Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Food Fight

I've written before about the benefits of being a working mother, and I still think that the positives outweigh the negatives for me. However, I'm struggling with one of the negatives right now. When you are a working mother, you, invite someone else into your parenting decisions, because you rely on someone else to implement your parenting decisions part of the time.

For the most part, having a third party involved in our parenting decisions doesn't bother me. I feel pretty comfortable with our decisions, so don't mind explaining them to someone else and don't really care if the day care workers agree or not (and they are all too professional to let it show if they disagree). I am also very comfortable with our day care center. The children their all seem very happy and the staff are professional and also seem happy. There are little issues that crop up from time to time (like dumping old milk into full, unused bottles), but a note on Pumpkin's daily log sheet or a word from Hubby to the primary workers in Pumpkin's room when he drops her off usually sorts those out.

Lately, though, I have come smack up against a fairly big logistical issue, and I can't see the solution. As I've mentioned, Pumpkin is old enough (and certainly mobile enough- she's walking non-stop now) to move up to the bigger babies room. We all want this to happen. The bigger babies spend every afternoon outside, and Pumpkin absolutely loves going outside, both at the day care center and at home. She's so happy playing outside on the days she gets to "visit" the bigger babies that she doesn't want much to do with me when I arrive- just a quick hug, and then let me down to play some more, please. Also, the baby room she's in now is getting a bit small for her, and the toys are (understandably) geared more towards younger babies. It is time for her to move up, and there are spots opening in the bigger baby room.

So this should be no problem, right? Wrong. There are several criteria for when a baby is ready to move up to the bigger baby room:

1. Taking only one nap a day, at about noon.
2. Eating nothing but finger foods- no purees for lunch or snacks.
3. Drinking exclusively from a sippy cup or straw cup - no more bottles.

We have met the first criterion. Pumpkin takes one nap, and is moving it towards noon.

We have failed dismally on the second two criteria. The only finger foods Pumpkin will eat with regularity are graham crackers and Goldfish. She'll occasionally consent to some bread, or some other type of cracker. If I take a bite first, she might eat some (hard, non-squishy) cheese or some freeze-dried fruit chips. If we are out in a restaurant, she wants whatever I'm eating, and seems particularly fond of chicken and hamburger. If I try these same things at home or send them to day care, they are refused. When we were in Arizona, she desperately wanted her cousin's freeze-dried yogurt bites. We bought her some here, and she wants nothing to do with them. She is small for her age (10-20th percentile on height and weight), so doctor says she should have as much as she wants of anything she'll eat. Therefore, we just give her graham crackers and Goldfish, keep trying other things, and hope that this is just the one year old eating issues we've heard about from other parents and not a sign of future eating patterns. (However, I've always preferred carbs to just about anything, so I guess we have my karma/genes/eating habits while pregnant to blame if Pumpkin is the same way.)

There is some hope on #3- we just started her on cow's milk in a sippy cup, and she'll drink that (although not much, yet). The folks at day care are willing to work on getting her to take breastmilk from a sippy cup, which is important to me because I am not ready to move her completely to cow's milk, even during the day. The reason I don't want to move her to cow's milk is that we're not only failing on #2, we're now having trouble getting her to eat her purees. Therefore, we're relying on breastmilk for most of her nutrition. Besides, I'm just not quite ready to replace breastmilk during the day yet, and I'm the mommy so I get to decide that. (The day care people don't bat an eye at me wanting to keep her on breastmilk. This is California, after all. They don't care what is in the sippy cup, as long as it is in the sippy cup and not a bottle.)

So we're stuck. We have 4-6 weeks to get Pumpkin eating finger foods other than crackers and drinking all her liquids from a sippy cup, or she will miss out on the next spots in the bigger baby room and have to wait until July. Hubby (rightly) points out that it wouldn't be the end of the world if she stays in the little baby room until July. But every time I show up at day care to pick her up and she is playing happily outside while visiting the big babies, it tugs on my heart. I want that for her every day. But I'm out of ideas for how to make that happen, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see if Pumpkin makes it happen.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Negative Progress

Pumpkin has decided to un-nightwean herself. She is now waking up at 2 or 3 a.m. and demanding that she be nursed. Hubby and I don't want to hear her scream at this hour (OK, we never want to hear her scream, but the middle of the night is a particularly unpleasant time for a screaming fit), so we've decided to give in and have me nurse her. Other than this extra nursing, her nighttimes are getting a little better, or at least not getting worse (i.e., she isn't waking up more often after the nursing and seems to be sleeping longer before waking up for the first time), so things aren't horrible.

