Sunday, December 30, 2007

Zenbit: Ancient Faces

These are somebody's ancestors.

Location: Easter Island
Date: December 18, 2005

Friday, December 28, 2007

It Is What It Is

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

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

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

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

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

And then my Mom got the stomach bug.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sleep Games

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

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

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Zenbit: Cup of Love

This was almost enough to make me drink coffee.

Location: Vancouver, Canada
Date: October 4, 2004

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Why I Love to Travel - Reason #83

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rodents of Unusual Size!

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

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dairy-Free Brownies

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

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

Chocolate-Applesauce Bars

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

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


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

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Zenbit: Kanchanaburi Sunset

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

Location: Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Date: February 28, 2006

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Great Sleep Experiment - 30 day results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


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

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

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Zenbit: Jellyfish

Does it know it is in a cage?

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

Saturday, December 08, 2007

My Mommy Moment

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

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Time Flies and Other Cliches

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

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

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

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

3. Her infectious laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Great Sleep Experiment - 20 day results

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

So here are the latest statistics, from last night:

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 03, 2007

One of Life's Little Mysteries

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

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

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

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Zenbit: Culturally Sensitive Ronald

Ronald McDonald performs the wai, a traditional Thai greeting.

Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Date: March 15, 2006

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Food Fight

Now that I've discovered the trove of parenting information that is the Ask Moxie blog, I have been reading some "back issues". I came across a post on introducing solids that really resonated with me for a couple of reasons:

1. I am stupidly anxious about feeding Pumpkin solids. Am I feeding her the right foods? The right amount? Does the fact that she fights getting into her high chair mean we are setting her up for food issues for the rest of her life? The rational part of my brain knows that it probably doesn't matter what food I feed her now, but the irrational worrying part of my brain that got such a boost when I became a Mommy still, well, worries.

2. I have just finished reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. One of his conjectures is that Americans' food neurosis is a result of our having lost our cultural guides about what is good to eat. As omnivores, we are biologically programmed to be able to eat just about anything, so we rely on our culture to help us sort out which of the countless possibilities are safe, tasty, and good to eat. American culture doesn't really provide a uniform guide. We are currently trying to replace these missing guidelines with scientific research, which is ever-changing, leading us to fall prey to food fads and generally worry more about what we eat than most other people. I wonder if this is also the reason for the fact Moxie points out (and for which item #1 above provides evidence):

"Americans are totally neurotic about introducing food to babies"

Moxie goes on to try to say that we should introduce solids however we want. But then she references a Dutch study about the benefits of letting the baby lead the solid-introducing exercise, and giving the baby large pieces of food. This of course made me start worrying that I am doing wrong by feeding Pumpkin primarily mushed up food (commercial or homemade- she is just starting on "finger foods", and still hasn't quite got the concept). I think I need to get better at ignoring that worrying part of my brain, because it clearly isn't going anywhere.

The Omnivore's Dilemma has lots of other thought-provoking ideas in it. However, I will warn you that reading it will probably make you feel very bad about your food choices, even if you are a vegan who eats only organic food.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Message of Hope

Blogger sent me randomly to the Mimi on the Breach blog, where I saw this post about a baby who is now sleeping like a baby. I followed the link to read what said baby used to sleep like. The earlier post sounds mighty familiar. The later post sounds like paradise. So there is hope!

The Good Bits

So much of what I post about parenthood, and indeed, what everyone posts about parenthood, focuses on the hard parts. I guess we're all using our blogs as a venue to vent, and/or to try to find advice or solutions to our problems. It is the same when parents talk about parenting, too. A non-parent colleague of mine recently reminded me of this negative focus when she said that the parents in the group were not making parenthood sound like a good idea. We all laughed, and assured here that there were definitely more good bits than bad bits.

So here is one of the good bits: how obviously happy a baby gets about simple things. One of the things that Pumpkin likes to do is go for walks in her Baby Bjorn. We go for a walk every work day when we get home. She now recognizes the Baby Bjorn, and when I get it out of the drawer, she gets a huge grin on her face, bounces up and down and flaps her arms. It never fails to make me smile.

