the first time, and seeing her eyes focus so intently on me.

3. Her infectious laugh.

4. How wonderful it feels when she sleeps on my chest (this is getting rarer now, but the snuggles I get when she first wakes up in the morning are just as good).

5. The cute, high-pitched whine she used to get when she wanted more food and thought I was cutting her off (for instance, when I'd have to switch sides while nursing her).

6. The way she crawls into my lap when she wants some mommy-love. She'll be playing happily, then look over and see me and crawl over and into my lap.

7. The big smile she gives me when I come pick her up from daycare (or when I got home from work when someone was watching her at home). She also now gives me wonderful hugs when I pick her up. I have never felt so loved before.

8. Those hilarious hiccups she used to get. Her whole body would participate in them.

9. Her pride and happiness when she learns a new skill. I remember it first from when she learned how to roll over. Crawling has impressed her even more, and I can tell that walking will be better still.

10. The mixture of sadness and happiness when I "retired" her first outgrown clothes.

11. Watching her play with Daddy. She looks at him with so much love in her eyes, and he so obviously loves playing with her... I love the warm, fuzzy family feeling that gives me.

I am sure there are more that I am forgetting right now, and worse, that there are wonderful things that I've already forgotten completely!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Great Sleep Experiment - 20 day results

It is time for the second "reading" on how our sleep experiment is going. As you may recall, we are in the midst of an experiment with the no-cry sleep solution. The ten day results were encouraging but not overwhelming. The twenty day results are a little better still, but also not overwhelming. This method is definitely not for the impatient. It is however, good for the soft-hearted- Pumpkin really hasn't had to cry much to make the progress we've seen so far.

So here are the latest statistics, from last night:

Asleep time - 7:45 p.m.
Awake time - 6:10 a.m.
Total wakings - 3
Longest sleep span - 2 hrs 45 min
Total sleep - 9 hrs 30 mins

So we are down two wakings, from five to three. Two of those wakings were to eat. We are now slowly decreasing the amount in her bottle (which Daddy usually gives her at ~11 p.m.) to see if we can get her to give up at least one of those night feedings. She only added it about a month and a half ago, when she had croup, so we're hopeful.

The other parameter I'm watching is how we get her to sleep. There is a lot less bouncing going on now. We can usually get her back to sleep from a non-feeding waking by just patting her for a few minutes. Hubby tried that method to get her down for the night tonight with mixed success. It only took him 35 minutes to get her down, and she never really wailed. But I still had to go sit in the garage.

Overall, my opinion of the no-cry method is that it has some good ideas, and that you really can change your baby's sleep habits without resorting to letting her cry it out. However, it is a slow method. Also, I think it really needs two grown-ups working on it, so that each person can get some reasonable (albeit not wonderful) amount of sleep. One of the other mommies in my breastfeeding support group tried this at the same time as I did, and she had to give up and try the Ferber method instead. Her baby (who is a bit younger than Pumpkin) required 45 minutes of bouncing, white noise, etc. to go down, and was waking up an hour after going down- all through the night. Her husband travels on business a lot, and she was trying to do it all on her own. I don't think I would have lasted as long as she did!

We also wonder if Pumpkin is having issues with gas, and if that is interfering with her sleep. We have started giving her gas drops after dinner, and that actually seems to be helping. I am also cutting all dairy out of my diet again. Pumpkin had trouble with dairy in my diet from the beginning. I had thought that I could add cheese back in at ~5 months, but wonder if I have added back too much. I do know that I forgot about my dairy restriction on Thanksgiving, and had whipped cream and ice cream with my pie, and Pumpkin had a really bad night. So dairy is back out. This is a huge sacrifice for me. I told Hubby the other day that I think I miss ice cream more than I miss beer (besides, I can have the occasional beer). But apparently, I miss sleep most of all!

Monday, December 03, 2007

One of Life's Little Mysteries

Sunday early morning, after her 3 a.m. feeding, Pumpkin managed to sleep through a coughing fit, the vomiting episode that resulted from said coughing fit, being moved to her changing pad, having her changing pad (with her on it) moved to the floor, the commotion of me changing her crib sheet (which is nice and tight, as recommended to protect against SIDS), having her changing pad moved back to the changing table (with her still on it), and being moved back to her crib. She slept soundly until 5:40 a.m., and only woke up then because she wet through her diaper. Once she was in a nice, dry sleeper she went back to sleep until almost 6:30 a.m.

This morning, she farted herself awake at 4:40 a.m. and never really settled back to sleep.

I really don't know why I think I have any influence at all on her sleep patterns.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Zenbit: Culturally Sensitive Ronald






















Ronald McDonald performs the wai, a traditional Thai greeting.

Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Date: March 15, 2006
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