Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dr. Mommy

At the end of December, I gave a quick update on the state of my PhD. At the time, two of my three committee members had agreed to sign my dissertation, while the third (AdvisorA) was refusing to acknowledge that I'd even sent it to her. I gave her one more month to get back to me (also, I had a newborn and wasn't really in the mood to deal with her) and then, in early February, I started bugging her by email. And bugging her and bugging her. She kept telling me that yes, she had edits, but no, they weren't ready yet, and no, she wouldn't be signing until after she was done requesting changes. And then she kept putting off sending me anything. After much back and forth, she finally finally finally sent me a bunch of requested edits at the end of February. And yes, that means that I was editing my dissertation while caring for a six-week-old infant. Fun times! The first week of March, she finally sent me her signature on the final signature form. Which gave me one week to run around campus with Kermit getting the other two committee members to sign the form, doing final changes, doing the format check with the Registrar's office, and turning the whole thing in before the Winter deadline.

One random observation: when you do all this final PhD work while toting a baby who is not quite two months old, just about everybody you interact with comments on it, saying something like, "Really, you're doing all this dissertation work with a newborn?!?" Don't feel too proud of yourself, though. Yes, approximately two-thirds of those people will mean, "Wow, it's really impressive that you're finishing up heavy duty graduate work while also caring for a newborn!" But the other third of the people will actually mean, "Wow, it's really sad that you're neglecting a newborn just to do some graduate work before some arbitrary deadline." Those last third of the people will look sorrowfully at the baby and ask if maybe you shouldn't be going home and doing this PhD hobby of yours at a different time. (One of the women in the Registrar's office explicitly told me that perhaps I should come back in another few weeks, and I pointed out to her that I was there to meet her office's deadline, and she just shrugged.)

But, here's the good news: Everybody on the committee signed my dissertation. All forms and documents were turned into the university. The university accepted everything, and last week, officially conferred the degree. I am now Dr. Nicky. Mommy, PhD.

The job hunt is officially on hold, because I want to stay home with Kermit for a while longer. On good days, I tell people that I am now Dr. Stay-At-Home-Mom. On bad days, I just tell people that I'm unemployed. But either way, grad school is now mercifully over. For now, I'll be sticking with Dr. Mommy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Family Resemblance

Background information: I'm Eastern European Jewish. Pale skin, green eyes, dark brown curly hair. S is Japanese. Fairly light skin, dark olive-shaped eyes, black curly hair. Yes, he's 100% Japanese and he has curly hair. It's rare but it happens. Relatives on both sides of his family have wavy hair, but if there were a contest for curliest natural hair on a Japanese person, he would win.

One of the fun things to do when a baby is born is to play the "Who does he look like?" game. This game gets a little more complicated, however, when the parents are of different racial backgrounds. S and I have always said that LL just looks like himself. Yes, we can see tiny pieces of each of us in him (for example, he most definitely has my chin, poor kid!) but he doesn't truly look like either one of us. When he was a baby, however, S's family insisted that LL looked like me. When I finally asked some of them what specifically made him look like me, they universally answered that he looked white. (And apparently all white babies look like me....)

It's not uncommon for children of mixed race backgrounds to look more like one race than the other, and we've even seen full siblings who look like they are from completely different racial backgrounds, simply because they inherited specific features from mom vs. dad. So we were curious about who Kermit would look like.

Now that we've visited S's family, the verdict (from them) is in. In the words of one of S's aunts, "At least this one looks Asian!" They insisted that Kermit looks Japanese, with the undertones of "thank goodness!"

Okay, that's all very interesting. But here's the kicker: Kermit looks exactly like LL did as an infant! Seriously, you take photos of each of them at the same age, and I can barely tell them apart. We made a stack of photos of Kermit and intermixed them with a bunch of photos of LL at the same age, and nobody can reliably tell us which are Kermit and which are LL. In fact, when people struggle to find differences between them, the only reliable indicator that we've found is that Kermit's skin is actually more pale than LL's was at this age.

S and I have chalked it up to a case of people seeing what they want to see. We've also done a lot of joking about how S doesn't need to worry about the paternity of the kids -- if there was a mixup with the sperm at the fertility clinic, they must have made the exact same mistake the second time, too, because LL and Kermit obviously have the same parents.

I'll also note that most people truly don't think that LL is Asian at all. I think the mass of curly hair throws them off. And when I was out with Kermit today, someone asked if my husband was Mexican, and insisted that the baby looks Hispanic. So perhaps my kids just look vaguely exotic, in an indistinguishable way? Welcome to the modern post-racial world!

Looking at photos of LL from his first year, his face changed a lot over those twelve months, so we know that it's likely that Kermit will change in different ways and end up looking completely different from his brother. But for now, whenever anyone asks me and S who we think Kermit looks like, we just say that he looks like LL.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Quarter Year

Yeah, I've been blog-absent for a while. No particular reason, other than the normal newborn nuttiness. It turns out that when you're recovering from a c-section, and then everyone in the house is sick, and then your newborn is hospitalized for RSV, and then everyone is still sick, and then you visit your in-laws for two weeks, and then you come home and try to get everyone back on a regular schedule.... and then you finally have time to take a breath, your first coherent thought ends up being something like this: "Hey, what happened to my teeny tiny newborn baby, and who left this gigantic three-month-old in my house?"

