Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Good Trip

We took Pumpkin to Seattle last weekend. The weekend had a lot of firsts in it: our first trip to a city other my hometown with Pumpkin, Pumpkin's first plane ride, Pumpkin's first boat ride (the ferry to Bainbridge), Pumpkin's first night in a hotel.... One of the most surprising thing about the weekend was how well it all went. We did several things right:

1. We had bought a cheap umbrella stroller to take on the trip. However, at the last minute, I decided that we should take her regular "city" stroller (also a relatively cheap stroller, at least compared to her off-roading jogging stroller), because the seat in her regular stroller reclines. I had a vision of Pumpkin napping in her stroller while we sat in a brew pub and drank beers. This didn't really happen- she certainly napped in her stroller. She likes to sit very upright, with her arms on the tray that hooks across the front of her stroller (as shown in the photo). When she got tired, her little head drooped down, until it was resting on her arms. I would stop, gently tilt her back into the seat, and then recline the seat before continuing on her way. However, she almost always woke up when we stopped for drinks. I still got a beer or two, though- Pumpkin was generally happy to sit in a high chair and eat crackers while the adults drank beers.

Even if my vision did not come true, taking the reclining stroller was a very good idea, because it meant that Pumpkin could nap while we walked around and were tourists. The better touristing definitely compensated for the little bit of extra hassle in the airport (the stroller only folds flat with the seat reclined, so folding it down for security or when boarding was not as fast as it would have been with the umbrella stroller).

2. We took lots of snacks. We had all of her favorites with us, and this meant that she would always eat something when we were at a restaurant, even if she wouldn't eat the restaurant food.

3. We made an effort to find places where she could run around. On Friday, we stopped after a long stretch of stroller time and let her explore Pioneer Square. For those who don't know Seattle, this is a pleasant square with trees and chairs... and homeless guys. Pumpkin made friends with a lot of the homeless guys, who seemed to appreciat eth joy she took in the birds in the square. One guy in particular just broke into the biggest grin every time she came near him. Several also offered her advice, mostly along the lines of listening to her mother. She has not shown any signs that she plans to heed their advice.

4. We requested a crib for Pumpkin. This allowed us all to sleep better. Pumpkin is a very active sleeper, and since we aren't regular co-sleepers, I don't tend to get very much sleep when I'm sharing a bed with her. We did bring her into bed with us when she woke up at 5:30 on Saturday. She nursed, and then snuggled in and went back to sleep- and we all slept until 7:30. The quality of sleep was one of the biggest surprises of the trip- Pumpkin slept better than she does at home. It was wonderful.

There were also some things we could do better next time:

1. We didn't eat dinner early enough. We always had the best intentions, but things kept coming up that kept us from getting to dinner "on time". This meant that Pumpkin was pretty hungry by the time we sat down at a table, so she tended to fill up on the bread at the table or the snacks we had with us.

2. We didn't think to ask about a fridge or a bath tub when we booked the hotel. A fridge would have meant that we could have had cold ice packs to use to keep milk cold for Pumpkin during the day. As it was, we had to keep asking restaurants to rinse out her sippy cup and put fresh milk in it. And no matter how carefully we asked, they always filled the cup to the top. Pumpkin had no hope of ever finishing all the milk they gave her.

No bath tub meant that we had to try to give Pumpkin her first shower on Friday night. She was NOT impressed, so we skipped it the next night, and made a note to practice taking showers at home.

3. It would be better to get Pumpkin her own seat on the airplane. She would still probably have wanted to walk up and down the aisle several times on the flight to Seattle, but having her own seat would have made it easier to entertain her while we were seated. She is just a little too big to sit on my lap and have the tray table down, so it was hard to let her color with the special mess free markers I'd bought, which only color on the corresponding special paper, and we kept dropping toys and books.

On the way back, Pumpkin fell asleep and slept most of the flight. I still wished for her to have her own seat, though, because I could hardly move for the entire flight. However, I did manage to drink a ginger ale, which is more than I managed on the flight up.

