Thursday, August 30, 2012

Preschool

LL started preschool last week. Being a September baby, he is right on the borderline for whether he should start kindergarten next year or the year after, so we first had to decide what preschool class to put him in: the "threes" class (where he would be the oldest kid in class) or the pre-k ("fours") class, where he would be the absolute youngest. Given how shy he is, we decided on the threes class, let him be the oldest a bit, hope it would build up his social confidence a little.

Seriously, he's shy. The week before preschool, we went to a birthday party for one of his friends. There were a dozen kids, many of whom he has known his entire life. Two tables were set up with a craft project to work on while the kids arrived. All the kids were sitting at one table; LL insisted on sitting at the other table, as far away from the other kids as possible. And then he just quietly sat at the table holding my hand and not wanting to do the craft. Other than whispering things in my ear, he didn't speak the entire time we were there. He only participated in activities for which he could stand at the periphery and hold my hand.

He does much much better in smaller groups, and even better if he's on familiar turf. But even under ideal circumstances, he takes about an hour to warm up and feel comfortable. Which is fine, he might just always be a shy kid, but it made me hesitant to throw him in with a bunch of older kids, especially since he's also short for his age.

Also... with a few temporary blips, he has been at the same small home daycare since he was 5 months old. He has never before needed to transition to a totally new environment before.

All of which adds up to this: I was really nervous about him starting preschool. Yep, me. LL, on the other hand, was full of pure excitement. For several weeks before school started, he told everyone who would listen that he was a big boy now and he was starting preschool very soon! Real school! Like a big boy! With teachers! And he was going to learn stuff!!! And have a lunch box!

And after this speech, he would turn to me and say, "And you're going to stay at school with me, Mommy, right?" And I'd say, "No, I'll be going to work, and then I'll pick you up again and bring you home for dinner, just like at Natasha's." And then he'd get a little more quiet.

We repeated that whole thing, every day, for several weeks. And I was convinced that the first day of school was going to involve lots of crying while holding onto my legs and begging for me to stay.

But you know what? He did awesome. No crying. No clinging. And when I came to pick him up, he showed me all around his classroom (and some of the other school grounds) like he was King of the Campus. He loves it, and after one week, he already seems to feel super comfortable and confident.

(Though he still doesn't know the names of any of his classmates. And when he picks what he wants to do when he first arrives, he always picks whatever activity is uninhabited by other kids. And when I ask him what he did during the day, he always just says, "I played with stuff" and refuses to elaborate, as if he's practicing to be a teenager someday.)

So. Preschool. Good.

The preschool, by the way, continues to impress me. Mostly play-based curriculum, based around lots of kid-lead exploration of basic materials. (Sand, water, clay, paint, blocks.) It's a Jewish preschool, so they wrap everything in Jewish values and celebrate holidays in the classroom. The preschool is part of a larger elementary school that teaches Orthodox Judaism, but the preschool is far more secular than the rest of the school (including a large number of completely non-practicing Israeli families). We picked a Jewish preschool for several reasons, some practical (the school holidays line up with when we actually have holidays) and some fairly stupid (he'll get exposure to Jewish holidays that we have never bothered to celebrate at home, being the super-laid-back Reform Jews that we are) but a big part of it was also the ability to put off the "Why don't we celebrate Christmas?" discussion for a few more years. Most important, though, was that they have a very low-key approach to preschool that allows lots of outdoor time, lots of lightly-guided exploration, no pressure to learn "academic" stuff at this age, and small classes.

Also the no Christmas thing.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

100 Day Update....

Wow. Look at that. I'm late for my 100 Day Update for my 500 Day Goals, even though I haven't posted a single time since I posted those goals. More than 3 months. Argh. This blog is almost 4 months old, and I've never gone more than a few weeks between posts before. Oops.

You'd think that in my long bloggy-absence, I would have accomplished a bunch of those goals, not being distracted by blogging and all. But... um... not so much. I've been incredibly busy, but mostly with ridiculous fire-fighting and continuing sleep deprivation.

