Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Punctuated Equilibrium

Escaping from the crappy grad school situation for a moment (where things are happening; promises are being made and broken; people are stepping up and people are exposing themselves as sexist mercenaries) to discuss the life of a three-quarter-year-old.

LL is now over nine months old. When their babies reach nine months of age, many mothers like to mention with amazement that their babies have now spent as much time on the "outside" as they did on the "inside." Rather than guiltily apologize for not writing a nine-month update closer to LL's actual nine-month birthday, I am going to confidently assert that I did this on purpose, to penalize him for staying on the "inside" so long past his due date. Born late? Then you get a late nine-month update. So there. But first, a dinosaur-themed aside:

I once took a class taught by the late, great (and fascinating, and unbelievably egotistical) paleontologist Stephen J. Gould. Staying away from any debates about the merit, or scientific accuracy, or usefulness of his work (because holy cow, paleontologists are a fanatical, argumentative bunch!), I bring him up because one of his primary scientific contributions to the field of paleontology was the idea of punctuated equilibrium. The idea that things remain remarkably stable until... all of a sudden they're not, and things are crazy for a very brief period of time!... until suddenly they're stable again. Interesting way to understand the fossil record. Fascinating way to evaluate human history and technological change. Increasingly accurate way to understand the development of LL, because after two months or so of relative stability and slow changes, my little LL is suddenly going through crazy developmental achievements. Though I'll admit that a few of them are the sort of "achievements" that only a close blood relative would really appreciate, so feel free to skim.

(And if you were drawn in by the idea of discussing dinosaurs, then I'd hate to disappoint, so here are a few things to fulfill the promise: LL's favorite song is "We are the Dinosaurs" by Laurie Berkner. One of his favorite books is "Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs!" by Sandra Boynton. Upon learning of these preferences, certain relatives began purchasing lots of dinosaur-themed clothing. LL wore some of them at our college reunion, mostly to show off for a dear college friend who is now a paleontologist. Our paleontologist friend had issues with LL's "Dino-Mite!" shirt, because the stegosaurus pictured on the front had the wrong number of tail spikes. Stupid Carters paleontologywear. Interestingly, our friend had fewer problems with the "Snugglesaurus" shirt, since he was not aware of how many spiky accessories a real snugglesaurus would have, though he was pretty sure that they probably didn't smile as much as the one pictured on the shirt. When I teasingly challenged him with a simple, "But how do you know they didn't smile?" I got a twenty-minute lecture on recent papers studying the shape and use of dinosaur lips. I then distracted him by mentioning the friendly T-Rex in Night at the Museum, because talking about silly Hollywood portrayals of dinosaurs is a useful way of distracting this particular friend when I want to change the topic. Like I said, paleontologists are a fanatical bunch.)

Anyway, back to our story.

Right after LL reached the six month mark, he learned to sit and he began eating real food and he stopped nursing and he started sleeping better, and then ... nothing terribly new happened. He continued to eat and he continued to sit, and goodness gracious he continued to grow. But nothing really all that newsworthy happened, for many many weeks, despite my attempts to find things to talk about at his seven- and eight-month updates. (Okay, he did a few new things, mostly under the heading of "communicating with people who don't speak baby," but mainly he improved on things he was already doing.) And then all of a sudden, during the last month, everything exploded. And are still exploding, actually, because he's clearly on the verge of still more new achievements sometime in the next few weeks. For starters, we were pleased to note that after plunging to the 18th percentile for weight, LL has rebounded to what we had thought were his normal growth curves: 40th for weight and height, 75th for head size. Yes, the kiddo still has a big head. He often sits with it tilted to the side, because it's just too heavy for his skinny little neck. He weighs just a hair under 20 pounds right now, and all the weight seems to be in his cheeks.

As for developmental explosions, a summary so far:

Teeth! LL got his first two teeth relatively early, at five months. He then went through month after month of frantic chewing and drooling, but no more teeth emerged. Then, suddenly, over a two week period, we saw the emergence of three additional teeth, in quick succession, so he's now up to five visible teeth. And I thought that I felt number six today, though he wouldn't let me thoroughly investigate to confirm it.