4. We should have looked up the location of playgrounds in advance. We never found a playground for her in Seattle. We took her to our neighborhood playground when we got home on Sunday, and she seemed especially happy to be there. It was silly that we didn't find playgrounds in advance- I'm pretty sure that it would be very easy to do on Google maps.

Overall, we judged the trip to be a resounding success. Pumpkin really seemed to enjoy riding around in her stroller checking out the new sights. I enjoyed seeing things with her enthusiasm- it has been too many years since I looked at a bird banking in the draft from a ferry with the proper awe or appreciated the giant concrete balls serving as a traffic break for a building for their slalom course potential. Pumpkin quickly sorted me out on these points, and many others. I'm looking forward to more trips with her. I know that can't all be this good,
but now I also know that they certainly won't all be as bad as some of the horror stories I've heard.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gratuitously Cute Toddler Story

The trip to Seattle went really, really well. Pumpkin did great on both the airplane rides, slept better than she does at home (we're thinking of moving to a hotel), and generally seemed to love her weekend. I'll write more about that (and what I think we did right and wrong on this trip) later.

For now, I'll just share a gratuitously cute toddler story:

One of Pumpkin's best signs is for cracker. This is probably because crackers are her favorite food, but is too difficult a word for her to say just yet. The sign, for those who don't know, is made by knocking on your left elbow with your right fist. You're supposed to bend your arm into a vertical position. Pumpkin doesn't do this- she just holds her arm horizontally and knocks on it with her other fist. Still, it is clear what she wants.

Today, we tried to give her some of the pork fried rice we were eating for dinner. We put some on her tray. She poked at it, and then looked at me and signed "cracker". We put some in a bowl for her, and gave her the fork she uses, hoping this would interest her. No dice. She looked up at us with her big blue eyes and signed "cracker". We offered her the toast we had also put on the table, which she often eats with a fair amount of gusto. Nope. She just repeated the sign for cracker. We tried several more times to get her to show some interest in the food she had in front of her, and each time, she looked at us very intently and signed "cracker".

I was torn- on the one hand, we want her to learn to eat other foods. On the other hand, we want her to learn that she can communicate with us via methods other than screaming and crying. In the end, I caved, and got her a cracker. Which she ate, and then looked at me, and signed "cracker".

I think I need to look for high nutrition cracker recipes....

Monday, July 21, 2008

The First Plane Ride

Posts might be even sparser than usual around here this week- Hubby and I are busy trying to plan for Pumpkin's first plane ride. We are going to Seattle at the end of the week. For this first, relatively short trip, Pumpkin is riding on my lap. But part of the point of the trip is to practice for a trip to Hawai'i that we are planning at Christmas time, and on that trip, she'll have her own seat.

Being the geeks that we are, we've googled for advice. This post was helpful, as was this packing list. Sadly, I couldn't find anything about this on Ask Moxie, my source for all other parenting wisdom. If I had my act together, I would have sent this to her as a question a week or two ago, but it seems a bit self-absorbed to hope that a question I sent in now would get answered in time to help. So anyone in my much smaller readership who has advice- let loose in the comments! I'd also love to hear of any ideas for cool things to do in Seattle with a 15 month old who likes to run (walking is so last month....) and play with balls. So far, we know we'll go have a drink in the space needle, if they do that sort of thing- we have a tradition to maintain- and go to Pike's Place Market. We'll probably also check out the Children's Museum, because we are staying right there. Beyond that, who knows?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Random Things

Earlier this week, we had Pumpkin out for her after dinner walk. She had insisted on walking, not sitting in a stroller, so we weren't going far. She was not walking in anything approximating a straight line, but she was doing a great job of staying on the sidewalk. Then three women came by, also out for their evening stroll. They were walking three abreast, so were walking in the street. They stopped to admire Pumpkin, who was shy, but friendly. After they walked away, Pumpkin looked up at us, looked at the street where the women had been standing, and headed straight for the street. I think she thought that if they could walk in the street, so could she.


