Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Independent Boy

I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but my baby LL has been replaced with a little boy. And when I say "boy," I really do mean gender-stereotyped boy. He likes playing in dirt. He says "vroom! vroom!" while pushing toy cars. He is fascinated by trucks and airplanes. He is fearlessly obsessed with climbing to death-defying heights. He believes that chairs are for jumping off of, or flipping over, but rarely for sitting. He loves trains (and since the only television he's ever seen has been Packers games, I can't blame it on cartoons like Thomas). Even though he's still in the drunken-sailor Frankenstein-on-brand-new-legs phase of learning to walk, he has somehow already learned how to run. He figures out how toys work without our help. And he has this breathlessly happy, excited way of saying "Daddy!" that both melts my heart and makes me a bit jealous. (He says "Mama," too, but not out of excitement. He says it when he wants something. As S is fond of saying, LL clearly thinks of the word "Mama" as a command, not a name.)

He has also started cultivating his fiercely independent side. He has enjoyed holding his own spoon during meals for quite some time, but it was mainly ornamental (and a convenient teething toy between bites of food). Now he is actually feeding himself -- he uses his spoon for actual conveyance of food, dipping it into bowls and then bringing it to his mouth, repeatedly. It would be more effective if he didn't flip the spoon over every single time on its way to his mouth, but it works quite well for sticky foods that can just be licked off. He hates diaper changes. He hates putting on clothes. He hates that there are objects in the house that he is not allowed to handle and/or chew on. (Chanukah candles were a problem. He got really pissed that we wouldn't let him touch fire.) He is obsessed with electronics. He will only listen to books that he has chosen himself and handed to us, often turning to the exact page that he would like us to read first. He hates being thwarted. For a long time, he barely noticed baby gates, but now he shakes them angrily with his hands and shrieks in frustration whenever he encounters one. He also shrieks when he finds that his ever-growing body doesn't fit somewhere it once did, like in narrow gaps between furniture, or underneath small tables.

We took advantage of his desire for independence by finally changing LL's bedtime routine. For more than a year, we have ignored the advice to put him down in his crib "sleepy but awake." Early on, we just didn't have the fortitude to deal with the screaming that ensued. Then both S and I came to love the snuggling time that we got with LL by rocking him gently to sleep every night. The sleep experts all claim that soothing your child all the way to sleep will rob him of the ability to learn how to put himself to sleep, resulting in a baby that needs your help to fall back asleep every 3-4 hours, all night long. But these same experts say that a baby that can sleep for at least six straight hours without calling for help has definitely woken up and gone back to sleep by himself at least once during that time, and LL was sleeping for twelve straight hours almost every single night, so we were pretty sure that he had figured it out on his own. Nevertheless, S and I decided that it was finally time to stop rocking him all the way to asleep at bedtime. Partially this was planning ahead (waaaaay ahead) for possibly having another baby. Partially it was because the uncertainty of not knowing how long it would take to get him to sleep was becoming a problem. Mainly, though, it was just that LL had gotten so big that he doesn't fit lying sideways in my lap and I couldn't comfortably move him around while cradled in my arms. The bedtime transition went surprisingly smoothly. The first night, he screamed for exactly 15 minutes after we put him in his crib and closed the door behind us. (To be clear: this was screaming, not crying. He was not sad or upset. He was mad.) The second night, it was five minutes. He has rarely protested at all since then, other than a few shrieks when we leave the room, just to make sure that we know that this is not his preferred method of falling asleep.

He is finally starting to show some interest in "adult" foods, so we've been able to cut back a bit on the purees. Current favorite foods are cottage cheese, meatballs, grapefruit, tangerines, rice crackers, and spinach nuggets. (Spinach nuggets, by the way, are exactly what they sound like: they're like chicken nuggets, but with spinach instead of chicken. He is bizarrely fascinated by them.) He still rejects most of the common toddler foods like scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, avocado, bread, and pasta. But every once in a while he surprises us, like last week when he gobbled up an entire bowl of my broccoli orzo stew.

We took LL to the zoo for the first time, where he became obsessed with kangaroos. He hugged every goat in the petting zoo. He was very popular with the goats, possibly because he had smeared so much oatmeal in his hair at breakfast that he smelled deliciously like oats. At one point, he became so surrounded by goats and sheep that a zoo employee came over because she was afraid about him getting freaked out and trampled, but he was giggling so hard that she let them be. He tried his best to climb into the bear enclosure. He did not understand why he was not allowed to hug the bears.

S's company shut down for the holidays, so we have been enjoying lots of family time. I've gone into work a few times, but mainly just to work on job applications. Yep, I have now officially applied for several tenure-track assistant professor gigs. I'm also still working on two papers that I'm hoping to submit in the next few weeks, but I've decided to enjoy my time with S and LL and worry about the paper starting in January.

Happy 2010!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It Begins Again (Almost)

Know what I picked up yesterday? A prescription for Clomid. I'm not planning on starting a medicated cycle until mid-January at the earliest, but Dr. M called it in to the pharmacy now so that I can start it whenever I like. I just pop a pill, call his office to schedule the necessary monitoring appointments, and we're off.

I'm both excited and totally freaked out about it.

S saw the prescription and just shuddered. He's excited about having another child (and he's even more excited about trying to get me pregnant, silly man!) but he's quite possibly even more nervous than I am about the whole doped-up-on-hormones thing. I was quite the emotional freak show the first time I took fertility meds, and neither one of us is looking forward to doing it while we also have a gazillion other things on our plate. (But then, we had a gazillion things on our plate the first time, too, not the least of which was that S was recovering from surgery and going through a ton of physical therapy, which isn't true this time around, so at least that's something.)

Complicating things a bit: LL is suddenly very possessive of me. It's as if he can sense that we're trying to create some competition for him, and he wants to make clear that he, and only he, is the center of my life. If S and I hug in front of LL, he inevitably comes over to us and inserts himself between us, pushing S away from me and hugging me himself. S tried giving me a back rub this weekend, and LL kept pushing S's hands away from me, then patting my back with his own hands. It's really very cute, but the more it happens, the more I worry about how he'll react to a baby sibling.

S and I babysat on Sunday for our friends' daughter, partially as a favor to them, but with the additional motivation of watching what LL would do as we cared for another child. The baby is eight months old and immobile, so it helped that LL could just move away from her if he wanted some space. At first, S and I sat on the floor beside the baby, and LL crawled around us. He played with toys, he handed toys to the baby, he asked us to read books, he handed books to the baby... all was well. He behaved perfectly, and didn't even mind sharing his toys. (It helps that the baby brought one of her own toys, and LL thought it was the most awesome toy he had ever seen, and she let him play with it.) When I picked up the baby to go change her diaper, though, LL got a little suspicious and crawled after us. (It probably didn't help that I was using his changing table, in his room.) He watched us very closely the whole time. But, he was ultimately okay with it, and returned to his play.

Then I put the baby in LL's high chair to feed her dinner. And LL freaked out. We're not sure if it was the fact that she was in his chair, or the fact that she was getting food and he wasn't, or the fact that his mommy was the one feeding her. Whatever it was, LL decided that he had been patient long enough, but now things had gone too far. He grabbed onto my legs, he shrieked and whined, he tried to physically pull me away from the baby. I kept talking to him, and leaning down to give him kisses and hugs between feeding spoonfuls of banana and oatmeal to the baby, but he just got more and more upset. Eventually, S picked him up and took him to his room. Once he was behind closed doors with S, with me and the baby out of sight, he calmed down. And after the baby's dinner, when I carried her into his room to let them know that we were done, he seemed fine. Except that he later refused to eat his own dinner at first, rejecting every food we offered to him, while staring suspiciously at the baby sitting on the ground playing with his toys.

Part of me knows that this wasn't exactly a fair test. If we are lucky enough to get pregnant again, we'll have time to prepare LL for the new addition, rather than having a baby just appear at our house one day. LL will also be at least 9 months older by then, and better able to understand things that we tell him. The baby would have its own "stuff," at least during the first several newborn months, so LL wouldn't have to share his toys so much right away. LL would have time to get to know a new baby from the start, when the baby is a lump and there are other people to play with, so he might not view a new baby as "competition" until after s/he has been around for a while.

Still... it seems that we should really start interacting with more children, so that LL can get used to seeing us around other children.

Also, it was hard, but I thought that S and I handled it very well ourselves. We watched both kids, got them both fed, did several loads of laundry, and cooked dinner without too much hassle. There was one moment when S was clearing a clog in the washing machine and I was holding the baby while trying to wash potatoes and LL was in his high chair screaming because he was done with his raspberries and wanted his next course right now... and S called from the laundry room, "You know what? Let's only have one kid!" But you know, overall, it went well.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


LL is climbing on everything, and he's like half an inch away from being able to open doors. He's addicted to peek-a-boo, and has developed a dramatic flourish for when he throws his arms wide to reveal his face. He blows on food when it's too hot. He can more or less feed himself with a fork. But most exciting of all:

LL is walking!

Wait, "walking" is a bit strong. LL is taking five steps or so before carefully falling gracefully to the ground! Yes, he is now the definition of toddler. The Friday before Thanksgiving, he consented to take some steps while holding onto somebody's hands. (Before that, he would only take steps while holding onto furniture. Other human beings were apparently not stable enough to trust with the support of his 24 pound frame.) On Sunday, he let go of me and took two steps to S. On Monday, he rested. (Learning to walk is very hard work.) After saying a cheerful "hello" to his auntie, S's sister, on Tuesday, LL spent the entire afternoon insisting that Auntie and I sit on the floor a few feet apart from each other so that he could toddle between us. By Wednesday, our house was packed with all of the visiting in-laws, and everybody had to be very careful not to trip over LL, who was pulling himself up on any and all available legs and then setting off across the open floor before falling prostrate onto the ground, usually right in front of an older relative carefully balancing a heaping plate of food.

