Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Moving On

Friday will be the last day I pump at work. As I mentioned earlier, Pumpkin will move to using a regular cup when she moves up to the 18 month room at day care. I am sure there will be lots of spilling as she learns how to do it, so it seems like a good time to switch her entirely to cow's milk. (Right now, I send about 5 ounces of breastmilk and about 7 ounces of cow's milk to day care.)

I have written before about my ambivalence to the changes in nursing that started when Pumpkin started on cow's milk at about 13 months old. We currently nurse after her nap (on the weekends, when I'm home with her), after her evening walk, once in the middle of the night, and once either first thing in the morning or when she wakes up at 5 a.m. (after which she usually sleeps a little longer). I suspect the afternoon nursing will be the next one to go, although I am lobbying hard for her to drop the middle of the night nursing- I'm telling her stories about how a little girl with her name who learns how to sleep through the night from a little bird (Pumpkin loves birds).

I'm looking ahead to my final pumping session with bittersweet feelings. I don't particularly like pumping, but it is the end of a specific time period in my life, a period in which I've grown in ways I never really imagined before I got pregnant. It feels like I should have some sort of ceremony.

Of course, I won't have a ceremony. But the fact that if feels like I need one tells me something- my ambivalence about quitting pumping is mostly about me, not Pumpkin. (My conflicted feelings about how long to nurse, on the other hand, are mostly about Pumpkin.) I need to move on from this stage to the next one. This is a general problem I've been having with motherhood- I have a hard time letting go of each stage. This manifests itself most clearly in my occasional bouts of day care angst. If I really analyze these bouts, it always comes down to day care thinks Pumpkin is ready for X, and I'm not ready for Pumpkin to be ready for X. Pumpkin, it turns out, is usually ready. It is just me who has difficulty moving on to the next stage.

Once I figured this out, my latest bout of day care angst evaporated. I had been feeling anxious about the fact that Pumpkin is having some aggressive episodes at day care. Sometimes she bites, something she learned how to do at day care, and so far, only does at day care. Sometimes she pushes or hits at another baby. The teachers aren't overly concerned- many of the babies have these episodes, usually because they don't really have the words to tell the other babies what they do and don't want, and the other babies wouldn't really understand them if they did. Anyway, the teachers work with the babies to learn how to "use your words". But sometimes, a baby has to go into time out. And that has been hard for me to adjust to. How can my little baby be old enough to have time out???? I was questioning my day care decision (again). But really.... Pumpkin is almost 17 months old, and definitely needs some sort of discipline to accompany aggressive actions. Toddlers of her age are notorious for tantrums and aggressive behavior- I read about this issue in some of the stay at home mommy blogs I read, too. Maybe Pumpkin learned how to bite earlier than she would have without day care, but I don't think day care is making her aggressive.

I was mostly over my angst by the time I got to day care to pick her up today, and what happened when I did get there pretty much finished off my angst. Pumpkin was still inside. They play outside in the mornings and afternoons, and are usually outside by the time I get there. Today, I was a little early and they were running a little late, so the class was inside reading stories with the teachers. As I got Pumpkin's bowls and bottles together, and admired the incredibly cute "scrapbook" they had given us with pictures from their recent picnic, the teachers were getting the other babies ready to go outside. Pumpkin saw this, and squirmed in my arms until I let her down. She ran over to the door, and took her place in line, saying "outside!" the entire time. The teacher opened the door, and the line of toddlers walked out to the gate to their play yard. They waited patiently by the gate until the teacher came and let them in. Then they all ran in to play. Pumpkin wouldn't come near me for at least five minutes, and even when she finally did let me come pick her up, she clearly wanted back down so she could play more. I managed to convince her to drop her toys so that we could go, and we left.

Time outs or no, this day care must be doing something right, because my baby, who is always so happy to see me and runs to give me a hug, didn't want to leave. Stay tuned. I'm sure I'll eventually have some angst about that. But for now, I'm just happy to know that Pumpkin is happy with how she spends her days.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Big Win

I mentioned recently that I feel like I'm playing sleep roulette these days. Well, I won big last night- Pumpkin slept all the way through until 5 a.m. before she woke up, and then she nursed and went back to sleep (in her crib) until 6:45.

Of course, I want to know what caused such excellent sleep. So I asked Pumpkin:

Me: Pumpkin, why did you sleep so well last night? I know you don't have enough words to tell me, so just tell me, was it because we played outside after work? If it was, say "ball".