Mobility! Okay, saying that he's mobile is a bit generous. But he's not exactly stationary anymore, either. Crawling still eludes him, but he is finding other ways to end up in different places than where he was set down. His favorite involves sitting on the floor and bouncing a la Tigger, which is very cute but very inefficient. (He moves approximately three feet/hour, but it's a random walk sort of thing, which makes it even less productive.) He also does a roll-drag-bend-pull sort of thing that's even less efficient than an army crawl, and usually makes more progress backwards than forwards, usually away from his target, so he doesn't use it much. Still: mobility!

Standing! LL is discovering the joys of a vertical world. He loves standing, but only holding onto people, not objects. And he screams bloody murder if you sit him back down before he's ready.

Eating! LL went from only eating the mushiest of purees to suddenly loving chunkier fare. Cheerios are his new best friend. Fruit chunks are awesome. Crackers rock. A large part of the joy is that he can feed himself, which extends beyond food to include drinks as well. He prefers to hold his own bottle for all meals except bedtime, and he is loving the sippy cup of water that we offer several times a day. He's still a bit mystified at needing to suck on the sippy cup instead of chew it, but once we removed the valve so that the water would flow freely, he was happy. Wet, but happy.

Talking! LL has always been talkative. He gurgled and cooed from very early on, and had extensive conversations with me starting just before three months. He enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he was slow to move from cooing to the ever-more-sophisticated babbling. Then one day he discovered the letter B. After a day of "Ba! Ba! Aba! Baba! Ababa! Ba! Ba! Ba!", S declared that "aba" ("dad" in Hebrew) was LL's first word. That's one happy daddy. After practicing his B's for a few days, he added T, then (diplomatically) M and D on the same day. (He now often babbles "Amamadada!" which we've taken to be a joint "Mom and Dad!" word.) And L, G, and S. All over the course of like two weeks. He's babbling all the time now.

Sleeping! Not to jinx us or anything, but we've got this sleep thing temporarily figured out. Two naps, at roughly 9am and 1pm, but they're flexible enough to move as much as an hour without throwing him into total disarray. Bedtime around 7pm, also pleasantly flexible when we're out and about. He sleeps through the night more than half the time, which is victory enough for me, and more often than not, he'll sleep until something approximating 7am.

We've also had the chance to expose LL to a bunch of new things recently. My brother, sister-in-law, and their three children all stayed with us for several days, and it was a lot of fun watching LL play with his cousins. We took him to the beach for the first time, where he loved the sand, loved watching the ocean, and frantically objected when hit by an admittedly cold wave. He also "swam" in a pool for the first time, which he took in very calmly, right up until S dunked him under water, which brought more frantic objections.

Cold water and head-dunking aside, LL is one cool cucumber. He hates to be alone, but he is happy to play by himself for extended periods of time as long as there is somebody near him. Of course, playing with somebody else is better. Being in crowds of people is better still. We've been going to a lot of large group outings in houses and parks lately, and LL is in heaven sitting with his toys, surrounded by friends. He loves observing everyone around him and taking everything in. Some of our friends have even questioned whether he ever gets upset (um, yes he does, he's a baby) because he's always so happy and calm when he's hanging out with them.

Especially if there are blocks. Blocks are awesome. Blocks, and dinosaurs.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Advisor A, continued

Continuing the story from here.

So, funding for the Fall and beyond was looking iffy, but AdvisorA was in town for a conference, so we agreed that we would talk about it in person. I hadn't been planning to attend the conference, but I arranged to drive to the conference, meet with AdvisorA between her sessions, and have S pick LL up at daycare, all so that I would have a block of time to talk with AdvisorA in person, for the first time in five months. When I got to the conference, I looked around for AdvisorA and couldn't find her. I finally found one of our colleagues, who informed me that AdvisorA had left the conference to do some personal errands, and wouldn't be back until the end of the day, in time to give a talk and then leave again. And no, she didn't bother to let me know, even though she knew that I was making a special trip just to talk with her.

