Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Dilemma

I'm doing milk math again. At one point, Petunia seemed to be decreasing her milk intake, and I thought that I'd be able to drop a pumping session. That didn't happen. Instead, she ramped her milk intake back up. During the week, Petunia gets four bottles of a day- three at day care and one in the middle of the night, from Hubby. The bottles have between 4 and 6 ounces of milk. She also nurses approximately four times a day- once first thing in the morning, twice in the evening before bed, and once in the middle of the night. I can't really say how much milk she's getting when she nurses, but I'd guess that it is between 3 and 6 ounces each time.

I'm pumping four times a day, three times at work and once before bed. This weekend, I tried to add in an a pumping session each day, but that is hard to do, and I didn't really get that much. I certainly won't be able to make up the difference over the weekends. I've already started taking fenugreek again, and smell faintly of maple syrup- so I know I'm taking enough. Still, I've been slowly depleting my frozen milk supplies. At one point, our freezer seemed to overflow with little plastic bags of milk, frozen in 3 ounce aliquots. Now, I'm down to 6 bags. How did that happen? At the rate I'm using them, I'll be out by next week.

So, I have a decision to make. The way I see it, I have three options:

1. Keep going as we're going, and just replace one bottle each week day with formula. I have no problem with this option in theory, but in practice it would be the first time I've used formula since the first few days of nursing Pumpkin, when we had latch problems and had to supplement. Perhaps because I associate formula use with those difficult times, I'm strangely resistant to this option. I'm usually a fairly rational person, though, so I suspect I can overcome this irrational resistance. But Petunia's never had formula, and may refuse it. Or it may upset her tummy.

2. Stop having Hubby give a bottle in the middle of the night. I'd do all the night time feedings, and would probably therefore need to sleep in on the weekends. Even with that, I'd be really tired, because I wouldn't be able to get my minimum sleep requirement of 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Pumpkin's bedtime is too late to make this possible. Now, I could go to bed before she does, but that would probably create more problems than it would solve.

3. Accelerate our plans to introduce dairy and hope that this causes Petunia to get more of her calories from solid foods. According to the latest opinion from the AAP, we could introduce soft cheeses and yogurt now. (When Pumpkin was this age, we were told to hold off on all dairy until she was a year old. So I think these guidelines are really just someone's wild guess.) We may do this anyway, but there is a good chance that it won't work. So I'm not sure I want to bank on it.

I vaguely remember hitting a similar problem at about this time with Pumpkin. I think I was able to add a morning pumping session and some extra weekend sessions and managed to make it through. Adding more pumping sessions is not an option this time- and that realization makes me a bit sad for poor Petunia. (Which is silly, I know, particularly when I look at the wonderful chub on her little thighs and arms. The girl is clearly not starving.)

What do you think? Am I missing any options? What would you do?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dinner during Dora: Picky Eater's Green Beans

I have written before about being a picky eater, and how I don't actually like the taste of most vegetables. Despite this, I try to include a vegetable with every dinner- I know that they are good for me, Hubby likes them, and we want to set a good example for Pumpkin (even though she usually won't eat the vegetables I serve).

This means that I have a collection of quick recipes to make vegetables palatable to me. The second recipe in my Dinner during Dora series is one of my favorites- green beans cooked in a little orange juice.

Green Beans in Orange Juice

Ingredients:

Green beans- frozen or fresh will work
~1 tsp butter (optional- I don't really measure how much I use, and I think the beans would be fine without this)
~1/2 cup orange juice, or orange-tangerine juice (I use whatever I have on hand for my breakfasts)
Garlic salt
Pepper

Instructions:

If you're using fresh green beans, snap them.

Put the green beans into a microwave safe dish that has a lid. Pour orange juice on top, and put a pat of butter on them. Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper.



Put in the microwave. For frozen beans, microwave for about 3 minutes, stirring after 1.5 to 2 minutes. For fresh beans, you'll probably only need to microwave then for about 2 minutes, stirring after a minute.



(The exact times will depend on your microwave, how many beans you make, and how mushy/crunchy you like your beans. The times above are for a sort of crappy microwave, enough beans for 2-3 people, and doesn't make the beans very mushy.)

I serve these with a lot of different things, including the Bacon, Corn and Cheese rice that was my first Dinner during Dora post.

Source: The basic idea came from the Lemony Green Beans recipe in my Cooking Light Superfast Suppers cook book.

Who eats it: Hubby, me, and Petunia. Pumpkin has so far refused to try these. Petunia seems to really like them, even as cold leftovers.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Butterfly, Flapping its Wings

I saw three butterflies while out for my after lunch "naptime on wheels" walk with the girls today. Seeing them reminded me of one of the perfect moments from our big trip. We were swimming in the water in front of our motel on Pulau Langkawi, our final stop in Malaysia.