Last night, I made some of Pumpkin's favorite pasta for her dinner. It is Annie's Peace and Parmesan Pasta. If you haven't seen this pasta, it is in the shape of little peace signs. I think she originally took to this pasta because it was easy to pick up- she could stick her little fingers through the pasta. I had some of the pasta last night, too. I, of course, ate with a fork. So Pumpkin wanted a fork, too. I gave her the toddler fork we'd bought for her. She pushed her pasta around with it for awhile, and then went back to using her fingers to eat. Towards the end of the meal, though, she picked up her fork again, and speared a single peace sign, and then steered it into her mouth. The look of pure pride and happiness on her face was wonderful to see. We clapped for her, and she tried again. She succeeded again, and again, she beamed with pride and we clapped. She repeated this 5 or 6 times before she got tired of it or full, and started pointing at the floor so that we'd get her out of her high chair.


Here is a gratuitous cute picture:

We bought Pumpkin the "pop pop" toy at a garage sale last weekend. I couldn't resist, because I had (and loved) a very similar toy when I was a toddler. So far, Pumpkin's favorite time to use this toy is when she wakes up in a super playful mood at 5:15 in the morning, and one of her parents is trying to get a little more sleep.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

One Less Thing to Feel Guilty About

I saw a story about a new study that found that doing rigorous self breast exams is not particularly beneficial on the BBC website today. I like the British "TLC" approach much better than the American "you must do this specific type of exam" approach. I wonder when the American medical recommendation will change? Regardless, I am officially crossing this off my list of things I feel guilty for not doing.

My theme of laziness continues!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lazy Parent Syndrome

Pumpkin has taken to waking up for the day before 6 a.m. again- sometimes well before 6 a.m. On Sunday, she was wide awake and ready to play at 5:15. This was only somewhat mitigated by the fact that she was in an amazingly good mood, which made her very, very cute. I think we could fix this if one of us would hold her and let her sleep in our arms after she wakes up at 5ish. But neither of us wants to do this right now. One of us gets up, gets her back down, and stumbles back to bed. Then , when she wakes up for good 15-20 minutes late, we curse, and I get up and nurse her and start the day.

She is also tending to wake up twice in the middle of the night to nurse, up from the one time that I had grudgingly accepted. To make matters worse, she is unpredictable in when she will wake up, and whether, once awake, she will refuse to go back to sleep without nursing. This makes it very hard for Hubby and me to work out any sort of nighttime routine that ensures we both get a reasonable amount of sleep. I suspect we need to use some sort of nightweaning technique to get rid of the extra nursing (and perhaps even both middle of the night nursings), but the neither of us feel up to tackling that, either.

We've also been unable to add any new foods to Pumpkin's reliable "will eat" list. We've discussed various ideas for how to try to introduce more foods (dipping sauces? consistently sending the same fruit to day care every day?) but haven't really worked up the energy to implement any of our ideas. We did try a ranch dip with her carrots tonight. She tried it, made the most adorable "that is disgusting" face, and then refused to eat any carrots at all. More energetic parents might have next tried the BBQ sauce we have sitting in the cupboard waiting to be used for this very purpose. Instead, we just shrugged and handed her more bread.

The consistent theme in most of our parenting issues right now is that we don't feel like we have the energy to try to improve anything. We did start doing the Signing Time DVDs with her, but that is because her day care forced our hand. They are teaching her signs, and we wanted to know what she was telling us. (So far, she knows a sign that may either be her interpretation of "more" or "cookie"- no one can say for sure, because the two concepts seem to be merged in her mind- and the signs for "car", "bird", and "please". I think she also knows "want", but I've only seen it a couple of times, so I'm not sure.)

I'm hoping that this outbreak of laziness is just a temporary thing, and we aren't slowly morphing into the sort of parents who let their children run wild because it is too much work to try to discipline them. I don't think so, because we have been quite strict about correcting her when she hits one of us. This is her latest trick to express displeasure, which would be cute if it weren't, you know, wrong.