Yes, that's right, tomorrow Kermit will be three months old. For the first three months of LL's life, I kept detailed notes about what we were doing and how he was developing and what he liked to do. And I swore that I would do the same for Kermit, because I really didn't want to fall into that all-too-common trap with second children where there's no record of their life even though there are volumes written about the older child. And yet... here we are. I have been taking notes, but I still feel like I've been letting him down a bit. So, here's the three-month update, and I'll just have to try to do better in the future.

Kermit is an awesomely easy baby. If his needs are being met, he's happy as a clam. The only caveat is that the needs have to be met instantly, because he goes from happy as a clam to flames-shooting-from-his-eyes angry in ten seconds flat. When he wakes up, he's cheerful but hungry. I need to feed him within seconds of waking, because if I try to do something stupid like take the time to get a clean burp cloth out of the closet first, he'll claw my eyes out in frustration. When he's done eating, he whimpers a bit, followed by one burp. Every time. One burp. And then he's ready to play.

Exactly 75 minutes after he wakes up, he's ready for a nap. At 76 minutes, he starts screaming like a banshee, so I need to watch the clock for this one. He's amazingly consistent. If I swaddle him and give him a pacifier at 74 minutes, we can avoid the screaming entirely and he'll let me quietly rock him to sleep, but G-d help me if I wait until minute 76.

For his first month, he ate more than a baby that size has any right to eat, but he stopped eating when he was hospitalized, and he has normalized out his feedings now. At his two-month appointment, he weighed more than LL did when he was two months old, despite the fact that Kermit was born weighing over 1.5 pounds less. It's kind of annoying, actually, because the first two months of breast feeding were excruciatingly painful for me (a post unto itself) yet he wanted to eat all the time. (And not for lack of supply; we did that weigh-feed-weigh thing with a lactation consultant in those early weeks, and she was shocked by how much milk he was gulping down.) Now that breast feeding isn't painful anymore, he's barely interested. He's far too distracted by the world around him to bother eating very often or for very long.

Kermit loves to be bundled. He spent most of his first 6 weeks swaddled, and still likes it for naps and bedtime. He likes being in the sling, but it's not the magic cure-all that it was for LL. If Kermit is tired, he'll quickly fall asleep in the sling, but it doesn't calm him in quite the same way. Just before two months, I started carrying him in a mei tai, and I think that he prefers that now, at least when he's awake. Now that the weather is nice, we like to go outside as a family, with LL riding his tricycle, S chasing him on his plasma car, and me walking up and down the sidewalk with Kermit in the mei tai, begging them not to get run over by cars. Fun family times! Kermit attended his first birthday party this past weekend (one of LL's friends turned 4) and he spent the entire party hanging out in the mei tai, where he could snuggle or hide or sleep or watch, depending on his mood. Love it.

Kermit's first smile was at ~5 weeks, while he was hospitalized. His first laugh was when he was just under two months old, on my birthday, though he would only laugh at S. The last two weeks, he has become obsessed with Itsy Bitsy Spider, which often gets a chuckle out of him. And he flirts with everyone. He also loves sticking his tongue out.

When he was nine weeks old, we flew to visit my in-laws, for S's sister's wedding. Kermit was a fantastic traveler, nursing and sleeping on the plane and never making a peep. He loved being passed around among all the aunties, and almost every grandmother-type had an opportunity to hold him and rock him into a happy cuddly sleep. During the visit, Kermit went to his first zoo, his first childrens museum, and his first playground. He found all three of them to be fantastic places to nap in his stroller. (He thought the same about the wedding, actually.)

Also on that trip, Kermit discovered toys. We have a bunch of those baby toys that are meant to be hung from car seats, the ones with lots of colors and rings and textures, and they crinkle and rattle and are meant to be chewed on. I never really saw the point of them when LL was little. He would watch them when they swung from his seat, but he never touched them, so I didn't understand why they bothered with the textures and noise makers, unless that was for the amusement of the adults who were trying to entertain the baby with the toy. But Kermit... wow, Kermit can't get enough of those toys! He swats at them, he pulls them, he rubs them against his cheek, he chews on them, he talks to them, he smushes them in his pudgy little hands and shakes them. When LL was little, I occasionally hung one from his car seat just to brighten it up a bit, but Kermit actually plays with the toys. Amazing!

When LL was around this age, he grew attached to a small burp cloth, and I had to rush and make him a new security blanket (the much-loved Froggie Blanket) to replace it, since that particular burp cloth wasn't safe to leave in his crib. This past month, Kermit started doing the same thing, so I made him his own Froggie Blanket equivalent, and he is already quite in love with it. (We have named it Beary Blanket, but we'll have to see if the name sticks.)

Kermit also loves to talk. He started loudly cooing during his third month, and apparently liked the reactions of those around him, because he now must join all conversations. And we've all heard him cry out "Mama!"

More specific posts about sleep, our daily routine with two kids, and family resemblances, are coming soon, along with an update on LL, who is now two and a half (!).