This picture doesn't do it justice

The water was warm, and it felt good (and a little bit strange) to be in my swimsuit after so long demurely covered up in deference to the local culture. Langkawi is a destination for tourists from other parts of Asia, and women in swimsuits are not an unusual sight. We were roughly halfway through our trip, and had really settled into the traveling life. I no longer dreamed about work- if I had a stressful dream, it was about missing a bus or something like that. We were splashing around a bit before dinner, relaxing after spending the bulk of the day traveling to Langkawi from Penang- a spot we both liked, but that seemed to require more effort than our other stops in Malaysia did.

While we floated around, a butterfly flitted past. There was a strong breeze, so it was struggling a bit, and hung in our view for what seemed like minutes. I remember thinking that this was a perfect moment. And it was.

I always think of that moment when I see a butterfly, which is actually fairly frequently during spring and early summer, when the flowers are in bloom.  Seeing a butterfly always feels like a special thing, but never as special as that moment in Langkawi.

One of the benefits of taking a long trip like we did is the chance to really take a step back and appreciate how many wonderful things there are in our world. I came back from that trip determined to continue seeing those things. That determination was the original inspiration for the zenbits series of posts. Over time, it has become more and more difficult to keep seeing the wonder, which may be why that series of posts has gotten less and less frequent. (The fact that almost all of the pictures we take these days have at least one of the girls in them might have something to do with it, too.)

Of course, the ability to see the wonder in the world with fresh eyes is meant to be one of the great gifts of having children, too. This has been true for us.  Traveling with Pumpkin showed me the wonder in sea lions and fish tummies, for instance.

My children bring wonder into my life in more mundane ways, as well. Their laughter and the lengths Pumpkin will go to to get a laugh from Petunia. The way Petunia rocks out to the tunes played by Pumpkin's toy car- and the look of pure joy on her face while she does it. Pumpkin running up to me after day care telling me that she made "A miracle flag" that day, and only figuring out when I see the artwork that she means an American flag. The feel of a baby sleeping in my arms, and the "kiss and a hug" delivered by Pumpkin. All of these things are truly wonderful.

But I would be lying if I said something hadn't been lost, too. That Langkawi butterfly was more wonderful than the ones I saw today partly because of the circumstances in which it was seen. It was a time in my life when I had almost no obligations. I was, in a sense, as free as that butterfly. It is much easier to see the wonder in the world when the world is not asking much of you.

And once you have children, the world does seem to ask more of you, in ways both obvious and subtle. There are more financial obligations and the responsibility for keeping precious little lives safe. But there is also the time spent reading about the correct way to praise your child and the brain cells committed to potty training strategies. That carefree feeling I had in Langkawi is a distant memory these days. This is probably why a night away is so much more refreshing that just a dinner out. Not only do I get to sleep through the night, I get to visit that pre-kid lifestyle, and have the second drink without first checking with my husband to see if he's going to be the adult in charge for the night.

I'm just a tourist there, now. Even when I know my kids are safe at home under the excellent care of my parents, I think about them, and the details at once mundane and profound that go into raising a child. From where I stand now, it doesn't seem that I'll truly live in that unobligated state again until my kids are out of the house, and maybe not even then.

I love my life as it is, but those four months traveling around without any obligations remain one of my favorite times in my life. It is like I told Pumpkin today, when she was disappointed that she didn't have time to go on a walk with me and play with water in our backyard. There are more fun things to do than there is time. Sometimes, you have to make a choice. The great thing is that either choice will be a good one, as long as you really commit to it. Once you're living the choice you made, it is pointless- and even harmful- to wish for the other option.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dinner during Dora: Bacon, Corn and Cheese Rice

I think the hardest part of my day is the time between when I get home from work and dinner. Hubby and I stagger our schedules by about 30 minutes. I go to work earlier in the morning, thereby skipping the struggles over sunscreen and any tears at day care drop off (although those aren't very common these days). However, the flip side is that I have to solo during dinner prep time. We prioritize family dinners- we aren't adamant that Petunia eats with us (although she usually does), but we do want to eat with Pumpkin most nights. That priority, Petunia's bedtime requirements, and my commute time combine to give me less than 30 minutes to get dinner on the table most weeknights.

Here is my weeknight drill: I walk in the door, drop my bags on the table, get Petunia out of her car seat and set up with some toys, start an episode of Dora for Pumpkin and then head to the kitchen to cook dinner- reappearing to do the "We Did It!" dance with Pumpkin. The dance is not optional.

That gives me approximately 22 minutes to get dinner ready.

Oh, and I want dinner to be reasonably healthy, and to include one thing that Pumpkin- whose incredibly picky eating is surely a karmic payback for my own childhood food foibles- might eat.