Maybe it is summer that is making us lazy... but we live in coastal San Diego, so I can't really claim that it is too hot to do anything. Our day time highs are still in the mid-70s, after all. Maybe we just need a break from worrying about how she sleeps and eats. We've been worrying about her sleep for 15 months now, and her eating habits for 9 months. Worrying hasn't made it better. Maybe being lazy is just the thing we need to do.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Zenbit: Clowning Around

All businesses in New Zealand endeavor to end with an "NZ".

Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Date: December 20, 2005

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Pumpkin is 15 months old now, and we're still nursing. Not only that, I'm still pumping, albeit only one time a day. Pumpkin gets five ounces of breastmilk in a sippy cup at day care, and probably drinks another 5-8 ounces of cow's milk throughout the day.

I fully expected to stop pumping when Pumpkin was one year old. But then she was eating so poorly, and we were stressing about getting her onto finger food and drinking from a sippy cup instead of a bottle so that she could move up to the toddler room at day care... so I kept pumping. I didn't want to change any more of her routine than necessary. About a month ago, I dropped one of the two daytime pumpings, and started spending down some of the accumulated frozen breastmilk in my freezer. I thought I would drop the other pumping after a few weeks. But I didn't.

I can't really say why I am not actively weaning Pumpkin. Maybe it is that contented look she gets when she latches on and starts nursing. Maybe it is the fact that when I pick her up from day care and hand her the blue sippy cup with cow's milk, she reaches instead for the now empty red sippy cup that had breastmilk (we color code to make it easier for the day care workers to remember to give her the breastmilk first). How can I take away something she clearly likes? She still seems so little.

And yet, the weaning has clearly started. We don't nurse in public much anymore- when we are out and about, she drinks cow's milk from her sippy cup. Pumpkin has remodeled her nursing schedule and may be slowly dropping feedings. We just added a pre-bedtime snack (with cow's milk), because she kept signing that she wanted a cracker after her bath. However, if I'm home, she still also likes to nurse before falling asleep. If I'm not home, she's not too interested in a sippy cup or bottle of breastmilk, but then wakes up earlier for her middle of the night nursing. (Yes, she is still nursing once in the middle of the night. We had mostly nightweaned her fairly painlessly when she was about 10 months old. She un-nightweaned herself quite stubbornly when she was about a year old and now screams like her little world is ending if I don't come in and nurse her when she is ready for it.)

I can't figure out how I feel about all of this. On the one hand, I think it is a good thing to nurse a bit longer. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding (with "complementary foods") for "up to two years or beyond". As long as I'm breastfeeding, I don't worry about the nutritional quality (or lack thereof) of Pumpkin's solid food diet, which still relies heavily on crackers. Pumpkin's clearly still enjoying nursing, and I enjoy nursing her. So why stop?

On the other hand, I'd like to drink a margarita (or two!) without calculating the number of hours before I'm likely to nurse again. I also suspect that Pumpkin won't sleep through the night until she's weaned, and I'd really, really like to sleep through the night with regularity again. Pumpkin's solid food diet may not be great, but it is clearly within the realm of normal toddler eating habits, so I don't really think she will suffer nutritionally if I stopped nursing her. So why don't I stop?

I don't know what I'll eventually decide to do. I'm sort of hoping Pumpkin will decide for me, by dropping more nursings. I know that there is even a school of parenting thought that says that waiting for Pumpkin to decide to wean is precisely what I should do. However, I also know that this school of parenting thought isn't the reason I'm not weaning. I'm not weaning because I can't quite bring myself to decide to do it.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Reminiscing, Part I

I have been meaning to write down some of my impressions of Pumpkin, motherhood, life, the universe, everything (with baby in tow) for awhile. Already, I have a hard time remembering all of the details of the earliest days. I remember events like bouncing on the exercise ball for 45 minutes straight one day to get Pumpkin to go to sleep and stay asleep, but I have forgotten how it felt. I remember some sore abs, but not the feeling of desperation that would have driven me to bounce for so long.