I need to write a whole slew of make-up posts. And I plan to. But for now: 100 Day Update:

1. Have two happy kids and a happy husband. (They seem relatively happy to me....)

2. Lose 50 pounds. (Hahahahaha! No progress on this one. None.)

3. Work in a job that I enjoy (again). (When I made this list, I was incredibly miserable in my job, and I was also still thinking that I might be laid off, which might have actually been a bit of a blessing. Instead, things are turning around. The job is actually very very good right now. Not perfect. Far from it. But very very good.)

4. Buy a new (bigger) house. (There is progress! But it deserves its own post.)

5. Have permanent assigned "homes" for most objects in the house. (Nope, not yet. But solving #4 will dramatically help this one, too.)

6. Finish Kermit's baby book. (Ugh. Still haven't started it.)

7. Make a real baby blanket for Kermit. (Technically done, but I'm leaving it undone anyway. I made him a super-fast one that he could keep at daycare, which he loves, but I want to make him a nice one. One that takes a little time.)

8. Decide on a preschool for LL. (Done! He started preschool this week! Longer post on this topic forthcoming.)

9. Read 10 non-parenting-related books. (Hahahahaha. No. Not yet.)

10. Wear sunscreen every day. (I'm totally rocking this one. Not every day yet, but I'm probably averaging 5 days/week.)

11. Continue wearing makeup every work day. (So far so good.)

12. Wash and moisturize my face every night. (Like the sunscreen one, I'm doing pretty good, but not quite there yet. Also, I keep discovering that I don't like my soap. Or my moisturizer.)

13. Shower regularly. (I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Ew.)

14. Eat salad for lunch 3 days/week. (Up above, where I said that I haven't lost any weight yet? Not doing this one is probably why.)

15. Have a fully funded 12-month emergency fund. (Technically done, but only because we haven't yet bought a new house.)

16. Pay off all debt except the mortgage. (Silly student loan.)

17. Bring both kids to visit my parents at least twice. (One down, one to go.)

18. Bring both kids to visit my in-laws at least twice. (Not yet....)

19. Finish that iPhone app that I've been talking about for two years. (Not yet.)

20. Exercise 3 times/week. (No salad, no exercise, no weight loss. Cause, meet effect.)

Good golly, that's a pretty depressing start!

For reference, my original 500 Day Goals were posted here.

Next update in November!

Monday, May 21, 2012

500 Days (Again)

I'll admit, it feels weird to be setting up more longish-term goals right now, when I'm barely making it day to day in pure survival mode. Still, I really want to feel like I'm doing something more productive than just figuring out dinner. So, more 500 day goals. Some of them are the same as the last 500 days, because I didn't get them done last time. Hopefully this time, they'll get done. Let's find out!

Also, I'm cheating ever-so-slightly on the actual number of days; I'm setting my goal date as LL's 5th birthday, which is slightly less than 500 days from now, since I didn't post the list in time. Not an ideal start, but oh well.

1. Have two happy kids and a happy husband. (I had the two happy kids on my last list, because when I wrote the list I was trying to get pregnant with number two. But then S got really offended that I wanted the kids to be happy and not him. So… the two kids and the husband I have, but I'll leave it as a goal for them all to be happy. Whatever.

2. Lose 50 pounds. (That's only 1 pound every 10 days. Should be infinitely doable. Embarrassingly, 50 pounds is not my ultimate goal, it's just an intermediate goal. But it will bring me to where I was when I graduated from college, which is better than where I am right now by, um, 50 pounds or so.)

3. Work in a job that I enjoy (again). (Hopefully I can just continue to mark this one off, but I'm not completely betting on the fact that I'm going to be able to stay in my current job for the next 500 days, so it's going back on the list.)

4. Buy a new (bigger) house. (Good lord, this one had better happen a lot sooner than 500 days. Especially since I'm fairly annoyed that it didn't happen in the last 500 days!)