Pumpkin: stares at me silently

Me: Was it because I let you have an entire oatmeal cookie for your bedtime snack? If it was, sign "cookie".

Pumpkin: signs cookie

Me: Was it because we let Baby sleep with you? If it was, say "baby".

Pumpkin: Bay-bee!

Me: Hmmmm

Pumpkin: Hat!

I'm not sure what part of our routine "hat" represents. Maybe the randomness?

Tonight, Pumpkin wouldn't finish her cookie, and she threw Baby out of the crib. So I've got my hopes pinned on the hat factor.


Thanks for the comments and emails yesterday! It is nice to know that we aren't the only couple who struggle with the decision about whether to hire a cleaning service. We're currently thinking about leaving some rooms out of the cleaning, which will reduce the cost. Personally, I think that it is silly to have a cleaning service and then tell them not to clean some things (except for the office- I actually see no way that we could ask someone else to clean the office), but marriage is all about compromise, right? We'll see how it turns out. I'm still waiting for the estimate from the second company.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Something Lost, Something Gained

For a little while today, I thought we'd finally be getting a cleaning service. I got my fiddle out this weekend, to see what Pumpkin thought of it (she was a little bit scared- which says something about how long it has been since I played and makes me sad). I found some sort of dry mold like substance on the part of the case that had been sitting on the carpet. That, and the fact that my allergies have been pretty bad lately, finally spurred me into action. I dug up the coupon that had come in the mail for an environmentally friendly cleaning service and took it with me to work today. Not only did I call them, but I also sent in a request for an estimate from a competing environmentally friendly cleaning service (it is a sign of the times that I easily found two such services).

I brought my info home to Hubby tonight- it would be about $105 per visit for a biweekly service, and $120 per visit for a monthly service. He balked at the price. He (correctly) pointed out that this was close to $1500 a year (at least) for something we could do ourselves. He mentioned all of the other nice things we'd like to do with that money (travel, save up for a rooftop deck so we can actually see the little bit of blue water view we have, etc., etc- it was a long list).

We're right back where we've always been: ambivalent about getting a cleaning service, but falling behind on doing the cleaning ourselves. We had written up a schedule that involved each of us spending one night per week cleaning, plus some monthly chores to be done on the weekend. We've been sticking to that schedule (mostly), but it is clearly not enough. Our house is not clean enough to keep me healthy. And don't even talk to me about our long term to do list- I've been trying to knock "tidy office" off that list for months.

So tonight, while Hubby gave Pumpkin her bath, I vacuumed the guest room and Pumpkin's room and dusted Pumpkin's room. After I made Pumpkin's lunch, did the dishes, swept the kitchen, and spot cleaned the floor around Pumpkin's chair, I went back into the guest room and finally found homes for enough knick knacks and other stuff to make it possible to easily dust the shelves. I cleaned the floorboards. I dusted. I rewarded myself with a beer while I worked.

It didn't take that long- maybe 30 minutes. But that was 30 minutes I could have spent reading, or working on the scrapbook I want to do for Pumpkin, or... well, you get the idea. "Clean the guest room" was not high on my list of things I wanted to do tonight.

Hubby will no doubt pick something to work on tomorrow night, while I give Pumpkin her bath and get her down. It is not like I am bearing more than my fair share of the burden of chores. But I feel like I've lost just a little bit more of the part of my identity that isn't tied up with being a mother. Pre-Pumpkin, we used to do our cleaning in a big blitz every other weekend, leaving our weeknights and most of our weekend time free to spend on our hobbies. Now, the hobbies are showing signs of neglect along with the house. It has been so long since I went to my session that I'm almost embarrassed to talk about it anymore, and as I mentioned above, it has been so long since I got the fiddle out at home that Pumpkin didn't know what to think when I finally brought it out. I manage to keep up with the one book per month that I read for book club, but not much more. I don't do the kickboxing or yoga that I did pre-baby. In fact, I don't do much for exercise beyond taking Pumpkin for walks and chasing around after her. It is only thanks to the wonders of breastfeeding that I lost all of my pregnancy weight, but I know that I am out of shape even though I still fit into all my clothes.