However, if she wakes up to nurse at 2, that means that I must be asleep by 10 if I am going to get 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep, my minimum requirement. This means that I need to start my bedtime routine (which still includes pumping, but that is another story) by 9. This means that posts may be even more sparse than usual until we work out this new routine. Or come through this sleep regression. Or whatever.

This is a shame, because I really do want to post a trip story about Sedona, and write some more rants about day care workers who dump the remains of used bottles into the "spare" bottle, thereby making me throw out four ounces of perfectly good milk and about sleep-deprived mommies who ruin perfectly good baby t-shirts by spraying bathroom cleaner with bleach on stains instead of stain pre-treater, because the bottles look very similar and are stored right next to each other (that is fixed now, but I haven't gotten over the loss of one of my favorite shirts). I could also write happy day care stories about how Pumpkin is getting to visit the older babies room, and spend afternoons playing outside, and how happy she is when I come to pick her up and she is playing outside. Maybe later this week....

Update: Pumpkin wouldn't go down for the night so I went in and nursed her. She had been too distracted by the birds outside our living room to nurse well before her bath, so I guess I'm not surprised. On the plus side, this means that I don't have to go pump right now. On the negative side, I'm even more annoyed about the wasted four ounces, because I just had to get three ounces out of the freezer to make up for the fact that I won't be pumping tonight.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

You're So Vein

Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Date: May 1, 2005

Friday, April 25, 2008


I love cheese. It was the thing I missed the most during our travels in Asia. I missed it so much that I ordered fried cheese at a bar in Tokyo, even though I suspected it wouldn't bear much resemblance to American fried cheese (I was right: I received fried tofu balls with a little bit of cheese inside).

So it has been hard on me to watch my daughter refuse cheese. How can she not love the stuff? I cut myself several slices, and sit down to eat it in front of her while she is in her high chair for dinner or lunch. She points to my cheese, because she always points to what I'm eating. I give her a piece, she squishes it in her little hand and then shoves it away.

Tonight, I got smart. She seems to only want to feed herself things that aren't squishy, so I cut myself several slices of the least squishy cheese I could think of- Parmesan. And she ate it. And wanted more.

Anyone know of a non-squishy meat?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

On Toilets

I get at least one search hit a week wondering about why American toilet stalls have gaps in the doors. These searches always originate in England (and I mean England, not the U.K.- none come from Scotland or Wales). Apparently, American toilet stalls are a puzzle to our English friends.

I get these hits because I mentioned the differences between American and New Zealand toilet stalls in a post about the differences between America and New Zealand. New Zealand toilet stalls follow the English style, resembling a little room more than a stall. In that post, I noted the difference but didn't try to explain it. In fact, I can't really explain it. This is no doubt disappointing to the English folks searching for answers. If I had to guess, I'd guess that the American style started as a cost-saving thing- stalls are probably cheaper to build than little rooms. However, I'd also guess that there are Americans who find the English toilet stalls as disconcerting as some English visitors apparently find our stalls. If you tend towards claustrophobia, some of the English stalls would probably be difficult to handle. I've been in some so tight that you have to straddle the toilet to get out the door. These tight toilets are usually in pubs, too, which means that you're performing contortions to exit the stall while drunk.

People who find the American stalls disconcerting should probably avoid the toilets at the Sun Cafe on Palau Langkawi, in Malaysia.

The entire back wall is missing. There is a high wall a few feet away, so no one can see in, but you get the definite feeling of being out in the open. I found this a bit surprising, but once I got over that, I thought it was a nice idea. It made the bathroom feel fresh. In fact, I think some of the beach toilets here in California could benefit from a similar design.

