Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Universe Gives One Back

Thanks for all the nice comments on my last post. I guess there is some interest in the nitty-gritty details of how Hubby and I make our lives work. I may try to write some more posts about that sort of thing in the future- but I need to think a bit more about where I'll draw the line on what is OK to write about and what needs to stay private, and also about what sorts of details might be interesting/useful to others figuring similar things out and what sorts of details are dull and really specific to our own particular circumstances. But hey, you few people who are interested in this sort of thing, if you have specific questions, let me know. I'll see if I can answer them.

Anyway, as Monty Python would say... And now for something completely different: a short story about how sometimes the universe throws you a bone.

About three and a half years ago, when we moved into our current house, I lost a canvas bag. This was more annoying than you might think, because it was a bag that was a souvenir from our big trip- and we didn't bring that many souvenirs back from that trip, particularly when you think about the length of time we were gone and the number of places we visited. This particular bag was one of our few souvenirs from the Australian leg. We bought it in the Blue Mountains. I liked the colors, and the funky aboriginal-influenced design. And I liked how looking at it reminded me of that beautiful region of Australia, and the awesome hike we took there. I walked down something like 900 steps (this is not an exaggeration), hiked for an hour or so, had a gigantic fight with Hubby about whether or not we were lost (we were- I was right, and he later admitted that he was glad that I had made him turn back since if we'd kept on the path he insisted was the right one, we would have come out some 20 miles from our hotel), and then, having missed the last cable car ride back to the top, where our hotel was, walked back up those same 900 or so stairs. I love that I was once fit enough to do this. I love that we were able to bounce back from that gigantic fight as well as we did- neither of us held much of a grudge from it (despite the fact that my butt was really sore after walking up those 900 or so stairs), and it is not only just a funny story now, it was a funny story by the time we got to dinner that night. I love how much more we enjoyed watching the sunset over the three sisters after that trek. And the bag reminded me of all of that.

So anyway, I was sad to lose the bag. I was sure it was hiding somewhere in our house, and I kept looking for it, off and on.

Then, two days ago, while I was picking up Petunia's things at day care, I saw the bag. It had spent the last three and a half years living in the walking babies room at our day care, being used as a toy. They gladly returned it to me, and it is now back home, stored in with my other bags.


The best part is, I now know exactly what happened to it. We used it to carry extra clothes for Pumpkin in to day care, and left it there. It fell out of her cubby and got mixed up with their toys. And lived there, serving as a play purse to quite a bunch of little toddlers until one day, the universe decided that it was time for it to come home.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Scenes from a Marriage

I've decided not to write about all of the gory details of our big argument about chores, because frankly, they're sort of dull. But there was one part that is indicative of how easily things can go awry in a marriage, particularly when both partners are busy and expectations are made from assumptions instead of communication.  As I mentioned in my last post, reading the comments on Moxie's recent post how you know when a marriage is over made me think that there might be some value in writing about the arc of a disagreement in a healthy marriage (which I think Hubby and I have)- from inception through full-blown argument to resolution. Too often, we see a picture of a happy marriage as being one in which the partners never disagree, and that is about as realistic as the saccharine portrayals of a vision of motherhood composed of nothing but laughing babies and hugs from adorable toddlers.

Anyway, the argument started because Hubby was annoyed because I spend so much time blogging (when y'all could tell him that I clearly don't spend much time blogging at all, since I post so infrequently these days). I pointed out that he finds the time to watch at least 30 minutes of TV a few times a week, and that I thought that was about equivalent to my blogging time. Hubby responded that he only watches TV late, after I've gone to bed, while I blog while he's still up doing chores.

So I asked him why he thought I went to bed so early. He said that it was because I needed more sleep than he does.

This just floored me. He is right- I do need more sleep than he does. I think that left to our own devices, I'd sleep about 9 hours a night and he'd sleep about 7.5. The thing is, I don't get anything remotely close to the amount of sleep I "need". At the point at which we were having this argument, I hadn't had more than 5 hours sleep for the previous week. Petunia's been waking up a lot, and staying awake to party at least two or three times a week. We haven't figured out what to do about her 2 a.m. parties, but that's a topic for another blog post.

I pointed out the real reason that I go to bed so early, and Hubby had the grace and good sense to recognize that he'd lost the argument. Ironically, I was too tired to capitalize on my victory, though, so I stormed off to bed and the argument dribbled on for another couple of nights. Finally, a few nights later, we sat down with beers and really worked things out.