5. Have permanent assigned "homes" for most objects in the house. (Yep, this is carried over from the last list, too. We're planning to sell/donate/eliminate a ton of stuff before moving, which will help. Having a bigger house with a decent amount of storage should help, too. But I need to get this done, because the constant clutter is driving me insane.)

6. Finish Kermit's baby book. (This one should really be "start and finish." I had LL's baby book finished by the time he was 15 months old. And I always swore that I wouldn't be one of those parents who neglected the memorabilia for the second child. So yeah, I'm going to be getting this one done.)

7. Make a real baby blanket for Kermit. (Related to the last item, kinda. I crocheted a really nice blanket for LL before he was born, and he still sleeps with it every night. I started knitting one for Kermit when I was pregnant, but I never finished it, possibly because I made the totally stupid decision to knit instead of crochet, which is never a good choice for me. So I'm going to need to just start over, I think.)

8. Decide on a preschool for LL. (This one obviously has to happen before 500 days. I'm putting it on the list just as a reminder that I need to do it.)

9. Read 10 non-parenting-related books. (Last time I said fiction, but there are several interesting political and economic books that I kinda want to read, and I want those to count. The goal here is reading for fun, and those should count.)

10. Wear sunscreen every day. (I've been slacking. Bad bad bad.)

11. Continue wearing makeup every work day. (I'm doing this now, but it doesn't feel like a real habit yet, so I'm leaving it on the list as a reminder.)

12. Wash and moisturize my face every night. (I've always had awesome skin, so it never mattered if I slacked off on this one. But I'm starting to really see my age a bit, so I should really start developing some good habits before it's too late.)

13. Shower regularly. (Last time, I said that I wanted to shower every day, which never really happened, though I did go through periods where I got to shower a bit more often. But when things get busy, I tend to lose my ability to take the time for myself to actually wash my hair. Which is disgusting. I'm not even asking for it to be every day this time. I just want it to happen on a regular basis. Ew.)

14. Eat salad for lunch 3 days/week. (Related to the weight loss thing. I eat lunch during the week in our work cafeteria, which serves a wide array of high-fat foods. My only options for controlling what I eat are either the salad bar or bringing my lunch from home. Salad bar is faster.)

15. Have a fully funded 12-month emergency fund. (We have this right now, but are likely to dip into it when we move, both because we'll be using some of the cash and because our monthly expenses will be higher because of the new mortgage. So the goal is to get back to that point again.)

16. Pay off all debt except the mortgage. (Yep, haven't paid off that student loan yet, mostly because I'm hoarding cash for the house downpayment. But once we move, I'm paying it off. Mostly because I'm embarrassed that it still exists.)

17. Bring both kids to visit my parents at least twice. (Should be easy. We already have one trip planned.)

18. Bring both kids to visit my in-laws at least twice. (Again, should be easy.)

19. Finish that iPhone app that I've been talking about for two years. (It's not going to make me a millionaire or anything, but (a) I want to figure out how to do it; (b) I'd find it really cool to have an app in the iTunes store; and (c) I really want this app on my phone and nobody else seems to be writing it.)

20. Exercise 3 times/week. (This one also goes with the weight loss one. I need to find a way to make this work in my schedule. I don't know how yet. I predict that this will be the toughest item on this list.)

For random reference, my last 500 Day Goals were posted here.

Once again, I plan to check in every 100 days. So, expect updates:
8/15/2012 (400 days left)
11/23/2012 (300 days left)
3/3/2013 (200 days left)
6/11/2013 (100 days left)
9/19/2013 (deadline!)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Toddler Fun

Ugh ugh ugh. Things are getting better, little by little. I guess. A tiny bit. My job is a little bit better, but only because I got so tired of the total dejection and apathy and disengagement all around me that I finally just showed up to work one day, gathered all of my favorite coworkers into a room together, and said, "Screw it! Our management sucks, so let's just ignore them and do what we think is important and interesting! Here are three ideas I have for projects that we could do, just us, with very few dependencies on anyone outside of this room, and we could have results to show in a month or less. Who's with me?" As far as I can tell, they were all basically waiting for someone (anyone) to start paying attention and give them some direction, and even though I'm new on the job and have zero authority, I'm better than no one. So, I now have a team. And a project. And we've made good progress on it. And a few people we've mentioned it to think that it will be really cool if we can pull it off.