I have some notes on my favorite things about various ages, intended to be used in a scrapbook that I will make for Pumpkin some day. I have bought the scrapbook and some paper, but haven't even started thinking about the pages. Maybe I'll get to that someday soon, but I suspect it won't happen until Pumpkin is much older and those scribbled notes will seem like messages from a completely different woman.

So, here is a random list of some of things I remember, and some of the things I've learned over the last 15 months:

1. I remember eating a bowl of Cheerios before going to the hospital once I had finally become convinced that my water was breaking (it started out as a slow leak). I'd been told that I wouldn't be allowed to eat once they checked me in, and I couldn't imagine not being hungry. It turns out, I wasn't really hungry once labor really started. Go figure.

2. I remember Hubby having to convince me to go to the first breastfeeding support group meeting I went to, when Pumpkin was just about two weeks old. That support group became the anchor of my weeks at home with Pumpkin. I was a bit overwhelmed by new motherhood, and a bit embarrassed to be so overwhelmed. The support group was my chance to get out once or twice a week and talk to other overwhelmed mothers as well as the mothers of older babies, who seemed far more together than us newbies. They had so much good advice, and seemed so confident and supportive. And then, suddenly, I was in that group of "older" mothers, dispensing advice and support.

3. I remember sitting in my comfy nursing chair for most of three days straight when Pumpkin hit her 6 week growth spurt. I watched a lot of Home and Garden TV, because I was too sleep deprived to follow a plot line.

4. I remember how excited and proud I was when Pumpkin started rolling over on her own. Look! My baby can DO SOMETHING!

5. I remember how hard it was to leave Pumpkin with Hubby for an entire day when she was about 6 weeks old. I went to a local Women in Bioscience conference (which I attend every time it is held- it is good for networking, and always has some useful talks, too). It felt so strange to leave my baby, who had been like an appendage to me. It was great to see my friends, and to talk about science, careers, and other "normal" things again. Still, I ducked out of the closing reception early, and rushed home. I opened the door to our apartment and said "Mommy's home!" But no one was there to greet me- Hubby had Pumpkin out for a walk. I felt bereft, in a way. I was craving my Pumpkin fix. I paced the apartment until they came home, and then swooped Pumpkin into my arms for a snuggle and then a nursing session.

6. I remember how happy Pumpkin would look when I came home from work, even in the early months. I went back to work part time when she was three months old. Hubby also worked part time for a month, and was home with Pumpkin while I was at work. She always seemed happy to see me, and the first nursing session after I got home was the only daytime nursing session during which she'd lay still and nurse peacefully. During all of the other sessions (except the half asleep middle of the night sessions), she was wriggling around, flailing her arms and legs, and eventually grabbing my hair. She still does this. I hope I can always remember how special those after work nursing sessions seemed, with Pumpkin snuggled up against me, content and peaceful.

I think I'll stop here for tonight, on that happy memory. I'm sure I'll write Part II of this post sometime, because there are many more things to remember.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

What a Wild Trip Its Been

Hubby is going through all of our Pumpkin photos, making sure that everything in those directories is suitable for the "complete Pumpkin" DVD he is going to burn for his parents (yes, Mom and Dad, you can have one, too, if you want). It is amazing to see the early photos- how small and helpless she looked, how little hair she had, etc.

It has been an interesting 15 months! All three of us have learned so much. So much is different now, compared to those early days. But the one constant is (unfortunately) my feeling that I don't really know what I'm doing, and that I must be failing Pumpkin in some important way. She doesn't sleep through the night! She won't eat her veggies (or her fruit, or most meats)!

Hubby, always more sensible than me about these things, points out that her eating and sleeping habits were probably mostly predetermined (I'm told that they are remarkably similar to my eating and sleeping habits at her age). Besides, she is universally admired as a happy, intelligent, loving toddler (who can throw an excellent tantrum) and that even if her diet is a bit more limited than we'd like, and her sleep a little more interrupted than we'd like, surely the "happy, intelligent, and loving" part is more important.

I know he's right. But I wonder if I'll ever feel like I've got a handle on this Mommy stuff? Or at least stop minding that I don't have a handle on it?