The details of the resolution don't really matter- they are as dull as the rest of the argument was. The important thing is that we finally made the time to really talk about the issues. I was amazed by how spectacularly differently we were thinking. He had completely discounted the middle of the night work I was doing (because sorry, anything that I have to do at 2 a.m. is work), whereas I was counting it double. No wonder we were grumping at each other. We could have let it fester. That would, in fact, have been the easy way out- we were both tired and busy and really, who wants to waste an evening talking about how we divide up chores? But nothing good would have come of ignoring the issue.

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I don't really know what the point of the above story is. Maybe just to say that this marriage and parenthood thing is hard. Hubby and I are both feeling overstretched. We're busy at work. We're planning Pumpkin's 4th birthday party. We're dealing with Petunia's health concerns (which, thankfully, seem to be turning out to be nothing worse than "she's prone to fevers", but finding that out has been a long road and we may yet have further to go on it) and the 18 month sleep regression. We're trying to figure out how to deal with the on again, off again issues Pumpkin is having with B at day care. And amongst all that, we're cooking dinner, cleaning the house, and fielding random things like the summons to jury duty I got last week (I'm postponing because I'm still breastfeeding, and not feeling the least bit bad about it- as far as I'm concerned, parents of children under the age of 5 should just get a free pass). Some weeks, we just have to look at each other and reaffirm our commitment to still be there for each other once this latest storm has passed.

Given all of this, I can understand why Hubby might look at me blogging, and wonder why I'm finding time for that, but not to sit on the sofa with him and watch some TV. There is the practical answer- that my computer is in the office next to Pumpkin's room, so I can easily pop up and turn over her pillow, find the Silly Bandz that she suddenly, urgently needs to have stored with the others, or whatever else she needs when she calls "Moommmeeeee!"

And then there is also the more accurate answer- that I need the outlet blogging provides. My new job is going well, and I really like it. But I think I have finally accepted that the skills I have that people will pay good money for are organizational more than creative. I love what I do for a living, but it is only part of what I need to do. At work and at home, I have a never-ending to do list, most of which revolves around what other people need. Blogging lets me express myself in something less structured than a project plan. Without it, I feel like a two-dimensional representation of myself. Somehow, in reducing pieces of my life to text, I regain my third dimension.

I've explained this to Hubby, and he tries hard to understand it. I don't think he fully succeeds in understanding, but he accepts it, and that is enough.

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Lest you think that Hubby always comes out on the losing end, I offer up the story of Petunia's bedtime music, which was also Pumpkin's bedtime music for a couple of years, until I replaced it in my (successful) attempt to create a routine that let me leave her room before she is asleep.

Hubby is not a fan of traditional lullabies, so he picked out a CD by Suzanne Vega to listen to while rocking/bouncing Pumpkin to sleep. When Petunia started needing more than just a nurse and a burp to go down for the night, he brought out the same CD. Which means that for the past three years, I have spent many, many nights rocking a baby to sleep while listening to this song:



Which is either awesome or horrifying, depending on how you look at it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekend Reading: The Parenthood Edition

I didn't really mean to disappear this week, but life comes before blogging, so I did. We have reinstituted a  modified version of our chores schedule, and this was our week to clean. We have more time for chores in the evenings now, because we have started giving the girls their baths together, so while one parent is supervising the bath, the other can be doing chores. But on the other hand, on the nights when Petunia doesn't go down easily, the bedtime routines can consume a solid hour of at least one parent's time.

I think, though, that we'll be changing that chores schedule again soon, because, as a result of a week-long argument frank and open discussion about division of labor in our household, Hubby has finally given up compromised and is willing to have the cleaner come in twice a month. I've been debating whether to blog about that argument. On the one hand, why would anyone want to read about someone else's argument- and an argument about chores, to boot? On the other hand, reading some of the comments on Moxie's post this week about ending a marriage makes me think that maybe it would be interesting to write about what marriage is really like. I think Hubby and I have a very good, strong marriage. But that doesn't mean that it is all roses and buttercups here all the time. To be fair, though, the argument only went on for multiple days because we were too tired/busy to sit down and really discuss things in any one night.

