Sunday, March 30, 2008

Zenbit: Tea Lake























I'm standing in a giant cup of tea. The lake is fed by rainwater that filters through the roots of the tea trees surrounding it, turning the water into tea.

Location: Lake Ainsworth, Australia
Date: January 17, 2006

Friday, March 28, 2008

Working Mum: You'll Work it Out

I've been getting quite a few hits on this blog from people looking for information on "pumping during a business trip" or "first business trip away from baby". Google is directing these women to my post about the business trip I took when Pumpkin was 6 months old. I hope the information in that post was helpful to them, because I remember how stressed I was when I was preparing for that trip, and how desperately I combed the internet looking for information that would help me. In the end, the trip itself was far easier than I had feared. I had the good sense to pack patterned tops and plenty of breast pads, because I didn't get to pump on the schedule my body was used to, but other than a little more leakage than usual and the weirdness of pumping at my seat on the airplane, it wasn't so bad.

I think there is a general lesson in there about being a working mother. The logistics can be tricky, but you'll work it out, you really will. I've never met a woman who has said that she stopped working to stay home with her baby because she couldn't get the logistics to work out. Everyone I know who stays home does so either because they don't want to be away from their baby or because the finances don't work out, due to the cost of day care.

I've met working, pumping mothers in all sorts of professions: teachers, who have to figure out how to pump during a day with very limited breaks; an airplane pilot, with pumping logistics that boggled my mind; people working in retail, some of whom had to remind their employers that California law requires employers to give workers a break to pump; and businesswomen in a variety of work situations, whose pumping dilemmas are as varied as their fields of expertise. We all fretted before we went back to work about how we would make pumping work out, and we all figured it out. (And if you don't want to solve this particular dilemma, and decide to give your baby formula while you work, that is fine, too.)

The "you'll work it out" principle applies to many other working parent quandaries, too. Several months ago, when we were just starting Pumpkin on solid foods, Hubby and I had no idea how we would fit a solid food breakfast into our already hectic morning routine. Yet somehow, we did, and now that is as much a part of our routine as the incredibly cute wave bye-bye routine we do every day. We've muddled through a long list of everyday dilemmas, and every other working parent I know has, as well. We all solve the problems differently, but we all solve the problems.

Personally, I wouldn't have my life any other way. I love the way that Pumpkin grounds me and cheers me up after a tough day at work, and I love the way my work makes me feel competent and intelligent when the mommy thing is kicking my butt. There are definitely things I miss from my pre-Pumpkin life, but on the whole, I think I like the new life.

Well, I like the new life most days. I'm not saying that being a working mother isn't hard, and I definitely suffer from the occasional bout of guilt about it all. I have certainly found that the working mom experience has shown me what my true priorities are, because most weeks, the things that aren't priorities don't get done. I also have bad days (like yesterday!) when I straggle home from a tough day at work, wanting nothing more than to pop open a beer and chill out with Hubby. Early on, that desire was subjugated to my need for sleep, and I just wen to bed hoping that tomorrow would be better- and it usually was. Now that Pumpkin is sleeping a little better, I get my chill out beer- it just has to wait until after Pumpkin is down for the night. And before that, I usually get some quality Pumpkin play time, which frankly takes away the work stress far better than the beer does.

So if you're thinking about joining the ranks of working moms, and feeling a bit nervous about the logistics of how you'll juggle work and home, don't worry, you'll work it out. You're a smart woman, and you'll find solutions to the problems that crop up. Talk to other working parents, but don't be constrained by their solutions. Everyone has to find the It will be hard, and you will get angry at a society that sometimes seems to have stacked the deck against you, but you'll have some really good days and they will keep you going through the bad ones. And remember, you had bad days before the baby was born, too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Trip Story: Singapore

Cara Mama had a question up earlier this week asking what we miss most about our pre-baby days. My answer in her comments (lazy weekend days spent reading and my yoga class) was true from an everyday perspective. But in the larger sense, I think what Hubby and I are missing most is travel. We used to take one multi-week trip (usually to an overseas destination) and several smaller weekend getaways (usually to domestic destinations) every year. Since Pumpkin was born, we've been to my home state of Arizona- and that is it. We know that travel will get easier after awhile, and would in fact be game to try a domestic trip this year if we don't burn all of our time off on sick days to care for Pumpkin. However, that doesn't stop the itchy feet we get when we hear about other people's vacations.