Besides, I was just glad to see a western style toilet in the stall. I got accustomed to squat toilets on our trip around Asia, and certainly do not share the opinion of several of my country women who I met in China: they were happy to wait in a long line for one of the western style toilets at the restaurant we were in rather than use one of squat toilets. Once I figured out that I could jump the queue by going to a squat toilet I did so. But I won't claim that I like squat toilets. I don't have a preference one way or the other about gaps in the stall doors, though.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Have Baby, Want to Travel

As I mentioned last week, we just spent a long weekend in Arizona. We had a good time, and I think Pumpkin enjoyed meeting her cousins, seeing her grandparents and other relatives, and generally exploring new things and people. Hubby and I enjoyed our night away in Sedona- I think I'll write a post about that soon.

Pumpkin did great in the car. It is a five to six hour drive between San Diego and Phoenix, if you don't stop. On the way over, we left after dinner and Pumpkin slept most of the way. We only stopped for gas and to change drivers. This worked well for her, but left us pretty tired. On the way back, we left at about 8 a.m. Pumpkin slept for two long stretches of the trip (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) and was entertainable for the time she was awake.

So, the part of the trip that worried us the most- the long car rides- went fine. But we clearly have a lot to work out before we can claim that we travel well with Pumpkin. Here are some things we learned on this trip:

1. Pumpkin doesn't like to sleep in her Pack and Play. We could get her down in it, but she didn't stay down, and after about the second or third waking, she wouldn't go back in. We ended up putting her in the Pack and Play until everyone went to bed, and then moving her to our bed the next time she woke up. That bed wasn't really big enough for both of us and her, so one parent would move to the living room sofa and sleep relatively well, while the other parent would try to sleep next to Pumpkin, who is an incredibly active sleeper. The dislike of the Pack and Play and wild sleep style were probably exacerbated by the fever she ran for most of our stay (which was due to her recent shots, a minor ear infection, the cold she's still getting over, or some random other illness- or some combination of the above.) However, I don't think she would sleep well in the Pack and Play under the best of circumstances. We are trying to figure out where we would have her sleep if we take a vacation we're planning for later this year. What do people usually do about this?

2. Pumpkin didn't like her portable booster seat, either. She squirmed and whined and didn't eat much. Some of this could have been due to the cold mentioned above- she never eats well when she's sick. But some of it was clearly a dislike of the chair. Her Grandma resorted to feeding her breakfast in her outdoor swing (which she loves) on the day we were in Sedona. On the bright side, she continues to enjoy eating when we're out at a restaurant. We're seriously considering buying a restaurant high chair for home, but we suspect that it would lose its charm without the added excitement of a new environment.

3. I needed to take an extra cooler bag to store all of my pumped milk while we were away from Pumpkin. I only had my one little bag that I use on work days, and obviously, I pumped more milk during an absence of more than 24 hours than I do during an 8 hour work day. Duh.

Thanks to our frequent travel, we had a pretty smooth travel routine worked out pre-Pumpkin. I was able to pack for a short trip in less than an hour, and didn't really stress too much about what to take. This is no longer the case. It took me an entire evening to pack for this trip, and that was only possible because I'd been working on a packing list for several days ahead of time. Even with the packing list, I worried quite a bit about what we were taking. The trip went well (other than the mystery fever and generally poor sleep), but I miss the travel confidence I had pre-Pumpkin. I have a feeling that I won't get that back anytime soon. She is changing quickly and we are traveling infrequently, so I'm sure that many of the things that worked on this trip won't work on the next. We're still planning to go on a vacation later this year, though. I really hope we can figure out a better sleep arrangement during that trip!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Zenbit: Chinese Mice

Location: Shanghai, China
Date: March 27, 2006

Road Trip!

Thank you for the encouraging comments on yesterday's post!

Tomorrow after dinner, we're setting off on a road trip to see my family in Arizona. We're staying for a long weekend. On Sunday, Hubby and I are leaving Pumpkin with my parents and taking off for a one night getaway to celebrate our third wedding anniversary. We're both really looking forward to it.