In related news, Thanksgiving was fun and busy and entertaining and frustrating and stressful, and thankfully, it is now over. S's family has some weird dynamics, and even after ten years, I'm still getting used to it. Also, S's childhood friend, D, who has known his family for a long long time and often spends Thanksgiving with them, was with us for the week and drove me crazy. (As an example: Friday afternoon I had just finished serving lunch to 20 people, for the third day in a row, and finished prepping dinner for the same 20 people, for the fourth day in a row, and finally gotten LL to nap, and my house was still full of guests but they were happy and entertaining themselves for a change, and I sat down to relax a little for the first time in forever, when D came over to me and told me that he and his wife wanted to go shopping but they didn't want to bring their two-year-old with them, so they were going to leave him with me for a few hours. And then they just left. And the two-year-old was in a strange house filled with people he didn't know, and he freaked out. And I spent the next two hours trying to calm him down and reassure him that mommy and daddy were going to come back for him real soon. Because in addition to hosting tons of family for 5 days and cooking a ridiculous amount of food, I was apparently running a holiday baby-sitting service. Also, D arrived at our house on day four with a horrible cough, and when we asked him about it, he said that he'd been really sick for a while now, but he'd been masking it with cold medicine so that he could still come over for Thanksgiving. He'd run out of medicine, so he couldn't hide it from us anymore. Jerk. Yesterday, LL started coughing. Shocking, right?)

On the plus side, S's family was totally charmed by LL, who really ramped up the cuteness for the week. No traces of separation anxiety -- he was totally equal opportunity, playing with everybody and going to the park alone with aunties and uncles that he hadn't seen since he was three months old. He even spent a good hour with a particularly grumpy uncle, handing blocks and stacking cups back and forth and clapping enthusiastically whenever the uncle smiled at him. I even got to see the first half of the Packers game while the turkey cooked (go Pack!) and LL wore his little Packers jersey and cheered for every first down, and crawled around the room tugging on people's legs to make sure that they knew that they were supposed to be clapping. He is scarily comfortable being the center of attention.

So, we survived. Everybody is now back safely at home, our fridge is full of leftovers, and we're slowly putting the house back together. I told S that I'm not cooking again for a month, but I'll probably break down after a few days of pizza and spaghetti. We won't have to host Thanksgiving for at least 6 years (longer if S's sister gets added to the rotation, which will probably happen soon). So, the next time we host, LL will be in grade school, we'll probably be living in a different state, we could have another child, and theoretically, I could have tenure somewhere. Freaky!

I'm feverishly back to working on job applications, with the hopes of getting all of the materials done by December 10 (a little over a week from now). If I can hit that deadline, I can turn my attention to a paper that I'm trying to finish, hoping to get it done before Christmas. If both of those things get done on time, I will be free of work obligations through the December holidays. S's office shuts down between Christmas and New Year's, which gives us an 11-day stretch of vacation during which we will both be free. Amazing! We had been planning on staying home and relaxing and playing with LL for that entire time, but we're starting to feel a little guilty about not bringing LL to visit family, so we might travel for New Year's after all.

Deadlines are looming. No more break time for me. Back to work!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Status Memo II

Busy busy busy don't have to time to stop must get through the next week... month... 6 weeks. But as busy as things are, they are getting better. Not so much better that I have time to write an essay, but enough better that I have time for another set of bullet-point-ish paragraphs.

Sleep: We're getting some. Not a ton, but hopefully enough. LL isn't completely reliably sleeping through the night, but he's doing it most of the time. He still seems to be sleeping more lightly than usual, so we've instituted some desperate "please oh please don't wake the baby!" measures that we normally try to avoid. He's mid-transition from two naps to one, which isn't helping. S and I are going to bed earlier and earlier ourselves to compensate, as much as that has been possible while also getting done all of the work and chores on our ever-present to-do list.

Health: I'm probably at about 85% right now. Definitely getting better, definitely still a bit weak. I'm still having some nerve pain, but it's at the Advil-can-help stage rather than the Vicodin-barely-works stage. And my fever is gone. Sleep is my friend.

School: A carefully worded email to AdvisorA has brought her back into my corner. "Hi! Remember me? Your student who is graduating very soon? You don't have very many former students out in the world, and it would really help your reputation if the ones that you DO have don't hate you. Also, it would help you if they had really good jobs that you could brag about. Can you perhaps think of some ways in which you could help me to get a good job and not hate you?" (I'm paraphrasing. She seems to have figured out the whole "helping me will help you" part mostly on her own.) She's suddenly super psyched about helping me to find an awesome job.

Jobs: Interview number one, at a mature mid-sized company doing some fairly cool work, went really well, despite the fact that I had a fever of 101. (In general, I don't recommend interviewing while delirious with fever. But my particular delirium convinced me that I wasn't impaired at all, so I didn't reschedule like I probably should have.) Luckily, the CEO loved me, and has all but promised me a job offer. He loved me so much, in fact, that when I told him that I didn't want to make any final decisions until March or April, so that I could see what happens with academic positions, he said, "No problem; we'll make the offer and you can hold it until you're ready." I'm not sure whether this job is something that I'd want to do, but it will be good to have something in hand while I look around. Most of my effort is going into applying for tenure track assistant professor jobs. Applications, for the most part, are due at the end of the year. I'm frantically working on application materials now. (CV: draft done, being reviewed. Research statement: 20% done. Teaching statement: 80% done. References: three confirmed, lining up two more. List of schools to apply to: currently at 9.) Hence the 6 weeks of busy busy hell.

Thanksgiving: Everything that could be made ahead has been made. Two 18-pound turkeys have been ordered (I'm roasting one on Wednesday, the other on Thursday). The house is clean, and the furniture has been rearranged to accommodate all the extra people. Other than a small list of fresh vegetables and fish that I'll need to buy on Wednesday, all of the shopping is done. By the way: yes, fish for Thanksgiving. S's family is from Hawaii, so poke and lomi-lomi salmon are required dishes at Thanksgiving. Also, seaweed salad and fried saimin and arare and spam musubi. When I host, I also add Jewish favorites like brisket and noodle kugel and mandelbrot (my grandmother's recipe, with chocolate jimmies). This is all in addition to the traditional turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and pie. Can you see why it's good that we only have to host once every six years or so?

The Thanksgiving guests all arrive tomorrow. Happy Turkey Day to all, and to all a good night.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Status Memo

Thank you for all of the encouraging comments on my last post. It's good to get kicked around sometimes and reminded that worrying about contingencies does very little good. Just take one step at a time and keep moving forward. I'm working on it. Here's my status:

Teeth: LL is up to 14 teeth. All 8 incisors, all 4 canines, both top molars. The bottom molars seem to have receded a bit for now, so we're hoping for some relief. It seems that, at just under 14 months, he is almost ready to rip apart steak. Gnaw the meat right from the bone. He is a toothy force to be reckoned with.

Sleep: We finally took LL to the doctor because his sleep was getting worse and worse. We were dosing him with every child-safe medication we could get our hands on (Motrin, Tylenol, Benadryl, teething tablets) and he was still waking up by midnight every night and refusing to go back to sleep unless held upright in the glider by a loving and perfectly still parent. After several weeks of sitting upright in the chair for 6+ hours at a time, averaging only 3 hours of sleep/night for myself, something had to give. The doctor noted a little fluid in his ears (but no infection) and gave us prescription ear drops to add to the nightly regimen. He is now finally breaking through. Two nights in a row now, he hasn't needed us at all. It could be that his ear pain is resolving. It could be that the troublesome teeth broke through. It could be that he's just ready to be sleeping again. Don't know, don't care. Sleep is good.

School: AdvisorA is officially ignoring me. I don't know if it's because she found out about the funding thing, or if she just doesn't care. I haven't spoken to her on the phone for months. When I send her an email, there's typically more than a week's wait for a reply. I've been trying to set up a phone conversation with her for the last two weeks, and it still hasn't happened. Her latest "effort" earlier this week was an email that said she was available at 4:30 this afternoon, was I free then? I saw her email within an hour of her sending it, and replied that 4:30 would be great. A day later, she replied that by the time she saw my email, she had scheduled that slot with someone else, sorry, but she might be available sometime on Friday. I should just wait by my phone between 9am and 1pm on Friday, because she might call me then. Or she might not. Um, thanks.

Jobs: I have two job interviews. Yippee! Here's to hoping that LL lets me have more than 3 hours of sleep the night before.

Health: I came down with a horrible virus this week. Quite possibly the worst I've ever had. Not flu, but really really ugly. Like, attacking my nerves ugly. When I finally saw my doctor today because good lord I feel awful, she was a little shocked by how bad I was, and asked me if I was under any stress or missing sleep lately. Heh. I summarized the above bullet points, and she prescribed meds. And urged me to sleep, as if that's something I have control over. And told me to expect to feel like crap for several more weeks. At least the prevailing medical opinion is that I am not contagious, so I can continue my ridiculous life while I convalesce.

Thanksgiving: So far, I have made two briskets, one noodle kugel, one sweet potato casserole, two cranberry nut breads, two pumpkin breads, and one poppy seed cake. They are all happily snuggled in the freezer, awaiting the upcoming holiday. Spinach bars and mandelbrot are next. Twenty out-of-town relatives arriving in twelve days, and staying for a week? Bring it on!