So we find ourselves reminiscing about our big trip now and then. Earlier in the life of this blog, I used it mainly to write up travel stories. I've decided it is time to write another one. I had been going in chronological order, and I haven't finished writing about all of the fun and interesting things we did in Australia, but I threw out the rules for this blog ages ago, so this post is about Singapore.

We arrived in Singapore a few days before Chinese New Year. We had thought we were going to miss Chinese New Year, but somehow got that entirely wrong. Since Chinese New Year is a bit like Thanksgiving, in that it is a major family-oriented holiday that clogs transportation for the days immediately before and shuts most things on the actual day, we decided to extend our time in Singapore to a week, and not go on to Malaysia until the holiday was over.

This decision not only allowed us to see the New Year celebrations, but also gave us time to see more of Singapore than most Western tourists do. Consequently, we got to enjoy not only the terrific Night Zoo (which would have been on my must-see list), but also the Botanical Gardens, which we may have skipped on a shorter stay. These included the National Orchid Garden, which was full of beautiful and fascinating orchids, such as the mini-banana orchid (our own name) shown here. The highlight of the Botanical Garden for me, though, was the Evolution Gardens, which were a sort of open air museum tracing the evolution of plant life on Earth. Like all of the public education sights we visited (including the Asian Civilizations Museum, which was jam-packed with interesting exhibits and really needed more than the afternoon we devoted to it), these were incredibly well done. Public education attractions are something the Singaporeans do well, like running efficient mass transit and working incredibly hard. (Hubby was getting seriously tempted to move to Singapore until he heard about the average work week, which includes long days and at least a half day on Saturday.)

One thing we definitely would not have done during a shorter visit to Singapore was visit East Coast Park, which is a place the locals go to relax. We enjoyed seeing local people enjoying their day at the park/beach, and were really amused by the water-ski machine that is set up on an artificial lake in the park. After watching the attempts of several novices to get going on the machine, we decided that we weren't sorry to have left our swim suits back at the place we were staying. Those who made it past the abrupt start usually wiped out on the first turn, and had to walk back approximately 200 meters to the starting point (with their skis).

There is no question that Singapore can be an expensive place to visit. The price of beer almost sent Hubby into shock, and came close to derailing our budget. However, you certainly don't need to spend much on food if you don't want to. And this doesn't mean eating greasy fast food, although we did sample the localized McDonald's fare- a Fantastic burger, which was stir-fried beef between two rice patties. Our more usual meals were at the food courts and hawker stalls, which serve up excellent food for a very reasonable price. One of my favorite experiences in Singapore came at the Lau Pa Sat Festival Market hawker center. The food was fine, but certainly not the best we sampled. The entertainment made the experience- half way through our meal, (American) country music began to play. We wandered to its source to find a group of local women (and a few men) line dancing. This was made even more surreal by the occasional inclusion of a pop song, during which the group morphed into something akin to a high school pom line, sans fake, plastered on smiles. This lack of giant smiles really threw me for awhile. I couldn't figure out what was not quite right about the performance, because the dance moves were actually pretty good.

We topped this night off with a local dessert called an ice kacang, which was like a giant American shaved ice, albeit with flavors that we couldn't place. We think that the nicest one was probably sweet corn. The syrup-covered ice was perched atop a mix of lychees, jello, and sweet corn, and topped with a slathering of durian custard (or perhaps just durian flesh- we weren't sure what durian flesh looks like). Durian, for those not familiar with it, is the fruit that smells like rotting flesh. I can't say we liked it, but it wasn't as bad as the description might imply. Still, the entire dessert had more unfamiliar flavors than even my usually adventurous Hubby could really enjoy. We didn't finish the dessert, but we were glad that we tried it and that we had enough time in Singapore to see some things off the main tourist path.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Best Laid Plans

I had planned to go play fiddle tonight, as part of my attempt to find a new normal that includes more of my pre-baby interests. Pumpkin had other ideas, though. She didn't want her final nursing until almost 7:20, which meant that even if I'd left right when she finished, I would have gotten only an hour of fiddle time unless I decided to stay out past my usual bedtime. Some other week, I may have decided to do just that, but I'm pretty tired tonight, due to a particularly wakeful night last night for Pumpkin. She was awake from 3 until almost 5, and I was up with her from 3:30. She nursed a couple of times, but mostly she was just awake, periodically pointing at her bedroom door, trying to convince me to let her go out to play. This is proof of karma, since I apparently did the same thing to my mother when I was Pumpkin's age.