Of the people working with me on it, one of their managers is clearly kind of pissed at me that I took charge of members of his team without consulting him, but whatever -- he wasn't giving them anything to do, and they were all getting ready to quit, so at least I got them re-engaged at work. One of the managers was hesitant at first, but has since asked to join the project (!). And my own manager is ... I don't know. He's hard to read. He hasn't asked me to stop and go back to what I'm "supposed" to be doing, so that's something. He seems like he's willing to give me a little bit of space, but he will probably deny all knowledge of our "rogue project" if it ends up not working. I'm okay with that for now. It is what it is.

My mother-in-law is still living with us, taking care of Kermit during the day. She's driving me crazy in many of the ways that I expected her to be driving me crazy, but eh, I'll get through it.

I'm still not getting any sleep. It is starting to be a real problem. But I don't feel like I can fix the kids' sleep until we have our house back to ourselves, so I just need to push through for a few more weeks.

BUT, work and sleep and living arrangements are not what I wanted to write about. I want to write about Kermit. Because he is so cute these days!!! Seriously. Really very cute. And I feel like I haven't given an update on him in forever, so here goes.

Kermit is 16 months old. He runs and climbs. He loves being held. He loves being tickled. He thinks everything is hilariously funny, and has the absolute best belly laugh in the whole world.

He is getting very very good at communication, even though he says very few words. He clearly understands everything. Everything. When he wants to be picked up, he does his best to climb your legs until you go ahead and pick him up. If you mention maybe possibly putting him down before he is ready to be put down, he locks his little legs around you with incredible thigh strength and digs his hands into whatever he can grab and shrieks in anger. It is nearly impossible to put him down if he doesn't want to be put down.

He shakes his head "yes" and "no" very clearly. He waves his arms to signal "all done" after meals. When he wants to read books, he gets out a book, hands it to me, then turns around and backs his little tushy into my lap and patiently waits for me to start reading. He wants to read approximately 100 books a day. (The reading is particularly remarkable because even 4 months ago he rarely sat still for a single book, and now he will sit through dozens at a time. Not sure what changed his mind about books, but he is obsessed.) He has favorite books, but will branch out to others if it means he gets to sit in your lap for longer and read. He is starting to flip through books on his own as well, though he still has a bad habit of trying to remove pages. He is obsessed with pictures of dogs.

He says "no" and "dah" (yes) and "uh oh". He went through phases where he said "car" and "look" and "Go Pack!" and "Baba" (Grandma) but they seem to have disappeared again. He does a fantastic fake "Ha! Ha! Ha!" laugh when he wants to be part of the conversation and other people are laughing. But he is multilingual, if you count animal sounds. He says "woof" and "moo" and "baaa" and "meow" and something that I can't describe in writing but it is what a fish says. Also, my very favorite: he says "cockadoodledoo!" His rooster call is without a doubt the most hilariously funny thing he does right now.

He waves bye-bye (to us when we leave; to random people in cars; to neighbors we pass while going for walks; to every single airplane that flies overhead). He blows kisses. He claps. He plays peekaboo. (He covers his eyes with his hands for peekaboo, but even better is when he runs and hides behind furniture, then jumps out with super dramatic presentation and laughs when you jump in surprise.)

He builds towers out of stacking cups. He knocks down towers made out of absolutely anything. He sorts toys into buckets for hours at a time. He loves cars. He loves hugging stuffed animals. He has a turtle puppet that he wears on his wrist like a bracelet.

He is getting pretty good at following commands. "Shall we change your diaper?" makes him turn and walk to his room and wait patiently at his changing table. "Where are your shoes?" makes him bring you his shoes. "Do you want to go outside?" makes him run to the door and frantically try to turn the doorknob, because once there is a possibility of going outside, he must be outside immediately.