I'm fighting the urge to obsess about packing. After all, there are stores in Arizona that will happily sell me whatever we forget to bring. As my Mom has pointed out, the only thing I really need to remember is the breastmilk we'll be leaving for Pumpkin to have while Hubby and I are gone.

I won't be posting until I get back. I hope everyone has a nice weekend!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Trouble Ahead

Pumpkin has always been strong-willed.

That is actually a bit of an understatement. She is downright stubborn. When she was about six weeks old, it was not uncommon for her to have a full screaming meltdown because I'd guessed she was hungry, when in fact she was tired and hungry. She needed a nap before she would eat. In fact, one of these screaming meltdowns reduced me to tears on my first birthday as a Mommy. My parents and sister were over, and we tried to go to a park near our home for a picnic. Pumpkin was getting a little hungry by the time we got ourselves organized, but the park was only a few minutes away by car, and I chose to bundle Pumpkin into her car seat rather than delay another 20 minutes at home to nurse her. This was a mistake. By the time we got to the park, she wanted nothing to do with nursing, and screamed through the first half of the picnic. Hubby finally bounced her to sleep. She woke up from her nap happier and hungry, I nursed her, and then everything was good.

Clearly, the fact that she can now throw a reasonably good tantrum should not be a surprise to me, but somehow, I just wasn't prepared for it when she started throwing herself on the ground and wailing when I refuse to give her her umpteenth graham cracker* for the day or won't take her outside to swing for the thirty-second time. These tantrums are short lived and not too serious, and really more funny than annoying. I doubt that this will last.

I don't think I'm ready for the sort of parenting that will soon be required of me.

*Our doctor has greatly increased the harmony in our home by saying that she wouldn't limit Pumpkin's graham cracker intake. Pumpkin is on the small size for her age, so the doctor says she can eat as much as she wants of anything she likes. Which is pretty much graham crackers.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Unexpected Holiday

I took today off work. I had not planned to do this, and in fact, had to cancel three meetings that were on my calendar today. I stayed home because Pumpkin had a rash. A week ago, we would have shrugged and put it down to too much time sweating in her car seat this weekend. We ferried her around North County San Diego on Saturday so that we could enjoy the last day of her Antipodean Aunt's visit, and then we went to the zoo on Sunday. However, she got her chickenpox vaccine last Thursday, and apparently some babies will get a pox-like rash that may, in very rare cases, be contagious. Those of you who send your babies to day care know what the combination of that risk and a rash meant: Pumpkin had to go to the doctor today before she could go to day care.

The doctor's office squeezed us in at noon, which is smack in the middle of her new nap time. I carefully transferred my sleeping Pumpkin to her car seat, and then carefully moved the car seat to the car. I cursed Hubby for remembering to load the stroller frame back into the other car after we removed it on the weekend in favor of our sportier stroller. Damn him for doing what I'd asked! The car seat snaps into the frame, but not into the sporty stroller. So I woke Pumpkin up in the parking lot of the doctor's office and carried her upstairs. Fifteen minutes later, I was headed back home, with a note from the doctor confirming that the rash was just a poorly timed eczema flare up or heat rash.

I hoped Pumpkin would fall back asleep on the drive home, allowing me to hurriedly gather up her things and my things and then drive her to day care st that I could work an anemic half day. I had no such luck. She was wide awake, whiny, and hungry when we got home. After I tried to get her in her high chair, gave up, nursed her, played with her, coaxed her into her high chair, and then fed her lunch, it was clear to me that there was no point trying to go to work today. I pouted for a while, called Hubby to whine, and then decided I should make the best of it.

Pumpkin's favorite things in the world right now are birds. She points, waves and claps every time she sees a bird. We spent lots of time looking at birds at the zoo yesterday. I suspected the less exotic birds at Mission Bay would be just as exciting to her, so I packed her back into her car seat and drove down the hill to the bay. We waved at birds and people and walked around for almost 45 minutes. Pumpkin shook off my helping hand and toddled around on the grass on her own, falling over every so often. (I was very glad that I had diaper wipes with me to clean her hands afterward, since the ground bore ample evidence of the birds that we were there to see.) Then she let me hold her hand while we walked on the sidewalk, waving at everybody who walked, jogged, or rollerbladed past. Everyone waved back with a big smile. Pumpkin was so happy that I couldn't stay grumpy about the fact that I was burning one of my few days off, and soon I was grinning, too.