It is not all loss. I've gained a lot, too. It is harder to put what I've gained into words, though. A much younger coworker was asking what those of us who don't watch to local football team do on Sundays. I told him that before the baby was born, Hubby and I would often go to the beach, go for a long walk on the beach, or go rollerblading, and then stop off at our local pub for beers in the afternoon sun. I said that now, we spend our weekends with Pumpkin. The young coworker clearly thought that we were worse off now, but I do not. Spending weekends with Pumpkin is a lot of fun. But I can't really explain why, and how that more than compensates for no longer stopping off at the local pub for beers. 25 year old single men don't really understand why it is so fun to watch your toddler tote her baby doll around wrapped in a blanket, saying "bay-bee" and putting the doll down for a nap in various locations.

I like the identity I've gained- I'm Pumpkin's mommy, and that is wonderful in a way I can't fully explain. But I am still struggling to figure out which parts of the pre-mommy identity need to be let go to make room for the mommy-ness. Somehow, I thought I'd be doing better at this almost 17 months after Pumpkin was born.

And how can I explain to Hubby that the cost of the cleaning service may in fact be worth it, if only to allow me to reclaim a little bit more time for non-mommy interests? More importantly, how do I convince myself of that?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Zenbit: Woof Woof Rough

Kiwis love their puns.

Location: Wellington, New Zealand
December 24, 2005

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pattern Recognition

If someone could observe our nighttime routines for a week, and tell me what is different on the nights when Pumpkin sleeps well (defined as waking only once to nurse, and then sleeping until at least 6 a.m.) versus the nights when she does not sleep well (defined as several periods of wakefulness, perhaps with some unexplained screaming and a refusal to allow Daddy to calm her, followed by waking up at 5:30 a.m. or earlier), I would be very happy.

As it is, I suspect we are looking for a pattern where none exists, and are actually at the whim of random luck. It is a bit like sleep roulette. I go to bed, never knowing how long I'll get to sleep.

So maybe what I need is a sleep charm? Or some superstitious system by which I try to guarantee a good night?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Third Time's a Charm

We've been taking Pumpkin to Mission Bay, as an introduction to the beach. The bay has several nice sandy beaches with no surf and shallow water- perfect for babies. Given Pumpkin's aversion to trying new foods, I suppose it shouldn't have surprised me that she didn't take immediately to the bay. The first two times we went to the bay, we couldn't even convince her to get wet.

The first time, she shrieked and pulled her legs up when we tried to put he down to walk on the beach. Of course, this was at De Anza Cove, where the beach was essentially mud. Pumpkin isn't too fond of squishy food, so perhaps she didn't like the squishy mud, either.

The second time, we drove to Bonita Cove, a part of the bay with a sandier beach. She liked the sand. We spread out towels and spent an hour happily playing with our sand toys. We tried taking her down to the water, but she got frightened and clung to whoever was holding her whenever we got near the water.

The third time seemed to be doomed to have a similar outcome. Hubby stayed home to work in the garden while my parents and I took Pumpkin to the beach. We spread out towels and got out her toys, and she happily played in the sand. We took turns going down to the water and splashing our feet in the "big bath", but Pumpkin wasn't convinced. She whimpered and whined whenever one of us would head to the water, clearly still afraid. Then I got the idea to bring some water to her in her buckets. At first, she was suspicious, but she was soon playing with the water in the buckets.
I figured that was progress enough for the day. We could come back next weekend to try again. Then Pumpkin got up, and started walking towards the water. She'd stop every now and then, and you could almost see her debating whether she should turn back. But she kept going, and eventually had her feet in the water. It wasn't too long before she was happily playing in the bay.

She went in deeper, too. A "wave" even knocked her down, so that she was sitting in water up to her chest. And she just laughed and smiled. She didn't want to leave the beach when it was time to go to lunch.

Pumpkin had a great time at the beach, but I think I had even more fun than she did.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Sounds of Old Macdonald

I had no idea that animal sounds could be so cute. Here is a selection of sounds, a la Pumpkin:

1. A rooster says "oodle-doodle-do".

2. A cat says "ee-ow".

3. A dog says "uff, uff".

4. A pig makes a strangled choking sound that only a parent (or grandparent) would claim sounds like "oink, oink".

5. And my favorite- a zebra says "ssshhhhh", with you finger to your lips. (This is because my Mom, who was teaching Pumpkin these sounds over the weekend, couldn't think of what sound a zebra makes quickly enough. Pumpkin now puts her finger to her lips and says "sshhhh" every time she sees a picture of a zebra. It is too cute to correct. I can't wait to tell Pumpkin to be quiet like a zebra.)