He follows LL around all the time, and wants to be playing with whatever LL is playing with. He does not accept that he is younger than LL. He is fearless.

He learns new things every single day. He is getting taller by the hour, which is particularly strange because he was already in the 95th percentile for height at his 15 months appointment, and his parents are not 95th percentile people. (I am short, and S is charitably "average" in height.) He can open every day in the house, he can defeat most of our baby-proofing, and he can now reach almost every surface in the kitchen and living room.

He likes to eat. Everything. A lot. He is always willing to try new foods. He is a bit suspicious of cooked vegetables, but loves raw ones because they are crunchy.

He is super snuggly. He loves being cuddled. He adores being sung to (and quite clearly has favorite songs). He adds appropriate sound effects to a ton of songs. (Does the song mention sleeping? He'll fake a snore for you. Does the song mention a mouse? Wait for Kermit to squeak before you go on. Does the song mention something going "boom!" Kermit will happily yell "Boom!", or perhaps whisper "boom" if it is bedtime.)

And he loves to laugh and smile. All the time.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Enough!

It has been one of those... two months. The kind where everything seems to go wrong and you exist solely in Survival Mode for way longer than you want to, and it seems like time has passed sooooo slowly, except you don't really remember any individual days. I hate it. Hate it hate it hate it.

I've been trying to think whether I have ever been as stressed out as I have been for the past two months. I think the time around my grad school qualifying exam comes closest, but that time I was stressed out about exactly one thing (my qualifying exam). The past two months, I have felt like I'm being assaulted on a bazillion different fronts. I've felt like everything "normal" has been on hold while I try to deal with the various assaults, and as a result, I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water and yet nothing real is happening and nothing is being accomplished.

Did I mention that I hate this feeling?

On the childcare front: Our awesome amazing wonderful nanny Rosie is on medical leave for an undetermined length of time. We frantically started searching for a nanny, a daycare, a friend, anyone who could fill in on either a temporary or a permanent basis, with no notice. We finally found a daycare that we like (recommended from a friend, convenient location, tons of references, been in business for a long time, got lots of happy vibes when we visited) and Kermit will start there on June 1. Which means ... it might still suck, because we haven't tried it out yet to verify anything for ourselves. Paranoid? Maybe. We've been burned before. Still, I'm hopeful. Other than the uncertainty, there's also the small issue of that June 1 date, which means nearly 3 months without childcare for Kermit. My mom flew in for several weeks, but she left on Friday to go back home. S's mom is coming soon to stay with us for three weeks, but that is the most she can do. We still have three more weeks to figure out. And honestly, we have no idea how we're covering those weeks.

On the job front: I spent a month completely convinced that I was going to be laid off. Everybody on my team was convinced that we were all going to be laid off. For that entire month, the only news we got from management was "Yeah, you'll probably be laid off, but we haven't decided yet." For a month. Any idea what that kind of thing does to morale? No work got done. People randomly left the office during the day to go on interviews elsewhere. People stood around the hallways at work openly discussing where they were applying for jobs and how their interviews were going. Several people quit. Several more people were obviously just waiting around to see if they'd get layoff packages. It was insane. When the layoffs were finally announced, they were bad, but not quite as bad as I expected. I still have my job, but most of my collaborators were laid off. The few that weren't laid off have made it clear that they're planning to quit within the next few weeks, as soon as they decide where they want to go next. And they're all standing around moping and complaining, and I can hardly blame them. Personally, I don't want a new job, because I just started this one and before the current mess, I really liked it. But I can't make progress on any of my projects because, um, I can't do them completely by myself. And so I can't decide what I should be doing with myself -- I've put out a few feelers for jobs elsewhere, but I only want to leave if my current job is going to suck long-term (I can wait it out if it is only going to suck for a few more weeks), so I'm not being all that proactive about looking for a new job yet. But part of me thinks that I'm being kind of stupid for waiting around, since most people around me are clearly jumping ship. It is incredibly stressful to show up to work every day without knowing whether you'll actually have anything to work on, and without knowing which coworkers will still be around, and without knowing whether you're doing permanent harm to your career by staying. It sucks. And I don't know if it's going to be any better.