Then there are the good bits that you might think are bad bits. I was struggling to get Pumpkin into her high chair tonight. She has figured out that if she kicks the plastic restraint attached to the tray, I can't get the tray on. She was doing this tonight, and at first it was frustrating me. But then I had to laugh, because really, she is a pretty smart 8 month old to have figured this out (and in fact, she figured it out when she was 6 months old). When I started laughing, she got this devilish grin on her face and started laughing, too. Which of course just made me laugh harder. We still needed Daddy's help to get into the chair, though.

Zenbit: Tea in the Mist

Tea is as lovely to look at as it is to drink.

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

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Great Sleep Experiment - 10 day results

It has been 10 days since we started our no-cry sleep solution experiment. Actually, it has been 11 days, but Thursday was such an unusual and busy day that we didn't think it would be a fair test of how we were doing. We did our sleep logs last night, and from the pure numbers, it doesn't really look like things are improving:

Asleep time - 7:45 p.m.
Awake time - 6:10 a.m.
Total wakings - 5
Longest sleep span - 2 hrs 30 min
Total sleep - 9 hrs

However, we have made some progress. She now sleeps most of the night in her crib, rather than spending part of the night cuddling on the floor with Daddy. I put her in her bouncy chair after her last waking, since she tends to have trouble going back down after that and we have decided that getting her quantity of sleep up is more important than getting her out of the bouncy chair. Also, several of the wakings require only that we give her the binky and a few pats in the crib, rather than picking her up. Last night, we only had to pick her up on wakings when she ended up eating. The average time to get back to sleep is down to 17 minutes from 20 minutes, and that is skewed high due to a long session where Daddy was trying to get her down without her bottle for 20 minutes before finally giving up and letting her have her bottle. Three of the other four wakings required nothing more than a binky and a few pats, and she was back to sleep in five minutes or less.

We need to revisit our plan and decide what, if anything, needs adjusting. The idea that has worked the best for us is an idea that was actually proposed for extending nap time: to be there ready with the binky or whatever calming techniques work to get the baby right back to sleep if she wakes up "too early". We've been doing this for her first waking (which used to be 1 hour 45 minutes after she went down) and have had some success in getting her to sleep through this waking some nights.

I'll post again in another 10 days!

Friday, November 23, 2007


Yesterday was the first time I've done the Thanksgiving turkey all by myself. usually, my parents are staying with us, and my Mom helps get the bird ready. I've done it so many times that I knew what to do, but it was a lot less fun on my own. And I had to pull the bag of giblets out of the still almost frozen neck cavity, which is something my Mom usually does for me. She doesn't enjoy the task any more than I do, but she's the Mom, so she usually does it. This got me thinking about parenthood, and all of the not so much fun (and sometimes really rather disgusting things) parents do for their kids.

One of the surprising things about becoming a parent was how much more it made me appreciate my parents. I thought I was already fairly appreciative- it has been obvious to me for quite awhile that I got lucky in the parents sweepstakes. However, Pumpkin's birth has taken this appreciation to a new level, and not just because I now realize how sleep-deprived I made them. (I didn't sleep through the night until I was 18 months old. I have very bad sleep karma.)

I was born in the pre-disposable diaper age, and my parents had neither a washing machine nor a car when I was very young. My mother had to push loads of laundry to the laundromat in my older sister's stroller (while carrying my older sister). Somewhere around the 500th diaper I changed, I started to really understand how much work I was.

In my family, we all tease my father for being a bit of a worrywart. I still tease him, but I understand this instinct now, and can recognize it in myself. You don't really understand worry until you have a child to worry about. I started to understand this while I was pregnant, and would find myself worrying about whether or not Pumpkin would be healthy. I thought things would get better once she was born, but in fact, the worries have only grown as I realize all of the things that could go wrong and deprive me of my beautiful daughter or deprive my daughter of her full share of happiness.

