Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Life, By the Numbers

Yep, I've been absent. Started my new job. Helping S to recover from his car accident. Kermit is getting molars. Both kids have been sick. Chanukah started last night. Things have been busy.

Here are the numbers, which give a pretty good idea of my life right now:

Days of work so far: 13
Days during that time when I've stayed home for child-related reasons: 2
Meetings I've missed / canceled / rescheduled for child-related reasons: 4
Days I've noticed baby spit-up on my shirt many hours after arriving at work: 2

People in my extended work group: 17
Women in my extended work group, including me: 2 (I doubled it!)
Mothers in my extended work group, including me: 1
Parents in my extended work group who do not have stay-at-home spouses, including me: 2

Average total hours of sleep per night: 5
Average number of times I get out of bed for child-related issues per night: 5
Times S and his broken rib are able to handle children in the middle of the night without me: 0
Longest block of uninterrupted sleep per night, in hours, on average: 1.5
Nights so far that it has been like this: 37

Average cups of coffee consumed per day: 3
Days since our home coffee maker broke: 5
Percent of time I can solve convex optimization problems on this amount and quality of sleep, regardless of caffeine intake: 0%

Then again...

Coworkers who came up to me today, introduced themselves, wished me a happy Chanukah, and handed me a homemade sufganiyot, even though I have no idea how they even knew I was Jewish: 1
Coworkers who did that in my previous dozen years of work experience: 0

So that counts for something, too.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

More Injuries

You know when I said that S wasn't seriously hurt in the scary car accident?  Um, wrong.  When he was still in a lot of pain several days later, his doctor reconsidered the decision not to take an x-ray.  (Yep, major accident, and she didn't think that he needed an x-ray right away.  For this, and many other reasons, "find new doctor" is now on my to-do list.)  It turns out that he fractured a rib.  In addition to a ton of pain, he is also prohibited from lifting or carrying anything over 10 pounds or so, for the next two months.  Do you know who weighs more than 10 pounds and is often in need of lifting and carrying?

Each of our children.

So, S is now completely unable to help with, um, anything.  No night duty.  No lifting Kermit in and out of cribs.  No bedtime help.  No getting Kermit in and out of high chairs.  No getting children in and out of car seats.  No moving a child away from dangerous objects.  No getting children in and out of baths.  Totally negates his plan to do more childcare and all night duty for the next week so that I can catch up on sleep before I start my job next Monday.

Also, he wasn't able to carry any luggage over Thanksgiving, and thanks to the drowsiness brought on by the pain killers, he couldn't drive for any of the ten hours that it took us to get to S's aunt's house.  (Also, his injuries made sitting in a car for ten hours a ton of fun for him.) The drive back only took six hours.  The difference?  The drive there was during the day, when traffic sucked.  For the drive back, we opted to avoid traffic and drove from 8:30pm until 2:30am.  Hardly ideal, but shaving off four hours is ridiculous, and the traffic would have been even worse on the way home.  Though I think that driving through a mountain pass at night brought on a bit of post-traumatic stress for S, especially when a bunch of fog rolled in, such that I couldn't see anything just four car lengths in front of us.  Creepy.

So, now we're home, and happy to have survived the trip.  Things can only get better from here, right?

Friday, November 25, 2011

400 Days Later

Here's the 400 day update to my 500 day goals. My last update before my 500 days is up! It is obvious to me that a few of these aren't going to get done, but I'm okay with that. Not great, but okay. I'm feeling fairly happy with the progress that I've made. I'm feeling less happy that I'm turning 35 in only 100 days.

1. Have two happy kids. (Done!)

2. Finish my PhD. (Done!)

3. Own a new (bigger) house. I don't see any way that this will happen in the next 100 days. I was waiting until I had a job, and we have started a few steps on this, like talking to mortgage people and realtors, but we will probably need to wait until the market picks up a bit, because there aren't very many houses on the market right now. Soon, though. We really need to move soon.

4. Work in a job that I enjoy. I start in December! I guess the jury is still out on whether I will enjoy this job, but all signs are looking good. Also, I need to remember that for every single job I've ever had, I hated it for the first month, because I am bad at transitions.

5. Bring both kids to visit my parents at least once. (Done!)

6. Bring both kids to visit my in-laws at least once. (Done!)

7. Pay off all debt except the mortgage. I still have two small undergrad loans. We have the cash on hand to pay them off right now if we wanted to, but I'm not sure whether it would be better to use that cash for our potential new house, since the interest rate on the loans is pretty low. I may just get annoyed enough that the loans still exist that I just pay them off in January when I get my first paycheck. We'll see.

8. Lose all pregnancy and fertility treatment weight from both pregnancies. (That would be 22 pounds below pre-pregnancy weight with Kermit. Right now, this means that I still need to lose 13 pounds. That is doable in 100 days, unless you consider that in the last 100 days, I only lost 2 pounds. Also, weight loss takes focus for me, and with starting the new job, this is really not where I will be focusing.)

9. Breast feed Kermit for one year. (Only made it 5 months, two less than with LL. Depressing.)

10. Cook dinner at home 5 days each week. (I'm totally rocking this one!)

11. Read 10 fiction books. (Still only at one, and it is not looking promising.  I am in the middle of a second one, though, which would technically double my count!)

12. Learn Objective-C. (I was making progress on this one, working during Kermit's naps. But then I accepted the job offer, and realized how much crap I wanted to do around the house before going back to work, and I started using nap time for all of those things, so I totally stalled out.)

13. Learn perl. (I can really only focus on learning one language at a time.)

14. Have permanent assigned "homes" for most objects in the house. (There is a lot of weeding of belongings that I've done so far, but this one really isn't going to be done until we've moved into a bigger house.)

15. Update work wardrobe. (Done! I bought new shoes! And new pants! And new shirts! Now we just need to see if I wear all the cool new stuff, or if I start getting lazy and wearing jeans every day again.)

16. Shower every day. (I'm not technically showering every day, but I am showering every other day, which is a whole lot better than the once-a-week-if-I'm-lucky that I was managing before. Also, showering every other day is better for your skin and stuff, right? Also, I have a whole post about my hair that I need to write.)

17. Wear makeup every work day. (Done! I have new makeup, I like how it looks, and I'm getting better at putting it on. It makes me look a lot less tired than I actually am.)

100 more days. Eight done, three almost done, one canceled, five kinda stalled out.  The job, the weight loss, and the paying of debts might conceivably still happen. The new house and the reading of books for fun probably won't. The learning new languages might just happen as part of the new job, which would be convenient. The big open question is the whether the cooking and the showering and the makeup and everything keep happening once I'm busy with work….

Monday, November 21, 2011

Injuries

Why do I insist on jinxing myself?  What exactly did I think was going to happen when I wrote a post about children trying their best to kill themselves?  Because the obvious thing happened -- LL injured himself.  Not horribly, but enough to require an urgent care clinic and x-rays and limited activity for a few weeks, right as we're about to travel for Thanksgiving.

He was playing on the couch, nothing out of the ordinary, and then suddenly he tumbled backwards off one end.  Much crying ensued.  I cuddled and kissed and waited for the panic to go away, because usually these sorts of falls are just about being surprised, not about being injured.  This time, though… the crying continued for a long long time.  And when it stopped, LL's left arm was hanging awkwardly by his side.  And when I tried to touch his arm, the response was ugly.  So, yeah, LL dislocated his elbow.

Do you know what doctors do for a dislocated elbow?  They unceremoniously (and un-medicatedly) pop it back into place.  Which couldn't have been at all pleasant for LL.  He screamed and cried, and the doctor looked a little surprised, and then tried to hand him a lollipop, but LL was too busy burying himself into my shoulder to take it, so the doctor handed it to me and told me that she would return to the exam room in a few minutes after LL had time to compose himself so that he could be examined again.  Gotta love that bedside manner, eh?  (This was clearly not our regular doctor.)

LL is definitely on the mend, but he is very ginger with his arm, and every so often he forgets and puts some weight on it and I see him flinch a bit.  So, there's that.

The next day, S left for a four-day business trip.  I can't complain too much, because the last time he had to go on a business trip, I was pregnant with LL, so it's not like he travels a lot.  On the other hand… it does mean that I have very little practice being on my own with the kids for multiple days at a time.  I know that there are parents out there who are single parents, or who have partners who work long hours every day, or who have partners who really do travel a whole lot.  I admire that they're able to keep it together, because I don't think I could.  But the fact that S's business trip aligned with LL's injury certainly didn't help.

So, four days on my own, an injured preschooler, a teething baby… lots of fun.  I was very much looking forward to having S home again.  In particular, I was looking forward to having him take over a little of the night duty, so that I could store up a bit of sleep before I start my new job in two weeks (!).

Which brings us to the icing on the cake.  S was in a bad car accident on his way home from the business trip.  Bad.  He was carpooling with two coworkers, and he was riding in the back seat of the car, and they t-boned another car, traveling somewhere around 40 mph.  Airbags deployed, the car is totaled, but it appears that everybody will recover okay.  The driver (a friend of ours) has a heart condition and started experiencing chest pains shortly after the accident, so she's still being monitored a bit.  S had the wind knocked out of him, and you can see a bright purple outline on his hips and torso where the seatbelt crushed into him, and he's hobbling around and it hurts him to walk or bend or lift or do absolutely anything else requiring any muscle movement at all, but nothing is broken and he'll hopefully feel better in a few weeks.  But it does mean that he can't lift the kids or carry them or, you know, help me at all around the house.  So, um, not much fun around here right now.  Also, I'm sure he's very much going to enjoy sitting in a car for nine hours when we drive to Thanksgiving.

If you're curious about the accident, it is apparently a fairly rare situation where the car that hit head on, the one that S was traveling in, was not the one at fault for the accident.  They were traveling along a fairly treacherous highway through a mountain pass.  The speed limit was 45 mph, and they were heading downhill, at dusk.  They came around one of the many curves along this stretch of road to find a car seemingly parked horizontally across both lanes of the highway.  Our friend slammed on her brakes, but there was simply no room to maneuver and not enough time to react.  The police interviewed the other driver at the hospital, and he said that he was traveling the opposite direction, and decided to make a U-turn, but there wasn't room to complete the turn, so he was reversing to do a Y-turn when he was hit.  Which raises the obvious question:  Who the hell does a U-turn on a highway, before a blind curve, in a 45mph area, into oncoming downhill traffic, at dusk?

