Monday, November 29, 2010

Constraint Satisfaction

Several weeks ago, I wrote another in a series of agonizing posts
about trying to find a name for Kermit. At the time, we had it narrowed down to five possibilities, and I was desperate to narrow it down more than that, and soon. After much more deliberation with S, we decided to just pick the front runner and treat it like a done deal. Assume that's the name, start using it around the house, kick the tires a bit and see how it feels.

There's a certain relief that comes with feeling like a decision has been made, even if we can still change our minds many many times between now and Kermit's arrival. The name that we picked has grown on me more and more, and at this point, I'm fairly happy with it. S wants to kick it around a bit more before he declares it "the name," but says that if Kermit were born today, he'd be happy with it. For now, that's good enough for me. We probably have several more weeks to decide for sure anyway.

Two months ago, when we took LL for his two-year checkup, we informed our wonderful pediatrician, Dr. K, that she would soon be acquiring a new patient. She was very happy for us, and asked if she could help in any way. I was mostly joking, but I asked her if she'd heard any cool baby names recently that she thought we'd like. I figured, who better to have the pulse of local baby naming trends than a pediatrician with a growing practice? Her whole face lit up and she said, "Ooooh, I love helping with names! Any name requirements that I should know about?" We briefly outlined our constraints for her, and she said that she'd give it some thought and get back to us.

Fast forward to this morning, when I left a phone message for Dr. K about some minor tummy trouble that LL's been experiencing for the past week, just to make sure that we're "treating" it correctly at home. When she called me back, she said, "I'll talk to you about LL in a minute, but I've been meaning to call you about names! I've thought a lot about it, and I have the perfect name for you guys!" And then she said the exact name that S and I had already decided on.

After a short stunned silence, I just said, "You're kidding!" which she took to mean that I hated the name and was disappointed in her. She explained to me that she thought it was just so perfect, given our constraints, and it worked with LL's name, and she liked how it sounded with our last name. And she said that she normally puts together a list of 5-10 names for people, but with us, she hit on just this one name and thought that it worked so well that she just had to tell me.

And then I had to tell her that she was creeping me out, because that was the name that we had all but decided on. What are the odds that she'd pick the exact same one? (For the record, this is not a common name, or a trendy name; it's not like she picked the #1 most popular name, or #1 fastest growing name, or anything like that. It seems to me to be very random that we came up with the exact same name.) And she laughed, and then said very seriously that she is quite good at naming babies.

I've mentioned the name to a very small number of other people in the last few weeks, but I hardly expect people to really give an expectant mother an honest opinion on this sort of thing -- unless the person visibly cringes when you tell them, it's hard to judge whether they liked it or are just being polite. But getting the impartial out-of-the-blue recommendation from Dr. K feels like real third-party confirmation that this name works. Silly but true. And despite my contrarian reputation, that makes me like it even more.

I suppose it is possible that our constraints are very, um, constraining. But I do not believe that they are soooooo constraining that, given a list of every possible name in the world, they narrow the set down to a unique single possibility. But apparently they do. Who knew? And now we are officially barred from ever having another son, because there isn't a single name left that he could use. We've apparently already chosen the only name that works.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Parking Fiasco, Continued

I last reported (on Friday) that I had called the DMV to check on the status of my parking placard, so that I could park near my campus office for the remainder of my pregnancy, and they informed me that it would be another month at least before they would process the form. Horrible backlog, nothing they could do about it, not even in the system yet, blah blah blah. But they helpfully suggested that I could fill out a new form, get my doctor to sign it again, and take it to the DMV in person. But I would need an appointment at the DMV, and the next available appointment was (you guessed it) in a month. Fantastic.

Out of desperation, I made some more phone calls and discovered that I can bring the form to a DMV office without an appointment, if I'm willing to waste a day sitting around and waiting. Less than ideal, but at least I would get the placard this week, right?

I had a prenatal appointment on Monday (yesterday), so I got another copy of the DMV form and took it with me to get it signed by my doctor. But, um... did I mention that my doctor, Dr. M, is out on medical leave until mid-December? And I can't stand the doctor who is filling in for him? Dr. M was the one who originally convinced me to apply for the placard, but I spent much of my appointment on Monday trying to convince this new doctor to sign the form in his absence. He made me feel horrible for even asking. And then he filled it out wrong and I had to go back and ask him to fix it. Blech.