S asked me this afternoon how in the world I'm still on my feet. I'm not entirely sure. One step at a time, right?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Midlife Crisis

I hate making big life decisions. Hate it. But you know what's even worse? Making lots of big life decisions all at the same time.

I'm graduating in June, and that reality is standing just a few months in front of me, with a giant cliff behind it. I need to look for a job, but applying for jobs requires knowing where we want to live. (We would like to settle somewhere within a day's drive of some family, and our current location does not fit the bill.) Looking for a job also, to a large extent, requires knowing how soon we want to have a second child. So I'm facing decisions on three fronts: having another child, choosing a city, and deciding on a career. And I'm completely frozen with the enormity of deciding all of those things at once.

I'm in that dangerous mid-thirties territory where fertility starts to drop, and it's not like I was exactly fertile to begin with. (It took more than two years to get pregnant with LL. I'm naively hoping that this time will be faster, but I'm not naive enough to think that a second pregnancy will come without a whole lot pain and intervention.) It seems incredibly stupid to wait to have a second child if we're sure that we want one. The only reason to wait would be for career reasons, but ultimately, if we end up unable to have a second child because I didn't want to disrupt my career path, I'll hate myself. So, we're starting to try for a second child. Right now. We're giving it a few months of the old fashioned way, but we're planning to make an appointment with Dr. M sometime around February or so.

That decision is actually the easy one. More difficult is ... how the hell do I handle a potential pregnancy while also facing a career crossroads? In general, I think that looking for a new job while also trying to get pregnant is one of the stupider things I've ever done on purpose. Because one of these things is guaranteed to happen:

1. I'm pregnant while I'm interviewing for jobs. Everybody in the world advises against this. Nobody gets job offers while pregnant. Why would I make the job hunt even harder, when I'm already looking for a job during the worst recession of my (or my parents) lifetime? On the plus side, if I do manage to get a job offer this way, at least I can strategically plan my first day of work (X months after my due date, where I get to pick X without worrying about maternity leave).

2. I'm pregnant during the first year at a new job. "Hi! Thanks for hiring me! I'm going to immediately need 6 months off." Awkward.... Particularly if I end up in one of those all-too-common fixed-length academic jobs. Taking a two or three year position, only to immediately leave for six months, seems cruel. And a fantastic way to burn bridges.

3. I'm undergoing fertility treatments during the first year at a new job. All the awkwardness of #2, with extended hormone imbalances thrown in for fun.

4. I don't get any job offers. Not the worst thing in the world, I guess, but it does mean that we can't move. S is totally willing to move to wherever I get a job; he would telecommute to his old job for a while, if they'll let him, until he can find a good local job. But there's no way we would move to a city where neither of us has a job, because that would be financial suicide. So, in this scenario, I'm unemployed, so we need S to keep his current job. So, we can't move. But we'd still be trying to get pregnant. Either we succeed in getting pregnant, in which case we will be raising two small children while living far far away from all family and simultaneously looking for a job for me. Or we don't succeed in getting pregnant, in which case I will be going through fertility treatments while looking for a job while being a SAHM while being depressed about my years in grad school going to waste.

All four of these options sound bad to me. Bad bad bad. The first one is the best of them, but it's still not that great (and the least likely: I quickly get pregnant AND I get a great job offer? Sure. Like I have that kind of luck).

Everything basically comes down to this: I'm terrified about the future. I've never before felt this uncertain about where I want my life to go.

It speaks volumes, I think, that I'm writing my dissertation and planning my defense, but those two things are the things in my life that I am least worried about right now.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: teething sucks. Big time. I hear from friends that some babies aren't bothered by teething, most are only bothered by the first few teeth, and even more are only bothered for a day or two. LL is not one of those children. When he's sprouting a tooth, he is a screaming no-sleep mess for weeks. (He's still charming during the day, for the most part, though the never-ending sleep disturbances all night long for weeks at a time do take a toll on even the most cheerful toddler.) I'm not sure if it helps us or hurts us, but LL also tends to get his teeth in waves. He got the last six of his eight incisors all during two tumultuous months. After a brief break, he is now working on molars and canines. In the last month alone, he has sprouted four of them, and two more are threatening to break the surface any day now. One the one hand, that is an awful lot of pain for a little guy to handle all at once. On the other hand, I suppose it will be nice to get it all out of the way.

As a total aside: on the advice of my dentist (who was shocked when I told him that LL is 13 months old and already has 12 teeth) we bought LL a normal toddler-sized toothbrush, instead of using the fingertip infant brush that seemed to just give LL a reason to bite us every day. He loves it, and is getting very good at brushing his own teeth.

LL is still waking up every single night. We dose him with Motrin before he goes to bed, and like clockwork, he wakes up six hours later when the medicine wears off. The Motrin seems to dull the pain enough for him to sort of fall asleep, but it clearly leaves enough pain that he's sleeping very lightly. He's normally a deep sleeper, but lately, he wakes to every noise and then wants company while he tosses and turns and chews on his hand and moans slightly as he tries to go back to sleep. Though we had never really done it before, we've started co-sleeping after he wakes in the middle of the night. I figure, if he's going to want one of us to keep him company until dawn, we might as well all be horizontal. This strategy is leading to an increased quantity of sleep for everybody, though a decreased quality of sleep for me and S. But I'm so horribly sleep-deprived at the moment that I'm willing to take quantity over quality, at least for a while. Maybe just until the last four canines and molars come in.

In happier news, LL increased his vocabulary this weekend. His repertoire had included: all done, mama (or rather, "Mom-Mom", which I find charming), dada, dai (Russian for "gimme", approximately), dah (Russian for "yes"), no no ("nah nah!"), and when he's feeling particularly communicative: again. (Sadly, it's sometimes hard to distinguish "all done" and "again," leading to a very frustrated LL.) Many children say "dog" early on, but instead, whenever LL sees or hears a dog, he barks. It's a very obvious "arf! arf!" sound. He also does a fairly convincing "ee! ee! ooh! ooh!" sound when he sees a monkey. Either we've been spending too much time making animal sounds and not enough time actually identifying the animals by name, or LL is just a born performer. Either way, in a move towards providing names for the animal kingdom, LL has now added the word "bear." Between wall paper, pictures, books, clothing, and stuffed animals, our house has approximately 8 billion bears in it, so LL is getting lots of opportunity to show off his new word.

LL has also suddenly developed a taste for exploration. For a long time after he learned to crawl, he refused to do it outside. If we put him on a blanket in the grass, he stayed on the blanket. Which was kind of handy, actually. Now, he has discovered that sidewalks are fun. If I set him in the front yard, he takes off for the sidewalk, then proceeds to visit all the neighbors. If I can just teach him to stop trying to take headers off the curb, he'll be ready for his own paper route or something.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Perfect Storm

We have a lot going on right now. I'm almost done with a huge experiment at school, hopefully the last big one that I'll need to do for my dissertation, and I'm almost ready to start analyzing data and writing up results. I'm half-heartedly looking for a post-graduation job, which I should really be doing whole-heartedly but, um, I'm not. S just had a project canceled at work, followed by a big reorganization, so his work life is in chaos. And in less than six weeks, S's entire extended family (~20 people) are descending on our house from out-of-state for an entire week of Thanksgiving merriment. Thanksgiving is a HUGE deal in S's family, and hosting the festivities is such a big job that they rotate it around from year to year. We've only hosted once before, and it's our turn again. Hosting Thanksgiving involves planning all meals and entertainment (including several prepared games, shows, and craft projects) for every day of the week. And the meals are all elaborate productions involving many traditional American, Hawaiian, and Japanese dishes. Last time we hosted, I started all the planning and prep work in early October, but this year I've done nada, nothing, zip so far. Which has me a little bit panicky.

Normally, finishing a dissertation and looking for a job and planning a week-long holiday celebration for twenty in-laws would be plenty to both fill my time and stress me out. But instead, they're all taking a back seat to LL and this I am Toddler, hear me roar! clingy temperamental sleep-is-for-babies-who-haven't-yet-turned-one "thing" he's going through.

We seem to be facing a perfect storm of circumstances for LL over the past month. There have been a lot of disruptions and new things for him to deal with all at once, starting with the daycare change. You may remember that a month ago, Natasha's mother was in a bad car accident, and Natasha flew home to be with her. Sadly, her mother never awoke from her persistent coma, and has passed away. Natasha has had a devastating several months, after losing her father back in February. She is now back, she reopened her daycare this week, and she seems relieved to be back with her children. LL is definitely thrilled to be back with her and all his daycare friends after more than a month of a rotation of new care providers.

In addition to all of the daycare changes, LL also reacted poorly to his 12-month shots. And his growing brain has clearly made a bunch of new connections all of a sudden, as he has suddenly figured out how to climb, how to better manipulate small objects, and how to participate in conversations. (He only knows a few comprehensible words, but that doesn't stop him from babbling nonstop. I ask him a question, and he responds with entire paragraphs before pausing and looking expectantly at me, waiting for my response before continuing the conversation. He totally gets the give-and-take of verbal interactions. All he's missing is the speak-an-understandable-language part.) He's also gone through an amazing growth spurt -- tables that he could stand underneath just a week ago are now a source of frustration, since he stands up and smacks his head on the underside. He's also mid-transition between two naps and one. (Good lord, nap transitions are a pain in the butt!) And he sprouted at least three more teeth this week (two incisors and a molar on the bottom, possibly more on the top but he won't let me check).