Also, this particular highway is fairly famous in this area for having a lot of car accidents, so you'd think people would be more cautious, instead of being this blatantly stupid.  I even had a premonition about this -- when S told me when he'd be coming home, I actually commented that it was really stupid of his company to ask them all to drive this particular highway at dusk to get home, since it is tricky under good conditions and none of them are used to driving it.  I asked S to try to leave an hour earlier so that they could do this particular stretch of highway at a safer time of day.  Also, when the police interviewed S, and then told him about the other driver's attempted U-turn, even the police officers were shaking their heads at the other driver's reckless stupidity.

So, in summary:  Teething baby.  Preschooler with a dislocated elbow.  Husband recovering from an ugly car accident.  New job in two weeks.  Leaving for Thanksgiving with the in-laws on Tuesday.  If anyone would like to trade places with me for a little while, please let me know.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thoughts on the Redesign

So I just redid absolutely everything about my blog.  No... wait.  The content all moved.  But the name is totally different, and the page design is totally different, and the URL is totally different (fancy personalized hosted webpage!  Oooooooh...), and my profile and email address are totally different.

I'm a little freaked out to be making such a dramatic change, you know?  But once I became a bit obsessed with moving the blog, I just went all out.  (Blog redesign obsession... apparently that's what happens when S is out of town and the kids fall asleep early and there's nothing good on television.)  Anyway, here is the result.

So!

First, please please please -- if you're a regular reader of mine, please update your blog reader or RSS feed or bookmarks or whatever to point to the new location.  www.aisforalgorithm.com.  Snazzy, eh?

Second, please please please please -- give me feedback on what you think of the new design.  Too cluttered?  Too white?  Too green?  Too small?  Ugly header?  One of those basic principles of design work is that user feedback is very very important.  Also, I have no aesthetic skills whatsoever.  So please let me know what I should change.

Then I can go back to talking about the usual stuff.  How LL is obsessed with his hair all of a sudden (is that normal for a three-year-old boy?).  How Kermit is biting everything he can reach.  How S went on his first out-of-town business trip since I was pregnant with LL.  How I'm kind of dreading Thanksgiving with the in-laws next week.  How excited and nervous I am to start my new job in December.  All that fun stuff.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blog Redo

So... I'm thinking about making some changes to the blog. Not in content, but in name. And maybe location. I picked the name for the blog without giving it very much thought, and I kind of expected it to be just be about fertility treatments and very little else. S and I had been trying to get pregnant for like two years, and I was extremely frustrated and emotional and confused, so I started this blog to chronicle our continuing journey to parenthood... and I got pregnant with LL three months later. And now here we are, more than four years later (!), and I never write about fertility stuff, and I'm no longer in grad school. The name kinda sucks. (In fact, I actively dislike it.)

Also, despite having done this blog for more than four years (!), I know nothing about "blog technologies." I started with blogger because it was free and I had used it to set up a shared blog for my study group when we were studying for our qualifying exams, but I spent exactly no time at all considering any other sights or looking up features or anything. But many of my dear readers know a lot more about this than I do. So, help please?!? Any advice? Even from those of you who read regularly but rarely comment? Thanks!

Here are the decisions that I'm trying to make:

- Should I move the blog off of blogger? It seems like all the cool kids are on wordpress these days. Are there awesome features I'm missing out on by staying with blogger? Are there other compelling reasons for moving? Is wordpress super easy to figure out? Yes, I have a PhD in Computer Science, but I'm actually a total luddite. Go figure.

- If I move to wordpress, should I move all the content, too? I see that there are easy tools for doing so. Is there any downside?

- If I stay on blogger, should I just change the name of the blog, or should I change the URL, too? I'm not all that worried about keeping my page rank or anything like that (that seems to be the main reason that people have angst about moving blogs) but I would like to keep my meager readership. Yes, I hate the name, and the name is right there in the URL, but maybe if I just changed the name, it would be enough to make me feel better. But I think that I probably want to change it completely, URL included. I don't know.

- The big question: what should the new name be? I'm at a total loss for this one. I plan to continue the blog the way it has been for the past few years -- mostly about the kids, and work-life balance, and being a working mother in a science field, surrounded by a bunch of awkward oblivious tech guys. (But, especially after I start the new job, I will probably write very little about work. I want to keep up my slim facade of anonymity.)

- Would it be weird to introduce new nicknames for my family members? S and LL are fairly uninspired names. (I kinda like Kermit.)

So... any advice? Any pitfalls to keep in mind? I want to get it all sorted out before I start the new job, which is in just a few weeks.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Food Chain

A friend of ours recently had his first baby, and we asked him how it was going. I absolutely loved his reaction. He said:

Babies are totally amazing. They're completely helpless and immobile, and they make more noise than should be possible from something that small. Could it be more obvious that we are at the top of the food chain? Our babies are born yelling at the top of their lungs, "Hey, look at me! Totally helpless little morsel of food right here!!!"

Yep, we're lucky that we created tools to defend ourselves, because holy cow our children do everything in their power to try to bring about their own destruction. Ages one through five can basically be described as "I have the physical ability to kill myself in a bazillion different ways, and none of the intelligence to stop myself from doing it by accident." I am constantly amazed by how completely oblivious LL is to the dangers around him. Jump in front of speeding cars? Stuff handfuls of food into his mouth until he chokes? Grab at hot candles? Eat random leaves and flowers found outside? Climb really high onto things when he has no reasonable plan for getting down? Run as fast as he can, with his eyes closed? Yes, these are definitely the actions of someone concerned with his own survival.

Last week, Kermit crawled off the edge of a cliff without a moment's hesitation. Okay, not a cliff. A stair. Just one stair. But seriously, no hesitation, and he banged his forehead pretty bad when the ground ended up not being where he wanted it to be. (Also, S and I were both standing right there when it happened, so we're not exactly winning any parenting awards right now.)

Kermit's latest favorite game: he tosses his head waaaay back, to give me a chance to tickle his chin and neck. What kind of an animal has offspring who think that the most intelligent thing they can do is to purposely expose their jugular?

Children make a lot more sense when you think of them as The Top of the Food Chain. But I'm not entirely sure that they're better off for it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Etiquette Question

We have this friend, D, who has been friends with S since they were in high school. D is an odd mix of hyper-sensitive about protocol and yet clueless about a wide array of social norms. His wedding, for example, was the most intricately formal affair that I have ever been to, carefully choreographed (by him, not his wife) to keep Emily Post perfectly happy. He is still humbly apologizing for something that he did to me, by accident, more than eight years ago, something that I laughed about at the time and was never upset about, and for which I keep kindly telling him that he really doesn't need to be concerned anymore. He has spent holidays with S's extended family, and interrogates us carefully about the preferences of various members of the family, so that he can be careful not to offend.

And yet this same guy regularly invites himself over to our house for dinner, whenever his wife is out of town, by explaining to us that he would like me to cook dinner for him because he cannot fend for himself. And he is constantly explaining to us how brilliant his son his, especially compared to most normal children (like LL). He even makes his son put on little "shows" for us, to display how much he knows. It is ... weird.

We recently went to a birthday party for D's son, who turned four. We bought him a small gift (Lego cars!), LL happily handed it to him, and he immediately ripped it open. And then declared loudly that he didn't like it, before tossing it aside and running off. D was absolutely mortified. He kept apologizing for his son's behavior, throughout the evening. Bizarrely, he never actually corrected his son, or encouraged his son to behave differently; he just kept apologizing to us.

But, whatever. The kid is four. I wouldn't be shocked to see any four-year-old behave like that on occasion, I've seen much worse from this one, and I've seen similar behavior from D, so I wasn't exactly surprised, and I didn't particularly care.

Fast-forward to today. We received, right on time, a nice thank-you note from D's son, hand-written by D. Here is the card, verbatim:

"Thank you very much for the Legos. While I rudely said, "I don't like it," my attitude changed dramatically when it was exchanged for nerf guns."

So... I laughed out loud. Because it is so typical of D -- he did the appropriate thing and sent a note, but the note itself expresses what a horrible gift it was, until it was exchanged for something much better. And on the one hand, I guess I'm glad that they were able to get the kid something that he wanted (that is, after all, why I carefully included a gift receipt in the birthday card). On the other hand... is it normal to tell a gift-giver that you exchanged their gift? I would think not. And certainly not in a way that makes it obvious that you hated the original gift. (Surely there are more tactful ways of mentioning it, if you feel the need.)

But now I'm actually torn about what you should say in a thank-you note when you didn't actually want the gift. I mean, that note is obviously not it, but what is the right thing to do?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stupid Quote of the Year

I was at a baby shower recently and I ended up sitting next to the aunt of the mother-to-be. She works in public relations, and she seemed convinced that her role as a public relations person made her an expert in every single policy issue and social issue to ever be publicly discussed. Rarely have I been near someone who spouted such a continuous string of stupid comments. Stupid and insulting and false and annoying. But she was the aunt of the pregnant woman, and everyone other than me seemed to be totally enthralled with her, so I was reluctant to make too much of a scene by telling her she was full of it. And holy cow, this woman just went on and on and on.

Spout off about the horrors of bottle feeding, then roll your eyes and nod your head towards the woman sitting right next to you who was actually bottle-feeding her child during the entire conversation? Yeah, that's nice. Explain that obesity is entirely a result of the fact that fat people are also ignorant? Interesting. Complain that all (yes all) working mothers like to pawn their kids off on other people so that they can spend more time drinking lattes at the gym? I didn't know that people drank lattes at gyms, but that one is especially great to say in front of a pregnant woman who plans on going back to work after her baby is born.

But my very favorite opinion of hers is one that I remember verbatim. Mostly because dead children so rarely comes up in conversation at baby showers:

"The worst thing in the world is losing a child. Losing a child is really awful. But there is something that is just as bad as a child dying: a child who disowns his parents. This happens all the time to the parents who put too much pressure on their kids. Harvard and Yale are full of kids who hate their parents. Those parents suffer just as much as parents of children who died."