On the sleep front: Kermit erupted seven teeth in the last month. Seven. Which pretty much means that he just wants to be held a lot, particularly between 2am and 5am. (We dose him with ibuprofen at bedtime, but it tends to run out around 2am.) Also, while my mom stayed with us, she slept in LL's bed, which means that LL theoretically slept on the floor, which means that LL woke up every single night and either (a) asked to join us in our bed; or (b) asked me or S to join him on the floor. Either way, it sucks. And it hasn't stopped. And once S's mother is sleeping in LL's bed, it's not going to stop then either. I spend almost every night either holding a teething toddler in a rocking chair, or getting kicked by a restless preschooler.

On the home front: Did I mention that my mother stayed in our teeny tiny house for more than a month? That the only time I have spent alone for the past month has been while I was in the car to/from work, which only takes 10 minutes each way? That I am going completely stir-crazy and I want my house back? That I am enormously grateful to my mother for putting her life on hold to take care of my children, but holy cow, I need space? And ... the grand finale ... in another week, my mother (who is gentle and accommodating and respectful of my house and my habits) is going to be replaced with my mother-in-law? My mother-in-law who judges me for absolutely everything I do and thinks I should give up my career to be a good mother like women are supposed to do and who is the most passive-aggressive person I've ever spent time with and who imposes her own everything on us whenever she visits, which is why we have never before let her actually stay at our house during her (short) visits? No doubt sharing my house with my mother-in-law will decrease my stress quite a bit......

And finally, on the merely annoying front: Our furnace broke, requiring an emergency visit from a repair guy. The faucet in our kitchen broke, requiring a week of using a wrench to turn the water on or off, or (heaven forbid!) to change the temperature of the water coming out of the spout, until the replacement part finally arrived. The doorknob on our front door broke, leaving it perpetually locked, requiring a visit from a locksmith (which hasn't happened yet; the door is currently unusable). And some sort of mammal (mouse? squirrel?) got itself stuck inside the outer wall of Kermit's room one night, and I spent the night sleeping on the floor of his room, armed with a large flashlight, listening to it chewing on the inside of the wall, terrified that it was going to somehow make its way into his room and, I don't know, eat him in his sleep or something.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Television

Disclaimer: this post is probably a bit more strident than my usual posts. In case you're wondering: yes, I am stressed about finding new childcare for Kermit, and yes, I am pissed off about the quality of care that I see around me. And yes, I am unbelievably tired of people dismissing science because it isn't convenient. I could write this same basic post about climate change. I could write it about evolution. I could write it about vaccines. But instead, I'm writing it about television for toddlers. Just because it's the issue that's pissing me off this week.

FACT: The American Association of Pediatrics recommends no television whatsoever for children under the age of two.

FACT: Studies have shown that television is an extremely ineffective teaching tool for very young children. Anything they learn from a television show, they learn much more rapidly and deeply from live interactions with an actual person in the real world.

FACT: Studies have shown that lots of television viewing by children under age two slows down the acquisition of language. Even when it is only on "in the background." Even when the child "doesn't seem to be watching." (Additional studies show that very young children who appear absorbed in playing with toys while a television is on in the background still look at the television, on average, every 20 seconds).

FACT: Additional studies have noted a correlation between television watching among very young children and later problems with attention. A correlation between television watching among very young children and increased childhood obesity. A correlation between television watching among very young children and physical changes in how the brain develops. Some of these effects might be related to the type of television show, or the total time spent watching; these types of variables need further study. What is known, definitively, is that these correlations are real and observable.

FACT: Despite what you might read in the comments sections of many articles outlining the AAP recommendations or discussing the above studies, it is actually possible not to show your toddler any television shows. Yes, even if you also have an older child. Is it difficult? Maybe. But it is possible. No physical laws of the universe need to be violated in order for a child to reach the age of two without having seen Sesame Street or Dora the Explorer.