Anyway. I do still have a few things to suggest you read this week. Here they are:

First up, this article in Slate about how children learn (sent to me by Bad Mom, Good Mom) was interesting, and made me feel better about the fact that I don't care whether or not the day care I have Pumpkin in spends much time teaching her things. They have a good set up for play, and that has always seemed more important to me at this age.

I started reading Hilahil's blog when I figured out that she was a fellow Moxie-reader in San Diego. She had a post up last week (which I only got to read this week because I've been so busy) with an amazing video about girls and being pretty. Go watch it. You'll be glad you did.

Finally, Anna Quindlen's post on the Motherlode was great, and just what I needed to read in the week in which I learned that my baby (my BABY) is about to move up to the 18 month old room at day care. You know, because she's 18 months old.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Bunch of Unrelated Blather

Today was a day of near misses. I left for work quite late... but for some reason there was no line of cars at my on ramp this morning, so I got to work just a little bit late. I opened my lunch bag and discovered that I'd left the cream cheese for my bagel at home... but the company brought in lunch anyway. I got caught by a train on my way to day care and then Pumpkin dawdled while we were packing up to leave, making us quite late... but then there was a strange lack of traffic on the way home, and we got home on time.

I don't know whether it was a day of good luck or bad luck. I guess we'll see how long it takes to get Petunia down and judge from that. 30 minutes or less would definitely be good luck these days. We've definitely hit the 18 month sleep regression.

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Speaking of Petunia, I promised an update on all her tests. She does not have an immune deficiency- all of those tests came back normal. Her C reactive protein test indicated an infection, and her head x-ray showed some thickening of the sinus mucosa, so the doctor diagnosed a sinus infection. She's been on augmentin for a week and a half and has been fairly healthy the entire time. She and I both caught a pretty mild cold, but she never spiked a fever from it. After she finishes the full 14 day course of antibiotics, I have to take her back in for a follow up visit, which will include another blood test to confirm that the infection is gone. I'm dreading that, but I'm overall pretty relieved by the results of all the tests.

We also heard last week that she'll start "visiting" in the next room up at day care soon. The teacher ("Ms. T") in that room is just downright awesome. When we were thinking about pulling her out of day care and getting a nanny, one of the things stopping me was the thought that she wouldn't get to be in Ms. T's class. Yes, she is that good.

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Speaking of updates, you may or may not have noticed that my blog now has its very own domain- http://www.wandering-scientist.com. (The hyphen in the URL is there because someone else has the wanderingscientist.com domain, although he is not doing anything with it.)

I set up the domain because I have some ideas for things I'd like to do on this blog that Blogger won't support. So please, go ahead and update any bookmarks, etc. But don't strain yourself hurrying to do it, because at the rate I'm going through my to do list items since going back to work, I'll probably get to the blog redesign sometime in the summer of 2015.

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And now it is time to start our nightly "why won't our baby go to sleep" ritual. Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Zenbit: Juxtaposition

























"Let's just stop by the Tang Dynasty on our way to the bathroom...."

(This picture was at a theme park/shopping complex thing that was actually pretty cool.)


Location: Macau, China
Date: March 30, 2006

Friday, March 18, 2011

Weekend Reading: The Old-Fashioned Media Edition

Sleep is not popular with the under-5 set here these days. Bedtimes are stretching out, and actual sleep is coming later and later. Both kids were still awake after 9 tonight, which is quite late for Petunia and a little late for Pumpkin. Not to be outdone by her little sister, Pumpkin is still awake at 9:45. And yet, they still wake up between 6:30 and 7 in the morning. Argh.

Among other things, this means that I haven't had as much web surfing time this week as I have had in the past. But never fear! I still have a recommendation for something for you to read this weekend. Get your hands on The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. You'll be glad you did.

I read this book for book club, and it is one of the examples of why I am glad I am in book club. I would never have picked it up on my own, and that would have been a real loss for me. It is officially a "young adult" book, but don't let that stop you from reading it. After all, you read Harry Potter, didn't you? This book is at least an order of magnitude better than those books were (and I liked the Harry Potter books).

The book is the story of a teenage Native American boy who decides to transfer from his school on the reservation to the school in the nearest "white" town. As a result, he ends up feeling out of place in both communities. But the story is nowhere near as depressing as that synopsis or the book's unvarnished portrait of life on the reservation would lead you to expect. It is actually a warm and funny book, and is quite nuanced in its treatment of subjects like racism and poverty. The whites are not all bad and the Indians are not all good, and vice versa- everyone is just human.

