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.