So, I wasted a day sitting around waiting for her, because I wasn't allowed to attend the conference (mainly because AdvisorA didn't want to pay the registration fee for me) but I needed to be able to corner her in person and find another time to talk, whenever she managed to get there. At the very end of the day, I managed to get ~15 minutes with her. And that's when things fell apart.

The conversation had two parts. One part was about my progress, and one part was about money. On the "progress" side, she told me that she has been disappointed that I haven't been making more progress the past few months. And yes, I acknowledged to her that my progress has, indeed, been much slower than it used to be. (In the past, AdvisorA has mentioned on numerous occasions that I'm generally more productive than any student she'd ever worked with, and I'd already accomplished more by my third year than most PhD students accomplish by the time they graduate -- typically six years.) She tried to frame this as an argument that, as my advisor, she should only have to fund me for a fixed period of time, and if I'm too slow to graduate during that time, then it's my problem.

I reminded her that I'm still going to graduate in six calendar years, which is exactly average for someone who works straight through my program, but I'm actually faster (and cheaper!) than most because she has never before paid for my summers and she didn't have to pay for my maternity leave of absence. Basically, instead of working at 100% pace for six years, I worked at 130% pace for four years, took less than half a year off, worked at 50% pace for another half year, then plan on doing 100% for the last one. I understand that it sucks to be going through that 50%-output period right now, but I'm doing my best. And I would have thought that four years of 130% pace would have bought me a bit of good will.

She told me that she expected me to be back up to 130% as soon as I returned from maternity leave. And she expected me to have gotten some work done during the maternity leave as well. (??? No idea why should would have thought this. Especially since we discussed it at length several times during my pregnancy, because I wanted to be absolutely sure that there would be no misunderstandings on this point.) And then she commented that she discussed this with BossLady when they ran into each other a few weeks ago, and she implied that the two of them (and by extension, lots of other people) are disappointed with me right now. (I'm going to jump right by the fact that AdvisorA ran into BossLady, and the first thing she did was say, "Don't you think that Nicky is being really lazy recently?") I asked what BossLady said, because I couldn't believe that BossLady would have agreed with that sentiment, and AdvisorA admitted that BossLady had actually gently corrected her. (Apparently, BossLady laughed, shook her head, told AdvisorA that she's a moron for thinking that a woman with an infant would be back up to complete output anytime in the first year, and then spent some additional time praising me and telling AdvisorA how lucky she is to have me for a student. I'm not sure whether it helped or hurt, but it's nice to know that BossLady has my back.) So, given that AdvisorB is also extremely understanding about the situation, it's really only AdvisorA who has a problem with what's going on right now.

At one point, AdvisorA went on a rant about how silly it is that she should be inconvenienced because of my personal choices. As if everyone's personal choices don't inconvenience other people all the time. And as if having children was an odd, screwball thing that hardly anybody does. (And, what I definitely did not say out loud: as if her moving cross country didn't inconvenience me, too, but I just sucked it up and congratulated her and wrote her a recommendation to help her get the job anyway, because I believe that people need to do what's right for them with their personal lives. But whatever.)

And you know, I get that the world doesn't revolve around me, and having a baby is a choice that I made and I can't expect everyone to make lots of allowances just for me. But at the same time, I also believe that having a baby is a normal part of life, that it's the price you pay for employing human beings. And I'm also angry, because in my particular field, students take leaves of absence ALL THE TIME for other personal purposes, like starting a company or working somewhere for a year or traveling the world, and nobody blinks when they interrupt things to leave for several months and then come back and spend two months talking about it, before finally getting back to work. My leaving to have a baby isn't all that different, except that yes, I continue to take care of the baby even after I returned to work. But AdvisorA never had children, and just kept making side remarks about women and choices and careers and being taken seriously. And it pisses me off.

At this point, AdvisorA shifted the conversation to be purely about money. Ignoring all of the you're-not-productive-enough excuses that she'd just laid out, she now explained that she'd love to fund me, but she doesn't have money. "But I heard that you have money from X, Y, and Z?" Oh. Um. Correction. She has money, but she can't transfer it to my university. "But you've transferred it in the past, what's changed?" Oh. Um. Correction. She can transfer the money, but she loses a lot in the transfer, so she doesn't want to do it that way. "But I thought that you worked all of that out with AdvisorB last year, to make the transfer easier?" Oh. Um. Maybe. Then she changed arguments again, and started saying bland, generic things about the bad economy. And she said something about maybe I can just spend next year being a TA, or maybe I can find a rich friend to give me a grant (!). And then she had to leave.