Any one of these factors (daycare changes, brain development, growth, teeth, vaccines, dropping naps) would individually be enough to disrupt him a bit, but all at the same time? He's a clingy, sleepless mess. He seems to want to be independent yet simultaneously attached to me, and we haven't quite figured out how to achieve that. He crawls to me and begs to be picked up, but doesn't actually want to be in my arms. When I return him to the ground, he throws a temper tantrum. If I sit on the floor with him, he does not want to be in my lap, yet he claws at my shirt as if he wants to be held. When he's in this mood, the only thing that works is for me to lie down in the middle of his play area and let him crawl back and forth over me, which he finds endlessly amusing. (He also loves being tickled and he loves being chased and he loves chasing me, but he has to already be happy before engaging in any of those activities.)

He's waking up at least once almost every night. Usually he wants to be held for a little while (and to have a middle-of-the-night chat -- like I said: nonstop babbling) but two nights so far, it's been night terrors, which are horrible to deal with. (For the uninitiated: night terrors are when children start screaming and thrashing around in the middle of the night. They're not awake, but it looks like they are. They don't react to your presence and usually cannot be calmed down no matter what you do. And apparently, children are totally unaware that it's happening.) Some night terrors are just random, but apparently all those disruptions mentioned above can trigger them in toddlers. We're hoping that they'll go away soon, as things start to settle down. And we absolutely need to get him sleeping through the night again, because S and I are walking around like zombies these days. (We were both sick last week, too. Sleep deprivation probably made us easy targets.) S is lobbying for some cry-it-out experimentation, but I'm hesitant to do it while LL is in a separation anxiety phase.

So, um, that's what's going on in our house right now. Both the dissertation stuff and the job stuff probably deserve their own posts. There's also starting to be this lingering second-child question, which seems like a ridiculous thing to even bring up in light of everything else, but it's there nonetheless.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Separation Anxiety

I'm an idiot. Seriously -- a complete moron. Why do I ever write things like "LL never went through a clingy phase"? What was I thinking when I wrote that in my last post? Haven't I learned by now that putting statements like that in writing is the surest possible way to guarantee that they stop being true?!?

LL is now completely 100% no-holds-barred in a clingy separation anxiety phase. He climbs all over me as soon as I pick him up in the morning. He cries and clings to fistfuls of my clothing (or hair) when I try to drop him off at daycare, or to hand him to someone else. The clinging is accompanied by a look of pure terror and pitiful wails. (In true toddler fashion, he stops crying and goes happily about his day 30 seconds after I leave, which is great for the daycare but sucks for me, because I hear his whimpering and sniffling in my head for the rest of the day.) It's slightly better if I try to hand him to someone he knows very well, but even then, as soon as he's comfortably settled in that person's arms, he turns and reaches for me to take him back again. (If I don't take him back immediately, he proceeds to the pitiful wails.)

When I pick him up from daycare at the end of the day, he insists on being attached to me for the rest of the day. If I try to put him down, even if it's just to play with him on the floor at home, he screams and grabs at me until I take him back into my arms. He doesn't want to go down for naps. He doesn't want to go to sleep at night. And for the past two weeks, he's been waking up around 11pm and screaming and sobbing until we go in to get him, and then he stays up for hours at a time. (We discovered a few nights ago that he goes back to sleep better if S goes to him instead of me, but he's still up for at least an hour.)

It's clear that LL is exhausted -- he has little bags under his eyes, and when he's awake in the middle of the night, he puts his head down and whimpers. I'm certain that he wants to be asleep. But he seems so full of anxiety that he can't fall back asleep. Baby insomnia. And none of our regular tricks are working -- milk, fresh air, rocking, singing, walking around the house, patting his back.... He just can't calm down enough to go back to sleep.

My friends tell me that these phases usually only last a month or so before they fade (and then reappear, and fade, and reappear, ...). I hope so, because it's both mentally and physically exhausting. I also think that it has been made worse by all of the daycare changes, and I think that it's also being compounded by teething (yep, fairly certain those molars are on their way). I can't take much more. I have a new baby carrier (a lovely mei tai that LL seems to really enjoy riding in) and it's the only thing keeping me sane in the afternoons. As soon as we get home, he goes into the mei tai and stays there until dinner, because otherwise my arms would fall off from carrying him. But even with the best carrier in the world, 22+ pounds is a lot of active toddler to be carrying around for hours every afternoon.

I know that almost all babies go through a separation anxiety phase at some point (or multiple points) during the first two years. But the "oh my goodness, my mommy is abandoning me, I can't believe I'm about to be left all alone in the world, if I can't see her and touch her I will surely perish!" thing is bringing on a horrible bout of mommy guilt. All of which is made worse by the fact that I'm hating school right now, and I'm hating the process of looking for a job after I graduate, and I feel like there's absolutely nothing that I want to do professionally right now, so why in the hell am I abandoning my child if I'm not even enjoying what I'm abandoning him for? But that's probably the renewed sleep deprivation talking. Right?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, LL!

Time moves in odd ways when you have a baby. The old saying goes something like, "The days are slow but the years are fast." I don't think that I ever really internalized that sentiment until LL was born. But this weekend, faced with the fact that I now have a one-year-old, I couldn't help shaking my head at how quickly the year has gone, yet how far away the time before LL seems. Being pregnant was ages and ages ago, yet surely he was a tiny squawking newborn only yesterday. For the last few weeks, I've been working on putting together LL's baby book, covering his whole first year. Going through old photos month by month has been fun, but seeing the passing of time lined up in front of me has been startling. It really hits home how much he has grown and changed. His face is different, his hair is different, his eyes are different. No longer helpless, he can now move where he wants and reach for what he wants and smile and wave and share toys and share hugs to show us that he loves us.

This past month alone, he has developed so many new skills. He pulls himself up on every piece of furniture in our house, and has begun tentatively taking steps as he cruises along. He loves opening drawers and cabinets to discover hidden treasures. Faced with a room full of toys, he ignores every age-appropriate thing around in order to play with drink coasters and shoes and tupperware and VHS tapes. After a week or so of pinched fingers, he has learned how to properly close drawers without hurting himself. He is growing increasingly adept with a spoon, and insists on feeding himself a few spoonfuls of food at each meal. And his random babbling is starting to become remarkably ordered, organized into sentences with beginnings and endings, intonation and emphasis, with real words occasionally shining out from the randomness. After a week of babbling the same syllables over and over and over, we discovered that he was actually saying something in Russian, phrases that he picked up at daycare and uses in context-appropriate ways. We wonder now whether he has even more words than we think, split among English, Russian, and Spanish.

He has always been a very social baby, and continues to love large parties and being among friends, both old and young. He crawls after babies his own age, he tries to imitate the behavior of toddlers and preschoolers, he happily shares toys with kids of all ages. He never went through a real "stranger danger" clingy phase, but he has started crawling over to me and just resting his head against my leg for a few moments when he feels overwhelmed. After a brief mommy recharge, he goes back to playing. When I walk into a room, he immediately gives me a giant smile and crawls over to say "hello!" before returning to his activity. I love that he is social, that he immediately started playing with his grandparents when they arrived even though he hadn't seen them in five months, but deep down it also warms my heart to know that he knows I'm his mommy, and that he sees me differently than he sees everybody else. It's great that he'll let new people feed him and play with him, but he knows that I'm Mommy. We're not all interchangeable after all.

He is increasingly aware that people bigger than him have the ability to do things that he can't do yet, and has begun asking for help when he wants to do something beyond his capabilities. He hands blocks to me, pointing at a tower to indicate that he wants me to keep building it bigger. He loves the buttons and levers on his activity box, but doesn't quite have the dexterity to turn the nob, so he gently takes my hand and places it on the nob with a "dah!" command, requesting that I turn it for him. He hands me his caterpillar pull toy, then giggles and gets into crawling position, waiting for me to start pulling the caterpillar around the room so that he can chase it.

He had a wonderful birthday weekend, playing with grandparents and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends. At his party, he happily ate a collection of his favorite foods: kiwi, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, cheerios, cheddar cheese, and crackers. He was enthralled investigating his first helium balloon, and clapped when he saw the "Happy Birthday!" banner. He wore a birthday hat without complaint. And the highlight, his first dessert, provided all the smiles and giggles and mess that I had hoped for. I made him a vanilla cake with lots of gooey frosting, and he happily ate some and played with some and mashed some and rubbed some into his hair.

LL had a great visit with all of his family, and is spending this whole week with S's parents. (When they found out that we were having daycare problems, they made plans to stay the week to help out. They were very very excited to have him all to themselves for the whole week, so when we solved the daycare problems and didn't need them anymore, they were crushed. So, we told them that they could stay anyway. I love my in-laws, but having them in the house for the whole week is stressful, and it's only Tuesday. But LL is loving all the attention.) He had his one-year check-up, where he weighed in at just over 22 pounds, maintaining his below-average weight class. He shot up in height, though, to the 85th percentile, which means that he has officially outgrown his infant carrier. And he still has a big head.

Most important: he's healthy and happy and learning and growing. He eats and he sleeps and he plays and he laughs. My baby is one year old.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

L'Shanah Tovah

This month is my last first day of school. Sort of. There are a whole host of reasons why that is not technically true. If I decide to go into academia, I'll have lots of future first days, but as a professor instead of a student. LL will start school some day, and I'm sure that the first several of his first days will have a huge effect on me as well. I'm also likely to take a class on ... something ... again someday, so that will technically have a first day of school. But this month is my last traditional it's September and I'm a student and school starts today! day. Weird. After preschool, kindergarten, grade school, middle school, high school, college, and grad school, I'm going to finally be done. That's 25 years of education there. I've crammed in just about all the book learnin' I can handle for now.