There you have it. If your kid goes to Harvard, it's exactly the same as if your child died. You heard it here first.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Yellow

I have not been posting enough lately. Mostly because I have a bunch of looooong posts that I want to write, but not enough time to write them. But the longer I wait, the longer the (potential) post becomes, because it has to cover everything. Vicious cycle. So, in an effort to actually record everything that I want to record, I am going to try to convince myself to do more frequent, shorter posts. Starting with this little anecdote about LL, which I want to remember forever and ever so that I can make fun of him about it someday, and also because it is cute.

When LL was learning colors, he had an awful time pronouncing the word "yellow." I don't know why -- he could do all of the sounds and combinations in other words, but this one word was really hard for him. At first, I thought that he just didn't know the color yellow, but no, it was all about the word. The fun part was watching him COPE with not being able to say it.

At first, he would try to say it, and stumble and stumble over the sounds until finally giving up. Very frustrating for him.

Then he would just cry whenever I pointed to something yellow. This phase was very depressing, but thankfully didn't last long.

Next, he learned an important life skill that will someday serve him well in college: if you don't know the answer to a question, just answer the question that you wish had been asked!

Me: What color is the car?
LL: Blue!
Me: What color is the truck?
LL: Red!
Me: What color is the bus?
LL: School bus!
Me: Um, yes, it is a school bus. What color is it?
LL: School bus fast!
Me: Okay. What color is it?
LL: Say "vrooooom!" Has 4 wheels! Look -- door open here!
Me: What color is the bike?
LL: Purple!

That phase cracked me up, and lasted a long time. Eventually, he realized that he couldn't avoid the color yellow forever, so he made up a new word for it. Out of thin air. He just picked a sound that he could pronounce, and that was his word for yellow. He called it "arr." At first, we thought that he was abbreviating "amarillo," but he informed us that we were wrong.

The "arr" phase lasted quite some time. Long enough that I stopped noticing it, automatically translating "arr" to "yellow" in my head.

And then one day, he said yellow. And then immediately giggled and buried his head on my shoulder. (Adorable!) After that, I would actually hear him looking at books by himself and repeating the word yellow over and over again.

The part that kind of shocks me is that he was actually aware that he wasn't pronouncing it right, enough to be embarrassed about it. Which was weird for a two-year-old. Especially since there are a ton of words that he mispronounces, but this word was the only one that bothered him. (For example, he mispronounces the word milk. It sounds more like "meat." He's been saying it that way for almost a year now. Every so often, S calls it "meat" when talking to LL, and LL gets really mad at him and says, "No, Daddy! No call it that!" He thinks that S is mocking him by pronouncing it in the LL way. But it doesn't stop LL from saying it, and he doesn't seem embarrassed to say the word.)

LL has been saying "yellow" for a few months now, but he still pauses every so slightly before saying it, like he has to concentrate more than with other words. On the one hand, it's very cute. On the other hand, I cringe a little when I see him acting like he's scared to make a mistake. We are generally very careful not to correct things like pronunciation and grammar for him at this age, preferring to just speak properly in front of him and let him naturally absorb language. Not sure why he suddenly decided that it would be bad to make a mistake. In the mean time, every time I hear him say the word "yellow," I feel like a little bit of his babyhood is gone forever.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tough Month for Computer People

I assume you all know about the passing of Steve Jobs. Since his death earlier this month, his face has appeared on every magazine in the country, it seems. In the tech world, he has long had a very nuanced and mixed reputation -- smart, impulsive, controlling, brilliant, obnoxious, insufferable. The news reports this month seem to be focusing exclusively on the positive, heralding him as the Thomas Edison of our time. Like him or hate him, he had an undeniably huge impact on the technological world. It was a sad loss for my field.

Within days of Jobs' passing, the tech world lost another icon, a man named Dennis Ritchie. If you don't work in technology, you likely don't know Ritchie. He wasn't flashy like Jobs was. He didn't lead a company or have much of a reputation outside of technology circles, but he had an enormous impact on the technology that allowed someone like Jobs to create the products that we all take for granted today. Ritchie was instrumental in creating the C programming language, which provides the basis for much of the software in use today, including much of the work done at Apple. Ritchie also helped to create the Unix operating system, the concepts for which provide the underpinnings of both Linux and MacOSX. If you study computer systems, you start with the work of Dennis Ritchie.

Me, I'm not a computer systems person. My field is artificial intelligence. And I just got news that the father of artificial intelligence, John McCarthy, passed away this morning. (As of me writing this, it doesn't even seem to have hit major news organizations yet, but it will.) You're even less likely to know John McCarthy's name than Dennis Ritchie, yet he is a giant in the field. McCarthy literally created the field of artificial intelligence, even coining the name at a conference he helped to organize to bring together people who had started to think about the field, some 50 years ago. And he created the Lisp programming language, a language that many people in computer science still view as the purest, most beautiful programming language ever created. I learned C before learning Lisp, but Lisp was the first language that really spoke to me and made me realize the potential of computer science. Have you been hearing about how Jobs was a genius for adding Siri to the iPhone? Siri is only possible because of McCarthy. I have probably read more work by McCarthy than any other computer scientist. I heard him speak numerous times. I had lunch with him a few times. I consulted with him about my dissertation. He was huge in the field, and huge for me personally.

A very sad day, capping a very sad month. RIP John.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Career Love

My job hunt is officially over. Yay! Those two final round interviews that I had back in August both worked out, and I received job offers from both of them on the same day (a month later...). I negotiated a bit with both places (it really really helps to have more than one offer, so the timing actually worked out well) and ended up with two very good options. Then, of course, I had a hard time deciding between them. (Horrible problem, I know.)

Normally, an advisor is instrumental in helping a brand new PhD get a first job after graduation. I have sent emails to AdvisorA throughout my job hunt and she has never so much as replied to any of them, much less helped me to network or suggested other places to apply. But, because I am an idiot who never learns, I wrote to AdvisorA and asked her for an opinion on the two offers: Company1 or Company2? And she eventually wrote back with gee, I don't know, you should probably work for Company3. To which I had to reply with, thank you so much for your input, but, as you know, I was already rejected by Company3, so that is not really an option. (Why don't you also give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice in it.) And she replied that I should really consider Company4, where she happens to be visiting at the moment, so she went ahead and gave them my CV. To which I had to reply with, thank you for (finally) taking an interest in my job hunt after ignoring me for six months, but waiting until I have two good offers in hand that I need to respond to ASAP really isn't helpful, and besides, Company4 is located 800 miles from where I live and you know that I am not going to relocate so what the hell is wrong with you?!?

So, instead I turned to an old mentor of mine from a job that I had straight out of undergrad. He was several levels above me in the management chain but we got along really well and became close. (Bizarrely, we mostly bonded over college basketball and matzo ball soup recipes.) He has since retired, but we have kept in touch over the years. He has introduced me to a lot of the people that I know in my industry, and he had recommended a few places to apply for jobs, had personally contacted people at a few companies for me, and was generally helpful at keeping my spirits up during this job search. He's a little short on personal boundaries, but I find that endearing. (As an example: when I was working for him, he shamelessly and repeatedly tried to get me to date his son. It didn't bother him at all that I had been dating S for several years already, since he thought that his son was better for me than S. Also, it didn't bother him at all that pressuring a 23-year-old college hire to date your son is wildly inappropriate behavior for a corporate Vice President.) He has been around forever, so I knew that he would have opinions on both Company1 and Company2, and would help me to evaluate the career prospects at both. He totally helped me to clarify how to evaluate the offers, which was exactly what I needed.

So, I finally made a decision, and I'm feeling good about it. The offer brings me into the company at a slightly senior level instead of at the usual new-PhD-entry-level, so it is nice to feel like my work experience pre-grad-school is being taken into account. My future manager jumped through a lot of hoops to make me a good offer, mostly because he is excited about a few of the previous projects that I've done, and he is giving me a ton of freedom to set my own research agenda. And the job has a bunch of life-in-general points in its favor -- great work environment, lots of good coworkers, relatively low stress, no required travel, flexible work hours, short commute.

One of the guys who interviewed me for this job is in charge of the entire research division (a good 3-4 levels above me, and working on the opposite coast from me). I'll call him R. Given the size of this place, there's no way R interviews every new PhD. Also, this is one of those guys who has worked in my field forever and is very very well known. He wrote a textbook for one of my classes in grad school. At the interview, the first thing he said to me is that he is close personal friends with three of the four people who wrote letters of recommendation for me. Somebody noticed the connections I had to people he knew, and showed him my resume, and he knew that he had to talk to me. AdvisorA used to work for him at a different company. AdvisorB went to grad school with him back in the 70s. (He had this to say about AdvisorB, who is the more supportive of my two advisors: "I've known AdvisorB since before you were born. I love him like a brother. He wrote a very positive letter on your behalf, which surprised me, because in 30 years, I've never known him to write a positive letter about anybody!" I am apparently awesome at picking advisors.) And BossLady from my last job co-edited a journal with him for many years. He spent most of the interview complaining about what an embarrassment it is for their company that I had to apply for a job through their website -- why in the world didn't AdvisorA personally hand him my resume, since it is so obvious they should hire me? (Incidentally, I had the same question. When I asked her to make a connection for me, she ignored me.) It's nice to feel loved.

I told this story to my other mentor, and he immediately said, "Oh, it is awesome that you have already met R! As soon as you start the job, you need to send an email to R, tell him that you're excited to be at the research lab, and suggest that you have coffee together next time he's in town. Make him into your next mentor!" Which sounds like a great idea, and I was working up the nerve to do it, when R emailed me himself and suggested we meet for coffee when he's next in town. All good signs, no?

And, as if all of this positive job stuff wasn't enough, I've fielded no less than four phone calls from people at the company whose offer I rejected, including two from the CEO, trying to change my mind. The first one was flattering, the second one as well, but by the end it just felt a little awkward. (I gave them the job equivalent of the "It's not you it's me" speech, and they kept responding with the job equivalent of "Oh come on baby, I can change, just tell me what you need!") Ultimately, the CEO told me that if I change my mind any time in the next year, I should give him a call and he'd extend another offer. Which is awesome, but where was all this love when I started interviewing for jobs months ago?