I have also come to better understand the responsibility a parent feels. Each decision I make feels so important. If I choose the wrong option, will Pumpkin's development be slowed? I have always considered myself to be a decisive person (and my family will agree with this- I'm the one they take along on shopping trips if they want to be sure to buy something). But I find myself partially paralyzed by parenting decisions. I research and read and agonize, and feel like I need to find the right answer, not just an acceptable answer. I have always thought my parents made some very good decisions in how they raised me, but I never understood how hard this was, and how they probably didn't know at the time whether they were making the right decision or not. One of the problems with parenting decisions is that you have to wait so long to find out whether you were right.

So this thanksgiving weekend, I am thankful primarily for my family. My amazing daughter. My husband, who is also a great father. My parents and parents-in-law, who are making wonderful grandparents. My sister and sister-in-law, who are both terrific Aunties. And the entire extended family, all of whom have welcomed Pumpkin with so much love.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Supply-Side Economics

I'm having milk supply issues for the first time. I have no idea why- it could be hormones, it could be stress, it could be my diet, it could be lack of sleep, it could be the fates laughing at me because I was just saying on Friday that I've had little problem keeping up with Pumpkin's bottle needs. Actually, I think it is that I got complacent and didn't always pump in the morning to replace the bottle Hubby gave her in the middle of the night.Now that she is mobile, it is hard to keep her from playing with the tubes or power cord while I pump in the morning, so it has just gotten more difficult from a logistics standpoint and I let it slide. Oops.

Hubby rightly points out that if would not be the end of the world if I had to give Pumpkin an ounce or two of formula a day. However, I am having a very hard time accepting that. I've made it so far, I think, surely I shouldn't give up now! There is also a small, irrational voice that says I'll be failing Pumpkin if I don't keep her "exclusively breastfed" (except for the solids she's eating, of course). I know that this is silly, but that doesn't keep the little voice quiet.

Luckily, it is truly a demand and supply system, so if I up the demand, my supply should go back up. I'm pulling out all of the stops to try to solve the problem. Here are the steps I'm taking:

1. I've added a pumping session before bedtime, and am pumping in the mornings, too.
2. I'm taking fenugreek three times a day (at least when I can remember to take the stuff to work with me- this is apparently yet another thing I need to keep in duplicates, so that I can just leave a bottle at work).
3. I am increasing my protein intake. This is fun. When was the last time you said "I really should have the cheeseburger for lunch?"

Next, I'll start drinking a dark beer every night. The B vitamins in beer are supposed to help milk supply. It will certainly help the stress levels, and it is another fun "requirement".

Pumpkin is helping out, too, by sleeping better. I got almost five hours of uninterrupted sleep last night, and two or three more hours of patchy sleep! Maybe the great sleep experiment is working? I'm almost afraid to type that out loud for fear of jinxing myself!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Zenbit: Upside Down Down Under

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Date: January 4, 2006

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fun with Shakespeare

I was surfing around while waiting for my Hubby to make me my nightly fruit (yes, I know I am spoiled), and I came upon a Shakespearean Quote Generator (via a blog called Geeky Mom). Here is my quote:

William Shakespeare

She's beautiful and therefore to be wooed;
She is a wandering scientist, therefore to be won.

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

The web has such fun stuff.

Absence Makes the Baby Refuse to Sleep?

Why is it that everyone except for me seems to be able to get Pumpkin down for a nap? I tried twice today, and both times I ended up having to resort to the "push her in a stroller" method. I'll never know how long she would have slept the first time, because I had to wake her up to get a flu shot. The second time, she woke up almost as soon as the stroller stopped moving (even though she was really, really tired before she went to sleep and was tired again 30 minutes after she woke up). At day care, she routinely sleeps for 2 hours at a time. This is clearly not fair.