Honestly, I don't know if I'll even be able to convince myself to get through the next several months. I am ready to be DONE, and the academic year has barely started. Nine months to go....

LL's new daycare is working out great. LL even made a new friend! They sit on the floor vaguely near each other and play (separately) with toy cars. Then they both crawl over to the big basket of blocks and lean on it at the same time to make it tip over. In one-year-old terms, I think that means that now they're BFFs. (For one-year-olds, the bar is pretty low. "You didn't steal my crackers?!? You're my new bestest friend!")

My entire extended family is flying into town tomorrow for LL's big birthday bash on Sunday. Our theme for the party is "Stuff LL likes." We're serving yogurt and oatmeal and watermelon and crackers. Everybody will play with cars and blocks. There will be regularly scheduled dramatic readings of Sandra Boynton's Barnyard Dance! Then, we will all take a nap. Truly, a party for the history books.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I love being a mom. But let's be honest, there are a lot of things to dislike about the job. Keeping LL safe is hard work, especially now that he's mobile. Finding nutritious things for him to eat can be tough, considering my limited time to shop and cook and prep food. Trying to find the right balance of encouragement and discipline is getting trickier as he gets more capable and more aware and more curious and more defiant. Reading the same kids book dozens of times a day, with the proper voices and sound effects, can get boring. Sleep deprivation over a long enough time period does weird and horrible things to the mind and body. Repeating "Gentle! We don't pull Mommy's hair!" over and over and over is unbelievably annoying. But you know what my absolute least favorite aspect of being a parent is? Child care. I can deal with everything else, usually happily, with a giant smile on my face, but when problems arise with child care, my life completely falls apart. Completely. Finding decent child care consumes me. I worry about it constantly, and once the problem is "solved," I continue to worry about it. And as soon as everything seems okay and I trust my new child care provider, it falls apart again. Good lord, I hate dealing with child care.

Thanks for all the suggestions of nanny-share and craigslist and relying on stay-at-home friends. Sadly, we have no friends, none at all, that use a nanny. All of the working moms I know use daycares. We are big craigslist users, but the majority of the crappy daycares that we've visited have been found through craigslist. And I really do mean that we've seen some crappy daycares. Recall: Baby Factory, Total Wackos, Lila's Place, Piper.... (We found Natasha through craigslist, too, so it hasn't been a total loss. But the hit rate has been depressing.) As for stay-at-home friends... we have LOTS of stay-at-home friends. Tons. I can count on one hand the number of my mom friends that actually work outside of the home. But when I sent out a "please please please help us!" plea to the stay-at-home friends, we got a deafening silence. Followed by a few offers to maybe take LL for half a day sometime at the end of the month. To be fair, I do understand the reason: all of my stay-at-home friends have one child, and every single one of them is currently stressing about whether to have a second child. They're all agonizing over whether they can handle taking care of two children at once. When faced with the prospect of trying it out, using LL as the stand-in for child number two, I think that they all froze in panic and decided that they're really not ready. One of my friends felt so guilty about coming to that conclusion that she offered to leave her own two-year-old child with her in-laws while she cared for LL, thereby helping me out without needing to care for both children at once.

The good news: we seem to have found a decent solution, for now. One of my friends recently started her son in an in-home daycare, and because of several job-related relocations, the daycare happens to have several immediate openings. The woman who runs it agreed to take on LL on a temporary basis, knowing that he'll probably only be there for a month or two. (I didn't want to mislead her.) We know two children at the daycare, one of whom has been there for almost two years. The parents and children all love it there, and it's been open for over 20 years. Everything about it is perfect (except the location, which is a pain in the ass, but really, if everything else about it is great, I can deal with the horrible commute for a month or two). LL started there today. Fingers crossed that everything goes well, and that this place can carry us through until Natasha returns.

In happier news, the Packers beat the Bears on Sunday. I had the highest score in the league for fantasy football this week. LL's vocabulary is growing, in three languages. Lots of family members are flying in later this week to celebrate both LL's birthday and Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). And I have officially reached my pre-pregnancy weight. (I have a little more to go to reach my pre-fertility-treatment weight, but I'm taking baby steps, so to speak.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Running a Daycare

Holy crap! How is it possible that there are so many horrible daycare providers out there?!? We brought LL to Natasha's yesterday, to see how it would work out with Piper filling in for Natasha. I hadn't exactly gotten a positive impression of Piper on Tuesday, but S had met her before and liked her, so we decided to go together and talk to her and get some more concrete information from her, and give her a day as a trial run. When we got there, the two children were in the middle of destroying the house, total chaos. And the television was on, something that is absolutely not done when Natasha is there. And she kept saying things like, "He'll be fine as long as he doesn't try to crawl anywhere." Huh? Or he picked up a toy and started chewing on it, because that's what babies do, and she grabbed the toy away from him and said, "Don't chew on things! Gosh, I hope that he doesn't keep doing that." Again, huh?!?

When I picked up LL, Piper told me that LL cried for much of the day, which is completely out of character for him. I don't know how much of it was the strangeness of a new caregiver, or the fact that the caregiver kept taking toys away from him and not letting him do anything. I asked how his naps were, and her response was, "I assume that he slept okay." What the hell does that mean? "I put him in his crib, and he cried for ... at least 30 minutes, but I'm not sure how long. Then he was quiet for a while, so he must have been asleep."

She let him scream for 30 minutes, after he had clearly already been upset by the change in caregivers. Crap. I hate her so much right now, I want to strangle someone.

To top it off, I had this conversation with her:

ME: So, could you please give me a few references, preferably for clients that were around LL's age?
PIPER: I've run my own daycare for many years. I have lots of experience.
ME: Yes, I understand. That's why I assume it won't be a problem for you to give me a few references.
PIPER: Oh. Um... well, I don't actually take care of infants at my daycare. Just preschoolers.
ME: You had given me the impression that you took care of infants. Okay, well then I'll take references for the children that you do take care of.
PIPER: Um, I'd rather not.
ME: Excuse me?!?
PIPER: You know, I run my own daycare.
ME: Yeah, you've mentioned that. Could I please have some references?
PIPER: That's kind of a problem, because I haven't told any of my clients that I'm not going to be there for the next month. I left my assistants in charge, but I didn't tell any of the parents. If I give you their numbers and you call them, they'll find out.
ME: So, you're lying to all of your current clients? Interesting. Um, okay. In that case, why don't you give me some references from past clients, for whom your absence won't be an issue?
PIPER: Well, but I don't want them to know, either. I'm not really comfortable with that.
ME: Is there some reason why you're unable to give us any references?
PIPER: No, I have lots of references! It's just... see, my assistants sort of interact with the kids more than I do, so if you call the parents, they're not really going to tell you anything about me, just about my assistants, so I'm not sure that it will help.
ME: You run a daycare, but you don't interact with the children?
PIPER: But I have lots of experience! So you don't need to worry.
ME: Well, I am worried, because it sounds to me like you're refusing to give me any references, which makes me think that you're unable to provide any.
PIPER: Oh. Um, okay, fine, here are two names, but I really do need you to lie to them for me about why you're calling.

Needless to say, we're not going to bother with the references because we won't be using Piper. I'm having a hard time believing that this woman runs a successful childcare business. Our current theory is that she likes preschoolers, but didn't want to have to bother taking care of an infant, so she was doing a passive-aggressive thing to convince us not to bring LL back. If so, it worked.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Child Care Woes: A Tale in Two Acts

First, a story that happened last week. While LL was off at Natasha's on Thursday, I ran an errand in the morning and then returned home to work. As I turned onto my street, a little girl stepped off the sidewalk towards my car. I quickly stopped the car, and she returned to the sidewalk. She was about two years old, and standing there completely alone. I didn't recognize her, but one of my neighbors runs a home daycare, so I guessed that she had "escaped" from there. I slowly pulled into my driveway, got out of the car, and looked around. By this point, the little girl was three houses away from the daycare, and continuing to walk further away. I looked towards the daycare, but couldn't see anyone outside that could be quickly flagged down, so I walked over to get the little girl, before she got hurt. By the time I caught up with her, she was at the end of the block, about to cross the street and enter the intersection. I took her hand, pointed back to the daycare, and asked her if that was where she belonged. She nodded, so I told her that we were going to walk back there together, and I guided her back down the street. Along the way, I asked her name: Lila.

When we got to the home with the daycare, I noticed that there were several children in the front yard, and a woman I didn't recognize was standing on the lawn, helping a child with his jacket. I know C, the woman who runs the daycare, and I've met her assistant on a few occasions. The week before, C had mentioned to me that the daycare was expanding, and that she had hired a second assistant, apparently the woman standing on the lawn. I walked up to her with Lila, and asked, "Is this one of your children?" She glanced up, nodded, then returned to the jacket. I waited for her to say something else (for instance, "Hey, who are you, and what are you doing holding hands with one of the children that I'm responsible for?") and when she didn't say anything else, I volunteered that I had found Lila all alone, at the end of the street, more than a block away, about to cross the street by herself, after nearly stepping in front of my car moments earlier. She sighed, yelled "Lila, get back onto the porch!", then shrugged at me and returned once again to the jacket.

I found this awfully disturbing. The woman clearly had not noticed that one of her charges had wandered off. And given how slowly Lila was walking, and how far away she was, she had clearly been gone for several minutes. And when all of this was brought to the woman's attention, she seemed completely unconcerned. That evening, after the daycare was closed for the day, I saw C out in the yard and I went to talk to her. I told her the whole story, expecting her to be upset? concerned? outraged? that her assistant had paid so little attention. Instead, C said, "Oh, I guess I should talk to Lila's parents and have them tell her that she shouldn't wander off."