I read this book in a weekend. That was partially because it is fairly short and an easy read, but mostly because it is the sort of book that you don't want to stop reading once you start it. In fact, several of us in book club commented that we were annoyed when it ended. It ends well, but it certainly leaves you wanting more. Luckily, Sherman Alexie has written other books. I will definitely read one to see if it is as good as this one was.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Maybe Not Overwhelmed, But Definitely Fully Whelmed

My husband and I spent a full month in Thailand in early 2006, as part of our big "Circle Pacific" trip. This was really only a little over a year after the earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean. We stayed a couple of nights on Ko Phi Phi, which had been hard hit by the tsunami. There was construction everywhere, as the locals worked to rebuild their tourism infrastructure and therefore their economy. It was a moving testament to the human will to pick up and move on and the warmth of the welcome we received on that island (and really, everywhere we went in Thailand) is one of my favorite memories from that trip.

One of the "must do" things when on Ko Phi Phi is to take a boat trip to see some of the surrounding small islands. You go on a small longtail boat, driven by a guide. The water is warm and clear, and the snorkeling, even after the destruction to the coral from the tsunami, was amazing. (This zenbit picture was taken on that boat trip.) Our guide was as friendly and welcoming as the stereotype for Thais in the the tourist industry promises, but his eyes were profoundly sad. We guessed he had lost someone in the tsunami, but felt too awkward to ask him about it. One of the other tourists on our boat apparently did not feel the same way, and asked the question. Our guide said that he had lost his wife and young son.

I've been thinking about that man lately, as I've been following the news from Japan. To be honest, I haven't been following the news that closely. My memory of the sadness in that man's eyes tells me that I cannot really comprehend the anguish of the people in the affected areas right now. I'm not sure that I see the value in trying. As I said in a comment on Liz's excellent Mom-101 post about her reaction to this tragedy, I don't think we should feel like we have to take all of the tragic news in. It doesn't help anyone for me to do that, not the people in Japan, not my family, and certainly not me. I've taken to just checking in with the site the nuclear engineering students at MIT put up (because I swear that most of the mainstream media is more interested in scaring me than telling me what is actually going on) and scanning the headlines on BBC or CNN once a day. Even that can send me into a tailspin at times.

But mostly, I am just continuing on with my daily life, caught up in the petty troubles that I'm honestly very lucky to have: I'm in my third week on my new job, and have entered the phase where I have enough projects to keep me really busy, but I don't feel like I have a handle on them yet. They are amorphous and complicated, and resisting my attempts to add structure and to comprehend them. I don't feel like my to do list is correct yet, so every day when I leave, I wonder if I will walk in the next day to discover that I've forgotten to do something important.

I know that this phase will pass, and soon I will be happily busy but feeling mostly on top of things. But I hate the unsettled, slightly panicky feeling that I have during this phase. Having to go through this phase at the start of each new job is perhaps the worst thing (for me) about the employment volatility inherent in my chosen field.

Meanwhile, at home, we're struggling to get back into our "two working parents" groove. Dinner is often late, and "ignore toddler tugging on your pants and crying to be picked up while signing that she wants to nurse (even though you just nursed her 5 minutes ago)" is apparently a step in every recipe I make. I can't get my morning routine worked out, and am therefore always rushing out the door, and arriving at work a little later than I want. We're trying to get our chores schedule updated and in place again, but can't seem to get that finished off- which would be funny in an ironic sort of way if it weren't causing us to snipe at each other about stupid little chores and who is doing what.

Pumpkin is throwing at least one tantrum a day, and although I know that this is developmentally normal- or at least not hugely abnormal- and I see that she is managing to avoid melting down over many things throughout the day, the slammed doors and screaming always make me feel like I've some how failed in how I handled whatever situation set her off. Petunia is in a weird place with sleep where she's sleeping for longer stretches, but seems to need to spend at least an hour awake in the middle of the night. I'm debating whether I prefer that hour to be at 2 a.m. (like Monday night) or 4:30 a.m. (like this morning), and can't decide. Luckily, my opinion doesn't matter on this one. She has also been hard to get down for the night. She wants to be held and rocked, but she twists and squirms and head butts until I'd swear that I'm trying to rock a wild animal to sleep.