So here I am, writing a blog post instead of playing fiddle tunes. I don't have much to write about. I'll point out that Cara Mama has some very cute stories about her Pumpkin up on her blog today. I'm trying not to be too jealous of the words... we're still limited to "Da!" here, which is applied to anything Pumpkin is curious about. I haven't even heard "Mama" for almost two weeks (although I remain convinced that she really did say it a few times two weeks ago). My Buddy Mimi had a delightful word post last week, too. I'm looking forward to having cute word stories, too, but if I continue to suffer from my baby karma, Pumpkin will soon be talking up a storm but thw words will be incomprehensible until she is almost 4. Maybe we'll get Hubby's karma on this one.

Of course, Pumpkin is still wonderfully cute and a delight to watch. She has recently forsaken her beloved ducks for my plastic measuring cups. This started when I gave her the half cup measure after I made my oatmeal in the morning, in a futile attempt to buy myself a peaceful breakfast. She plays with it for a little while, but quickly wants me to pick her up again. However, on Monday I showed up at day care to find the quarter cup measure in her car seat. I suspect she had refused to give it up when Hubby was getting her ready for day care that morning. She had been pretty much inseparable from that cup for most of Sunday, even crawling around outside with it for awhile.




















If we were more energetic parents, we'd give her two cups at once, to encourage her nascent walking skills. But we're not 100% convinced we want to do that!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Zenbit: Double Helix






















It was unclear if this was an intentional representation of DNA.

Location:
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Date: February 10, 2006

Friday, March 21, 2008

Smarter Than I Think

We gave Pumpkin a remote control (without batteries) to play with, because she has been pointing at remote controls and saying "Da!" for awhile, and we're big softies. She happily teethed on it for quite sometime, clutching it close to her chest when she wanted to walk or crawl somewhere (yes, she can crawl with only one hand, for short distances). I wanted to nurse her, so I took the remote away, and when I thought she wasn't looking, I hid it under a pillow on the sofa. I put her on my lap, and nursed. When she had finished with one side, she sat up, lifted up the pillow, and retrieved her remote. She finished nursing with the remote clutched in her little hand.

I guess I need to find better hiding places.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Selective Memory

I had an email from a friend asking about nightweaning, and Moxie has a post about sleep deprivation up today. Both the email and the comment that started the Moxie thread were from mothers of babies who are about 7 months old. This got me thinking about when Pumpkin was 7 months old, and I realized how selective my "day to day" memory is (by this I mean the memories that come to mind when I just casually think about Pumpkin, without specifically trying to remember details of a time period). My day to day memories are of all the good times, like the giggles when I finally figured out how to really play well with her (she did, and still does, love peekaboo, among other games). When I really think back, though, I have to say: months 6 to 9 were TOUGH, mostly due to sleep, or the lack thereof.

Pumpkin has never been a great sleeper, but boy, things got really bad when she was about 6 months old, and stayed pretty bad until she was about 9 months old. I look back and see that we were struggling through our great sleep experiment, in which we implemented some ideas from the No Cry Sleep Solution book, by Elizabeth Pantley. I remember leaving work early one day to drive to the book store and buy that book, and then reading it as quickly as I could, looking for some idea that would fix our problems. We had some success with some of the ideas, but she didn't (and still doesn't) sleep through the night. When she was about 9 months old, we nightweaned, and achieved results that made us positively giddy (not that she did, or does, sleep through the night). We've been at about that same place ever since. For anyone who finds this while searching for comfort or advice on how to handle a baby who won't sleep through the night, here are the details of where we are at:

Time asleep: between 7:30 and 8 (this depends on whether or not she falls asleep in the car on the way home from day care, which depends on whether or not she takes an afternoon nap, which depends on... who knows? Probably whether or not she's particularly enjoying the day care toys that day.)

Time awake: between 6 and 6:45, usually about 6:30. (This is the thing that makes me happiest. Some mornings, I even wake up before she cries, and get to lay there and doze like I did before I had a baby. Priceless.)