I start working in December, to give me time to set up childcare for Kermit and finish up all the home stuff still on my plate. I'm excited to start, but also feeling very hormonal about the whole thing, because Kermit is 9 months old and in that super cute phase where I just want to play with him all the time. Haven't even started the job, and already feeling torn.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

9 Months In, 9 Months Out

Yep, Kermit turns 9 months old tomorrow. I'm not feeling very eloquent these days, but I can manage bullet points:

- S and I usually bet on an over-under line for baby weights at well-baby checkups. S picked the line today at 21 pounds, and I took the under, because I thought that Kermit would be closer to 20 pounds. Also, at this age, LL weighed in at a svelt 19 pounds and change. But our tiny little Kermit, who still barely eats, tipped the scales at 21 pounds 13 ounces, putting him at the 83rd percentile. The only time either of my kids has ever been above 80th percentile, it has been for head size.

- Kermit also has a big head.

- After getting two teeth at four months of age, Kermit drooled and chewed for five months but made no further progress. On Monday, I discovered four new teeth. At his doctor's appointment today, Dr. K discovered two more. So Kermit sprouted six new teeth this week, and now has his full set of eight front teeth. That would explain the lack of sleep this week....

- Kermit is crawling. Big time. Nothing is safe.

- Kermit pulls himself up on everything, including things that are seriously not stable. (Ever seen a 22 pound baby pull himself up on an empty laundry basket?) And he's starting to cruise. Dr. K predicts that he will be an early walker. I predict that we are in trouble, because our house is not babyproof anymore.

- Last week, Kermit got his first pair of shoes. They're adorable.

- Any suggestions for how to keep an extremely mobile and extremely oral nine-month-old from killing himself by choking on the toys that your three-year-old leaves scattered all over the house? LL is pretty good about cleaning up his toys, but he is still barely three, so legos and other small parts still end up abandoned on the floor sometimes, and I'm constantly grabbing them moments before Kermit jams them down his throat.

- In the food department, Kermit is lukewarm about being spoon fed, but loves loves loves finger food. Peaches, avocado, applesauce, mango, shredded chicken, and cheerios are the current favorites. Last night, he enjoyed his first artichoke. (Side note: feeding artichoke to a baby is a pain in the butt.) He has also discovered that straw cups are the greatest invention of all time. No matter what he is doing, he gets very serious and concentrates when offered a straw cup of water.

- Kermit responds to his name. It's very sweet. We can't tell how much more he understands, but he definitely knows when we're talking to him.

- He's starting to figure out clapping. Especially after knocking down a tower of blocks, which is the current favorite game.

- Over the last month, we have gradually been weaning Kermit off of swaddling. At first, we were occasionally leaving one arm free. This week, we switched him from swaddling to a sleepsack. He now insists on sleeping clutching his security blanket, which is very cute. But it is taking him forever to fall asleep, because he keeps stroking my face and giggling instead of going to sleep.

- I would say that he isn't sleeping as well since we stopped swaddling, but he wasn't sleeping well before, either. He's still waking up once or twice a night to eat. He no longer goes back to sleep easily, and is often up for an hour or more in the middle of the night. The combination of teething, learning to crawl, separation anxiety, swaddling cessation, and yet another mild head cold have made the sleep problems inevitable, so I'm just hoping that everything happening all at once means that we can move on from it all, too.

- Good lord, I need more sleep. Soon.

- S's parents are visiting this weekend, and they are so excited to see Kermit crawling and playing and being all interactive. Yay!

- In addition to all of Kermit's recent advances, this has been a monumentally bizarre week for me, but I should leave the rest of it for a separate post. Discussions of SWAT team manhunts for crazed gunmen in my neighborhood probably do not belong in the same post as my baby boy's 9 month birthday.

- I love teasers, don't you?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bubbles!

Seriously, you have to throw a bubble party. Coolest Party Ever. Seriously. Here's what we did:

1. Buy this book, which has tons of information on making the biggest bubbles in the world. It comes with a patented "Bubble Thing" which is absolutely necessary.

2. Buy the ingredients for making the bubble juice recipe in the book. Most of the ingredients are easy to come by (distilled water, Joy dish washing liquid, corn starch, baking powder). But make sure that you also splurge and buy glycerin. I bought a 16 ounce bottle from Amazon.

3. Clean two big five-gallon buckets. Multiply the bubble recipe to make six gallons of the bubble juice, putting three gallons worth in each of the buckets.

4. The Bubble Thing is awesome, but you probably don't want more than one of them, and it's a little hard for young kids to use, so make/buy other bubble wands. We had some normal plastic wands. We also bent a dozen wire coat hangers into circles. Paper towel tubes work surprisingly well, too, but they do disintegrate after a while, so make sure to have lots of them. Colanders are a ton of fun, too.

5. For the party, put the two buckets at opposite ends of the yard. Put all the wands in a third bucket in the middle. Lay out a pile of towels, for people to wipe their hands. We also put out some lawn chairs, but most people wanted to be in the middle of the action.

6. That's it! I had food and drinks in the house, but we started blowing bubbles on the front lawn as people arrived, so the food was completely untouched for at least an hour because everybody wanted to be near the bubbles.

It was awesome. Awesome! The big Bubble Thing was used mainly by the adults, and made bubbles up to twelve feet long or so. But even the three-year-olds were able to produce some bubbles with it, though smaller, and the bubbles stayed attached to the wand. Two-year-olds were able to handle the coat hangers very well, which made bubbles more than one foot in diameter and 2-3 feet long.

I read that bubbles this big could be produced with this particular wand and bubble solution, but I didn't really believe it until I saw it in my own yard. Thus, I feel compelled to show a few photos (with people cropped out of them, to keep my thin veil of fake anonymity).






Awesome, right? You could fit multiple children in each of those bubbles. Those bubbles were big enough that neighbors more than a block away were standing in their own yards exclaiming over them. And the kids had a blast experimenting with different ways of making bubbles and chasing them down in the yard.

You know you want to go and do this yourself. Best party ever!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

LL @ 3

LL turned three! This year marks the first time that he was at all aware of his birthday, and he sure made the most of it. He was so excited!!! Balloons! Presents! Cupcakes! Visitors! Parties! And we haven't even had his big birthday party yet. (We had a small celebration with just us the night of his birthday; he had a picnic in the park the afternoon of his birthday with one of his neighborhood friends; he had a party at daycare the next day; but his big celebration with lots of guests at our house isn't until this Saturday.)

On a related note: LL has eaten more sugar in the last 4 days than the entire rest of his life up to this point. If that is an exaggeration, it's not by much.

We always try to buy toys that are fairly low-tech (no batteries, encourage free play, etc.). I came up with a pretty good list of gift ideas, then gave them all away to other people who asked what he might want. For our gift for LL, I decided to get him some dress-up clothes. He loves running around the house in his Halloween costumes from the last two years, so I thought that it would be a good choice. Then I went looking for dress-up clothes. You know what's left after you rule out dress-up clothes in the princess genre? Almost nothing. You can buy individual outfits, but they're usually expensive (eg, a full pirate costume for $40). But it's really really hard to find a trunk of assorted dress-up stuff for boys, like you would find for girls.

Actually, even if I had a girl, I would be frustrated by this. The girl dress-up stuff is entirely princess stuff, slutty outfits, and high-heeled shoes. Kinda makes me glad that I have boys.

I finally put together a decent trunk of dress-up options. They're mostly hats, which are the best parts of dress-up outfits anyway. We have hats for: firemen, policeman, farmer, train engineer, safari person (?), wizard, race car driver, construction worker, pirate, and cowboy. There are also a few (rather silly) accessories: pirate scope, binoculars, compass, magic wand, glasses. And I got him a super hero cape.

LL is totally afraid of the super hero cape. I don't know why. He has yet to try it on, and he keeps hiding it. S and I have been wearing it around the house, because we think it is really cool, and we told LL that it gives you the ability to fly, but he wants no part of it. As far as I know, he doesn't know what a super hero is (he's never seen any movies or books with super heroes in them) so if he just didn't know what it was, I'd understand. But what in the world is making him actively hostile towards it?!?

Somewhat related: I asked LL what he wanted to be for Halloween, because I want to get costumes squared away now, before things get even busier around here (Jewish High Holy Days, S's parents visiting, me starting a new job someday). S and I thought for sure he would want to be a pirate, and I had already bought a companion parrot costume for Kermit, which I thought would be adorable, but then LL informed us that no, he would really prefer to be an owl.

Owl costumes are hard to come by. And most of them are ugly.

One more aside: I've been having way too much fun with joke possibilities that go along with having the kids dressed up as an owl and a parrot. I told S that he should dress up as a rock, so that they can be Two Birds and One Stone. There are also good possibilities if I can convince S to wear a George W. Bush mask. (You know, a bird in the hand....)

LL's birthday gift from Kermit was an abacus, because there's a picture of an abacus in one of LL's I-Spy books, and he loves to point to it and tell us that when he's older, he wants to have one of those. I couldn't really figure out what age is old enough for a kid's first abacus (it doesn't quite elicit the same debate as the appropriate age for a first cellphone) but I decided that surely three years is old enough. So now he has an abacus.

S is so thrilled that LL wanted an abacus that he now seems convinced that LL is going to, I don't know, reinvent calculus or something. I'm pretty sure that he just likes all the colorful beads.

For LL's party this weekend, at which we are expecting 12 (!) kids, our theme is bubbles. I bought ingredients to make several gallons of home-brewed bubble solution, we're filling some relatively untippable buckets with the stuff, and letting the kids go wild. I have a bunch of plastic wands in various sizes, but we also bent some clothes hangers into roundish shapes, and created a few more homemade bubble blower things with string and straws and the like. I'm very excited about it. I also predict that the adults have at least as much fun with the bubbles as the kids do.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stream of Consciousness

No unifying theme. None. At least, I don't think so. If you find one, let me know.

Kermit slept through the night. Twice. And then immediately got sick. Now he's back to waking 2-5 times each night, and I'm even more exhausted than before. It was like glimpsing an oasis in the desert, and now it is gone.