But, despite the tantrums and the sleep issues, the kids are my sanity saver right now. If I make the mistake of reading a tragic news story at work, I click over to the site where we keep our family photos and smile. At the end of the day, both girls greet me with big smiles and open arms, and my worries about any forgotten work are themselves forgotten. Just tonight, I watched Petunia stand on her tiptoes, trying to reach the books on her bookshelf. I went over and held her up so she could choose a book. Then I put her down, and sat down cross-legged on the floor in her room. She walked over, book held out at arm's length in front of her, carefully turned around so that her back was to me, and then backed into my lap so that I could read her the book. I kissed the wispy hair on the top of her head and was thankful for all that I have- troubles and all.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Zenbit: Cherry Blossoms























Location: Tokyo, Japan
Date: April 6, 2006

My husband and I spent two days in Tokyo and the end of our big trip in 2006.  Hubby had been before, I had not. He told me that I would be impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of the people in Tokyo, and I was. When you take a trip like we did, visiting several countries over even an extended period of time, you know that you'll only be scratching the surface of most places you visit. That was certainly true in Japan. I only saw Tokyo, and only a select few parts of that. But what I saw left me wanting to see more.

I have not been following the news from Japan these last few days as closely as I could, or perhaps should. It is not the sort of news I want to have on the TV or computer when my daughters are around. I am not ready to try to explain this sort of catastrophe to them yet. In fact, I don't think I ever will be ready, or able, to explain it.

But my heart is breaking for the people of Japan. I'll be sending money soon, and wishing that I could somehow do more.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekend Reading: The First Edition

Thank you all for your good wishes on my last post. Petunia is doing just fine right now, and I'll post an update once we know more.

I'm thinking of starting a new feature here where I post links to interesting or amusing things. I'll do it on Fridays because that is what everyone does, but I'm going to call it Weekend Reading because I like to pretend that I'm doing my own thing.

I make no promises about my ability to do this every week, but my intentions are good. Here is my first set of links:

A stumbled across Kathryn Clancy's blog Context and Variation awhile back, and am really glad I did. She has a recent post about the weaknesses of Evolutionary Psychology that I may just print out and carry around with me to hand to the next bozo who tells me that men don't do dishes because they evolved to chase wildebeest on the open plain.

Long time readers may remember my post urging people to be equal opportunity cynics. Marion Nestle recently had a similar post on her Food Politics blog explaining why she doesn't necessarily believe every piece of nutrition research she reads about.

The author of one of my favorite blogs, Bad Mom, Good Mom, was a guest blogger over at the Atlantic this week (I know! Big time!) and I really liked her post on the life lessons of calculus.

I came across a blog post/interview with an independent author whose self-published book is currently #1 on Amazon's eBook list. It was a very interesting read, particularly if you have ever thought about what it would take to be a successful writer.  There are new ways to get there, it seems. If you want to read more about eBooks, I also read an interesting article (via Autumn) about why some ebooks cost more than the hardcover edition. Following the links in that led me to another post about the 99-cent Kindle self-publishing success stories, which gives even more food for thought on this topic. I think we're living in a very interesting time for content generators (i.e., writers, musicians, etc) and the companies that exist to distribute said content. Things are changing, and I certainly don't know what the new model will be, but it will be interesting to see what happens. Of course, I can say that because my livelihood doesn't depend on this- I imagine it is downright scary if you work in the publishing industry. But, to be fair, my industry (biotech/pharma) is undergoing quite a bit of upheaval, too. It is an interesting time in a lot of industries.

Finally, there were two interesting Science news stories on the importance of our gut bacterial flora: one about how bacteria can help ward of serious intestinal illness in mice and another about the impact of gut bacteria on malnutrition.  Perhaps not the most reassuring things for a mother who has just started her baby on yet another course of antibiotics to read, but really fascinating stuff. (Micro Dr. O at The Tightrope also had a link to a story about our little bacterial friends this week. It was a good week for microbes, I guess.)

And now bath time is almost over... time to go back to my family. Enjoy the links!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

I've Had Better Days

I took Petunia to her immunology appointment today. The immunologist/allergist was very nice, and good at explaining things (he even adjusted well when I told him I was trained as a biochemist- some doctors either can't switch off their super simple explanations or switch to "expert in the same field" level explanations. He switched to "reasonably knowledgeable lay person" level, which was perfect for me).