So, right now, nothing is resolved. I have funding through September, but I have no idea what's going to happen after that. The backup backup plan is that I have to TA. The problem is that being a TA is a huge time suck. PhD students in my department are advised to get all of their TA responsibilities finished in the first few years, because they know that it is nearly impossible to make progress on a thesis while being a TA, so they don't want students having to teach during their final year or two. So, while being a TA for a semester would solve the funding problem for a semester, it doesn't actually solve anything long-term, because it would probably also push out my graduation date by a semester. TA or not, I will need one full year of non-teaching-contingent funding.

The backup backup backup plan would be that I officially take a leave of absence from school, so that nobody has to pay anything for me, but I actually keep working on my thesis during that time, and then I enroll for just one semester so that I can submit and defend the thesis. But this would mean not getting paid for a year, while still paying for childcare.

As for other suggestions: No, talking to my department chair or dean won't do any good, because AdvisorA doesn't work here anymore. She has lots of moral obligations to me, given our history and verbal agreements, but no real ones. She has every right in the world to stop working with me and focus on students at her own school. And no, transferring is not an option, either. I'm currently in (arguably) the best department in the country for my particular field, and I've spent five years working my butt off to get a PhD from here. There's nothing to gain from transferring this late in the process.

In a collision of bad timing, AdvisorB is on vacation right now, so I can't discuss all of this with him. For now, I'm hoping like hell that either AdvisorA will come to her senses and snap out of whatever shitty mood made her want to screw me over like this, or that AdvisorB will find a way to step in and resolve things. I've also started going through our personal finances very very carefully with S, to see exactly how horrible it would be for me to stop bringing home any income for a year while I finish. There are definitely some places where we could trim expenses, and between that and dipping into our savings, we could probably make it work for a limited amount of time. But I'm unbelievably bitter that we might have to do it that way.

In the middle of all of this, LL turned 9 months old, visited with his out-of-town cousins, went to the beach for the first time, ate his first cheerios, and sprouted three teeth. So a much happier post is on its way later in the week.

Monday, June 22, 2009

AdvisorA and AdvisorB

I've been trying to figure out how to write about my current sucky grad school situation, and I've decided that I need to break it down into two parts. Part One is below. Part Two, detailing the hideous conversation that I had last week with my advisor, will be forthcoming later in the week. I was going to write the whole thing today, but thinking about it still has me seeing spots and wanting to punch walls, so I'm breaking it into two. Today's installment is mostly background. Part Two will have the fireworks.

First, our cast of characters:

AdvisorA: my primary research advisor. I've been working with her for almost five years now. In the middle of this time, she decided that she wasn't happy at "my" university, and took a (tenured) job at a different university 3000+ miles away, so now we work together remotely, and she funnels funding for me back to my university. All of AdvisorA's students who were further ahead than me when she left have since graduated or dropped out, and all of her students who were behind me found new advisors when she left the university. I was the only one "on the bubble," so I'm now the only student that she still has here. AdvisorA is a late-career academic, married with no kids.

AdvisorB: When AdvisorA moved cross-country, I aligned with AdvisorB so that I would have somebody local to sign paperwork and bounce ideas around with in person. My research is not totally within his current field of expertise, but he's done some work in the area in the past, and he actually thinks that the work that I'm doing is very cool. Most of the entertaining advisor stories that I've told (like this one and this one) have been about AdvisorB. He is also very advanced in his career, never married, never had kids.

BossLady: Before starting grad school, I worked at a private research lab, where BossLady was my manager. I've continued to work there part-time during the academic year, and full-time during the summers, always reporting to BossLady. BossLady is probably more well-known and respected than AdvisorA, and the two of them have collaborated on projects together in the past, including the project that I've been doing with both of them for the past 5-6 years. BossLady is married and has two young children.