The least disheartening explanation I can think of is that Pumpkin doesn't get to spend that much time with me during the day, so when she gets the chance she doesn't want to waste it by sleeping.

Of course, that doesn't explain why her Daddy can get her to nap....

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pass the Fish

There is an interesting article and accompanying synopsis in PLoS Biology about a candidate gene for schizophrenia. The researchers actually looked for genes correlated with a schizophrenia marker called "prepulse inhibition", the phenomena in which a soft precursor noise will depress the startle reflex caused by a loud noise. Apparently, this is one of the "gating" mechanisms that our brains use to prevent sensory overload, and is disturbed in schizophrenia.

The article identifies a fatty-acid binding protein (Fabp7) as a candidate gene involved in PPI, and by inference also schizophrenia. This protein binds to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), one of the omega-3 fatty acids that you've probably heard a lot about. There is apparently some research that indicates that doses of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a precursor of DHA, may be helpful in treating schizophrenia (see this review). This, and the well-documented role of the omega-3 fatty acids in brain development and function (which is why we are all encouraged to eat fish and my baby's oatmeal has DHA added to it), make the linking of a fatty acid binding protein to schizophrenia a very nice, neat story.

The study's authors speculate whether increasing the DHA intake of pregnant women deemed at risk of having a schizophrenic child would be beneficial. This is an interesting question, which will probably be studied at some point. It is also a case of the more things change, the more things stay the same: once upon a time, over-bearing mothers were blamed for schizophrenia. Now, apparently it is mothers who don't eat enough fish.

In general, I find the data about what pregnant and nursing women should and shouldn't eat a little bit annoying. I know that this is unfair. The researchers are just trying to understand human development and also provide some advice to help women have healthier babies. However, it can be a bit overwhelming when you are trying to figure out what you should eat. No peanuts- you might cause an allergy! Is your baby gassy? Try cutting out milk products. Eat fish- Baby needs the omega-3s. Don't eat fish- it is contaminated with mercury! I think most mothers are like me. I do my best, but please don't heap on the guilt if I get something not quite right. I'm a person, too, and I have more things to do during the day than research what my optimal diet should be!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Great Sleep Experiment Begins

I doubt anyone will be surprised to find out that simply moving Pumpkin's bedtime 30 minutes earlier did NOT solve all of her sleep issues. She did, however, sleep in until 7:30 this morning (thereby making us both late to work). She seemed a lot less tired today, and her day care log showed that she napped better, so I consider putting her to bed early a good thing even if she still woke up five times last night.

Here are her sleep stats from last night:
Asleep time - 7:15 p.m.
Awake time - 7:30 a.m.
Total wakings - 5
Longest sleep span - 3 hrs 15 min
Total sleep - 10 hr 15 min

This is very sad for me to read, because just a few weeks ago she was regularly sleeping 5-6 hours in a stretch, and only waking once! Wishing that her sleep was still as good as it used to be won't make it so, though, so we are now embarking on the No-Cry Sleep Solution. I'm a bit discouraged because we were already doing a lot of the things suggested in the book. However, we have fine-tuned our sleep plan, picked a strategy to try for the next ten days, and are ready to go. I'll post her new stats in ten days. Wish us luck!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Curves Make You Smart and Babies Make You Sleepy

This story made me feel a lot better about the extra curves on my post-baby body:

I'll have to go look up the original research and write more about it soon. Tonight, I'm too tired.

Pumpkin's sleep issues are really getting to us. I can't stomach the "cry-it-out" methods (which is no comment on parents who choose those methods), but we have to try something. I'm afraid that if we don't do something, we'll get to the point of desperation where letting her cry will seem like the only thing to do. I don't want to make parenting decisions out of desperation- at least not yet! So I left work early today, and went and bought The No-Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley. I also got home early enough that I could start Pumpkin's night time routine a little early, and got her to sleep at 7:15 instead of 7:30-8. If the earlier bedtime doesn't magically solve her sleep issues (hey, a girl can hope) I'll try the No-Cry Sleep Solution, and I'll post on our progress with it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Zenbit: Rarotonga Sunrise

One of the advantages of jetlag is the chance to see sunrises.