Night wakings: two or three. She usually wakes up between 11 and 12:30 and goes back down easily. Sometimes, she drops this waking, which would make us happy if we were awake to notice. Then she wakes up between 2 and 3:30, and Hubby tells me she is really hard to get down some nights. Then she wakes up at 4 or 4:30 and nurses (and she is amazingly happy to see me when I come to nurse her- she is so cute that I can't even think about dropping this feeding yet) and usually goes back down easily. Then she sleeps until 6 or 6:30.

Hubby usually takes the wakings before 4, because he's just a super guy. And because he can function pretty well with disrupted sleep as long as he gets enough total hours, while I need to get at least four uninterrupted hours to feel human.

One thing that strikes me looking at our current stats, above, and the stats in the last sleep experiment post, is that they aren't that different. One thing that has helped me immensely is that we have just accepted that our baby is not a good sleeper. We don't waste our energy trying to "fix" her sleep. Now we spend our energy finding ways to keep ourselves sane and reasonably healthy despite her less than ideal sleep habits.

This has been a rambling post, and it is bedtime, so I'm not going to fix that. But for everyone suffering through sleep hell with a baby who is between 6 and 9 months old... it gets better. And apparently, you then forget all about how bad it was.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Finding the New Normal

Pumpkin is almost a year old, and I still haven't fully settled into our new life. I am doing much better than I was during those first few months, when I often couldn't even figure out how to find time to eat lunch, and we have settled into some routines, but I don't yet feel I've truly found my balance in my life as a working mother.

We are doing some things well:

1. I am constantly learning more ways to have both Pumpkin and me get what we want, so that we can accomplish our daily tasks with less crying. For instance, last night I discovered that if I let her attempt to feed me her sock and I dramatically failed to catch it in my mouth, we could go through our post-bath routine with giggles instead of tears. I thank Playful Parenting, by Lawrence Cohen (which I read a month or so ago) for helping me learn to "follow the giggles" and be a more relaxed parent. This, and the previously mentioned routines around going to and coming home from work have made me feel like the time I get with Pumpkin is truly good time, which minimizes any guilt I might occasionally feel about being away from her for 40 or so hours each week.

2. Hubby and I have instituted a couple of routines of our own, to help us stay close as a couple even though we don't really have the energy for the traditional "date night". We both work in the same general area of San Diego, so we try to meet for lunch once a month, to have some time for adult conversation without interfering with anyone's sleep. We also like to have a beer together on Friday nights, after Pumpkin has gone to bed. I worry less about the missed sleep when I know I have the weekend and its promise of a nap or two ahead of me. This particular habit is nice, because we used to go to our local pub most Friday nights for a beer or two, and found that this was the best time for just talking to each other like we did when we first got together. I'm happy to report that drinking beers at home works just as well. I think it has something to do with the beer.

3. I have found a way to keep reading for fun, which lets me continue participating in the book club I've been a member of for many years. I read every night while I pump, right before bed. Even though I'm multitasking, I find the reading time helps keep me sane.

There are some things we are not doing as well:

1. Neither of us has really figured out a new exercise schedule. Hubby does better than me at this, but that is not hard because I frankly suck at this. I have some amazing scenery that I could enjoy on a lunch time walk, but I do not take lunch time walks with any regularity. My goal is to go twice a week. I have yet to meet that goal. I really miss yoga and the martial arts I used to do, but have absolutely no idea how to fit a regular workout class into my schedule. I know that I just need to pick a class, sign up, and go... but this necessarily means less time with Pumpkin, which is a hard trade off to make. I've toyed with trying the T-Tapp thing that Moxie and many of her commenters are so fond of, but have yet to do anything about it. Luckily, nursing is keeping my weight down, but I miss the healthy feeling I have when I am exercising regularly. I really need to work on this, or they might ask me to leave San Diego. The city has an image to keep up, after all.

2. My to do list at home is out of control. I have financial chores that need doing (for instance, I should be rolling over a small IRA I have right now), home organization that needs optimizing (our office is a disaster), work clothes that need buying (I actually work with some women now, who might notice that I wear the same outfits every week), Pumpkin clothes that need sorting (she grows out of things so quickly), and general housekeeping that is let slide far too often (the guilt I feel every time I pull a fluff/mommy hair ball out of Pumpkin's mouth is intense)... you get the idea. And before you blame Hubby and think he is not pulling his fair share- his list is at least as long. We clearly need a better plan. My suggestion is to limit our chores to one day, but so far that hasn't worked out in practice.