When AdvisorA announced that she was moving cross-country, I had long conversations about funding with both AdvisorA and AdvisorB. AdvisorA assured me that she would fund me as long as necessary, and her leaving our university wouldn't effect it at all. AdvisorB assured me that, should funding become a problem anyway, he would fund the end of my graduate career (the last year or so, while I was writing my thesis) on his own personal overhead funds. AdvisorA and AdvisorB and I all met together, and everyone was very cheerful and optimistic, and told me not to worry, because they had primary and backup funding plans in place, and everything would work out great.

When I announced that I was pregnant, I had more funding and graduation-timing conversations with all three of our players. Everybody was very cool and supportive. I even expressed some concern because the huge contract that had been paying for 95% of my graduate career was going to be running out, and I was worried about what project would provide me with funding for the last year or so, while I was working on my thesis. Everyone assured me that it was not a problem. The only person who was worried about money was BossLady, but I told her that I wouldn't have much time to do work for her for the next year, anyway, because I would be focused on writing my thesis, and AdvisorA backed me up and told BossLady that she would cover me for that last year, including paying me during this upcoming summer. Once again, the world was good.

Fast forward to last week. Out of the blue, I get an email from AdvisorA informing me that she couldn't afford to pay me for the summer. I asked her what had changed, and why she was letting me know so late, when it was too late to make alternate summer plans (eg, working for BossLady). She wouldn't give me a straight answer. I made enough noise that after a few days, she told me that she had "found" more money, and she'd pay me for the summer after all, as planned. But after years (yes, years!) of having no funding concerns, and being told repeatedly that my funding was secure, I was suddenly nervous. If AdvisorA was having problems for the summer, what was going to happen in the Fall and beyond?

I wasn't too worried yet, because I still had my backup plan: AdvisorB's overhead funds. So, I met with AdvisorB, and reminded him about his promise to fund my last year, if necessary, while I was writing the thesis. Three things came out of that meeting: (1) he thinks that I am perfectly on track to graduate next June, so we really are talking about just one year; (2) he has no money for me, because AdvisorA has so much available to her that AdvisorB didn't bother reserving any money for me; and (3) he didn't say so directly in these words, but he basically said that AdvisorA is lying if she's implying that she can't afford to pay for me. He knows that she can.

So, with my backup funding gone, and one more year in need of funding, I needed to have a detailed talk with AdvisorA. And as it happened, AdvisorA was in town last week for a conference. So, everything that has happened since then got to happen in person. Yippee.

More later.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I am extremely short on time, and while I have several long-ish things that I want to say, I wouldn't do them service if I were to try now. My brother, sister-in-law, neices, and nephew are all coming to visit (and stay with us!) later this afternoon, through Sunday. Yes, for five days, we're going to have four adults and four children all living in our little three bedroom house. It's going to be hectic. But sometime next week, after they're gone, I should really write an update on the shitty state of my graduate career, and my advisor's helpful suggestion that even though my department guarantees funding for all PhD students, all the way until they graduate, she believes that having a child should negate that guarantee, thereby forcing all PhD students who become mothers to drop out of the program. Um, yeah. And people wonder why there aren't more women in academia.

Anyway, my real topic for today is not my frakking advisor who has been lying to me for the past year and is suddenly threatening to make it difficult for S and me to pay our mortgage, for no good reason other than the fact that she never had children and therefore believes that nobody else should, either. No, my real topic is a follow up on this topic from last July. I wrote about my friends, T and H, who I heard, through a long and convoluted grapevine, were having fertility problems. They had never said anything to us, but starting when we announced that we were expecting, they had been avoiding us. Well, avoiding us, along with all of our pregnant or child-enabled friends, which is almost everyone they're friends with. I was trying to decide whether I should say something to H about infertility, offer sympathy, etc., but ultimately decided that I didn't know enough about their situation to bring it up.

Anyway, I know more now, so here's the happy conclusion to that story. Yes, T and H were having fertility problems. They are the only people we know who faced this particular problem other than us. In July, as I was trying to figure out whether to offer support of some kind, they were actually going through their first round of IVF. Happily, it was successful, and they are now the proud parents of a 2-month-old baby girl. After they announced their pregnancy, I had a very brief conversation with H about how infertility really really sucks, but she was much more interested in interrogating me about cloth diapers and car seats, which makes for a much happier conversation.