From her history, he didn't strongly suspect an immune deficiency (phew!) but did want to run some tests. He ordered an x-ray of her sinuses and some blood tests. She's had far more x-rays than I'd really like at this point, with the checks on her hip for dysplasia (due to her breech birth; she showed some signs of this but it corrected without intervention), the chest x-ray during the first health scare, and now the sinus x-ray. Rationally, I know that this is really low risk, i.e., not something I need to worry about. But it still seems like a lot of x-rays for a such a little kid! Petunia wasn't too impressed with the lead apron they put on her for the x-ray, so I ended up having to hold her down for it. Still, it was worth it- the doctor called my cell phone while I was waiting for the blood draw and told me that the X-ray showed mild to moderate thickening of the mucosal lining on one of her sinuses. This could be a sign of a chronic sinus infection, so we'll probably be off to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist before too long.

Petunia didn't like the x-ray, but she hated the blood draw. The doctor had recommended that I take her to the lab at the office that houses my pediatrician, because those technicians see more babies than the ones at the lab at the office where he is located. But I didn't think I'd have time to make it there before they closed, and I didn't want to have to take her in tomorrow. So I decided to try at the office I was at. Wrong decision. They tried. Petunia screamed, and kicked, and shook her head no. And they failed to get any blood. They called the lab at the other office, and it was open until 5:30, so I did have time to go there. I calmed Petunia down (big, shuddering sobs. Ugh.) and drove to the other office, where she screamed, kicked, and shook her head no again, but they were able to quickly pull the blood they needed. I felt like such a jerk for not listening to the doctor in the first place. Poor Petunia! She calmed down fairly quickly, though, and was all smiles by the time we got home.

We won't hear back on the blood tests for a week or so, so now we just wait. Petunia's been healthy for a week and a half, although she is still congested. Her sleep is getting better again, causing me to hope that we might get back to the one wake-up per night schedule we had back in November.

The extra stop meant that I wasn't even leaving the doctor's office until 5:30, which is when I would normally need to start dinner. I knew that the meal I had on the menu plan was not going to work. I called Hubby, hoping to tell him to put some water on for pasta when he got home, and discovered that he was still at day care, where Pumpkin was taking a lengthy potty break. So we decided that he'd stop at the local fast food place on his way home. Pumpkin was excited about the idea- she views a meal from that place as a huge treat- but I felt even worse, because today was Hubby's birthday. Instead of the nice meal I had planned, he got a greasy fast food hamburger. I should have put a candle on it, because I didn't have a cake, either- I had hoped to have time to stop at the store after the doctor's appointment.

Then, Pumpkin melted down at snack time because I wouldn't let her watch videos on my computer during snack (it disrupts Petunia's snack, and she hadn't eaten much dinner). Pumpkin tantrumed in her room for a good 15 minutes before she finally calmed down and ate her snack. Then Petunia melted down when Hubby tried to get her down for the night, and I had to go take over. Miraculously, Pumpkin accepted that change (it was my night to read her stories, but Hubby had to do it instead). However, it is now 45 minutes past her bedtime and I'm not sure she's asleep yet- I was recently called in to turn her pillow over. And Petunia woke up 20 minutes ago and needed to be resettled.

So yeah, not the best day. I think I'll crawl into bed now and hope that the night isn't a continuation of this disaster!

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Next Transition

One of the things I miss the most about my pre-kids life is spontaneity. These days, we certainly don't wake up on a Saturday morning and decide that we'll drive up to LA and maybe even stay the night. But also gone are the days of looking at each other at 5 p.m. and deciding that we'll shelve our dinner plans and go out for dinner instead. I can see that this latter, more modest type of spontaneity might return before our kids are in college- already, Pumpkin would be game for such a change most days. Petunia is overall less dependent on routine than Pumpkin is. In fact, her refusal to settle into a night time routine is driving me a bit batty. But she is not yet old enough to handle a surprise dinner out all that well. We can plan a dinner out, but it requires careful thought about timing, and whether or not we should change her into her pajamas before the drive home, and it is best if we don't mind if the disruption to the bedtime routine spills over into the next morning.

I was thinking about all of this at about 4:45 yesterday, when Petunia's insistence on taking all of her sister's crayons and markers out of their storage bin unearthed a crayon from a long ago trip to Olive Garden, thereby triggering an irrational craving for their Zuppa Toscana.  (So I guess the effort they go to put their brand on those crayons is worth the effort, after all.) Back before Pumpkin was born, that craving would probably have been acted upon. Yesterday, it was not. But it occurred to me that in another year or two, it probably could be.

