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.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fluid Dynamics

I'm a total cliche. My little boy is now 10 months old, and it turns out that I'm one of those mothers who goes on and on about how fast time flies and where did the time go? But rather than give another bulleted update on teeth (eight so far, all shockingly visible when he smiles, and I fear that there are early molars on their way) and mobility (no crawling, no pulling up, no cruising, no wanting to take steps, but he can bounce across a room on his backside a la Tigger when he really wants to) I'm going to talk about physics.

Back at LL's six month update, I mentioned that LL was figuring out the basics of physics. He had figured out enough about gravity to keep him upright in a sitting position! He had observed what happened when he hit one object with another! He understood enough about friction that he could pull a blanket to make toys on top of the blanket move towards him! Forces and opposite forces and bodies in motion! All good stuff.

But clearly, I was a bit premature in my assessment of his knowledge. Did you notice anything about what he had learned? It's all good classical mechanics stuff, but there's something notably missing. We are slowly discovering that his handle on fluid dynamics is not quite up to par. Examples:

Picking up applesauce with your fingers doesn't work very well. The applesauce tends to just slide through your fingers. Same with pureed squash. And pureed carrots. And pureed mango. And milk. Every time. If you want to feed these things to yourself, fingers are not a very good mechanism.

Lying on your back and holding a bottle up for yourself is very cool. But when you then roll onto your stomach, with the bottle underneath you (but still in your mouth), you're not going to be able to drink. See how the milk is at the opposite end from the nipple? That's a problem. Sorry, but it's not Mommy's fault. Yell at me all you want, but you will still need to roll onto your back in order to drink. It's not that Mommy is being mean or arbitrary. As they say: it's the Law.

Drinking out of sippy cups is a lot of fun. I understand that it's hard work to drink when there's a valve there, so I've done as you've asked and removed the spill-proof valve, so that the water flows more freely. But when you tip the cup upside down over your head, the water is going to come out. Onto your head. Yes, you're going to get wet. Sometimes the water is even going to go in your eyes. Yell all you want, but don't think that you're going to convince the water to behave any differently.

While we're on the subject of water, let's discuss bathtime. Yes, more than anything else, the bathtub is your own personal fluid dynamics laboratory. It's good that you spend so much time in the tub running experiments and making observations. For instance, I know that you're fascinated to figure out how the spray showerhead works. All those sparkling drops of water, flying out of a shiny metal nozzle! You can't help but want to touch it. But sticking your face there for a closer look? Probably not a good idea for a budding scientist who doesn't like getting his face wet. And doing it over and over and over? Well, I'm going to take that as a sign that you truly are a scientist. Good work.

LL is currently working on a book, LL's Introduction to Fluid Dynamics: A Practical Guide for Infants, with chapters on bottles, sippy cups, straws, pureed food, bathtubs, swimming pools, beaches, and sprinklers. There's also a super-special chapter for boys on what happens when you pee straight up into the air during a diaper change.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Funding Update

Updating on my shitty graduate student funding situation. AdvisorB is now involved. And a bit horrified at what AdvisorA is doing. And, in acknowledgment that I really need AdvisorA to stay on my committee and be my research advisor, AdvisorB is going to handle most of the financial discussions with her. And no, it's not a good idea to rely completely on AdvisorB, but it's better than pissing off AdvisorA so much about money that she makes my life difficult re: graduation, too. Much better that AdvisorB is available to be the bad cop. (I'm also talking to a lot of other people and desperately trying to find other options in my department, as far as gap funding and the like, so it's not that I'm idly twiddling my thumbs while I wait for AdvisorA and AdvisorB to work it out.)

Also, AdvisorA is now denying that she ever promised to continue funding me after the large project ran out. I know this isn't true. AdvisorB knows this isn't true. And it's one of the shittiest things I've ever heard, since it appears that she wasn't interested in me as a student, but just as labor on that one project, because it was convenient (and my participation is what allowed her to keep that funding in the first place!).

As I told AdvisorB yesterday, I feel completely betrayed that AdvisorA is violating the traditional (though, admittedly, not universal) social contract that exists between graduate students and advisors. The social contract goes something like this: the student works insane hours for the advisor for many years, doing whatever she's told and helping to fulfill the promises made by the advisor to the funding agencies. The student gets paid very little and gets little out of the experience except, well, experience. Think "apprenticeship." In exchange, the advisor agrees to fund the student during that critical final year, when the student needs to be doing work not covered by grant money, like tie-everything-together work and write-the-thesis work, even though the advisor is no longer getting cheap high-quality labor out of the student during that year. This social contract guarantees several years of cheap labor for the advisor, while also guaranteeing that the student can afford to pay rent while she finishes her thesis and graduates.

Good system, eh? Except that a social contract isn't anything that's ever in writing. Students do their part for many years on the assumption that their advisor will hold up their end of the bargain when the final thesis push happens. But sometimes students (ahem, me) get screwed. I did my part, and now my advisor is essentially cutting me loose and refusing to fund me for my last year while I finish up.

I've had several conversations with AdvisorA since I last wrote about this situation, and I've come to the conclusion that she's not a liar and she's not sexist; she's just really stupid and irresponsible, and she's embarrassed about being stupid and irresponsible. She didn't plan ahead, she really is short on money right now, and she's guilty and embarrassed that she let it get this bad. In an effort to make herself feel better, she's lashing out at everybody else, desperately trying to find somebody else to blame for her poor planning. When she told me, "I shouldn't have to fund you now, because you took a leave of absence to have a baby, so you clearly don't care about academia," what she was really thinking was, "I should have planned better, but now I'm out of cash. I want to fund the students at my new university first, but then there will be nothing left for you. I totally saw this coming, but I forgot to plan ahead and do something about it. I'm stupid. But I don't want to admit to being stupid. Let me try to find a way to make this your fault, so that maybe you'll get upset and just walk away." Um, yeah.