Location: Muri Lagoon, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Date: April 18, 2005

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Speed of Parenthood

I came across a quote today in the comments to one of Ask Moxie's posts that perfectly captures the weird time warp of parenthood: "the days are long but the years are short." This seemed particularly appropriate today, as Pumpkin crawled for the first time. I can't believe my little girl is already crawling! At the same time, at 2 a.m. when I'm trying to get her back to sleep, I can't believe how slowly five minutes passes.

Apparently I am not the only one who likes this quote. When I tried to Google it to find out who first said it I got a slew of hits, none of which actually attribute the quote to anyone. I guess this was a meme a while back and I have just been living in a cave or something and missed it.

It is still a perfect phrase for the parental time warp, though.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Working Mum: Pumping 101

I have a love-hate relationship with my breast pump. I love to nurse and I love to work, and my breast pump is the contraption that makes these two things not mutually exclusive. However, I am not a huge fan of pumping. It is not painful, and I have no problem pumping reasonable quantities of milk out... but there is always something I'd rather be doing. I realize I am being silly. I am one of the lucky working moms who has a private office (with a door that locks!) so , with the help of my hands-free bustier, I can read email, type documents, and generally get work done while pumping. But I still dislike having to interrupt whatever I'm doing, get out all my equipment, and hook up and pump three times a day. I'm such a wuss.

I've also noticed that the whenever I talk to other Moms who plan to go back to work but haven't done so yet, their questions are about one of two topics: how we're doing with day care and how I handle pumping. So, here are my words of wisdom (or at least experience) on pumping, in no particular order:

1. Definitely get the hands-free bustier. I've heard of some women using an old sports bra and cutting holes in it. I think this would work fine, too, but the important thing is that you use something that you can get on and off without also removing your shirt. It is weird enough to sit in your office pumping without having to go completely topless.

2. I pump three times during the work day day, for roughly 15 minutes each time. Sometimes, this doesn't produce enough milk to send with Pumpkin to day care the next day. On those days, I also pump before I go to bed and/or first thing the next morning.

3. Save up some extra milk ahead of time. Your supply fluctuates with your cycle, the amount of sleep you're getting, your stress levels, and your general health. It is better to have some extra frozen bags so that you can handle the inevitable low milk days without freaking out and/or chaining yourself to your pump.

4. If your supply drops too low and you want to try to increase it, you might try fenugreek. This is an herb that is actually also used as artificial maple syrup, and will make you smell like maple syrup- that is how you know you're taking enough. Really.

5. I found that I got terrible dehydration headaches my first few days back at work, until I got smart and started drinking an insane amount of water. Now I keep a water bottle on my desk at all times.

6. Supplying all of the calories and nutrients for another person, even a little one, is hard work. I found that I got very tired my first few weeks back to work. Eating lots of protein helped.

7. Sleep deprived moms trying to adjust to a new routine are prone to bouts of forgetfulness. Or at least I am. It is very, very annoying to get your pump out and discover that you're missing some crucial piece. I have shown up at work without the cord for my pump, without the flanges, without the little cooler bag with the bottles, and just today, without the little membranes that make the pump actually work. I have found two solutions for this problem so far:
(1) I'm not a morning person, so I restock my bag at night. Of course, it helps if I actually check that the pieces I'm putting in the bag have all of the required attachments (I didn't do this last night).
(2) I try to carry back ups for as many of the pieces as possible. I have a battery pack that I can use if I forget the cord. I have some bags that I can use if I forget the bottles (Medela sells some that tape right on to the pump). Clearly, I also need to put some extra membranes in my bag.
I have also considered leaving extra supplies at work, but I haven't done that yet.

8. Speaking of extra supplies... buy them! It sucks to have to do the dishes before you can pump, particularly when you just want to get everything done so that you can crawl into bed.