I then spent this morning sitting around the DMV waiting to get the form processed. Not like I had anything better to do.... But at long last, my number was called, fees were paid, and I walked out of there with the parking placard that I needed. Yay!!!! Happy ending, right?

The punch line of this whole story, though, is that the placard that I originally applied for by mail arrived at my house this afternoon, despite the assurances on Friday that it was nowhere close to being issued. The paperwork actually shows that by the time I talked to the DMV on Friday, the darn thing had already been issued and put in the mail, so I have no idea why they couldn't have just told me that over the phone. And the arguing with the sub doctor and the sitting around the DMV all morning were completely unnecessary.

On the plus side, now I have two placards. Yippee. Two hard-earned placards. Too bad it's illegal to sell one of them or something.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Time Off

I expected that interviewing for jobs while heavily pregnant would be an odd experience. Pregnancy is one of those protected classifications that isn't allowed to be factored into hiring decisions. I've been on the other side of interviews for several companies, and all of these companies had policies that prohibited us from discussing any of those protected classifications. You can't ask somebody about their family, or whether they're married or have kids, just like you can't ask them about their religion or comment on their gender. And if the job candidate volunteered some bit of information that we weren't supposed to discuss, we were instructed to ignore it and immediately change the subject.

Pregnancy is an odd case, though, because it does have a large (albeit short-term) impact on job performance, and it's such a giant obvious elephant in the room. The interviewer is looking at someone who quite clearly will need some extended time off from work in the near future, but isn't allowed to mention it. And the pregnant woman can't bring it up herself, because an ethical interviewer would stop her before she could say anything meaningful about it. Several people advised me that I should bring it up during my interview, so that I could reassure my potential future manager that I do plan to work after the baby is born, but I remember from my training that my potential future manager would then be put in the awkward situation of needing to stop me from talking about it. So I decided best not to bring it up, so that I wouldn't force him into a situation that he didn't want to be in.

Thus, while interviewing for jobs over the last several weeks, I expected to have lots of pseudo-conversations where people fished for information and I tried to reassure them without either of us saying anything explicit. Which is fine with me, even if it feels odd. You do what you have to do.

What I did not expect was that nobody would notice that I'm pregnant.

S thinks they noticed but didn't say anything. But in the last month, I've been interviewed by more than two dozen different people, and I can count on one hand the number of them that glanced knowingly at my stomach or gave some other indication that they figured it out. I simply don't believe that the rest of them are good enough actors to hide that they had noticed. On the other hand, I had variations on this conversation with more than half of the interviewers:

Interviewer: So, you're planning to graduate in January?
Me: Yes, that's right.
Interviewer: But you don't want to start working until June?
Me, looking pointedly down at my pregnant stomach: Um, yes, June.
Interviewer: Time off sounds like a great reward for finishing grad school! Are you planning to just relax? Travel? When I finished my PhD, I went to Paris.
Me, rubbing my stomach a bit: Um, no, no travel. I have, uh, family obligations to take care of.
Interviewer: Time with family can be fun, too! It's nice to be able to chill out like that for a while. Are you sure I can't get you some coffee?

Um. Really? You can't figure out on your own that I'm not flying to Europe in the near future? You can't fathom what I will be doing with my time off? I know that my field is known for a high level of socially clueless behavior, but still -- 7+ months pregnant!?! Open your eyes, people!

One interviewer (just one!) asked me more specifically what I was doing with my time off, and I mentioned that I was pregnant. And I only told her because I've known her for 10 years and I work with her husband and I was tired of playing games. And she acted startled and looked at my stomach and said, "Oh! Wow!" and was clearly surprised. (She then later asked me if I was finding it difficult to work out child care arrangements, which was her roundabout way of asking me if I was sure that I wanted to work after the baby was born. And I assured her that we had daycare all lined up, which was my roundabout way of saying yes, I'll definitely be going back to work.)

It was all very very odd. I'm still waiting to hear back about whether I get any job offers out of the experience, but I'm certainly glad that the interviewing is over for now! 33 weeks and counting....

Friday, November 19, 2010

Take a Hike

The downside of living off-campus while a grad student at a mostly residential university is the lack of convenient parking. I have a parking permit that gives me permission to park on campus, but it doesn't guarantee that I will be able to find a parking space. Pair that with an overall lack of parking near my building, and it means that I generally have to walk approximately one mile from my car to my office. I've been doing this for a long time now, and I usually don't mind it. The weather is usually good, and I don't have much time for real exercise, so a nice walk twice a day isn't such a bad thing. But throw in lugging a heavy laptop and a stack of papers while dealing with hip and back pain from a third trimester pregnancy, and things get a bit awkward. I've been having trouble making it all the way to my office. And I know that things are just going to get worse over the next 7 weeks.