When Pumpkin started yawning, I packed her back into her car seat (ignoring her howls of protest) then drove her around until she fell asleep. I brought her home and carefully transferred her into her bouncy chair to finish her nap.

It wasn't a day on a tropical beach, but it was still pretty darn good.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Zenbit: Ancient Faces II

Click here to see the first set of ancient faces.

Angkor temples, near Siam Reap, Cambodia
Date: March 8, 2006

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Well, That Explains the Screaming

Don't you love it when you catch the illness your baby had, so you find out a few days too late why, exactly, your baby was so fussy?

I alluded to the fact that we'd had a bout of screaming gas that reminded us of Pumpkin's newborn days. Last night, I got to experience first hand why she was screaming. Ugh. And if her head and joints ached like mine did, I really should have given her some Tylenol.

Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep last night, although Pumpkin did fairly well. Luckily, I had already planned to take today off to take Pumpkin in for her 1 year check up, and then to watch her for any reactions to the new shots she got today (MMR and chickenpox). She hasn't had any reactions*, but she did sleep for two hours after we got back from the doctor. And so did I.

*I was watching for allergic reactions today. The risk of high fever is in 1-3 weeks. So I didn't really need to take today off. When I planned it, I thought it might be fun to spend a day with Pumpkin like I used to do. Little did I know that I'd want to spend the entire day horizontal on the sofa, feeling sorry for myself.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sleep Surprise

I know I hinted that I might write a Pumpkin retrospective, but I'm feeling very tired this week, and just don't have the mental capacity to do it. I'm tired even though Pumpkin slept from 8-ish until 3 a.m last night. Hubby and I were surprised by the number on the clock when she first cried out, since she'd just had a couple truly awful nights, including one screaming gas episode that reminded me of her newborn days before I figured out that I shouldn't eat dairy. She had a similarly great night a couple of weeks ago, too, right before she started having all of her tummy trouble. This, of course, leads to the almost certainly false hope that she will start doing this sort of thing regularly if we can just keep her healthy. In fact, she still has a bit of a congested cough and runny nose (no doubt a cold she picked up at day care), so maybe she doesn't even have to be completely healthy.... Hope springs eternal.

I don't actually expect this to be part of a new trend. I have had my hopes crushed before.

She is also eating enthusiastically again (although crackers remain her only reliable finger food). I have finally learned not to worry too much when she stops eating when she gets sick. She always starts up again once she feels better. If all goes well with her shots this week, we may even try dairy again this weekend.

She may not be eating finger foods like day care would like, but she has excelled in her progress towards their other "big girl" goal of going down to one nap per day. She has moved her morning nap to ~11 a.m., drops her afternoon nap almost everyday now, and doesn't even fall asleep in the car on the way home. The downside is that she is a bit fussier in the evenings, but the upside is that she goes down for the night much easier. This transition was far easier than I had feared. We just slowly moved her nap 15-30 minutes later every weekend. This created the result we expected: a slightly cranky baby when she was ready for a nap but not getting one, and an afternoon nap that got harder and harder to convince her to take, until we finally just gave up on the afternoon nap altogether. If only her night time sleep routine was as straightforward to change....

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Zenbit: East Coast Sunset

Location: Newport, Rhode Island
Date: June 4, 2004

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Happy Birthday, Pumpkin!

Today, Pumpkin turned one year old. We had a nice party for family and a few close friends. Pumpkin had a great day, and had a blast opening her presents. She also enjoyed playing with the cards she got. She didn't eat the cupcake I made for her, but she enjoyed digging her fingers into it. Given her recent stomach troubles, I didn't really mind that she didn't eat the cupcake. The rest of us ate our cupcakes, so I was still glad that I made them from scratch.