I have two (two!) final round interviews this week. I believe that I have a decent chance at getting offers for both of them. Interviewing for jobs may be my least favorite thing to do in the whole wide world.

I am desperate to get a job, desperate to get back to some semblance of normal life, and yet every time I think about actually getting full-time childcare for Kermit and starting a job, I cry. A lot. LL is so happy being at Natasha's during the day that I don't even blink about sending him there, but Kermit is so tiny and snuggly and fun, and I've never been away from him for more than a few hours, and it's making me weepy. I still want to go back to work, but apparently my hormones are intent on making me miserable about it.

I predict that Kermit will be crawling within the next 30 days. I set him on the ground surrounded by toys, and he immediately throws one of them out of reach, then goes up on all fours to try to retrieve it. Every time. He's 7.5 months old right now. LL didn't reach this stage until 10 months, and didn't crawl until 11.5, so I'm kind of in shock about the possibility of early mobility.

Can you say "possibility of early mobility" 10 times really fast?

S went to a bachelor party on Saturday, and he got shot. Sort of. Not really, but there was a gun and a bullet and an injury, so why nitpick, right? I don't know much of anything about guns, and I'm a little unclear about what happened, but it went something like this: (1) S tells me that the bachelor party is going to involve guns and alcohol. I am supremely uncomfortable around guns, and I get mocked when I ask, horrified, "In what order?!?!?" (2) S assures me that they are going to a shooting range before doing anything else, and that everyone will be very very safe, and that I have nothing to worry about, and to stop prefacing sentences with, "And if I'm a widow next week, ...." (3) S becomes the envy of all his friends when they hear me saying, "Guns? Really? Are you sure you don't just want to go to a strip club?" (4) S comes home extremely hung over, sporting what looks like an ugly black eye. Between (3) and (4), something happened where S shot a pistol and the hot shell casing (?) flew into the air, ricocheted off a wall (?), and lodged itself between the safety goggles and S's eyelid (?), leaving an ugly black burn mark. I'm particularly unclear on how something like that happens if you're wearing safety goggles. Also, I have not at all changed my opinion on guns, at least as they relate to bachelor parties.

S and I went to a wedding on Sunday. (Ironically, a wedding having nothing at all to do with the bachelor party on Saturday. That wedding isn't for another two weeks.) We had Rosie come and watch the kiddos, and it was our first night out since before Kermit was born. The minister referenced Steve Jobs twice during the ceremony. He told us that the bride's mother had recently passed away but was watching the ceremony from heaven, despite the fact that the bride's mother had just walked down the aisle moments before and was sitting right in front of him. He started reciting a quote about love, then realized halfway through that it was actually about death, not love, so he apologized but then felt compelled to talk about death for a while. And, bizarrely, he kept making references to rock climbing.

Ever since he got his Big Boy Bed, LL has been insisting that either me or S sit in his rocking chair until he falls asleep at night. If we try to leave, there is much crying and carrying on. We warned Rosie that he would want her to do this, but when she sat in the chair, he told her, "No, that's okay, I'll go to sleep all by myself." And he did. WTF?

I made the mistake of telling LL that his birthday was coming up. He's a little unclear on what a birthday is. He is also completely unclear on units of time. I have had this conversation with him two or three times a day for the past several months:
LL: Is it my birthday today?
Me: No, not for a few more weeks.
LL: After naptime it will be my birthday?
Me: Um, no....
LL: Oh, I will play, go to the park, eat lunch, then it's my birthday?
Me: No, you have to eat like 30 more lunches before it's your birthday.
LL: I'm not hungry. Is it my birthday now?

LL is talking nonstop these days. It's amazing how his speech is getting more sophisticated day to day. Some of it is pronunciation, some of it is speech patterns, some of it is vocabulary. Really cool to watch it unfold. People told me that I would want him to please just be quiet for a little while! by the time he reached this age, but it hasn't happened yet.

We leave next week for yet another wedding (our fifth one this year) but this one is several hundred miles away, and we're driving. I am ... apprehensive. LL is pseudo-potty-trained. Kermit hates the car and rarely falls asleep in his car seat. This particular drive has large gaps between exits and random bouts of stop-and-go traffic. Almost every single time we've done this drive, S falls asleep and I have to drive the whole way. I've been stocking up on car activities for LL, but I have a sinking feeling that we're just going to end up singing songs for 9 hours straight, punctuated with random crying. Wish us luck.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

300 Days Later

Here's the 300 day update to my 500 day goals. (Um, more than halfway there already? Really? Yikes! I guess the good news is that I made progress on a lot of these in the last 100 days. The bad news is that I still don't have a job.)

1. Have two happy kids. (Done!)

2. Finish my PhD. (Done!)

3. Own a new (bigger) house. (Gotta get a job first.)

4. Work in a job that I enjoy. (Not yet. But I have gone on several interviews, so that's a start. The sucky part is that unemployment is still up, so employers are being super picky and taking their sweet time with interviewing. Uggghhhh. One example: I applied for one particular job, for which I am a perfect fit, in late April. They contacted me in mid-June and had me come in for a first-round interview. For the next month, they repeatedly called me with more questions and asked me to send them detailed information by email. In mid-July, they finally asked for references and set up a second-round interview for early August. That interview went well, and now they want me to come in for a third (and I hope final) full-day of interviews for the end of August. I should have an answer by mid-September, a full five months after applying for the job.)

5. Bring both kids to visit my parents at least once. (Done!)

6. Bring both kids to visit my in-laws at least once. (Done!)

7. Pay off all debt except the mortgage. (Working on it. One of my remaining undergrad loans is still in deferment from grad school, so I'm not working on it too hard, though.)

8. Lose all pregnancy and fertility treatment weight from both pregnancies. (That would be 22 pounds below pre-pregnancy weight with Kermit. Right now, this means that I still need to lose 15 pounds. I've been making some effort on this one lately, and I've lost 6 pounds in the last 100 days. At this rate, I won't quite make it, so I need to step this up a bit more. In theory, 15 pounds in 6 months should be easily doable if I just focus a bit more.)

9. Breast feed Kermit for one year. (Only made it 5 months, two less than with LL. Depressing.)

10. Cook dinner at home 5 days each week. (I'm totally rocking this one! I'm not positive that I'll be able to keep it up if/when I go back to work, but I've been hitting this goal regularly for several weeks now.)

11. Read 10 fiction books. (I read a book! I read a book! It was one that I'd already read several years ago, and I only picked it up because S left it sitting on an end table by accident, but still, it's better than nothing.)

12. Learn javascript. (I decided to change this one. I'm learning Objective-C instead. Why? Because if I know Objective-C, I can write iPhone apps. Fun, right? I've been spending a little time during each of Kermit's naps working my way through a tutorial, and I've written a few (extremely silly and easy) iPhone apps, just to play around. I have a few ideas for apps that I totally want that don't seem to exist, so as soon as I build up a little more confidence with the language, I'm going to start working on those. I might even earn a few bucks. S seems to think that my app ideas are really cool and if I work on them maybe they'll sell really well and then I won't have to find a job. Which makes me laugh and laugh and laugh.) (Seriously, that is never going to happen.)

13. Learn perl. (I can really only focus on learning one language at a time.)

14. Have permanent assigned "homes" for most objects in the house. (I've actually made some progress on this one, too! Mostly through selling some stuff on craigslist and donating some stuff to Goodwill. But this one really isn't going to be done until we've moved into a bigger house.)

15. Update work wardrobe. (I'll start working on this once I've lost a little more weight, and am any closer to actually having the "work" part of "work wardrobe.")

16. Shower every day. (Sadly, no progress on this one. Ugh.)

17. Wear makeup every work day. (Definitely not happening right now. Though I have managed to put on makeup for interviews, so I've met that extremely low bar.)

Having a job should help me to make progress on more of these, so hopefully the next 100 days will see a bit more accomplished. Though, I think I've said that at every single one of my updates....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Family Dinner, Part II

(Sorry for the absence. Not much sleep being had around here lately. Also, interviewing for jobs sucks. Now, back to Experiments in Cooking for a Family.)

I asked around for book recommendations to figure out how to properly feed small children. I know way too many families that have to make separate meals for each kid, and I wanted to avoid that if at all possible. When my brother and his family visit my parents, for example, my sister-in-law has to email a shopping list to my mom. The list includes the exact brand and variety of bread that each kid will eat, which means buying 3 separate loaves of bread. Same for deli meat, peanut butter, and yogurt. My mom makes chicken nuggets and pancakes and pasta for dinner every night, and still very little gets eaten, and my mom spends the entire visit trying to figure out how to orchestrate elaborate meals to make everybody happy. She annotates her recipe cards to indicate which of them might possibly be eaten by which of the kids. It's ridiculous.

So, keeping in mind that all toddlers are picky to some degree, but also that eating habits develop over time and tend to stick around for life, I wanted to get LL and Kermit on healthy footing. I wanted a book that would be realistic for a working mom to implement, backed up by actual studies and research, aimed at developing healthy habits for the whole family, and all while avoiding the guilt-ridden tactics that a lot of parenting books seem to employ. The suggested reading was the classic Child of Mine by Ellyn Satter.

I enjoyed it a lot. It made sense to me. It provided straightforward recommendations for how to approach mealtime with young children. The key take-away points for me:

- You can't force a child to eat something they don't want to eat. Trying to bribe or coerce or punish them tends to make things worse. The same goes for trying to limit how much of something a child eats. Instead, parents should decide what food to make available and when, and the child decides how much of it to eat.

- Kids are curious. They want to emulate their parents, and they want to try new things. If you put food out for them and they see you eating it regularly, they may not eat it right away, and they may not like it the first time they try it, but eventually they will choose on their own to try lots of foods and eventually they will enjoy eating a wide assortment of foods.

- Kids like having control, and they are more accepting of things when they can control it. For food, this means that, as much as possible, put all food out on the table in serving bowls and let kids take as much or as little as they want. The only exception should be desserts, which should be portioned into single servings for each person at the table.