Yay! Sometimes the world is wonderful, eh?

More later about how I might be forced to drop out of school because my advisor has decided that she shouldn't have to fund students who are going to use their stipend, in part, to pay for daycare.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Impressive Performance

We are back from our cross-country trek with LL. Much to our delight, everything went amazingly well.

On the day we left, LL intuited that we were going to be traveling, and woke up on his own, at his normal wake-up time, but for our destination time zone (ie, three hours shifted from usual). We think that he might be an unusually gifted baby. Or he was teething. Whatever. We followed his cue, and did everything all day according to his normal schedule, but in the new time zone. He was thus perfectly timed to have a bottle during take-off, followed by a delightful morning nap on Daddy's lap, much to the relief of our fellow passengers. After waking up, he spent the next several hours with a range of exciting eight-month-old activities: eating an entire jar of bananas without flinging any of it onto our neighbors; having his diaper changed in a bathroom the size of a phone booth; ignoring most of the toys that we brought with us but happily playing for hours with a plastic cup given to him by one of the flight attendants; flirting non-stop with said flight attendant; reading the most mesmerizing baby book ever produced; and being held by me or S in the back galley of the plane, where there was a constant stream of strangers waiting in line for the bathroom, all of whom took turns playing peek-a-boo with him while they waited.

Flying out, we had a 45-minute delay on the ground, and 6 hours in the air, and LL cried for a grand total of 90 seconds while on the plane. Our flight home on Sunday was in the evening, and LL slept (in batches) for more than 3 hours, and never cried once. After we landed and waited to de-plane, the passengers sitting around us gave LL a round of applause, and declared that "he gave a truly impressive performance." Total success!

There were a lot of things I was nervous about for this trip. A quick recap of how we managed with each of my original concerns:

Pressure Changes: During take-off and landing, LL was fine with a mix of bottle-drinking and pacifier-sucking, so the pressure changes didn't bother him. On our trip home, he briefly stopped drinking and then pulled at his ear and whined a little, but he quickly took the bottle back and the problem was solved. Also, since he was recently sick and still occasionally congested, our pediatrician told us the correct dosing information for Children's Benadryl, even though it is no longer technically approved for infants. Airplane pressure changes when you're already congested are really painful, so this helped a lot, and we're grateful that our pediatrician suggested this.

Airplane Entertainment: Entertaining LL on the plane was, indeed, trickier than when he was 2-3 months old, but walking around with him helped a lot. Also, on our flight home, the guy sitting behind us played peek-a-boo with LL between the seats for 45 minutes straight while LL belly-laughed non-stop. It was hilarious. Also, in a true show of how things don't always turn out how you expect, I bought this toy for the plane, because it has a suction cup at the bottom that's meant to attach it to high chair trays, but I thought that it would be perfect to attach to an airplane tray table, too. It did, indeed, keep LL occupied for a good deal of the flight, but only because he continuously chewed on the suction cup. On the flight home, we just gave him the suction cup and left the toy part in the bag. Fun stuff.

Car Seats: We continue to stuff LL into his infant carrier, so we didn't have to deal with a convertible car seat. We also avoided taxis the whole weekend, though we have it on good authority that all modern taxis do have LATCH attachments. My friend M took us to and from the airport in her car, and for everything else, we walked or took the bus, leaving the car seat at M's place. As an aside: holy cow, LL loved taking public transit. So many people to look at! So many people to smile at! Young people, elderly people, students, workers, all manner of people from all walks of life... LL charmed them all. Each new person who got on, LL would grin and wave until he got them to smile back. Awesome.