3. I used to play fiddle in a session at a local Irish pub once a week. I clearly can't do that with the same regularity anymore, but I would like to try to go once a month. I have not come anywhere near that. Part of the reason for this is that Pumpkin's poor sleep habits mean that time playing fiddle is time I probably should be sleeping, but that is not the whole story. I don't really know why I don't got out to the session more often, but I would like to fix that.

I think part of the reason I have not found my new routines is that I keep catching myself thinking this is just a temporary disruption to my old routines, and things will go back to "normal" sometime soon. Of course, I know that is not true. However, the old routines were my normal life for many, many years. I know that the old normal is gone, and the joy that Pumpkin brings to us more than makes up for any loss I feel about that. But I haven't found my new normal yet. Maybe I never really will. Maybe life with a child changes so rapidly that this feeling that I haven't quite figured out how to make it all work will be the new normal. What a disturbing thought!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Walking!

Pumpkin took her first unassisted steps today! I was surprised, because she had only managed to stand up without support on Saturday. Today, after we got home, I stood her up in front of her bookcase, thinking she could practice her standing skills, and instead she toddled over to her bookcase.

I wanted to go practice walking some more in the living room, where I could get a good picture. But she wanted to go on her swing instead. As usual, she got her way. We did some more walking when Daddy got home, though.

I'm so excited that I won't even complain about how it took me an hour after I turned out her light to get her down for the night. I guess she was excited about walking, too.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Zenbit: Idyllic Sunset
























Sunset from our favorite campsite.

Location:
Near Idyllwild, California
Date: August 6, 2005

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Best Parts of the Day

I can't help but smile as I head into Pumpkin's day care center to pick her up. This is partly because I am on my way to get my precious little girl, and partly because the bigger kids are all outside playing at this time of day, and their joyous laughter and shrieks are infectious.

When I reach Pumpkin's room, I open the door slowly, as the sign requests (babies are at play!) and walk in carefully. Pumpkin is almost always playing near the window. If she is facing me, her face breaks into a giant grin as soon as I walk in, and she puts down her toy and crawls towards me. (Last week, she even said "Mama" while she crawled.) I pick her up, and she gives me hugs and love pats (our word for the palm-down flapping/slapping motion she makes when she's happy to see the person who is holding her). She immediately starts pointing at things around the room (the phone, pictures of babies, the day care workers, the other babies....) and grabs onto my hair as I go over to pick up her daily report sheet and any bottles that are in the room. If she is facing away from me when I come in, I sneak up on her, and tap her on her shoulder. She turns around, sees me, gets a big grin on her face, and then we launch into our routine.

All in all, it is a wonderful part of my day. I am happy to see her so happy at day care. I am happy to see that the day care workers clearly enjoy her, too- they are having almost as much fun with the pointing phase as we are. Today, I saw her little plastic bag of graham crackers (her favorite food) hanging from a mobile near the high chairs. I'm sure that this was there so that Pumpkin could point at that the crackers to indicate that she wanted more. Everyone waves bye-bye to her, so that she can wave enthusiastically back. Then we walk over to the other baby room, which is where she spends most of her day, and pack up her stuff. I play a game, or give her a bottle as a toy, or sing her a song to distract her while I put her in her car seat, and then we leave and drive home.

If the traffic isn't bad, we get home in time for a walk. She likes to be carried in the Baby Bjorn. She gets excited when I get it out of her closet, and crawls over to pull on my pants legs until I pick her up and put her in the carrier. Then we head out for a walk around the block, during which she might wave at some of our neighbors or chat to me in her baby language that I can't understand. If she sees a car or truck go by, she might point. If she sees a bird fly over head, she will definitely point and say "Da!" I name everything that she points at. I would sound a bit strange to someone passing by who did not see the baby on my chest: "Bird! Car. Car. Bird! Dog. Bird!"

If traffic is bad, we go outside for a swing instead of going for a walk. She absolutely adores swinging in the swing her grandparents bought for her. She loves it so much that she never wants to quit. When, after 15 or 20 minutes, I decide that it is time to go in so that she can have dinner, she wraps her legs around the restraining bar as best she can (her legs aren't quite long enough to really wrap them around), grabs onto the straps, and screeches at me. She is quickly distracted once we're inside, though, either by a toy or by a cracker.