9. I don't think you have to pump at the exact same times every day (after all, the baby doesn't eat at the exact same times every day). However, you should probably try to space the pumpings out during the day. I try to pump every 2-3 hours. I have a job that involves a lot of meetings. Some days, I have back-to-back meetings for most of the day. This has led to the occasional need to pump during a teleconference while my phone is on mute. This feels really, really weird, even more so when I have to turn the pump off, go off mute, and say something. I now put "meetings" in my calendar if I see a day getting booked up. This helps protect my pumping times.

10. I have trouble with milk dripping out of the flanges while I am disassembling the pump apparatus. I finally came up with the idea of taking a large cloth napkin in my bag to use to keep my pants from getting milk spots. I also use this to wipe down the pump parts- I wash them each night, but not between the pumpings during the day.

As I said at the top, I don't really like to pump. However, it does break up the day nicely. And it allows me to keep breastfeeding Pumpkin, which I love. It is worth the hassle.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or a lactation expert, and nothing in this post should be construed as medical advice.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cranky Little Zen Master

Pumpkin is in the midst of a "sleep regression", which is a fancy way of saying her sleep has gone all wonky and we don't know why. When I am sitting in her room, trying to rock/bounce/beg her back to a deep enough sleep to last when I put her down in her crib, I often think that I should use the time spent holding my mostly asleep baby to meditate. It really is a perfect opportunity: I need to sit still in a dark room without any stimulation (i.e., no books or TV). So far, though, my attempts to "go within" and "follow my breath" are quickly interrupted by thoughts of how much I want Pumpkin to go back to sleep and/or "Farmer in the Dell" running through my head. I keep trying, though, because there is nothing else to do and it would be really swell if I could get to a state of Zen acceptance about my enforced sleeplessness.

Babies make excellent Zen masters. I don't mean this in the sense that the baby has reached some advanced Zen state. I don't think that someone who cries hysterically when her mother leaves the room to go to the bathroom can claim to have mastered the art of acceptance. However, a baby does nudge his or her parents towards learning the art of acceptance. Most of the really annoying parts of parenting, like the sleepless nights and the poop explosions, are not something that the parent can really change. (We may think we can change the sleepless night part, but all we can really do is try to influence the baby into changing it for us.)

I am certainly not the first person to note this. Before Pumpkin was born, I read a book called The Tao of Poop that describes this. I remember thinking it was a cute idea. Now I think it is the secret of happiness for new parents. They may not call it Tao or Zen, but the happy parents are the ones who have learned to enjoy the ride their little bundle of joy takes them on, and not wish that they were on a different ride instead.

Now it is time for me to go to bed. I suspect I will have more opportunities to practice meditating later tonight.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Missed Opportunities

The pharma/biotech blog world is buzzing about Andrew Grove's rant about the pharma industry. Derek Lowe, at In the Pipeline does an excellent job explaining much that is wrong with Mr. Grove's logic, so I don't see any reason to add my comments. However, I will share one funny moment from my morning read through my inbox: not long after I received a message from a coworker linking to Mr. Grove telling pharma that (among other failings) they don't try to learn from their mistakes, I received another message telling me about the ongoing analysis into the torcetrapib debacle. If this doesn't constitute trying to learn from a mistake, I'm not sure what would.

What I find most sad about the whole thing is that there may well be something the pharma industry could learn from the semiconductor industry, but now we'll never know about it, because Mr. Groves couldn't be bothered to learn how the industry he was critiquing actually works. Heaven knows that the pharma industry could use some bright ideas right now, so it is too bad that this opportunity has been missed.