Stroller: Before this trip, we didn't have a true stroller. We just used a stroller frame to hold the infant car seat. For this trip, we finally bought a stroller so that LL would be more comfortable sitting in it all day. Our requirements: it had to be light, since we would need to lug it on and off buses; it had to be comfortable both for sitting (LL) and pushing (us), since LL would be in it for long stretches; it had to be sturdy, since it would be jostled a lot at the airport; it had to recline and have a decent canopy, since LL would need to nap in it; and it couldn't be too expensive, since it was likely to get beaten up a bit in the luggage compartment of the plane. A storage basket and quick-and-easy fold were additional nice-to-haves. The comfort, recline, and canopy requirements ruled out most cheap umbrella strollers, and the weight and price requirements ruled out most full-featured strollers. We finally went with this Combi stroller (on sale) and we were beyond thrilled with it. It was tossed around planes and buses; it went up and down subway stairs; it went off-road on grassy hills; it went over cobblestones; it was rained on. LL loved sitting in it, and took two long naps in it. It met all of our requirements and then some. Fantastic.

Bottles: We packed enough bottles to last for a full day of eating. Bulky to pack, but light. It worked. We also bought one of those divided formula containers, where each compartments holds formula powder for one bottle. Extremely useful.

Time Change: We transitioned LL to the new time zone all at once, thanks to when he woke up on the day that we left. It worked fairly well. He took his two naps each day right on time, and we had no problem putting him down for bed each night. He was up a lot late at night (in the 1:00-6:00am range), but he was like that for several days before we left, too, so it was probably inevitable. Also, after months of unproductive teething, LL finally cut his first top tooth while we were gone (excellent timing, kiddo) which didn't help in the sleep department. How he transitions back to our normal time zone remains to be seen....

Overall, we were thrilled with the whole trip. Each day, LL took his morning nap at M's house, we were out of the house by 11am, and we returned around 6pm to feed him dinner and get him ready for bed. He did great being out all day, took an afternoon nap in his stroller, and loved being wheeled all over our college campus. He met our college friends for the first time, saw the dorm where S and I lived, and even met my old undergrad advisor, who is now Dean of one of the biggest institutes on campus but still took almost an hour out of her busy week to chat with us and to carry LL around. Each night, M stayed with LL at home and put him to bed while S and I went out, and even though he was with a babysitter, in a strange crib, in a strange room, after a long and exhausting day of being out in the world, he still did great. I cannot express how proud I am of him.

It was a bit surreal pushing a baby stroller around the old college campus, but that is probably just part of my denial that it has been 10 years since we graduated.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Horses and Frogs

Here's a fun bit of trivia that makes total sense in an "oh, but of course!" kind of way, but had never occurred to me until this weekend. Did you know that infants can get laryngitis? They do have vocal cords just like the rest of us, even if they tend to use them in slightly less nuanced ways. So of course, it's possible for those vocal cords to get injured. And when they do, babies go hoarse just like bigger people.

It just never crossed my mind that a baby could lose his voice. But Saturday morning, my poor little LL woke up and tried to call for Mom and Dad to kindly come and get him out of his crib for breakfast, please, and instead... no sound came out. He's been fighting a cold for more than two weeks now, and his very first and most obvious symptom has been a cough, so it shouldn't be surprising that it eventually turned into laryngitis.

But it's not like the kid can whisper what he needs, or write messages down for us on a notepad. All weekend, he would look up at us and try to babble/whine/coo/cry, and all that would happen is a breathy little squeak. He tried over and over.

On the one hand, it was one of the saddest things I've ever seen. LL is a very vocal baby, and you could see him getting frustrated that he wasn't able to voice his opinions. He just kept emitting these sad little squeaks. On the other hand... it was also awfully funny. My little baby mime. He's a little young to understand the "frog in the throat" concept, but we couldn't help but ribbit at him all weekend.

His voice slowly started returning today, and we brought him to the pediatrician just to make sure that laryngitis isn't a sign of something horrible in infants, and to see what the heck is going on because seriously, it's been two weeks. But she nodded and said, "Yes, laryngitis. It can happen at any age. Isn't it sad to watch when they're this young?" And just then LL gave a very heartfelt squeak and we all laughed at him. We're such insensitive people. Oh, and he's fine -- it's just a really long-lasting cold, but there's nothing more serious going on, and we're hopeful that he is finally on the mend.

LL sends a pathetic little croak out to you all.