She grins and giggles when Daddy comes home, and one of us feeds her dinner. I'm exhausted by the time dinner is over, but I love our after work routine.

Our morning routine has its joys, too. The best part is actually when I leave for work. Her Daddy holds her, and they wave bye-bye to me as I go out the door. She grins and waves enthusiastically. So my work day is bracketed by a grinning, happy baby. I couldn't ask for a better way to start or end the work day!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Growing Up

Pumpkin will be one year old next month. I am having a hard time believing this, despite her obvious developmental progress. Perhaps because I don't really believe she's almost one, perhaps because she is still showing so little interest in most finger foods (except crackers), I haven't really thought much about how I'll proceed with her feeding once she turns one and we are "allowed" to give her dairy, egg whites, citrus, and probably all sorts of other things. (I put "allowed" in quotes, because when I finally got around to doing some research on food allergies, it turned out that the evidence for holding off on these foods isn't all that strong.) I know that I will keep nursing her, I think I'd like to try to decrease the amount of pumping I do, and I haven't really figured out the details.

Her day care center, on the other hand, is ready to move her towards more toddler-like eating habits. She'll be moving up to the room for older babies soon, and we need to start getting her ready. That means more finger food, so we need to start sending more finger foods for them to try giving her during the day. Part of me rebels at having to send in food that I suspect she won't eat, and at having some of my parenting decisions directed by her day care providers. But the more rational part of me realizes that they've seen hundreds of kids through this transition, and probably know what is likely to work. Also, Pumpkin's love affair with graham crackers started at day care, so maybe they'll have better luck with finger foods than we are having. So I've reluctantly agreed that we'll start sending more finger foods in next week. I want the rest of the week and this weekend to work on finding ideas and trying them out at home. (Tonight I tried apple pieces that I'd microwaved with some cinnamon. She liked them, but didn't actually eat them. She gummed them and spit them out. I think I need to cook them a bit longer.)

Day care also wants us to start working on transitioning her to one nap a day, since that is what they do in the big baby room. I'm having even more trouble with this, because her sleep is already such an issue. But I guess this is just another of the trade offs I've made. I want to work, and I've chosen to use day care rather than a nanny. This means I chose to lose a little control over Pumpkin's days. I know that I am having a bit of an irrational reaction to this change, too, since Pumpkin drops the afternoon nap at least once a week now. So I'll get over my neuroses on this, and we'll start working on moving her morning nap later and getting her to give up her afternoon nap. Maybe it will make her sleep better at night. A girl can dream.

Monday, March 10, 2008

About Time

I have a few thoughts on time today:

1. As many other people have noted, the time changes associated with daylight savings time are hard on babies and their parents. Perhaps this should tell us something about how stupid it is that we mess with our internal clocks twice a year.

I forgot all about the change until Friday, by which time it was too late to do a gradual shift in Pumpkin's schedule. Luckily for me, we had a very good friend from New Zealand in for a short visit this weekend, so were going to screw with Pumpkin's schedule, anyway. We ended up making her miss her afternoon nap and keeping her out too late for dinner on Saturday, and interrupting her morning nap on Sunday. The end of result of this was a lot of crankiness and an early bedtime on Saturday, followed by frequent wakings throughout the night and the need to nurse in the middle of the night. There was also a lot of crankiness and a rather difficult brunch on Sunday, followed by an early afternoon nap, and a reasonable bedtime. Unfortunately, there were also a lot of wakings last night, including one on Hubby's shift that he managed to sleep right through until she was positively screaming and I was awake and asking what the heck was going on. (He was trying to be considerate and was sleeping on the sofa, so that I could get better sleep. A nice idea in theory.)

So, not a lot of sleep for either parent this weekend. We're both pretty shattered today. I'm going to bed before 9 tonight, and hoping that I get at least four uninterrupted hours of sleep (my minimum for reasonable happiness the next day).

2. People who think that the parents of a baby with sleep issues can and should adjust her schedule to fit their needs are insane. It is much better to adjust our schedule to fit hers. I am woman enough to admit she is in charge.

I was commiserating about this fact today with one of my new colleagues, the father of a child who was once a baby with sleep issues. He said he'd lost friends over this point. It hasn't come to that with us yet, but I do know that some of our friends who are not parents think we're batty and probably suspect we're either spoiling Pumpkin or using her as an excuse. Frankly, I don't have the energy to care about this right now, so I can see how friendships might be lost.