I got one other interesting tidbit in my inbox today: a link to the BBC writeup on a study that found a gene that determines whether or not breastfeeding will have a positive impact on a child's IQ. Or rather, whether or not NOT breastfeeding will have a negative impact, since really, we evolved to breastfeed. It has long been known that, on average, breastfed babies end up with a slightly higher IQ than formula fed babies. (I want to emphasize the "on average" bit- the differences aren't huge and I'm sure that there are plenty of very smart people who were fed formula as babies.) Now the FADS2 gene has been identified as determining whether or not the breastfeeding choice impacts IQ. The FADS2 protein is involved in metabolizing fatty acids. It was previously known that certain fatty acids are important to brain development, and their presence in breast milk has been hypothesized to be the reason that breastfeeding is linked to higher IQ.

All in all, this is a nice, neat story. Since 90% of the population have the allele that apparently makes the baby susceptible to an IQ boost from breastmilk, it doesn't change the standard advice that "breast is best". There are a heap of other benefits to mom and baby in addition to this one, too- ranging from fewer ear infections for the baby to faster weight loss for the mom.

So why don't all mothers breastfeed? I think it is because breastfeeding is surprisingly hard for the first time mom. The baby knows how to suck, but not necessarily how to feed, and the mom doesn't really have a clue how to help. You're worn out from delivery, suddenly sleep-deprived, on a wild hormone ride that makes you cry for no apparent reason, and now you can't even feed your baby. You thought breastfeeding would come naturally, and the people around you just want you to feed that baby so it will stop crying. All of this makes it easy to give up on breastfeeding. This is a shame, because once you get through the hard bit at the beginning, breastfeeding is a wonderful experience. Not only is it good for you and the baby, but it feels good, too. My advice to new moms is: don't be discouraged that it is harder than you thought it would be. It is no reflection on you as a mother, and doesn't mean you don't have enough milk or "can't" breastfeed. Almost all women can breastfeed- afterall, that is what breasts are actually designed to do. Get help from a lactation specialist, the La Leche League, or a support group (most hospitals seem to run these now). Don't miss out on this opportunity.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Hello, World (take two)

It has been far too long since I've posted. What happened? I got pregnant, had a baby.... Pumpkin is 7 months old now, and I have finally started to find time for things not directly related to either the baby or work.

I have been experiencing strong urges to blog, but not about our "big trip" (maybe I'll get back to that later). I've been reading a lot of science blogs (from friends and strangers) and occasionally think I should write something about science. But mostly, I've been wanting to write about the wild ride that is working Momhood. I've had some specific questions come up, and have turned to the web to find answers. Instead, I've found whining, hateful rants from the "child-free" (don't call them "childless"- more on that in a later post), and Pollyanna-type articles with no useful information at all about anything a Mom working in the real world might care about. I've also found some useful info, but it has been overwhelmed by the cruft. So, in the sort of act of supreme egotism that the blogosphere makes possible, I've decided to fill the void.

However, I've also decided that a "theme blog" just won't work for me. I am too opinionated on too many topics to limit myself to travel stories or posts about expressing breastmilk in weird places. So rather than start a new blog, I've decided to repurpose this one, and use the label feature to help anyone who might read the blog find the sorts of posts that are interesting to them. I'm also going to abandon my Zenbits blog, and post my little tidbits of Zen here, once a week. Hey, it is my blog. I can do whatever I want.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Aussie Road Trip: Koala Patting

Australia's unique animals are a big draw for a Northern hemisphere native. Apparently, this attraction is not as strong for people from Southern hemisphere island nations where the only native species are birds. My Kiwi Hubby enjoyed the stranger marsupials at the Sydney zoo, but rolled his eyes whenever I expressed my desire to visit the Billabong Koala Park on our way north from Sydney. The guidebook said that they would let you pat a koala, and once I read that, I knew we had to visit.

Koalas are a big deal in the U.S. It was national news when the San Diego Zoo got its first bunch of koalas, and the koala exhibit still draws sizable crowds despite the fact the star attractions are usually asleep. The koalas we saw at the Sydney zoo seemed more active than the ones I was used to back home. Several were noticeably awake, and one was even swinging from a tree branch. This just whetted my appetite for a closer encounter with a koala. Hubby tried to disuade me by telling me that koalas are drugged out, stupid creatures that eat their own poop. All of this is true, but they are also cute and furry. I was adamant- we were going to the Billabong Koala Park.