I mentioned this to Dr. M several weeks back, and he encouraged me to apply for a temporary disability parking placard. Simple DMV form, Dr. M signs it, and just like that, I can park in one of the dozen handicap parking spots that are always completely empty right outside my office. Problem solved!

So I sent in the form to the DMV, and waited for my placard. My hips got worse, my back got worse, and still I waited. The DMV promised that they generally process these things within two weeks, but it has already been much longer than that. When I woke up this morning unable to walk from my bed to the bathroom without painfully hobbling, much less walk a mile to my office, I decided enough was enough. So I called the DMV to check on why it was taking so long.

Skipping right past the part where I was on hold for a full 30 minutes, I finally got someone at the DMV on the phone, and I explained the problem. It turns out that they're "a bit backlogged at the moment," so that instead of taking two weeks to process the placards, it's currently taking them 8-10 weeks. So far, my application hasn't even been entered into the system. Keep in mind that these are temporary placards, which means that they're only good for a few months -- how are they useful to anyone if it takes 2-3 months just to process the request?!? By the time it arrives, I'll have given birth, so this is no longer of any use to me at all.

The woman did point out that I could get a new form, get my doctor to sign it again (they don't accept photocopies -- it needs to be an original signature, and the original is lost in DMVland at the moment, so I need to get a new one), and then take it in person to the DMV, where they will issue the placard same-day. However, I absolutely need to have an appointment; they will not process these requests if you just walk in and wait. And the next appointment at a DMV office within a 50-mile radius of my house is December 20, more than a month away. Again, not helpful.

At this point, I'm actually calculating how much it will cost me to park illegally for the rest of my pregnancy and just pay the parking tickets. Think I can write off parking tickets as a medical expense?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Falling Behind

I am starting to truly feel beaten down by everyday life. I'm at a point where people ask me, "Hey, how's it going?" and I answer, "There's a lot going on, and I'm a bit tired, but things are good!" And then I start listing the things that are going on, and people start looking concerned. And asking me if I would like to sit down. And calling S to express concern. And gossiping to each other about how it's fairly remarkable that I'm still walking around. Um, yeah. Things are getting just a bit overwhelming.

I'm desperately trying to finish the full draft of my dissertation, which is getting harder as baby brain takes over and pregnancy carpel tunnel interferes more and more with typing. I'm desperately trying to figure out the job situation (I had one more grueling interview earlier this week, and it's likely going to be my last one before Kermit arrives, so I hope it was a good one!). We still haven't really purchased anything at all for Kermit, though I did sort and wash infant clothes last weekend, so we've moved from "completely unprepared" to "almost completely unprepared." Which I guess is progress? Our bedroom is going to be doubling as a nursery for the first few months, but we have done no work at all to make room for the things that need to be in there, much less purchasing or moving those things into place. My mom is going to be staying with us for several weeks, starting around Christmas, but it is currently impossible to even walk into our guest room, much less unfold the hide-a-bed or expect anyone to comfortably live there. It's completely uninhabitable. (As an example: the guest room doesn't even have a door. And the door to our guest bathroom doesn't latch properly. Nice, huh? We don't have overnight guests very often.)

I have an ever-growing list of things to do before Kermit arrives and none of them are getting done. My top priority right now has to be finishing the dissertation, because it has to be done before Kermit arrives, and preferably several weeks earlier. Number two is getting through the last of the job interviews and making a decision about a job for next year. But I'm reaching that point in pregnancy where I don't want to be doing any of those things anymore. I just want to be nesting and preparing for Kermit. But I haven't been allowing myself to do any of the baby prep things because I need to focus on the dissertation. And wow, nesting is one of those powerful hormonal deep-rooted instinct things, so suppressing it is making me fairly miserable.