- Make a variety of food for dinner, put it all on the table, then sit down and eat as a family. Don't honor requests for other foods, don't get anything else, but let your child eat as much as they want of whatever is on the table. Make sure that there is something that you know your child will eat. (Satter suggests always putting bread on the table for every meal.) Then stop worrying about your child. If he decides to only eat bread for this meal, he'll eat something else at the next meal. If he doesn't eat any vegetables, he won't get scurvy, and he'll probably try it next time. As long as you are calm and uninvested in the exact quantities your child eats of each food, he'll explore them on his own. Sometimes he'll try lots of stuff, other times he won't. That's okay.

We've been taking this approach for several weeks now. I make dinner, I put everything on the table, and LL decides what he wants and what he doesn't. For the first several days, we had a conversation like this at the beginning of every dinner:

LL: Cottage cheese please Mommy!
Me: We're not having cottage cheese tonight. Tonight we're having chicken and potatoes and bread and carrots and blueberries and apples and milk.
LL: I don't want chicken. I want cheese please Mommy!
Me: I understand, but tonight we're having chicken and potatoes and bread and carrots and blueberries and apples and milk.
LL: Peanut butter sandwich?
Me: No, sorry, no peanut butter tonight. Tonight we're having chicken and potatoes and bread and carrots and blueberries and apples and milk.
LL: Oh.
(LL eats bread and blueberries and milk.)
LL: Cottage cheese now Mommy?
Me: No, sorry. But if you'd like, you may have some chicken and potatoes and carrots and apples, and there is more bread and blueberries, too.
LL: Oh. Um, may I try the chicken?
Me: Sure, take as much as you'd like! Would you like me to help you cut it, or can you do it by yourself?

He has mostly stopped asking for specific things for dinner. (We still have meals occasionally when he really really really wants something in particular that's not on the "menu," but he moves on fairly quickly.) Left on his own to eat or not eat whatever is put on the table, he almost always has some starch, some protein, and some fruits or vegetables at every meal. There have also been a few nights when he just had milk and bread, and we're okay with that. He tends to ignore new vegetables the first few times I serve them. Then he starts asking questions about them. At the next meal, he'll put a little bit on his plate but won't eat it. The next time, he'll take one bite and declare that he doesn't like it. One or two more meals, and suddenly he's eating it. It's a slow process, but very low stress, and it is making our meals much more pleasant.

Next post: I have a strategy for dinners, but what should I cook? I buy a bunch of cookbooks, try out some elaborate meal-planning, and figure out how to keep groceries in our house.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Family Dinner, Part 1

I have a lot to say on this topic, but not a lot of time to write, so I'm breaking it down into more than one post. This one is about what we had been doing, dinnerwise, until very recently, and how we schedule our evenings.

When LL started solid foods, he ate his dinner of pureed whatnot at 5:00 or so, then went to bed at 6:30. I usually fed him dinner, S arrived home just in time for bedtime, and only after LL was asleep in bed did I start making dinner for me and S. We normally ate our dinner around 8:00 or 9:00. We kept saying that when LL was older (for some vaguely defined notion of "older") we would start eating dinner as a family. Tons of research points to the importance of eating a family dinner for providing all sorts of positive stuff for kids (healthier eating habits; healthier attitudes toward food; more varied diet; better child-parent communication; fewer discipline problems in school; etc.). S and I both ate dinner with our parents every single night as kids, and we both always assumed that we would do the same with our kids.

And yet ... LL reached two years old, and we still weren't doing it. He was still eating his dinner around 5:00 or 5:30, and S and I took turns being home to feed it to him, with the other parent tending to work a bit later, arriving home just in time for bedtime at 6:30 or 7:00. And the foods that LL ate were getting to be a smaller and smaller collection of the foods available to him. He ate a ton of yogurt and cottage cheese and other dairy items, but no other protein. He ate a ton of fruit, but hardly any vegetables. He ate some starches, but nothing too interesting. Whenever we did eat around him (like lunches on the weekends) he was much more adventurous, asking to try whatever we were eating. We knew that something had to change, that we had to find a way to rearrange our schedules to start doing a family dinner, but couldn't quite figure out how to make it work.

We got our chance to try it out when my mom came to stay with us just before Kermit was born. She came in mid-December and she immediately took over cooking dinner for us. I wasn't working anymore, and S's work was very slow, as it always is around the December holidays, so it was easier for us all to eat an earlier dinner. We started eating dinner at 6:00, pushing LL's bedtime back to 7:30 and adding a bigger snack for him at around 4:00.

And you know what happened? LL started eating a ton of new foods. He discovered that he loved lamb. From there, he tried beef. He consented to eat plain chicken on occasion. He tried some soups. He was more adventurous with sauces on pasta. He was still mostly eating the same stuff as before (this kid can put away a lot of cottage cheese in one sitting) but it was progress. It also helped when we moved him out of his high chair and into a booster seat at the table, so that he was really sitting with us to eat. When my mom left in mid-February, I still tried to get a family dinner on the table by 6:00. At first, I was mostly heating up frozen meals that my mom and I had stashed away, but I gradually found the energy to start cooking again. And when S went back to work, he made it a goal to be home by 6:00 every single night, even if it meant that he needed to do a little more work from home after the kids were in bed.

As Kermit got bigger, he stopped sleeping through dinner, so S and I would take turns holding him while we ate. By 5 months or so, he was big enough to sit in the high chair, so he started joining us at the table during dinner (but not eating anything). I start cooking dinner each night around 5:15 or so, depending on what I'm making. It's ready by 6:00 or 6:15, depending on how "helpful" the kids are while I'm cooking. We all sit at the table together, then S and I take turns playing with the kids or cleaning up the kitchen a bit. Kermit goes to bed at 7:00, LL starts his bedtime routine at 7:30, with me and S taking turns with each of the kids. (LL wants me to put him to bed every single night, which isn't fair to anybody other than LL, so we had to start alternating. But on the nights when I have Kermit, LL always listens for me to leave Kermit's room, then calls for me / sends S to get me, and I have to spend time with him as well, so S is always done with bedtime long before I am.) S and I then finish cleaning up the kitchen and straightening up the rest of the house, and we're done with all household work by 9:00 or so, which is when we used to be just sitting down to eat dinner. It's awesome! Not only are we eating together as a family, but as a bonus, S and I get an hour or two to relax together every evening.

I started to stress out, though, about whether I'd be able to keep this up once I returned to work. Also, I was making dinner every night, but they weren't all exactly the healthiest dinners. LL was mostly eating his own food, not very much of the stuff I was cooking, but I still stressed about setting a good example for him by cooking and eating healthy, well-balanced meals. And I wanted to figure out how to get him to eat a bigger variety of stuff. And with Kermit starting solids soon, I saw an opportunity to get him off on the right foot from the very start. Time to consult the experts!

Next post: I read a ton of books about cooking fast healthy meals and feeding young children, and totally change my approach to both cooking and serving meals.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Great Potty Train

Today is Day 26 of officially potty training LL. It is going well, I think, though slowly (by design). Our approach:

Stage 1: This stage was all about awareness, not really training, and it started sometime around 2 years old, maybe earlier, I don't really remember. We bought a simple plastic potty (the Bjorn one that everybody has) and put it in the bathroom, without comment. If he asked, we told him that he could sit on it if he wanted to. He often sat on it while S or I went to the bathroom, usually keeping his clothes on, but sometimes asking us to pull his pants down, rarely asking us to remove his diaper as well. When he was in the bathroom with us, we narrated what we were doing ("First I pull my pants and underwear down, then I sit on the toilet. Now I'm peeing!" etc.) We bought him a potty book (this one, which is nice and simple and funny). We let him flush the toilet for us. And when he was in the bath, we pointed out to him when he started peeing. Eventually, he started trying to pee in the bath, until he was able to do it whenever he wanted. Then he started occasionally asking us if he could sit on the potty to pee, and when he did, he almost always managed to go a little, and when he did, we all clapped and exclaimed over it. We even called Grandma a few times. It was all very cool and laid back.

Stage 2: This (short) stage was about immediate preparation, for about a month. When S or I took LL into the bathroom with us, we started asking him if he would like to go potty, too. If he said no, we dropped the topic for the rest of the day. (Side note: while watching me pee one day, LL suddenly realized that I have different plumbing than he and Daddy have. He pointed dramatically to my crotch and said, "Uh oh, Mommy! Where did that part go?!?" And thus LL was introduced to the difference between boys and girls, along with names for anatomy that we hadn't gotten around to yet. Fun times.) We talked about how we pee in potties or diapers, but not in underwear or pants. He was able to be naked in the house for periods of time, during which he would tell us about how he was not going to pee on the floor. (He was very fond of not peeing on the floor.) We talked about poop a lot. I took LL with me to Target and let him pick out Big Boy Underwear, and we talked about how he would wear it when he was ready. There was much general excitement.

Stage 3: Home potty training! This is the stage we're in right now. We started on a Saturday. When LL woke up, I asked him if he wanted to wear underwear instead of a diaper. Then I set the alarm on my cell phone to go off every 15 minutes with a gentle chime, and he would go sit on the potty. Some of the time he peed, and some of the time he sat for 10 seconds before telling me that he didn't have to go, maybe he'd go next time. A few notes about how this stage is going:

- The morning went great -- no accidents, lots of success -- but at the end of the day, he had three accidents all in a row. No big deal, it was his first day, but I got the sense that he didn't quite have the energy and attention span to do whole days yet. So, we started doing half days of potty training for the next week, either mornings or afternoons, depending on what else was going on that day, working our way back up to full days.

- On the second day, I started seeing LL dancing around a bit between those 15 minute intervals. When I asked him if he needed to go pee, he told me no, he would wait until Mommy's phone rang. We tried for two days to convince him that he could go whenever he needed to, he didn't have to wait for the alarm, but he didn't believe us. Thus, we had to discontinue the use of the alarm. We loosely kept track of the time, and asked him to go sit on the potty every 20-30 minutes. By Day 5, he was occasionally initiating it himself, and by the end of the week, we had stopped asking him to go, letting him go when he felt that he needed to.

- He still runs to the bathroom whenever my cell phone rings. That Pavlovian thing happens fast!