We stopped in on the second day of our Aussie Road Trip. We bought wallaby food and chased futily after decidedly non-hungry wallabies, trying to get them to eat from our hands. It was already mid-afternoon, and the wallabies had clearly had enough of their food by this point in the day. I finally got a wallaby with a joey still in her pouch to eat a little bit from me, which was cool. The main attraction was yet to come, though. At the appointed time, we gathered at the koala enclosure with the other tourists. One of the keepers gathered a koala into his arms, and while she dozed/stared vacantly into space, we all lined up to have a pat. Koalas are surprisingly fuzzy. I am not sure that this is the best way for a koala to live her life, but it was certainly a great experience for me- I pick it as one of the highlights of our trip. Hubby just rolls his eyes when I say that and reiterates his objections to the koala's eating habits. This from a man whose favorite North American animal (the squirrel) habitually eats out of garbage cans.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Trip Story: Sydney

Sydney is one of those cities that you can tell is very nice to live in, but where the touristy things to do aren't necessarily very obvious. It reminds me a bit of San Diego (my current home town) in that respect, and once I started thinking about this, I was struck by the similarities. Both have great beaches and famous zoos. Both also have nearby mountains for hiking and weekend getaways, although I think Sydney's Blue Mountains seem a bit further away than San Diego's Cuayamacas.

Perhaps the touristy things to do didn't seem so obvious because we didn't try to pack that much touristing in during our visit to Sydney. We were staying with Hubby's sister and her boyfriend, and visiting time was obviously a priority. We did see and do some cool things, though. We visited the aforementioned Taronga Zoo and admired the marsupials we had never heard of. The zoo has an impressive collection of marsupials, and even the koalas were up and about when we visited. I liked the bilby the best. It looks a bit like a mutant rabbit, with medium-sized ears that poke out of its head at an awkward angle and legs that are just a little bit too short. It is one of those animals that is so ugly it is cute. We also spent a night out in the Blue Mountains, where I discovered that Aussies are almost as crazy as Kiwis about hiking up and down things. We stayed in Katoomba, and decided to take a hike down to view the Katoomba Falls. The falls were impressive, as were the 900 or so stairs we had to climb down and then back up (because we missed the last running of the incline railroad that would have taken us back up the hill). It is a measure of how beautiful the area is that I thought the hike was worth it, was still speaking to Hubby at the end of it, and even consented to walk out to see the sunset on the Three Sisters after a rest in the hotel. The Three Sisters are an impressive set of rock outcroppings. They looked amazing in the late light.

Two of the coolest things we did in Sydney involved alcohol, which is perhaps not surprising given the Aussie reputation for enjoying their drink. After our visit to the zoo, we met our hosts at the Opera Bar for drinks. The drinks were overpriced and we were warned off the food altogether, but it has a cool outdoor seating area, and you can't beat the view: the Opera House was in front of us and the Harbour Bridge was behind us. It was a glorious, warm, sunny day, and all seemed right with the world, or at least our little corner of it. The next day, we took a pub tour of the historic Rocks section of Sydney. We weren't sure how good this would be when we signed up, but we figured that at least it would involve a few beers, so it couldn't be all bad. It turned out to be great. We had a an excellent guide, who made up for his non-Aussieness (he was Canadian) by knowing lots of really interesting stories about early Sydney and the history of the buildings we visited. We learned about how unsuspecting sailors would get jumped, clobbered with socks full of sand (so that the incriminating evidence could be poured away), and robbed in the alleys, and about how the marks on the large stone blocks that make up so many of the buildings in the area were put there by the convicts who carved the blocks out of stone, to allow the wardens to see if they were making their quotas.

All in all, we really enjoyed our time in Sydney, and I was a bit sad to leave. I was also anxious to see some more of Australia, though, so we loaded up our little rental car, and headed north.