Her latest suggestion: I should take another leave of absence from school, for the next year. I should spend the first three months working full-time for Boss Lady, during which time I would save as much money as I can, so that I will have money to live off of during the following year, when I'm not getting a stipend (or any other income). Then I should spend the rest of the year finishing my thesis at home, living off of the money that I made while working for Boss Lady. Then I re-enroll at school for just long enough to submit my thesis, paying my own tuition and still not receiving a stipend. In other words: I should postpone my graduation for several months, and I should fund my last year myself, leaving AdvisorA completely out of the equation. This is an excellent deal for her: she got her years of cheap labor out of me; she gets to list me as one of her academic children; but she doesn't have to do that annoying funding-my-thesis thing. It's a horrible, horrible deal for me: I have to work for several months on unrelated stuff that I'm not interested in, just to squirrel away some cash, after which I have to once again transition back into my thesis work; I have to do all of my last year from home, without much contact with other humans, because I won't be an official student; I'll graduate several months later than planned, which will make job hunting even harder; I'll take additional financial hits like my student loans coming due and my insurance going up, because I'll lose my "full-time student" designation, not to mention having to pay some amount of tuition out-of-pocket.

My search for a viable solution continues. AdvisorB talked to the head of our department, who is a highly influential and highly respected guy, and their current plan is to jointly call AdvisorA, remind her about the student-advisor social contract, and attempt to guilt her into funding me. (Yep, the current plan relies entirely on guilt as a solution.) Meanwhile, I'm applying for TA positions for the upcoming fall. And, in a nod to the kind of luck I've been having lately, almost all of the courses that I would remotely want to TA meet at times that will conflict with daycare pickup or drop-off times. I might end up having to TA, but I will apparently be the worst TA in the world, making life miserable for an entire class of undergraduates. Spread the misery.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Party Time?

I've been feeling unbelievably unmotivated lately. Work, home, you name it... I don't feel like doing it. No particular reason. (Actually, it's probably lots of small reasons, but whatever.) At least today is Friday; I'm hoping to recharge this weekend, and be able to attack everything with renewed vigor come Monday.

LL is doing great. He's up to seven teeth. The only one of the "set" that he's missing is the bottom right one, and that one seems to be taking its sweet time, since it's not even puffy. He's still chewing on everything he can reach, though, so maybe it will surprise us. LL's four top teeth are descending fast, now that they've broken through the surface, so it is becoming easier to see them when he laughs. He's still getting used to the feeling of them, though, and we hear him grinding his teeth and slurping through them all the time. It's very cute.

His sleep is doing much better, sleeping through the night more often than not. His wake-up time, however, seems to be moving earlier and earlier. For a long time, he was a 7:00-on-the-dot kid. Over the past week or two, that time has been slowly creeping closer to 6:00am, and this morning he woke up at 5:15. Way too early, but we don't quite know how to break him of it. We've also been finding him on his tummy a lot, which is very cute, but a bit frustrating for him since he still can't crawl, so he just lies in his crib and cries to be rescued.

As LL approaches the ten-month mark, we're getting pressure from family to start planning his birthday party. I'm still in denial that he's going to be a year old soon, so I had been trying to avoid thinking about it. We finally had to at least pick a date, though, because my mom needed to apply for time off from work, and all of the grandparents (plus aunts and uncles, apparently) needed to start booking airline tickets. We were hoping to do something relatively small, but as it stands right now, we have fifteen relatives (yes fifteen!!!) flying in from out of state for LL's first birthday. It's hard to keep it small when so many people are coming from so far away.

I still don't quite know what I want to do for the party, but if I don't start planning something soon, S's mom is going to start planning it herself. I wouldn't mind a little help, but I'd rather maintain some creative control over the thing, so I should at least come up with a theme, and probably some limitations on how crazy we're going to let people get.

The New York Times ran an article this week on babies and consumerism. It talked about how some parents, partially driven by the economy and partially driven by social and environmental concerns, are trying to scale back the scope of their spending on small children. Parts of the article had me shaking my head (really? People used to buy $400 toys for infants, and they're just now realizing that maybe it's not necessary?) but other parts of it had me looking around our house and trying to objectively analyze what we've spent on LL.

We haven't bought very many toys, but mainly that's because everybody else has bought so much stuff for him already. And I like to think that we're doing a good job of collecting mainly toys with "staying power," like blocks and books and stuffed animals, that he'll be able to play with for many many years. But when the article mentioned the statistic that, on average, kids in the US receive 70 new toys every year, I first laughed, because that is an absurdly high number, and then I turned to LL's toy box and thought, "Hmmmm...." Yep, there are a lot of toys in there. I don't think it's 70, but it might come kinda close. And sure, he definitely got more new toys this year than he will probably ever receive again, because he was starting out at zero. But still... that's an awful lot of toys for a twenty-pound munchkin who can be entertained for a good long time with a sheet of newspaper and a plastic cup.

So, yeah, we're going to have to figure out how to rein in the grandparents a bit when it comes to spending money on LL. And we might have to start figuring out a strategy for Chanukah and Christmas as well. It's awesome that LL is so lucky and so loved, but a little discretion should go a long way towards teaching him some responsible habits, starting right now.