3. Why do people who come in to work after 9 but stay until 6 think that those of us who are in before 8 but leave by 4:30 are slackers? Even if I wanted to stay until 6, doing so would mean that I'd basically go to bed right after dinner.

Luckily, my new boss understands this and will defend my schedule for me.

Now it is time for bed.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Zenbit: Flying Machine





















Location: Victoria, British Columbia
Date: October 2, 2004

Friday, March 07, 2008

A Friendly Disagreement

Yesterday, when I arrived at day care to pick Pumpkin up, she crawled towards me with a big smile on her face, as usual. When she reached me, she clearly said "mama". I got a big smile on my face, and picked her up. She put her arms around my neck, grabbed my hair, and said "mama" again.

It was the first time that I actually believed she knew what she was saying when she made that "mama" sound. In fact, it was the first time I thought she said any actual word. She has been saying "mamamamamamama" for quite a while, and "dadadadadada" for even longer. But it always sounded like babbling to me. This time was different. One of the other mothers in the room clearly thought this was a real word, too, because she said to her (much younger baby) "when are you going to call me Mama?"

The happy feelings from this moment (her first real word was "Mama"? How cool is that?) served me well through a rather difficult solo evening. She was a bit cranky and had a short attention span. First she wanted to dance to music, then she wanted to read, then she wanted a cracker (which I took to mean she wanted dinner, although I suspect she really just wanted a lot of crackers). She wouldn't play while I ate dinner. She kept pulling on my leg and whining, and arching her back and flopping around when I tried to set her down with a toy. I finally got her to play with her push walker toy, but she had zero patience for it when she drove it into a wall or piece of furniture and it stopped moving. She'd screech until I came and redirected it so that she could move again. It wasn't a peaceful dinner.

Her crankiness continued to bathtime, which is normally one of her favorite times of the day. She screeched at me and bit my finger when I tried to brush her teeth. She cried when I undressed her and fussed at me when I tried to keep her sitting down in her tub. She wanted to stand up and beat on the built in shelf on the wall. She was finally happy playing with a big plastic measuring cup- she liked to stuff one of her beloved rubber duckies into the cup. She probably could have played happily for hours. Certainly, she didn't approve of my decision to take her out and dry her off, although she did calm down a bit after a few verses of "Five Little Ducks" (actually, the first two verses over and over, since those are all I know). She likes it when I sing "quack, quack, quack".

I read her several stories, and then put on the music to rock her to the drowsy pre-sleep stage in which we like to put her down. This didn't go so well. I got her pretty drowsy, but she didn't stay that way when I put her down. After an hour of her sitting or standing up in the crib, and me lowering her back down, I finally caved and picked her up again and rocked her all the way to sleep. She was asleep within 5 minutes. I am beginning to think that I don't care if she goes down awake or not- or at least not until we're out of whatever developmental spurt is causing all of this angst.

Anyway, you can imagine how pleased I was when Hubby came home, and refused to agree that "Mama" was her first word. But it was late, so I let it pass, thinking maybe she'd give a repeat performance today. She did not say anything when I picked her up from day care. She just gave me her usual big grin and what we euphemistically call "love pats" (she leans back and flaps her arms in front of her, slapping the chest and/or face of the adult who holds her, until she decides that is enough, and leans in for a big hug). I was a bit disappointed, but quickly forgot all about it during my hellish commute home. I'd picked her up a little late due to a work function, and paid the price in traffic. Hubby beat me home, so took Pumpkin while I got changed.

When I came back into the living room, she clearly reached for me and said "Mama." However, even this didn't convince my doubting Hubby. I think he's just jealous that she's not really saying "Dada" yet. I think she's experimenting with it, but he's a bit more reserved than I am, and is just not reacting with enough glee to cement the association.

So I say we have a first word to log in our baby book. He disagrees. But I keep the baby book, so I think I'm going to win this one.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Trade Offs

Mimi had a post today that touched on the trade offs she is making as she looks for a new house. I had been thinking about some trade offs I recently made, so her post resonated with me, and made me decide to post about my recent decision.