I've decided to start a series of posts that I'll call "Dinner during Dora", which will have recipes that I use frequently. I'm starting this series of posts with the hopes that some of you might like the idea and do your own "Dinner during Dora" posts. Mimi already has one up (and it looks good- I particularly like the idea that if I time it right, I might actually use some of the gazillion avocados our backyard tree produces every year). I've turned on the "trackback" feature on the blog, so if you link to this post (and not just to my home page), a link to your post will appear at the bottom of this page, and we can all find new recipes. If you don't have your own blog, let me know if you want to send in a recipe for me to post for you. The only requirement is that you can make it in roughly the time of one Dora episode- so 30 minutes, start to finish, is the absolute limit. 20 minutes is better!

I think this may actually get me off the fence about Twitter, too. I'll set up a Twitter account for this blog (what should my handle be? I rather doubt I'll get Cloud. Maybe "Wandsci"?) and start some sort of Dinner during Dora hashtag. It may take me a few days to get that all set up, though.

I'll always list the source of the recipe, and I'll tell you who in the family eats it.

So without further ado, here is the first Dinner during Dora recipe:

Bacon, Corn, and Cheese Rice

Ingredients:

1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp crushed garlic (I suspect this is about 2 small cloves- but I buy bottled, pre-minced garlic to save time)
3/4 cups rice
1 14.5 oz can chicken broth
1/2 - 3/4 cup good melting cheese (I use gouda)
3-4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup frozen corn

Instructions:
    1. I start the bacon cooking first. That way it is done and ready to crumble by the time I need it.



    2. Heat the olvie oil in a large skillet or shallow pan over medium heat. (Note: I don't know how this would work in a non-stick pan- I use a regular pan.)
    3. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. I like the garlic to brown.
    4. Add rice and stir until the grains are coated with oil.
    5. Add broth. Stir and bring to a boil.
    6. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes
    7. Add corn. Stir and cook another 3 minutes, or until the rice is done.
    8. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and bacon.



    I serve this with a green vegetable- usually either green beans cooked in OJ or zucchini fried in olive oil. I can make either of those while the rice simmers. I'll post recipes in a later installment of Dinner during Dora. 

    Source: I made this one up. The basic idea for how to cook the rice came from The Working Stiff Cookbook by Bob Sloan and Michael Klein. The basic recipe can obviously be varied in many ways. For instance, if you like peas (I can't stand them), you could add frozen peas instead of
    or in addition to the corn. Our mix-ins were chosen because at one point, Pumpkin has eaten all of them. (That doesn't mean she eats them now- she's gone off bacon for some reason, and despite proclaiming "I like it!" every time she tries corn, she won't eat it if it just shows up on her plate.)


    Who eats it: So far, just me and Hubby, but Pumpkin has only seen it 4 or 5 times, and she often takes much, much longer to warm up to a new food. She has in fact never eaten any rice- or at least not at home. She apparently eats the "orange rice" at day care, which is some sort of Spanish rice that they serve with tacos and beans. Two other foods she will only eat at day care.  Petunia is too young for this dish, but next time I make it, I will pull out some of the rice before I add the cheese and bacon and see what she thinks of it.

    For some reason the Links to this Post feature isn't working... I don't have time to troubleshoot right now. So just post a link to your post in the comments! I'll try to figure out what is going on with the trackback thingy soon.

    OK, the trackback thingy just isn't working, and I can't figure out how to fix it. So here are the other Dinner during Dora posts I know about. Email me or post a comment here to have me add yours to the list:

    Saturday, July 10, 2010

    Out of Balance

    My work responsibilities have shifted again. My company has just gone through a reorganization, which is not at all uncommon in the biotech industry. One of the things that senior management and the Board of Directors decided we needed to strengthen was our project management practice. At the same time, they didn't really want to hire a full time project manager- we are too small, and only a couple of our projects are in the advanced stage that usually warrants formal project management in this industry.

    So now, I'm fulfilling an interesting hybrid project and program management role. I have time to do this because after the reorganization, there is far less need for the science I used to do for the company. I continue to be in charge of IT and informatics (which I define as the use of computers to help other scientists better manage their data), but the "computational science" portion of my job has been replaced by project management.

    I'm not sure yet what I think of this change. I am certainly glad to have been given this opportunity rather than a severance package- the biotech job market is better than it was a year ago, but still not all that great. My boss and the rest of the senior management at my company think that this is a great opportunity for me, since I'm actually working directly with one of our board members on this. If I do well, he will be a powerful ally for my future career. But I liked the science I used to do, and I will miss it. One of the reasons I took this job was the chance to do some science again. However, I also get a fair amount of satisfaction from helping get projects running well, and I am already learning a lot about other types of science and drug development in my new role. So it is a mix of good and bad, and I am not unhappy doing it.