Pumpkin has also learned what to do when the phone rings. If the phone rings, she puts her hand to her ear and says "ell-o". She also does this if she sees me using my Blackberry, which is interesting, because I don't actually use the Blackberry as a phone. Clearly, someone does. Maybe one of the other parents she sees at day care?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Itchy Feet

A couple of things have gotten me thinking about travel this week:

1. A young colleague of mine is planning his first international trip, to Thailand, and I've been telling him about the cool things we saw and did there. Hubby and I had a great time in Thailand, and remembering those times is making me want to go traveling again.

2. Hubby sent me a link to Matt the dancing dude doing his thing at Yahoo headquarters.

Which of course made me go and rewatch the earlier dancing videos. If you haven't seen this yet, go see it. I can't watch without getting a big grin on my face, particularly during the parts with the kids in Africa.

Matt's story is one of those things that I love about the internet. This all started as a joke, and a way to keep his family updated on where he was during his travels. He is now an internet celebrity, and probably got paid to go do his dance thing at Yahoo headquarters. Nice work, if you can get it! It also fills me with profound travel envy, because not only has he gotten to go to some really cool places, his travels were paid for by a gum company... just because they thought what he did was cool. (If any gum companies want to pay for me, Hubby and Pumpkin to go traveling, we're up for it, by the way.)

Since I have less than zero time off, thanks to the recent illness, I'll have to content myself with reliving former travels. So, to make me feel better, here is a list of some of the coolest things I've ever done:

1. Seeing the quarry on Easter Island.
2. Seeing the temples at the Angkor complex in Cambodia. I haven't written up a trip story about this yet, but the temples are amazing and the Cambodian people we met in Siam Reap were wonderful. We spent three days tooling around in a carriage pulled by a motorbike, clamoring around temples, and marveling at what we saw. Hubby picked Thailand as a destination on our big trip, and I insisted that if we were that close to Angkor Wat, we had to go see it. We're both glad we did. I didn't even mind getting up at what seemed like an ungodly early hour to see Angkor Wat at sunrise. Of course, I would later spend four solid months getting up at that ungodly early hour....

3. Koala Patting in Australia. Hubby wasn't as impressed with this as I was. But this is my list, not his, so it stays on the list.

4. Riding on a boat surrounded by frolicking dolphins off the coast of Ventura, California. We were on our way back to mainland after a day spent hiking around Santa Cruz Island. The captain came on the speaker and said "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is we're going to be delayed by about 5 minutes. The good news is that there's a pod of at least 1000 dolphins right in front of the boat!" He wasn't kidding. The picture doesn't do it justice it all.

5. Hiking up a glacier in New Zealand. This was during my very first trip to New Zealand, when Hubby and I were first getting together. Almost all pictures Hubby took from that time had me in them... but you can also sort of see the glacier in this one. The glacier was beautiful, and being surrounded by so much ice on a warm, sunny day was a bit surreal.
I'll probably have to write more lists like this while I wait for my paid time off balance to get back to respectable levels....

Monday, August 11, 2008

So Tired

I've been really, really tired the last few days. I'm the mother of a 16 month old who has yet to sleep through the night- I know tired. This has been an especially tired few days. At first I figured I was just recovering from the effects of the stealth UTI I had last week. But those symptoms cleared up quickly, once I got on antibiotics, so my suspicions turned elsewhere... to the antibiotics. It turns out "excessive tiredness" is one of the possible side effects. Today, I called my doctor, and got permission to stop taking the pills. I am hoping to be back to my only moderately tired usual self soon.

One of the other things that may be due to either the UTI or the antibiotics is the drop in milk supply I'm experiencing. I'm pumping 2 ounces less per day right now (in my sole pumping), and have now gone through all of my frozen reserves. This would have bothered me a lot more earlier. Now I just think "hmm, I was wondering what I was going to do with those reserves, anyway." I'm almost done pumping. We will keep nursing, but Pumpkin only nurses one time during the "work day" hours when I'm home on the weekends, anyway.

I had been trying to decide when I'd quit pumping, and had finally settled on stopping when Pumpkin is about 17 months old. The deciding factor was day care. This didn't really surprise me, since day care determined when we switched from a bottle to a sippy cup. On the note telling us about the rate hikes for the new "school year", the assistant director had written that our rates would drop a bit when Pumpkin was 18 months old and moved up to the next room. I learned my lesson from the great sippy cup campaign , and wanted to have a lot of lead time to make any adjustments required for Pumpkin's advancement. It turns out that the main differences between her current toddler room and the 18 month old room are that they all eat the same lunch (provided by day care) and that they drink from regular cups instead of sippy cups.