As I mentioned earlier, I started a new job last week. I'm sure in time that I will find reason to complain about it, since no job is perfect. However, I am also reasonably sure that I won't be complaining about the route I take if I want to take a lunch time walk. If I take a 40 minute walk, the view for roughly 30 minutes of it looks a lot like this:
(I took this picture at lunch today. That's Torrey Pines State Park in the background and Torrey Pines Golf Course in the foreground. It was a bit hazy today, so the ocean isn't as striking as it is on some other days.)

The view on my walk route at my previous job was a busy road. So the new job is definitely an improvement in the walk route category. In other categories, though, there were trade offs. I previously wrote about my 35 hour work week and the fun days that this let me have with Pumpkin. That has come to an end- I have a standard 40 hour work week at the new job. In fact, I'll probably end up working a little more than 40 hours per week at the new job, because that's just what you do at this sort of job. (However, it won't be insane hours- I have never done that on a regular basis, not even during graduate school.)

The new job pays a bit better, but the pay differential is not enough that I would have given up my 35 hour work week for that reason alone. The real advantage of the new job is that it is interesting and challenging, and my old job was, well, a bit boring. I'd been unhappy at it for awhile. When I first found myself unhappy at work, I scheduled a series of sessions with a career counselor who helped me figure out what I really want in a job. She had some interesting techniques to help me discover this, like having me write little stories about times when I was particularly happy at work and helping me analyze them for their similarities. It turns out that the most important thing to me in a job is that I get to work on hard, interesting problems. I hadn't had that at my old job for awhile. I delayed the inevitable a bit by taking the big trip and then maternity leave, but by October of last year it was obvious that I needed to move on.

So I traded an my extra two days a month with Pumpkin for an interesting job* (and a nicer lunch time walk). I'm not sure I've completely come to terms with that trade off, but I am sure that it was one I had to make.

*There is a little bit more to the story, of course- the old job was moving me more and more away from my scientific field, and I felt that if I stayed there much longer it would have been harder to get a job back in my field, doing the work I love. But I probably could have waited another year. The thing that pushed me to run a job search when I did was my boredom at work.

And yes, I realize how incredibly lucky I was to have a job that gave me such flexibility when I came back from maternity leave, and that allowed me to take a leave of absence for the big trip. What can I say? That part was great. But being bored for 8 hours a day was not.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Duck Ages

If I had to log a guess right now about what Pumpkin's favorite animal will be, the smart money would be on ducks. She's into all things ducky right now. As the sidebar notes, her favorite book is 10 Little Rubber Ducks, by Eric Carle. I originally thought that she was picking it every night because it is the tallest book on her shelf. This may in fact be true. However, when we get to the page with the picture of the 10 little rubber ducks floating on the sea, she always pauses and touches several of the ducks before turning the page.

She also enjoys her actual rubber duckies quite a lot. So much so, in fact, that we now leave one in her crib with her at night, hoping that it might help calm her when she wakes up in the middle of the night. It is hard to say if this ever works, because if it does, we don't know about it. It certainly doesn't work all the time. We started doing this because letting her keep her rubber ducky is one way to minimize her protests when we take her out of her bath. She's never particularly happy to be plucked from her little tub and put down on a towel to dry off, but sometimes, when she has a duck, she just grumbles and whimpers a bit instead of screaming.

Rubber duckies are also the trick I use to get a chance to use the toilet when no one else is around to look after her. We have a shelf of rubber duckies in our bathroom. I take her in to the bathroom, and she points at the shelf. I pick up a duck. She pushes it away contemptuously. I put the first duck back on the shelf, pick up another duck, and we repeat the process until I pick up her current favorite duck. Then I set her down on the rug and she plays happily with the duck while I use the toilet. She doesn't even try to go empty out the trash can or chew on the water shut off valve. It's brilliant.

Her rubber ducky fascination is a bit spooky to me, though, because Hubby and I have a minor tradition around rubber ducks. We got a rubber duck at the first hotel we stayed at as a couple, so now we will look for a rubber duck to buy when we visit a new city. We don't always find one we want, but we like to look. We also had rubber duckies for cake toppers at our wedding.



The day after the wedding, we took them out into the lagoon* for a swim.


So maybe the duck fascination is some sort of fate. The groom ducky is Pumpkin's current favorite.

*We got married on Muri Lagoon, on the island of Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Zenbit: Canned Joy






















Surprisingly nice.

Location: Singapore
Date: January 29, 2006
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