Because, of course, Petunia is getting older, and soon will be as happy as her sister to hear us announce that we're going out for dinner. I call her my baby, but she's not really a baby anymore. She is a toddler, and one who can communicate fairly well, albeit mostly through signs. (I did notice this weekend that she definitely has distinct sounds for ball ("bah") and book ("buh"), but mostly we only figure out what she wants if she has a sign for it or can point to it.)  She is still quite snuggly, but more and more, she wriggles out of my arms to toddle off exploring- or merely to do laps around the house.

I am surprised to find that I have mixed feelings about all of this. In general, I've found that parenting gets more enjoyable as the child ages, and although Pumpkin's current tantrum-heavy interpretation of three-and-a-half may challenge that opinion, I think it will hold. But there is something about the realization that before too long, there will no longer be a sweet little baby's head for me to absent-mindedly kiss that makes me a little sad.  Sure, I'm looking forward to having a full night's sleep once Petunia decides she no longer needs to check in with me in the middle of the night. But I'm also aware of the fact that something will be lost then, too, even if I can't quite put my finger on what it is.

I think part of this feeling comes from the realization that my sense of my own identity is going to change yet again. It took me almost a year after Pumpkin was born to really get comfortable in my new identity as mother, and quite a few months after Petunia was born to feel at home as a mother of two. I guess I thought that was it, and that things would be stable. But I'm realizing that something fundamental will change as my youngest child turns from baby to little girl, and I was not at all prepared for how unsettling that is. Selective amnesia about the disorientation brought on by the profound sleep deprivation of the newborn phase, the difficulty of cleaning up after a poopsplosion, and exactly how challenging pumping is may help ensure that parents will have more than one child, but it also means that while I have lived through those phases, I can no longer claim membership in the club of parents who really know what they feel like. I'm moving into a new club. Already, I have found myself posting a comment saying that handling Pumpkin's issues with the budding bully at day care is the hardest thing I've ever done as a parent. I do think that, but I also clearly remember thinking that nothing would ever be harder than handling the sleep deprivation of babyhood.*

Maybe what is unsettling is the fact that it is clear that this transition- from mother of a baby to mother whose last baby isn't a baby anymore- is far from the last that I'll navigate.  We rightly focus on the developmental transitions in our children, but forget that they are often accompanied by fairly large changes in ourselves. For years, my sense of who I was hardly changed, and now, in the last few years, it seems I'm never really comfortable in my skin- as soon as I get used to one change, another looms on the horizon. Maybe that is at least partially responsible for the unmoored feeling I have as I contemplate the upcoming end of Petunia's babyhood. Or maybe I'm just going to miss having a sweet little baby's head to kiss.

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*I still think that the sleep deprivation was the hardest thing physically, in the way that it impacted every other thing in my life. But handling the bully issue was harder from a pure parenting aspect- at least with the sleep deprivation issue I had an idea of what to do (soldier on and suffer through). With the bully issue, I had no idea what to do.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Zenbit: Urban Sanctuary












Tokyo has some wonderful public gardens.

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Date: April 6, 2006

Friday, March 04, 2011

Getting Back to Normal (And By That I Mean Teetering on the Edge of Chaos)

Petunia made it through an entire week at day care without getting sick. I wonder whether the fact that she was still on antibiotics had anything to do with that? Rationally, I know that most of the things she picks up at day care are viral, and therefore not effected by antibiotics, but still....

I made it through an entire week back at work. I've got several projects already, and I think I have already started to make a difference on at least one of them. My new boss is over the moon happy that I'm there. Everyone has been very nice and welcoming. So, all and all, a good week. I'm not over the moon happy to be there, but I think that is due in large part to two things: (1) I'm still in that "everything is new and just a bit overwhelming" phase, where every little task I try to do is harder than it needs to be because I'm still trying to figure out the rules and systems at this company, I don't have my computer completely set up how I want it, etc., and (2) working is a lot harder that putzing around my house working on projects as the mood takes me, watching episodes of Bones, and doing some chores.