- He will not poop in the potty. (I hear this is common with boys.) When he needs to poop, he asks us for a pull up, then lets us know when he's done so that we can change him back into underwear. Each time he does this, we ask if he would like to try pooping in the potty instead, but so far, the answer is always no.

- After one week, he decided that he wanted to pee standing up. I think that he learned this at daycare, because S had been sitting down to pee when LL was around. So, we have a little stool in front of the toilet now, and LL pees standing up every time. He has very good aim, so it has been less messy than I feared, and S taught LL to wipe up the edge of the toilet bowl with toilet paper, so not too bad.

- LL has become an underwear fashionista. He likes to change his underwear several times a day, to try all the different designs. Telling him that we only change underwear during the day if they get dirty seemed like setting up some really bad incentives, so we've been going along with it.

So, here's where we are:

- If he's at home and awake, he wears underwear and goes to the bathroom on his own.
- When he needs to poop, he wears a pull up.
- When we go out, including when he's at daycare, he wears a pull up. (He can't wear underwear to daycare until he masters the pooping part, and I'm hesitant to bring him out even to the grocery store in underwear until that happens as well.)
- When he's sleeping, he wears a pull up. I don't see this changing any time soon. The kid pees a whole heck of a lot in his sleep.
- He has an occasional accident, but they're getting less frequent.
- We did not do sticker charts or M&Ms or prizes or anything like that, but we do have a potty song and dance that is performed every time LL (or his bear) successfully go potty. It ends with a high five. LL is very fond of the potty dance.

The next stage is going to have to be pooping in the potty, but we're waiting until LL lets us know that he's ready. I'm in no particular rush, and his progress so far is fine with me. Amusingly, we hadn't talked about potty training in front of LL, just sort of did the steps that we wanted to do. Then one day, he heard us use the phrase "potty train," which apparently conjured up for LL all sorts of images of choo choo trains filled with potties, and he has been much more enthusiastic about it ever since. He really does love his trains.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Half Year

Um, Kermit is 6 months old today. Yikes! The last general update I wrote for Kermit was at 3 months, so here is a many-month summary of All Things Kermit.

Kermit was an early smiler, and an early laugher. Thus, he's very good at it by now. This kid will smile and laugh at anything. He likes imitating faces, so he will smile back at anyone who smiles at him. He's very popular with the old ladies at the grocery store. (A woman in her 90s threatened to kidnap him the other day; it was simultaneously flattering and extremely creepy.) He's ticklish everywhere. He's bizarrely startled by Peek-A-Boo, but loves it when we just look away from him, then look back at him and say, "Aaaaa..... boo!" (leaving out the "Peek" part). He loves it so much that now he laughs when you just say "A-boo!" to him, which LL does all day long. LL got very excited when we read the Disney version of Aladdin and discovered that the monkey in the story is named Abu. Thus, Kermit now has a stuffed monkey named Aboo, and he is awesome.

Kermit can roll whichever way he wants, but usually prefers just to rock from side to side, and rotate in a circle centered at his butt. Kermit is obsessed with toes. At first they were just cool to look at, but now he knows how to chew on them, and that makes them so much cooler. He is finally coordinated enough to get other things reliably into his mouth to chew on as well. He sprouted his first two teeth at just 4 months old, so it's good that he can help to alleviate his own teething now. He still prefers to chew on Mommy's fingers, though, and those teeth are sharp! Kermit loves sitting, and can balance for several minutes at a time, when he's in the mood. He still just collapses when he gets tired, so we need to keep pillows around him for now. He also loves standing while holding onto our hands. And we pulled out our jumperoo, and he's so crazy for jumping that we need to ration his time in that thing, or he'd want to be there all day long.

Kermit is still waking twice each night to eat (once around 11pm, and once around 4am). We're usually still up for the 11pm feeding, so this isn't too horrible, but it would be nice if he started sleeping more solidly at night. The reflux medication has improved his overall eating a bit, but he's still eating the majority of his food at night, and barely sipping milk during the day, so I'm reluctant to do too much to mess with his feedings right now. He outgrew his bassinet two months ago, so he now sleeps in his crib, which we set up at the foot of our bed. (Oh, how I long to move to a bigger house....) He loves "talking" to the penguins and polar bears in his crib when he wakes up. (And yes, is that not the coolest crib set you've ever seen?) I can't complain too much about his sleep, because he easily goes down for three naps each day, two of them an hour long each and one generally 2-3 hours, and he goes to bed easily at night. (I will now spit three times and throw salt over my shoulder.)

Kermit loves music, and we end up singing to him all day long. He is especially a fan of Laurie Berkner. Luckily, LL has learned how to sing many of her songs, so he takes over singing to Kermit when we get sick of doing it. Kermit still hates riding in the car, so we play Laurie Berkner on repeat to try to keep him calm whenever he needs to be in the car for a while.

At his well baby check-up today, he weighed in at 18 pounds, which is totally average for his age but gigantic compared to LL at six months. It's even more surprising since he is still eating below the normal minimum number of ounces of milk for a baby his age. Poor thing must have inherited my amazing ability to gain weight even when not eating. (As opposed to LL, who is taking after S -- they can both eat their body weight in whatever unhealthy food strikes their fancy, and still stay thin.)

Every afternoon, while I cook and while we eat dinner, Kermit hangs out in his high chair. He loves being up at our level, where he can see everything that's going on, but he thinks that it's rather unfair that we don't share our food with him. (He will probably get his first taste of "solid" food this weekend.) Kermit has also shown himself to be wildly adaptable. Unlike LL, who was a fussy mess if one of his naps was ever 15 minutes late, Kermit handles schedule changes with a smile. And he has already spent a few days with Rosie while I was out on job interviews, and he apparently couldn't care less which Big Person cares for him during the day. Which I guess is a good thing? I'm still not sure.

Happy Half Year, Kermit!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bullets

Oy, I haven't written in a while. Part of it is that I'm busy (cf, two small children). Part is that I'm exhausted (cf, two small children, again). Part is that I was sick for a ridiculously long time. Part is perfectionism (I have so much that I want to write about, but I want to write it well, so I procrastinate on each post until I can do it properly). But now I'm hopelessly behind in what I want to record here! So, a quick bullet list, most of which will be expanded into a series of much cooler posts in the near future.

- I've started interviewing for jobs. Blech. I hate interviewing for jobs. I'm already growing tired of jumping through the hoops.

- Kermit turns 6 months old next week. It's so cliched to say it, but geesh, where did the time go?!? He has two teeth already, he's chewing on everything he can get his little paws on, he loves standing up, he wants desperately to learn how to sit up straight on his own, and he is ready ready ready to start eating real food, thankyouverymuch. Also, he loves to nap. Also, he is seriously the smiliest baby in the world, which is fairly impressive for a teething refluxy kid. Especially one that's constantly being stepped on by his older brother.

- LL has suddenly exploded developmentally. He's sleeping in a big boy bed, he's trying new foods with toddler abandon, he has suddenly found his voice and is carrying on full conversations, and he's progressing nicely with potty training. And he's nearly as tall as me. Well, not quite, but he's suddenly a heck of a lot closer than he has any right to be, since he's not yet three years old. Bedtime is getting ever-so-slightly better, but still kind of sucks. When things calm down a bit on all the other transitions he's facing right now, we will really need to do something about bedtime.

- Why yes, I did slip in there that we started potty training LL. It's been about two weeks. We're taking a very very very laid back approach, which is going fairly well so far. I've cobbled together a lovely low-stress technique that so far has resulted in a lot of successes, a few accidents, several conversations about the differences between boys and girls, and a weird pavlovian thing where LL needs to pee every time my phone rings.

- One of my resolutions is to cook more dinners at home. Also, I'm trying to lose some of that lingering fertility/pregnancy weight. Also, I'm tired of LL eating yogurt, cottage cheese, crackers, and fruit (and very little else) for every meal. Also, nobody ever taught me meal planning, or even much cooking, and I kind of feel like I've been blindly winging it for 15 years. Which might have been fine when I was cooking just for me, but now that I'm responsible for feeding two human beings, both of whom will hopefully grow up having healthier views on food than me, their overweight mother, I decided that I really needed to educate myself and make some changes. I've been reading lots of books. I've also been slowly integrating new ideas into our household, in the hopes that I can get some new behaviors ingrained while LL and Kermit are little, and before I go back to work and have much less time for planning. Summaries and book reviews will be coming soon.

- S and I went out to see a movie this week!!! For the first time in like a year!!! It was awesome! We saw Super 8. Highly recommended. I really liked it, and not just because it was two hours during which nobody pulled on my shirt and whined, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" Also, I got to go to the bathroom before and after the movie all by myself.

- I got my hair cut last week, and my stylist asked what product I've been putting in my hair. I told her that my baby is teething right now, so he chews on his hands, then grabs handfuls of my hair, and I sort of just let his saliva accumulate there all day. I started going to this particular high-end salon when S and I were first married. I'm not sure that I'm quite their target clientele anymore.

Yep, those are the highlights. More later.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Back!

We just got back from visiting my family. The trip was exhausting but wonderful. We stayed at my parents' house, and my brother and his entire crew drove in and stayed there as well, and it was so much fun to have all the cousins together. (I must say, though, that 11 people was a bit much to be staying in my parents 3-bedroom house, especially when it includes 5 kids ages 4 months through 11 years.) The last time LL saw any of these cousins, he was only 9 months old. This time, he was old enough to actually play with them, and he had such a good time. We also got to go to several of my favorite hangouts from when I was a kid, see a few of my oldest friends who are still in the area, and eat some food that I can't get where we currently live. (Oh frozen custard, how I have missed you! Why oh why is frozen custard only available in like three cities in the US? It is the most fabulous food on earth.)

LL has been talking for weeks about wanting to see the oldest cousin, B, who is 11, so we thought that he would spend the whole time trailing after him. Instead, he happily played with LiLi, who is also two. The middle cousin, age 7, spent the entire time playing with Kermit, which freed up the 11-year-old to play with S the entire time. (Have I mentioned how much all kids, especially the 8-12 set, love S? He's amazing.) With both my children happily occupied, I got to spend some quality time with my brother, which is very rare these days. I tried to soak up those chunks of time when no one was sitting on my lap or whining for a snack. Yay, vacation!