Pumpkin is not the greatest eater, so I'm happy to abdicate responsibility for making her lunch. If the fine folks at day care can get her to eat whatever they cook for lunch, more power to them. The assistant director told me that they handle the switch to regular cups, and I didn't have to worry about it. I actually wasn't too worried, because Pumpkin loves to drink from a regular cup- she's just not very good at it. She tends to spill half of whatever she's drinking all over herself. I got an image in my head of Pumpkin doing this with a cup of my hard earned breastmilk, and I knew that I finally had my answer of when I'd stop pumping.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Zenbit: Cultural Exchange

If you zoom in on the detail on this plate, you'll see that Jesus has different facial hair than what you're probably used to.

The Portugese converted some of the people they conquered to Christianity, and some of those people made fine dinnerware to send back to Europe.

Macau Museum, Macau
March 29, 2006

Friday, August 08, 2008

Sixteen Candles

Well, she'd have sixteen candles if I gave her a candle for every month. Pumpkin is 16 months old now. She had her 16 month checkup today, and was pronounced to be healthy from head to toe and on track developmentally. She's average height, but on the skinny side (as the doctor noted, while watching Pumpkin bustle around the exam room while we were asking our questions, she is quite active). She has 10-15 words or signs, which is more than enough to avoid worry. Probably the only things we need to worry about are her teeth. She has a lot of them. She likes to brush her teeth- she happily toddles off down the hall to the bathroom when we announce it is time to do so- but her technique still needs work. And then there is that middle of the night nursing. I try to get her to drink water after it, but some nights, she is just not interested, and I am not at my parenting best at 2 a.m., so I tend to give in easily so that I can stumble back to bed.

While I was preparing for her appointment, I flipped through some of the earlier pages of the notebook I have used for all things pregnancy and baby related. I have some pages devoted to my favorite memories from various time periods. I plan to eventually use these in a scrapbook I'll make for Pumpkin. You know, in my copious spare time.

These memories made me smile when I came across them last night. Here are some highlights:
  • Pregnancy- feeling kicks and hiccups, and eating all the ice cream I wanted
  • Birth- what a great coach Hubby was
  • Newborn (0-6 weeks)- the way she slept with her legs rotated to one side, and her elaborate wake up routine (it involved a lot of stretches and grimaces)
  • 6 weeks - 3 months- the feeling of her sleeping against my chest, and the cute, high-pitched whine she had when she wanted more milk and I was too slow in providing it
  • 3 months - 6 months- the smiles, the way she reached out to drink from my glass, and her "regal" pose in her car seat (with her arms draped onto the side of the seat)
  • 6 - 9 months- the laughs and the way she played with her own hair while nursing (it made her look like a little monkey)
  • 9 - 12 months- how much she loved to wave hello and good-bye, and the beaming smile she would get when I would clap for one of her accomplishments
  • 12 - 18 months (so far)- big hugs, little kisses, her excitement at seeing birds, and how fun it is when she learns a new word
The notebook also has our early logs of her wet and dirty diapers, but I'll spare you the highlights of those. The notebook lacks a record of the worst things about each age. Perhaps I'll put that in this blog at some point, so that I don't get a nasty surprise if I ever decide to have another baby. Or perhaps I'll just let those memories fade, and only keep the good ones.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Good and the Bad

I haven't posted yet this week because I've been sick. Apparently, childbirth can rearrange your nerves to the point that you can get a urinary tract infection and not know until you have a fever of 104 and end up at urgent care. Just another of those little things they leave out of the motherhood brochures!

The motherhood brochures would definitely want to include this story, though: we've been doing sign language with Pumpkin. She's learned several signs, and also some spoken words, from her Signing Time videos. There are many benefits to sign language, but one that you probably haven't thought about is the ability to "speak" with your mouth full. A few days ago, while Pumpkin was nursing, she looked up at me and did the sign she uses for more/I like that. If that wouldn't melt your heart as a mother, I don't know what would. Her favorite sign is still the one for "bird", though.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Zenbit: Above the Clouds

Above Mt. Rainier, Washington
Date: July 27, 2008