Blaming the two-year-old? Interesting.

I told C that I wasn't recounting the story so that she could discipline the little girl. I was telling her the story because it seemed to me that maybe she should be aware that her new assistant didn't notice that a child had gone missing. To which C responded, "Oh no, she's a good teacher. It's just that two-year-olds like to wander away. We would have found her when we got to the park." (Note: the park is 4-5 blocks away, on the other side of a major busy street.) She then concluded with this: "You don't understand, because LL is still young, but you'll see, when LL gets a little older, he'll just wander away." I like to think that he'll be watched closely enough that he won't get hit by a car, but apparently I'm just naive, because I'm a new parent.

Ever since this incident, I've been congratulating myself on my excellent decision to not send LL to this daycare, even though it would be really really convenient. I had a bad feeling about it when I visited... it felt just a little too chaotic for me. Now I think that the pit in my stomach was totally confirmed. Thank goodness I found Natasha's daycare, with its excellent references and very few children and wonderful care. It was so hard trusting a stranger to watch LL, and it took me a long time to relax enough about him being with her that I was actually able to focus while I was at work.

Right on the heels of this disturbing incident: my second bullet point about child care. Natasha had another family emergency come up in Russia, and she's leaving the country (again) for a month, if not longer. Back in February, Natasha's father passed away unexpectedly, and she closed the daycare for a month while she went home to help her mother. Today, she got news that her mother was in a horrible car accident, and is now in a coma. The doctors aren't giving Natasha very much information over the phone, but they have no idea whether she's going to live, or pass away, or remain in the coma for an indefinite amount of time. So, Natasha is (completely understandably) flying to Russia to be with her mother.

I feel terrible for Natasha. She is the same age as me, and I can't imagine dealing with a tragedy like this after losing my father just seven months ago, especially while being so far away. But I'm also reeling with panic about how we're going to weather the daycare disruption. Last February, we hired Rosie to come two days a week, and I just took off three days each week for the whole month. It was less than ideal, but I had just returned to work and wasn't being productive yet anyway, so it just kind of worked. Now it's a different story. We still have Rosie two days each week, but I can't afford to take off three days every week for a month or more. Not if I hope to graduate, ever. S and I have backup care in place that can help for a day or two, because we know that things come up on occasion, but none of that does us any good when we're talking about several weeks at once.

Natasha has a friend, Piper, who has run a daycare in the past, and who is planning to come to Natasha's every day until she returns, so that the daycare doesn't shut down this time. I met Piper for the first time today, when I picked up LL, and I wasn't impressed. She was brusk. She wouldn't listen when I tried to tell her things, insisting that she already knew everything. Some of what she claimed to already know, she clearly didn't know. (For instance, when Natasha mentioned that she would show Piper how to put on LL's diaper, Piper acted offended and insisted that of course she knew about cloth diapers, and she wouldn't take instruction. When I got LL home, I found that she had put on his diaper incorrectly, and his shirt and shorts were soaked.) And when I asked her to tell me a bit about her experience, she changed the subject, going on and on about how important it was that I pick LL up on time every day, because Natasha might be understanding about late pick-ups, but Piper would not stand for it, and would absolutely be leaving on time every day. (Natasha interrupted to mention that I have never once been late, but Piper shrugged and said, "Well, I want to be sure, because it's very important.")

Natasha sent me a follow-up email, emphasizing how much she trusts Piper, but I'm leery. Not that I have a lot of options right now. And I just keep picturing little Lila wandering down the street by herself, away from the unconcerned assistant that C trusted completely. I don't have the time to shop around for new daycares, and LL is so happy at Natasha's that I want to be able to bring him back there when she returns. But the thought of leaving LL with a random stranger that I didn't get a warm and fuzzy feeling about leaves me sick to my stomach. Again. Blech.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


It turns out that LL has spent the past several non-crawling months plotting out exactly what he would do once he learned to crawl. He has been mobile for less than 72 hours, and much of that time, he has been asleep or out of the house at daycare. Nonetheless, in the past three days, he has managed to:
  • run the closet door over his foot;
  • defeat the lock on our entertainment center;
  • slam his fingers in the drawer of his dresser;
  • attempt to eat a plastic garbage bag;
  • pull on a tuft of carpeting, unraveling a good chunk of it;
  • chew on a gel insert in a tennis shoe;
  • have a go at the safety plugs in several electrical outlets;
  • pull a wine bottle off the wine rack and give it a good whack on the tile floor;
  • angrily shake the safety gate keeping him out of the office, then immediately zero in on the latch that opens it.
And those are just the activities that rate in the moderate-to-high danger zone. He has also discovered a totally safe love for dirty laundry and old VHS tapes. Still, we should probably get cracking on the last of that baby-proofing.

With his brain now free of the all-consuming puzzle of figuring out locomotion, LL has turned to more intellectual pursuits. Yesterday, he drank several ounces of milk through a straw, something that we've been working on for weeks. (His normal behavior was to either blow bubbles, or to suck a little liquid into his mouth and then immediately spit it out. Anything but suck on the straw and actually consume what came out.) This morning, he suddenly mastered the arm movements for "How big is LL?" and giving high-fives. By the end of the week, he should be ready to learn how to drive.

LL is not the only one who has new-found independence. I am happy to report that my grad funding situation is resolved. AdvisorA's final comment on the matter, a week or two ago, was that she had no money for me anywhere, she had no plans to look for more money, and I was completely financially on my own. If I wanted help with funding, I should talk to other people, but not her. End of story. So I had a chat with my department's financial manager, Pepper, who had heard about the situation from AdvisorB and was horrified by what had happened, but pessimistic about the chances of finding a good solution. Pepper looked around, and then called me to her office to tell me that she had found some money for me. How much? Enough to fully fund me for the entire academic year, all the way until my planned graduation in June.

I was dumbstruck. I mean, I had given up all hope of finding funding for the year, and had resigned myself to being a TA in the fall, and taking a leave of absence while I finished up after that. Instead, I'm completely out of the financial woods.

A windfall like this one doesn't just happen, so you just know that there was going to be a dark side. I was a little hesitant to find out, but I just had to know: where did the money come from?

It turns out that AdvisorA has a slush fund. Or rather, the lab that she and I belonged to had a slush fund, contributed to by many professors over the years. As the lab shrank, and many professors retired or left, the slush fund became the sole property of AdvisorA. The money is available for absolutely any purpose, except that it has to be spent at my university (where AdvisorA is no longer employed). When AdvisorA left my university, she couldn't take the fund with her, but nobody else had rights to it, so she hid it. And cleverly forgot to mention it when I, and AdvisorB, and Pepper all independently questioned her about any money she had access to that could be used to pay for me. (And before we give her the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe she really did forget about it: Pepper said that AdvisorA is still charging things to the account on occasion, as recently as a few weeks ago, when expenses come up that she can reasonably charge to this account.)

Pepper found the account, and discovered that it had more than enough money in it to fund me for the year. (At least an order of magnitude more, in fact.) Then she went to the Department Chair and suggested that the Chair transfer money out of this account into the department's overhead account, then use the department's overhead account to pay for me. Everything was approved, the transfer was done, end of story. I am now fully funded.

The one glitch: nobody told AdvisorA. I'm not going to be the one to do it, because it will look a lot like I convinced the department to steal money from AdvisorA. And Pepper and the Department Chair both feel like this account shouldn't really be AdvisorA's anymore anyway, that the entire account should have become the property of the department as soon as AdvisorA left, so why should they have to tell her when they spend their own money? And AdvisorB thinks that there's so much money in the account that AdvisorA will never notice the missing money, so why draw attention to it.

For now, I'm staying out of it. I talked with AdvisorA on the phone, and when she asked what class I was going to TA, I told her that the department found money for me. Then I played dumb and said that I didn't know the details, she'd have to ask Pepper if she wanted to know more. Given how little she cares at this point, I doubt she'll follow up. If she does, Pepper and AdvisorB are both prepared to lie through their teeth and tell her that I didn't know where the money came from. My only risk at this point is that she does find out, she does get pissed about it, and she takes it out on me by delaying (or preventing) my graduation. (She is still on my committee, and trying to remove her at this point would hurt me more than just dealing with whatever she decides to throw at me.)

Even though I know that there might still be some fallout, I am elated that I can stop worrying about money and just focus on finishing my research. And writing my thesis. And finding a job. And planning LL's first birthday party. And babyproofing the house.

Monday, August 24, 2009

One Small Step for Man

Thank you to everyone who commented that babies learn to crawl before they learn to bring themselves to sitting. Several friends also mentioned that babies tend to spend several days rocking back and forth on their hands and knees before they figure out how to propel themselves forward. The consensus seemed to be: rock on all fours; wait a week; crawl; wait a week; come to sitting. Sounds good! To all of the people who gave us this information, LL would like to (respectfully) stick out his tongue and blow a giant wet raspberry in your face.

As an aside: did I mention that LL was blissfully late to the blowing raspberries habit? He showed no interest in it at all until he met my old undergraduate advisor, a highly respected woman with many many career awards for a lifetime of scientific research achievements; she is a past president of the major research body for my field, and is currently the Dean of a large institute at a prestigious university. She taught LL to blow raspberries when she met him at our reunion. And now I get to tell people that, at the tender age of eight months, LL learned his first life skill from an Ivy League university.