    But it is quite a change, and has been pretty draining so far- and no doubt will continue to be until I am up to speed in the new role. It doesn't help that I came down with an extremely nasty cold basically the day that the new job started. I would have stayed home for at least a day, but I couldn't. I haven't been functioning at my full capacity at work, and have had to work a bit at night to make up for that.

    All of this has conspired to make my life feel out of balance lately. I work, take care of the kids, and sleep. We're behind on our housework and I'm craving more time to just play with the kids, who are both at fun ages right now. I have lots of ideas for blog posts but no time to write them. For instance, I want to start a series of posts called "Dinner during Dora" with recipes I use during the week (when I essentially need to cook dinner during the time it takes for Pumpkin to watch one episode of Dora). I'm thinking that having such a series might inspire me to look for new recipes- and maybe some of you would point me to some good ones. We've got a whooping cough outbreak here right now, and that's got a long pondered post about vaccination brewing again. And some recent AskMoxie posts about marriage (or actually divorce) and testing for gifted programs in early elementary school have stirred up a lot of ideas about getting what you need in your marriage and educating kids who are on the smarter side of average that I wish I had time to explore here. Feel free to vote in the comments for what I should write about next time I get a chance. I make no promises that I'll listen, but I might!

    But right now, I should go fold some laundry.

    Tuesday, July 06, 2010

    Nine Months!

    Last Friday, Petunia turned nine months old. Nine months seems like it should be special, since she has now been out here with the rest of the family as long as she was in there with just me. Of course, it is not actually any more meaningful than any other day, but it did make me sit back and think about how much my little baby has grown. She's so big now.

    Speaking of "so big", she plays a mean round of that. You can say "How big are you, Petunia?" and about 70% of the time, she'll hold her hands up and give you her beautiful, infectious grin, and of course you'll have to grab her little hands and say "soooo big!" (Pumpkin likes to play this game with her, and patty cake.)

    Speaking of infectious... Petunia gave Hubby and me a nasty cold last week. She gave it to my parents, too, who were here to give us a night away. They claim that it was worth it, but I have a hard time believing it. My kids are really cute, but this is a really bad cold. Interestingly, Pumpkin never caught it. Petunia got better, and went back to day care last Wednesday, only to come down with a fever again this weekend. I had taken her to her well baby check up on Friday. Hubby took her back to the same doctor today for the diagnosis- hand, foot and mouth disease. She's already better enough to go back to day care, where, judging from what I read on the CDC's page, she'll continue to infect any of the other babies who haven't already caught it from whomever gave it to her. (Don't judge- the page says she could be shedding virus for weeks after all of her symptoms clear! It would be impossible to know when she is no longer infectious, so we'll follow the standard rules and send her back when she's no longer sick and has been fever free for 24 hours.)

    Speaking of a night away... yes, Hubby and I just had one, courtesy of my parents. (Yes, we know how lucky we are.) We didn't go far, just up to Orange County. We stayed in a business hotel across from the Costa Mesa mall. We shopped- we both needed clothes and never seem to find the time to get them. We ate dinner and lingered over our meal, our margaritas (I had two!!! So decadent), and conversation only interrupted by the waitress asking if we wanted dessert. And then we slept through the night.

    While we were shopping, I saw a mother carrying a little baby, who couldn't have been more than three months old. I was struck by the thought that I'll never have such a little baby again (we're done at two- Hush! is having a good discussion about that, if you're so inclined).  The thought made me a little sad. Not sad enough to go through another pregnancy or the sleep deprivation of babyhood again, but sad in a gosh it all goes by so fast sort of way. I had a flash forward to the end of the baby years, when there will be no more diapers to change and we'll be able to go away without taking the breast pump with us, and maybe stay away for an entire weekend, if my parents are willing. And I suddenly understood why mothers everywhere pester their children for grandbabies. There is something special about the baby years.

    The next morning we had breakfast out. (I am still in search of a really good breakfast in the OC... This time I consulted Yelp and we went to the highly rated Rooster Cafe. It was good, but not really what I was after.) And then we drove home, to be greeted by two happy little girls. Pumpkin wanted to tell us everything she had done while we were away. We're still hearing stories from that weekend. Petunia just wanted to smile at us and pat whoever was holding her. She does this when I pick her up from day care, too, or come home after leaving her with Hubby for awhile. I know I'm probably reading more into this gesture than is there, but I choose to believe that it is her way of saying that she's happy to see me.

    And I'm happy to see her, too. These are the fundamental paradoxes of parenthood- we need time away from our kids, but are anxious to see them again and think about them the entire time we're away. We struggle through the baby years, but know we'll always miss them when they're over.

    I probably have more to say on that subject, but not tonight. I'll close this rambling post with two photos. First, Petunia looking out at the world she's only starting to explore:



    And second, Pumpkin, at almost the same age, doing the same.


    OK, Petunia is actually licking the door. Details, details.
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