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!