Back to our story. Rocking, then crawling, then sitting. Pfffffttt! We woke up yesterday morning to discover LL happily sitting in his crib. Yes, sitting. And looking awfully proud of himself. But he wouldn't do it outside of his crib, which made us think that he was using the bars to pull himself up. When we went to get him after his morning nap, he was once again sitting, and this time when we put him on the floor, he showed us how he could sit up all by himself. And then clap, of course. Yaaay!

Two hours later, he was crawling. I put him on the floor, and I made a gigantic tower of stacking cups several feet away, and off he went! And oh my goodness, when he knocked that tower down, he immediately sat down and gave himself the most gleeful round of applause that I have ever seen. Pure joy.

After giving him gigantic hugs and lots more cheering, S and I grabbed the phone and called all the grandparents. Through the magic of the internet, we quickly set up a three-way video conference, and they got to watch as LL practiced his crawling technique for an hour, until he was so exhausted that he almost started his afternoon nap on the floor, on his way to another pile of blocks.

By the end of the day, LL was rocking his body on all fours before taking off, like he was revving his engines before crawling away. And I spent the entire day playing over and over in my head that first crawl and the unbelievably ecstatic little boy who clapped for himself afterward. One tiny little leap for mankind, but one giant step forward for LL.

Rocking, then crawling, then sitting, with several days in between? Not in our house. Pfffffttt!

Friday, August 21, 2009


We're past eleven months now. Less than a month to go until LL turns one year old. He's looking so much like a little boy these days, and he has almost completed a full revolution around the sun. After his birthday, it seems wrong to call him a baby, but he's nowhere near walking yet, so he's not a toddler. Is there a stage between baby and toddler? (We're currently leaning towards "really lazy toddler" because I'm pretty sure that he could do a bunch more physical stuff if he weren't so opposed to athletic exertion.)

What else can I say about my little sedentary munchkin? His favorite pastime remains sitting on the floor with a pile of books. Despite the non-walking, he now owns his first pair of shoes. LL doesn't walk or crawl, but he does like to stand, and the available standing surfaces outside of our house are not always kind to bare feet. After many many months (ten?) of eating anything and everything you put in front of him (except spinach... what is it with kids and spinach?!?) LL has now become a bit pickier in his culinary tastes. He wants variety, man! Not just between meals (for months, he insisted on starting every meal with oatmeal; now, suddenly, he's giving us these looks like, "Oatmeal again? Are you kidding me?") but also within a single meal. ("No, mommy, I've just had three bites in a row of watermelon! Perhaps a few bites of cheese, and then I will return to the watermelon.")

His need for variety has also extended to pacifiers, of all things. LL uses a pacifier at naptime and bedtime, but not when he's awake, so his pacifiers all live in his crib. He used to have a hard time finding a pacifier in the middle of the night, and we solved the needing-mommy-to-replace-the-pacifier problem by liberally sprinkling pacifiers around him in his crib. Wherever he reached his hand out, there was probably a pacifier for the taking. He doesn't have that problem anymore, but we still usually leave three or four of them in the crib, one in each corner, so that he can reach one wherever he is in the crib when he awakens. But now he has developed this habit where we put him down for a nap, and he insists on tasting each pacifier before deciding which one he wants. He picks one up, sucks for a second or two, removes it, tosses it aside, picks up the next one, sucks for a second or two, ...., before finally choosing one. It's... bizarre. We do wash them regularly, but do some of them maintain weird flavors? Have some of them deformed over time so that they feel different? Perhaps he thinks that one day we'll place a candy pacifier in with the normal ones, and if he doesn't check, he'd miss the opportunity to try candy?

(No, we've never given him candy. But he did try his first popsicle this week -- a 100% fruit thing that's basically frozen strawberries on a stick. LL though that it was the most awesome thing ever. After each lick, he would spend several seconds licking his lips to get every drop of frozen strawberry goodness. And then he held onto the empty popsicle stick for a good ten minutes after the popsicle was gone. As a memento.)

His frustration at not being able to crawl keeps growing. He also hasn't figured out how to get himself into a sitting position when he is lying down. Thus, every attempt to crawl involves him belly-flopping onto the ground, meager attempts to move, then lots of crying as he realizes that he's lying down and therefore unable to properly play with his toys. I spend all of my time with him dragging him back up to a sitting position, only to watch him reach for another toy and flop back down onto his tummy. I keep thinking that he'll figure it out if we leave him alone, but he quickly escalates to all-out hysteria if he's lying down and wants to be up and sees an adult nearby and nobody's helping him get back to sitting. Though he's very flexible, so he has developed this impressive move where he leans all the way forward so his belly is on the ground, one leg is behind him, and the other leg remains out in front of him so that, when he pushes with his arms, one of his legs is in position for him to be sitting.

I'm not sure if you're getting the visual there, but he's basically doing the splits, except he can reach several yards past the end of his front foot. Ouch.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Just a day or two before our trip to Wisconsin, LL learned to clap. He had mastered various hand motions in the past: he's an expert bye-bye waver, an occasional hello waver, an enthusiastic I'm-done-get-that-food-out-of-my-face swiper, and a patient please-pick-me-up-right-now arms extender. But nothing so far compares to the adorableness of LL proudly clapping his little hands, usually accompanied by a big smile and a rousing "Yaaaaaaay!" He has started giving himself a round of applause for all of his accomplishments. Diaper change is over? "Yaaaay!" Knocked over a tower of blocks? "Yaaaay!" Correctly waved bye-bye when somebody was leaving? "Yaaaay!" (This one is particularly amusing, because it always gives the impression that he's happy to see the person leave.) Picked up a cheerio and got it all the way into the mouth? "Yaaaay!" (We have a LOT of clapping at meal times, because he is quite good at self-feeding, but he insists on cheering himself on for each piece of food.)

Now that he is so good at self-congratulations, it's making it easier to teach him new things, because he understands that when we clap for him, he's done something good, and he gets to clap, too. It's powerful incentive to try to mimic what we're teaching. We are now working on blowing kisses and giving high-fives. Every baby needs to know how to high-five in order to be accepted by the cool kids, but we still have a ways to go. I started by putting out my right hand and saying "Give me five!" then taking his hand in my left hand and slapping it lightly onto my right. I thought he was getting it, but now when I put out my right hand and say "Give me five!" he reaches out, grabs my left hand, and places it on my right one. So, he's technically following what I showed him, but he's being a bit too literal for it to actually be cool. What a mama's boy.

One thing that he adamantly refuses to learn is how to crawl. In Wisconsin, my father spent a lot of time on his hands and knees with LL, patiently trying to teach him. LL spent much of his time lying on his belly, with all his favorite toys making a ring around him, just out of reach. My father would lift LL's knees into position, and LL would drop his arms and chest to the floor. My father would lift LL's arms into position, and LL would collapse his legs to the floor. Over and over and over, until LL would finally get tired and just roll over and grab a toy. He kept giving my dad these looks like, "Okay, I'll humor you for a few more rounds, Grandpa, but then I'm grabbing the Humpty Dumpty pull-toy that I know is right behind you."

Nobody who knows me and S at all will be surprised to learn that LL isn't really into physical feats of strength. His big physical accomplishment of the past week was learning how to pull himself up to standing. He's very good at it, but he will only do it if there's something high up that's worth the effort, and so far the only enticements that work are books. Favorite toy sitting on the coffee table? Eh, not worth it. Book on the coffee table? Up he goes! LL is very very into books these days. He is now an expert page-turner, and loves sitting in someone's lap and looking at books. S was convinced that LL knew the words to several of them, because he waited until the end of each page before starting to turn to the next page, until I pointed out that he was actually just waiting for verbal pauses. If you just keep talking beyond what the page says, he'll wait and wait and wait, but as soon as you stop speaking, he reaches for the next page. Which I think is no less impressive, and is very cute. And there is one book that we know he does know the words to. Every night before bed, we read him Kiss Good Night by Amy Hest. A recurring refrain in the book is Mrs. Bear asking, "Ready now, Sam?" and Sam replies, "Oh no! I'm waiting!" When we read this book to LL, every time we say "Ready now, Sam?", LL smiles and shakes his head "no!" in anticipation of the next line.

And, finally, a story about LL's latest willful behavior. He discovered several months ago that when you drop something over the side of the high chair, it falls to the ground. It was clear, though, that he was doing this out of experimentation, as he would lean way over the side of the chair to watch it fall. Lately, however, there has been a distinct shift in his behavior. He clearly understands now that things fall. No need for further study. Now he does it because it's fun. And he understands that he's not supposed to do it. How do I know? Because he no longer watches as it falls. Instead, he holds his hand out over the side of his high chair and pauses, staring straight at me, daring me to stop him. I shake my head and say, "No, LL, we don't drop food on the floor." And then he gets this mischievous grin on his face, and, still staring directly into my eyes, he opens his hand and drops it onto the floor. And then he claps. ("Yaaaay!")

The first time he did this, he was holding a rice puff. The problem with rice puffs, of course, is that they're meant to soften very quickly in baby's mouth. Thus, when a baby holds them in wet hands, they become rather sticky. So when LL tried to defiantly drop the puff over the side of the chair, the puff defiantly refused to unstick itself from his hand. Which, you know, ruined the moment for LL. He spent a full minute continuing his staring contest with me while frantically shaking his hand to make that darned puff fall to the ground. He finally had to break eye contact and use both hands to scrape the puff off his fingers, but he looked rather deflated at his failed attempt to dramatically disobey Mommy.

It was a good learning moment, though. Now he only defiantly drops non-sticky foods like blueberries. Blueberries are much more emphatic, don't you think?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Trip Report

So much to catch up on! We're back from our trip, LL's aunt stayed with us for several days, LL is learning new things and showing new independence, and my advisor still sucks. But, one thing at a time, I think.