To top it all off, LL is sensing that I have less energy these days and that I am trying to get S to do a bit more of LL's care. And LL is pushing back. Big time. For weeks now, LL has been insisting that I do everything for him. Every other sentence out of his mouth these days is, "No, Daddy! Mama do it!" S is not allowed to pour him milk. Or get him food. Or wipe his face. Or change his clothes. Or change his diaper. Or read him books. Or open his curtains. Or put on his jacket. Or pick out socks. (It's ridiculous -- S hands him a pair of socks; LL says, "No Daddy! Mama do it!" LL takes the socks back to his room and returns them to his drawer; LL runs to me, takes my hand, drags me to his room, opens his drawer, and points out the exact same socks that he just put back there, which I then hand back to him. What exactly has he accomplished other than tiring me out and making S feel unloved?) So even when S is home and theoretically helping to share childcare responsibilities with me, I am still doing all the work.

I'm exhausted. I'm restless. I'm having horrible dizzy spells several times a day. I'm unable to concentrate on the things that need my focus right now. I'm unable to take a break from the things that are tiring me out. And I'm 32+ weeks pregnant, rapidly running out of days to get things done. Anyone have any thoughts on how to slow down time?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Parlor Tricks

I know that I'm not the only one who enjoys teaching my young child totally useless and random things just because it's funny to watch him do it. LL has two new tricks, both of which were his idea. (As in, he started doing them, and yes, I then encouraged them. Because damn they're funny.)

1. He can dance and sing backup for Gladys Knight's Midnight Train to Georgia. Yep, he just joins right in with the Pips. The fact that they're most often singing train noises ("woo woo!") definitely helps. We thought this was just a passing fad, like (thankfully) his bizarre obsession with Ke$ha, and his addiction to the Beyonce / Lady Gaga song Telephone, but this one seems to be sticking around.

2. He knows a shocking number of football referee hand motions. He's been watching a lot of football with me each Sunday, but his interest reached a whole new level when he noticed a referee making the roll-your-hands motion for "false start." He thought it was awesome, and immediately showed me how he could imitate it. Since then, he has added the hand motions for holding, face mask, touchdown, fair catch, and first down. We're trying to teach him pass interference and intentional grounding next. S and I have been having fun calling these out to him in random order just to watch him do them all. Though I'm starting to think that he only likes football referees because they dress like zebras.

Either way, I figure this is all very useful knowledge, because already he has two excellent career options. Football referee, or Pip.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Names, Yet Again

We have a short list of 5 possible names for Kermit. I'm not completely thrilled with any of them, because they each have a problem relative to our list of naming requirements:

One isn't Jewish. (We might end up dropping this requirement out of desperation.)

One sounds too "cutesy" when said aloud with LL's name. (S thinks that I'm making too big a deal out of this one, but I picture myself introducing the two kids together, and I feel slightly embarrassed, because they feel so similar. Also, I'm afraid that the similarity will make people constantly mix them up.)

One is too popular. (I'm kind of shocked by how this name has shot up the charts.)

One sounds a little too sing-songy when paired with our last name. (I'm not positive though. It's kinda borderline to me. Maybe it's fine. If I had to pick a name today, by myself, this is one is probably the one that I'd pick, but I still need some convincing.)

One fits all of our requirements, but so far fails my test of still liking it after saying it aloud 8 million times in a row in an attempt to get said child to clean up his toys and get ready for bed. (Some people talk about the test of shouting a name out your door at the top of your lungs, to call a kid to dinner, but that's not my preferred test. I can yell any name two or three times. I much prefer the test of wandering around the house for an hour saying, "LL, time to clean up. LL, stop playing with the blocks. Come on, LL, it's time to go. Uh oh! Where's LL? There's LL! Come on, LL, let's go get into pajamas!" This is all about how the name feels in your mouth. LL's name works for me. The last name on our list, which fits all of our requirements on paper, fails this test miserably for me. But maybe I just need to give it more time.)

So... I don't know. We've been using all five names interchangeably for a little while now, to see if any one of them starts to stand out, but so far nothing. S says that he likes all five names equally, by which he seems to mean that he feels equally neutral about all of them. If he were picking one of them by himself right now, I think that he'd go with the only non-Hebrew name on the list, but that one is also a character in a television show that we watch, which bothers him a lot. It's entirely possible that we're both waiting for the other one to grow attached to one of the names and then convince the other that it really is the best name ever, but neither of us feels strongly enough to step up and do it. We're both such wimps.

We kept LL's name a secret from everyone except my brother, but this time around I'm thinking about sharing the options a little more widely just so that I can get some opinions. I don't want to post the list on-line, and I'm enough of a contrarian that I'm just as likely to be convinced by the opposite of what people recommend to me, but if anyone wants to provide input by email, let me know....