Now we're back to reality. Kermit's eating got worse while we were gone, and we've switched him to a new reflux medication in the hope that he'll start eating a normal amount. He ate well yesterday for the first time in a month, so we're hopeful. (No more breast feeding, though. The most he has nursed in the past week is for 30 seconds, and my milk supply is practically gone, so I think that our breast feeding time is really over. I made it 5 months this time, not even close to the year that I had hoped for.) We're so desperate to get calories into Kermit whenever he'll take them that we've been willing to offer him food whenever he asks. And he seems to prefer the majority of his milk between 10pm and 7am, which sucks. We can barely get an ounce into him at each meal during the day, then he gulps down 6 ounces at each feeding in the middle of the night. Once he seems truly better, we're going to have to do some behavior modification on that one.

LL was healthy the whole time we were gone, then immediately came down with another cold when we got back. Not too bad, but he's coughing a lot, which keeps waking him up at night, which of course requires me to get up at night and calm him down. Between LL's cold and Kermit's weird eating patterns, I haven't slept much since we got back.

Next up: I need to get a job. Kermit turned 5 months old yesterday (an update on him, and an update on LL, since it's been a few months since I devoted a post to him, will be coming as soon as I have the time to write them). I had planned to stay home with Kermit for 6 months, so... I should really try to find a job soon. I've enjoyed being home with him, but it is obvious to me that I would not be happy long-term as a SAHM. So, resume revisions this week, and sending out a few feelers to see where I am. Ugh, I hate looking for jobs.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Flu

Taking care of an infant is a thankless, messy, exhausting job under the best of conditions. I like to think that I normally handle it with a certain amount of finesse. I can deal with the sleep disturbances, the pacing back and forth, the bizarre way that all newborns can tell the difference between when you're standing and when you're sitting, the unpredictability of it all. I do it, and I smile. But you know when I'm ever-so-slightly less able to deal with the physical and emotional demands of taking care of an infant?

When I'm suffering from the worst stomach flu of my life.

I spent most of yesterday and today silently praying that I was sympathetic enough towards LL when he was sick with this flu last week, because holy cow this really sucks! I don't blame him at all for spending three days lying on the couch intermittently crying. I wish that I could do the same. Many people have written about how one of the worst things about motherhood is that you don't get any days off, not even sick days. Still, I think that most people can at least call on some family to step in with assistance when it gets really bad. The fact that we have no family in the area always hits me hardest at times like this, because just having somebody home with me who could help to hold Kermit on occasion, even if I still had to do the majority of the work of caring for him, would make a huge difference. It would help me to avoid those times yesterday (and yes, plural, multiple times yesterday, though slightly better today) when I sat in a rocking chair holding Kermit while both of us cried, as I gulped back my instinct to yell as loudly as I could about the misery of it all.

On the breast feeding front, Kermit is indeed breast feeding a bit. I'd say one-third of his feedings are entirely at the breast, one-third of his feedings he rejects the breast completely and eats just from a bottle, and the remaining third he nurses for some brief period of time before appearing frustrated, and then I top him off with a bottle. This sounds all nice and promising, except that it means that I never know how he's going to want any particular feeding. I attempt to nurse, then I need to go make a bottle, feed him the bottle, then put him down and hook myself up to the breast pump. The nurse-bottle-pump thing means that every single feeding takes an hour or longer, and I have to be at home for every single one of them. Thus, I can never leave the house. Which is not a long-term solution, obviously.

Even with pumping after every single feeding, I have run through my entire freezer of milk and have needed to start supplementing with formula. Even with three solid weeks of ridiculous over-the-top pumping, my milk supply has not budged at all, but Kermit's appetite (thanks to some reflux medication) has gone up. The stomach flu has thrown everything into even more chaos. Eating or drinking absolutely anything makes me ill, so I'd be dehydrated even if I weren't also trying to sustain another human being. Thus, my supply has taken another hit, and I haven't had the energy to pump for the past two days to try to keep it steady.

Perhaps I'll start up again after I'm recovered, but I suspect that my supply has dipped for good. And I'm trying to make peace with that. If I can figure out when Kermit is nursing and when he's not, I can just plan to nurse at those feedings and save myself the heartache of offering the breast at other times. My current plan, I think, will also include cutting out all that pumping. I know that this plan will cause my supply to continue to drop even further, so it probably means that Kermit will stop nursing entirely within the month, but I just don't have the energy to fight it anymore.

Assuming I'm over my flu, and assuming that S and Kermit don't get sick in the meantime, we're flying to visit my parents on Tuesday. I can bring a breast pump with me, but there's no way that I'll be able to pump eight times a day while on vacation. At this point, I kind of feel like I've been tilting at windmills for long enough. So, I'm nursing Kermit as best as I can right now, to try to force as many antibodies into him as he'll take, and once I'm over the flu, we're probably going to step it down a notch and let Kermit decide how much he wants to nurse.

But first, I have to get over this ridiculously awful flu.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Timeline

My month of May so far:

Sunday, 5/1 -- Like an idiot, I write a post about how Kermit's breast feeding is going better. I mention that I live in fear of him having a nursing strike like LL did, so I'm enjoying each day that he nurses well. Then I tempt fate even further by buying two new nursing bras.

Monday, 5/2 -- Kermit starts crying in the middle of every feeding. I am determined not to lose him over to bottle-feeding, so I refuse to give him any bottles. He's fussing a lot at feedings, but he also seems content by the end, so I trust that everything will right itself eventually.

Thursday, 5/5 -- Kermit stops nursing completely. He latches on, sucks once, then cries hysterically. By midday, it's obvious that he's hungry but he's not going to nurse, and I tearfully give him a bottle, then immediately call the lactation consultant.

Friday, 5/6 -- I meet with a lactation consultant. She thinks that I have a low supply, which is frustrating Kermit, hence the refusing to nurse. She tells me to rent a hospital-grade pump, then exclusively pump for the next two days and bottle-feed Kermit. Her prediction is that Kermit will eat 32 ounces a day (normal for this age is 30-36) and I will only pump 18-20. So basically, the nursing strike is entirely my fault. I'm heartbroken.

Saturday, 5/7 -- I spend much of the day hunched over a breast pump, crying. I'm in disbelief that my second child followed my first and rejected breast feeding at a far-too-young age. Today, Kermit turns just four months old. I feel like a total failure.

Sunday, 5/8 -- Having spent two days pumping 9 times a day and bottle feeding Kermit, it seems like all I'm doing is dealing with milk. The lactation consultant was only partially right: I did indeed only pump 18-19 ounces each day, which is horribly low. BUT, Kermit only ate 18 ounces each day, despite my offering him a seemingly limitless supply. The LC revises her diagnosis: rather than my low supply being the cause of the problem, it appears to be a symptom. Kermit decreased his demand for some reason, and my supply did what it was supposed to and adjusted to meet the lower demand. So now we have to figure out why Kermit doesn't want to eat.

Monday, 5/9 -- Kermit's well baby checkup with Dr. K. His growth is slow, and he has indeed dropped growth curves since two months, but he's still within normal bounds. We think he may have late-onset silent acid reflux. Or at least, we hope he does, because it's solvable. We start him on medication for reflux and cross our fingers. I also start downing fenugreek like it's going out of style. The hope is that the medication increases Kermit's appetite at the same time that the pumping + herbs increases my supply, so that by the end of the week, we can get Kermit back on the breast and eating a healthy amount. Which is good, because pumping 9 times a day while caring for two children is not long-term sustainable. In fact, it really sucks. At dinnertime, however, I discover a bigger impediment to finding the time to pump: LL has a sudden high fever, and will need to stay home from preschool until he's better.

Tuesday, 5/10 -- I'm home all day with a fussy Kermit and a feverish LL, trying to fit all those pumping sessions into a day already filled with caring for two mildly sick kids.

Wednesday, 5/11 -- The good news: LL seems better. The bad news: Kermit's appetite hasn't budged, and neither has my supply. At 3am, even my good news disappears: LL wakes up crying, then immediately vomits all over me. Guess he's not better after all.

Thursday, 5/12 -- All hell breaks loose. Both kids spend the entire morning crying. Kermit is burping and spitting up nonstop and wants to be held all the time. LL has horrible diarrhea and stomach cramps and wants to be held all the time. No matter which one I hold, the other one sobs. If one falls asleep, they soon wake up from their brother crying in pain. No way that I can adequately care for either one of them like this, much less keep up with the pumping. I call S and ask him to take a sick day and come home to help. When he gets home, LL is crying uncontrollably and in so much pain that he can't even hold his security blanket. He violently vomits all over his room, and I decide to take him to whatever pediatrician is free to see him. He's diagnosed with stomach flu. The pediatrician urges me to nurse Kermit as often as possible, to keep him from getting sick and to keep him hydrated. I mention the nursing strike, and the pediatrician predicts that Kermit will be sick within days, and will then need to be hospitalized for dehydration shortly thereafter. I return home with LL in total despair.

So, that's where we are right now. Three weeks ago, Kermit was sleeping well and eating well and growing well, or so I thought. Now he's a fussy mess and still refusing to breast feed for more than a minute or two at a time, getting all of his meager daily caloric intake from bottles while I desperately pump to try to produce even the small amount that he's eating. LL is violently sick with the flu and doesn't know what to do with himself other than clutch his stomach and cry. Having been vomited on yesterday more times than I can count, I can't imagine how I will possibly escape getting the flu myself, and I don't know how I will possibly keep it away from Kermit. After a week of effort, my milk supply has not increased at all, and getting sick will likely drop it even further. The lactation consultant predicts that Kermit will never breast feed again.

I'd like to say that I'm handling the nursing strike better than I did with LL. When he had his nursing strike, I sank into a month-long depression that I was only able to come out of once I gave up pumping and let my hormones even themselves out. I do feel a bit more even-keeled this time, but only barely, and it's probably just because LL's stomach flu is leaving me with very little time to dwell on how heartbroken I am about Kermit. For now, I need to figure out how long I'm willing to keep up with the pumping, holding onto the hope that Kermit may come back to me. In the mean time, I have two sick kids who need my attention, and I need to keep my head in the game.