Our trip to Wisconsin went well, with the small exception of sleep. The flights were easy, the wedding was beautiful, visiting family was great, and LL was a champion napper during the day. But at night, LL would suddenly realize that he was not at home, and that when he fell asleep, he would be left alone in a room that was not his bedroom. Even worse, he would be not in his own crib. Each night, we struggled to get him to fall asleep, and he would then wake up a few hours later in a total panic. Inconsolable crying, which is highly unusual for him. We ended up letting him sleep in our bed with us. At home, even if we wanted LL to sleep in our bed, it wouldn't work. If he's in bed with us, he thinks that it's playtime. He would never go to sleep. But bizarrely, in Wisconsin, when we put him in bed with us, he gave us a sleepy smile, curled up with his blankie and immediately calmed down. I wish we slept well, too, but S and I spent each night terrified that we were going to smother LL, though he was very good at kicking us in self defense whenever we dared to get too close. He also learned how to pull my hair in his sleep. So much for Experiments in Co-Sleeping.

The highlight of the trip was visiting with my grandfather. My grandfather is 87 years old. He still works, he still lives independently, and he's still completely sharp. The week before we arrived in Wisconsin, he had finally sold his house and moved into a smaller apartment in a nearby retirement community. I told him that we would love to help him with his move while we were there -- LL is bad at packing, and he can't carry heavy things, but he certainly knows how to unpack a box like nobody's business! So, Grandpa set aside a few small boxes of non-fragile, non-choking-hazard items for LL to unpack. We sat LL on the floor next to the open boxes, and let LL have fun. He very carefully pulled each item out of the box, examined it, and set it down neatly on the floor around him. When he was done helping, we rewarded him by putting him into the now-empty box and dragging him around the room. Fun for everybody!

Unlike our college reunion trip, during which LL switched time zones on our very first day there, and miraculously switched back the day we returned, this trip has caused a lot more disruption. LL stayed on our home time zone after we arrived, so we decided to just go with it. On our last day there, he suddenly switched and woke up at his normal time, local time. Ummm, okay. Twenty four hours later we were at home again, and he had no idea what time it was. We've been back for over a week, and he's still confused. Fighting naps, looking exhausted way early, waking up at odd times, not sleeping through the night.... We have a very tired household right now.

Complicating our attempted return to a normal routine was the visit by S's sister right after we got back from the wedding. She was with us for four days, and we had a lovely time, but it means that LL was off his normal schedule for well over a week. This week was our time to adjust back to normal, and it's just not happening. For a while, I thought that the teething was further complicating things, but LL has cut way back on the incessant chewing, so I think that we're actually in a reprieve on that front. Now we've just got to get him sleeping through the night again before the teething starts back up, because holy cow I'm exhausted.

Happily, we have several weeks of relative calm ahead of us. Our house will be inundated with visitors in five weeks for LL's birthday (yes, he's turning one in just five weeks!) but until then, we should have a bit of normalcy. No trips, no visitors, no major disruptions. Lots of weekend activities, and a first birthday party to plan, but nothing that should interfere with getting LL back on schedule.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Land of Cheeseheads

Because, yes, we're gluttons for punishment, we're going to be out of town again this weekend. A friend of mine from high school is getting married in Wisconsin, so we're flying there for a long weekend, getting in lots of grandparent time as well. This is the fourth time LL will be flying somewhere, but for quite possibly the first time, I'm feeling very laid back about the trip. Possibly because our cross-country flights in June went so well that I'm feeling more confident (cocky?) about LL's ability to handle a plane ride at this age. Possibly because the flights are shorter than the ones in June. Possibly because I am so stressed out and pissed off about my school situation that I really need to get the hell out of Dodge for a while, and I'm willing to risk a flight with a cranky, teething not-quite-toddler if that's what it takes.

Also, barring a total meltdown from LL, my parents will be babysitting for two nights in a row, while S and I enjoy the wedding activities. LL was actually invited to the wedding, so if he doesn't want to be without us for too long, we'll be able to bring him along, then drop him off with my parents later in the evening while we enjoy the reception without him. But either way, it will be nice to be out with adults and cocktails, knowing that LL is safe with people who love him. As much as I would hate to be living back where I grew up, I have to acknowledge that it would be amazingly luxurious to have grandparents nearby to babysit on occasion.

After we return from the trip, we'll have one day (yes, just one day) to unpack, do laundry, shift back to our normal time zone, and get a little sleep before S's sister arrives to stay with us for several days. She hasn't seen LL since Thanksgiving (except over iChat; we make liberal use of video-conferencing to keep all of our far-away relatives apprised of LL's developments). Thankfully, unlike certain other relatives I could mention, S's sister is a wonderful house guest. She loves spending time with LL, but she also cooks and cleans and is amazingly helpful. Still, it's going to be a busy few weeks coming up.

Complicating things a bit is the fact that yes, LL is teething again. The last time we visited Wisconsin, in early January, LL started showing his first signs of teething while we were there. He didn't sprout his first teeth until mid-February, but the chewing and drooling and fussiness started in Wisconsin. Our next flying trip wasn't until June, and after showing no new teeth for almost four months, LL picked that trip to suddenly get another one (and five more shortly after returning home). Most babies get a bit of a breather between the initial eight teeth and the emergence of their first molars, which don't normally appear until around 14 months. So we had been looking forward to a few months of decreased chewing and fussiness. Instead, we only got a few weeks, because LL is obviously working on those molars now. I've heard from friends that the first molars are the worst of the 20 baby teeth, so it would have been nice if he'd waited until after our trip. Instead, he's been fussier this week than I've seen him in a long time. It's obvious that sucking on a bottle is painful, as he lunges for his milk, drinks half an ounce, then pulls away crying and sticking his fingers in his mouth. Poor little guy. We're trying to use a cup so that he doesn't have to suck to get milk, but the coordination isn't really there yet. Though, it is amusing to watch him try to gnaw on things waaaay back where the molars will be. A lot of his favorite teething toys don't comfortably reach that far back.

In other news: Brett Favre says he's really retired this time. Really. For good. Promise. Probably. I don't truly believe him yet (I've been burned before) but for now, it's just a lot of fun to watch him jerk around the Minnesota Vikings.

And, tying things together: we had LL's picture taken last week wearing his Packers jersey, sitting on a full-sized cheesehead, and holding his infant cheesehead in his lap. Yep, we're ready for football training camps to get started!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Schedule, 8+ Months

LL has been on a clock-predictable schedule since he was about 6 months old (recorded here). The schedule changed when he was approximately 8 months old, which is when he dropped his third nap. Here, recorded, for posterity, is the schedule that he's been on since then. I want to get it recorded before it changes again. He's generally taking two naps right now, but one or two days each week he only does one nap, so I have a hunch that we're going to be down to one nap in the not-too-distant future. (Though, his one-nap days are always days when he's at Natasha's, because she tends to put him down late for his morning nap, leading to him being wide awake for his afternoon nap, so I think he'd be a consistent two-nap baby right now if he had more consistency in the morning.)

Having said that... the nice thing about his schedule right now is that LL is fairly flexible (within reason). It used to be that if we attempted to shift his schedule by even half an hour, keeping him up a little late or delaying a nap by a bit, LL would completely fall apart. Somewhere around 9 months of age, LL became much more forgiving. Home late one afternoon? The afternoon nap can start an hour later. Need to go out for dinner one night? Bedtime can shift for the night. We try to keep things as consistent as possible, but it's nice to know that we're not going to have a complete meltdown when we need a little bit of wiggle room. (As evidenced by the liberal use of wiggle room that Natasha requires of him.)

LL's Daily Schedule:

7:00 -- wake up, milk (we try not to start his day any earlier than this, but he does often wake up between 6-7:00, and he gets his morning milk whenever he's up)
7:30 -- breakfast
9:00 -- nap
10:30 -- wake up (morning nap is anywhere from 60-90 minutes)
11:30 -- milk (and after 9+ months, lunch)
1:30 -- nap (we try for 1:00, but who am I kidding, it's usually 1:30)
3:00 -- wake up, snack (afternoon nap is also 60-90 minutes)
5:00 -- milk, dinner
7:00 -- bedtime routine, milk
7:30 -- sleep

From 8 months on, LL fairly reliably was sleeping through the night. Teething always throws a wrench in the works, and when he wakes up in pain, he almost always wants a bottle in order to go back to sleep. Since he doesn't seem to be abusing our willingness to provide a middle-of-the-night-bottle when needed, we let him have this bottle without argument when he wants it.

As far as meals: when we started solid foods at 6 months, LL was getting two solid meals a day (breakfast and dinner). Sometime after 9 months, we added solid food at lunch as well. He very quickly dropped a mid-day bottle in response. Now, at 10 months, he gets three milk+food meals, an afternoon snack (usually cheerios or similar finger food), and a bedtime bottle. When it's hot out, he also gets water from a sippy cup, though at 10 months, he's still figuring out the concept of the sippy cup.

A "meal" for LL at this point means 1/4 cup of cereal (usually oatmeal, occasionally rice, occasionally a mixture of the two), anywhere from half to a full jar of pureed food (sometimes homemade, sometimes store bought), and some amount of finger food (cheerios, veggie puffs, fruit chunks, bread, cheese, whatever). We try to do fruit or yogurt for breakfast, some sort of meat-and-veggie combo for lunch, and veggies for dinner, and then we add variety with the finger food. Lately he's been wanting to feed himself more, so we're upping the finger food and decreasing the quantity of pureed food at each meal accordingly.