I can't believe how quickly the year has gone by, and how much everyone in our little family has changed this year. Pumpkin's changes are most obvious, and just today she seemed to change more, as she got steadier on her feet and ventured out for more "unanchored" walks. Hubby and I have changed, too, though. I have more Mommy confidence now and Hubby has really turned into a wonderful Daddy. We're learning our way around our new lifestyle, and it is feeling more comfortable.

Maybe next week I'll feel like writing a more retrospective post about the first year. Right now, I'm going to go relax and enjoy the rest of the day. It feels like a day to celebrate Hubby and my parenting accomplishments. I wonder if that changes as the kid gets older, or if each birthday still feels a bit like a celebration for the parents, too.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

It Is All Relative

When you're a new parent, all anyone wants to talk to you about is eating and sleeping, and specifically how well your baby does these things. Upon hearing that your baby isn't the best sleeper, many people will trot out an old saying about babies either being good sleepers or good eaters, but not both. Before we introduced Pumpkin to solid foods, I could say she was a good eater. Now, I have to say she's a good nurser.

She has been slow to take to her solid foods. For awhile, all she really wanted to eat was graham crackers. Now, she's eating her pureed food better (most days), but is still showing limited interest in most finger foods. Unfortunately, her day care center would like her to eat more finger foods soon, so rather than adopt an "oh well, she'll get there when she gets there" attitude, I find myself constantly trying to come up with new potential finger foods for her.

Her favorite finger foods are all starchy (crackers, bread, corn puffs, freeze-dried fruit...) so last weekend I decided to try giving her some cream cheese on toast. She loved it. I happily proclaimed the experiment a success and started thinking about how I could send this new treat to day care. But then she developed a case of diarrhea, necessitating a call to our emergency day care provider (my Mom), who flew over from Phoenix and stayed home with Pumpkin until her digestive system recovered. I immediately suspected the cream cheese, given her earlier issues with dairy in my diet. It turned out, however, to be the bread. We gave her some dry toast with dinner last night, and had a very bad night. Pumpkin tossed and turned, squirmed and whined, and then finally cut some really big farts and went back to sleep. (Thankfully, our emergency day care provider was also willing to help out with a 3 a.m. shift, so Hubby and I are not zombies today.) I finally realized that every time we've given her the multigrain, fiber rich bread we eat, she has had bad gas. Duh. Lots of people get gas from fiber. Lots of people also take fiber to help keep things loose. She'd had a lot of toast on Saturday, and that probably caused the diarrhea.

On the one hand, I feel like a dope for not realizing this earlier. One the other hand, we can try dairy again this weekend. I'd really like to get her drinking cow's milk, so that I can think about dropping one of the three bottles of breast milk I send to day care every day. I have listened and read with a bit of jealousy as various friends with one year olds stop pumping. I have had to accept that I will not be joining their ranks after Pumpkin turns one on Saturday. She's just not reliably eating enough food to make that possible. Luckily, pumping is not the trial for me that it has been for Cara Mama (who deserves serious kudos for sticking it out), but I'd still like to start tapering it off. I think, though, that I would be better off just considering the weaning process as another lesson from my little Zen master. It will happen when she's ready, and there is no point wishing for a different timeline.

As frequent readers of this blog are well aware, I'm not the best student of my Zen master, so I'll admit to feeling a little sorry for myself last week, thinking about our food issues and the fact that our sleep is still more likely to be crappy than good. I thought that it wasn't fair that my little Pumpkin wasn't a good eater OR a good sleeper, and that surely I should get a break on something. Then, one day another little girl was getting a diaper change while I was in the day care center picking Pumpkin up. She was a darling little girl, but she was just screaming through her diaper change. This was not the annoyed "I want to stand up" crying that Pumpkin does for many of her diaper changes. This was full "I'm in pain" screaming. The day care center worker smiled at me a little sheepishly, and explained that she had a diaper rash, and that she always screams like this when she has a diaper rash. And then it hit me. That is where we caught a break. Pumpkin has really never had a bad diaper rash. She's not that good at eating or sleeping, but she has a robust bottom. And strangely, that made me feel a lot better.