I'm settling back into the weeknight dinner routine and remembering why it drove me crazy. Petunia is in a phase where she wants to nurse and nurse and nurse and then gets distracted and then comes back five minutes later and demands to nurse and nurse and nurse again. This makes cooking challenging. I cleverly loaded up this week's menu plan with leftovers. I can only get away with that for so long, so I think that next week I need to try to cook more. Luckily, Petunia is still enamored with Signing Time. Unfortunately, Pumpkin often demands a turn watching one of her shows, and Petunia is less fascinated by Dora and Kai Lan and when presented with one of those shows, tends to toddle into the kitchen and start signing that she wants to nurse. So I'm trying to convince Pumpkin that she wants to color or something while I cook. This is having only marginal success.

After some back and forth with our cleaning service over a new quote that seemed strangely high (it turns out that they were planning to clean a third bathroom that we do not have), I have a cleaner booked to come in next week. I'm excited to have someone else clean our floors and dust- Hubby is pretty good about cleaning one of the two bathrooms we do have and sweeping the floors, but he has a blind spot when it comes to dust on furniture, and I can't remember the last time he actually mopped the floors. So I was doing all of that, and hating it. Now that we have the cleaner scheduled for a monthly visit again, I just need to update and reinstate our chores schedule, and we'll be back to the same adequate but not great place we were last November.

My "at home" to do list is overflowing. Some of that is extra things getting added onto the list: we're combining Pumpkin's birthday party with two of her friends from day care- the three birthdays are right in a row, and the kids are still young enough to think that a combined party is cool- so the logistics of arranging that are more complicated. I'm also having a hard time clearing things off the list, though. Petunia is healthy, but her sleep has yet to settle back into anything like a predictable routine. She may sleep until 1 a.m. or she may wake up at 9:30. We never know, and that unpredictability is messing with my sleep patterns, too, as I find myself either waiting up for her to wake up or lying in bed going through the motions of trying to go to sleep, but really listening for her cry. I've occasionally resorted to my old trick of taking a Benadryl, but since Petunia and I are both still getting over the sore throat from last week, the dry mouth that comes with that is extra annoying. So mostly, I've just accepted that I'm going to be tired until she decides to start sleeping better.

In short, things are just about back to normal here. How are things with you?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Quick Updates

So... the new job is going well so far. I am surprisingly busy for having only two days of work under my belt- I haven't even had a chance to set up my voice mail yet- but I guess that is better than the alternative. I am glad to be working again, but a little bit sorry that I didn't have another week or two to wrap up some of my "lay off projects." Now I'll have to try to carve out time on nights and weekends to finish things off... which probably means that I'll have the exact same things on my to do list six months from now.

The commute from the new job to day care is far better than the commute from the old job was. This will either mean that I get home a little earlier and have some extra breathing room for dinner preparation or that I can stay at work a little later. Sadly, I suspect it will be the latter. This is a company where most people work late. Of course, most people don't get in until 9, and I'll be getting in closer to 8, but that doesn't always get figured in to people's impressions. My boss and his boss (the chief science officer, so pretty much the head honcho) know my preferred schedule and are OK with it, though, so on the whole, I don't think my hours will be a problem.

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Petunia's illness-induced marathon sessions of snuggling on the sofa while watching Signing Time have paid dividends. She has added some new signs. We were looking at a book and saw a picture of an apple, and she said "pa", and pinched her cheek in an approximation of the sign for apple. That was very cute, but I think my favorite of the new signs is the way she waves her hands in front of her tummy in an approximation of the sign for "signing", which means that she wants to watch a Signing Time. She picked that one up entirely from the song at the beginning of those shows, and the smile on her face when I understood what she wanted was priceless. And irresistible- she got an extra episode of Signing Time that night.

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Pumpkin and I had a major showdown at dinner tonight over whether or not she would ask nicely for another slice of bread. I eventually won, but it took a short time out in her room for her to concede. It started out with me innocently correcting her when she demanded "more bread!"- "Ask nicely." I did it without thinking, because we almost always tell her to ask nicely. And usually she just does. But tonight she refused, and pouted, and screamed, and pouted some more. I would dearly love to know what the big deal was, but she certainly couldn't articulate it to me, and I doubt anyone over the age of 4 really knows. So I'm just going to take my victory and not worry about the reasons for the battle.

It isn't all stormy with her right now, though. She is overjoyed that I am back to picking her up from day care, and greets me when I arrive by running full speed across the playground at me, with a big grin on her face, yelling "Mommmmyyyyyyyy!" That is definitely and incentive to get me out of the office on time....
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