FACT: "My kid watched tons of television and still does well in school" does not disprove these studies. "I know someone who watched tons of television and was speaking in full sentences by 9 months of age" does not disprove these studies. "Back in my day, our television was on for 16 hours a day and I still turned out fine" does not disprove these studies. Anecdotes and scientifically rigorous data are not the same thing. They do not cancel each other out.

Having said that...

OPINION: If you're home with your child and you're trying to cook dinner or do some other household chore, you might sometimes rely on 30 minutes of Sesame Street to peacefully occupy your child while you work. This reliance on television as distraction tool can ease the challenges of being a busy parent. I don't blame you at all. Anyone who judges you for 30 minutes of PBS is an idiot. Those thirty minutes of Sesame Street will not keep your child out of Harvard. Your daily interactions with the child (reading books, going to the zoo, building with blocks, exploring the park) are going to completely dwarf the effects of thirty minutes a day of Elmo. But let's be clear: those thirty minutes also won't make your child smarter, even if it is "educational" television. Use the television for a moment of peace if you want to, but do not kid yourself that it is doing your child any good. It's not what I do, but to each his own.

OPINION: I'm willing to give that "out" to busy parents. Parents are always multi-tasking between two jobs: taking care of the child and running a household. And sometimes the "running the household" job requires that you back-off from the "taking care of the child" job for a minute or two. You're a stay-at-home mom and you need to move a load of laundry and you need your hands free to do it and the laundry room is hazardous for your child? Go ahead and use the television if you want to. You're a working dad and you need to cook dinner for your family when you get home and it is not safe to hold your one-year-old while cutting up and sauteeing raw chicken? Go ahead and use the television if you want to. You're tired at the end of the day and you don't have the energy to play with trains for the millionth time today and instead you want to curl up on the couch with your child and watch a Disney movie with him as a special treat? Totally reasonable thing to do on occasion. Your child, your choice.

OPINION: I am far far less forgiving if you are a child care provider. If you run a day care, your only job during business hours is to take care of the children. Using television to do your job for you is laziness, pure and simple. DO NOT give me some bullshit about how it is educational. DO NOT explain to me that the children "don't really pay attention to it anyway" because honestly, that just makes you look even dumber, because if you think the children aren't watching it, why the hell is it on? DO NOT argue with me about the wisdom of the AAP's recommendations, because you are not in any way qualified to be making the decision to ignore the scientifically-based advice of a medical association, particularly for other people's children. DO NOT attempt to make me feel like the weirdo for being informed and insistent about this issue. And most of all, DO NOT LIE TO ME ABOUT IT. Do you turn on the television? Occasionally. How often? Sometimes. For how long? A little while. Giving answers like these make you sound like you're hiding something, and it just makes me hate you even more for wasting my time.





This post dedicated to the many daycares that we visited that were such idiots on the issue of television that they made our decision not to entrust them with Kermit's care so much easier. Like the daycare with the 40" television dominating the playroom where the children spend most of their day. And the daycare provider who casually told me that they turn on the television "hardly at all; just for an hour in the morning, and then two hours more in the afternoon." And the daycare provider who told me that there might be something wrong with my child if he got "too distracted" by a television that was just on "in the background" while he was "supposed to be playing," because she couldn't fathom any other reason why I would object to the television being on in the first place. And the daycare provider who said, without a hint of sarcasm, "How do you expect your child to learn the alphabet if you won't show him Sesame Street?"

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Universe Smack-Down

Worst. Week. Ever.

Here are the highlights:

First, I found out that after barely three months at my job, which I've been absolutely loving, it looks like they're going to be restructuring some things and I'm 95% sure that I'm going to be laid off within the next month. Not just me, but my entire organization, as the company decides to totally change emphasis. My manager expects that our entire team, including him and his manager, are all going to be laid off. There's still a small chance that it won't happen, but it's very slim. Ugh. I was so relieved to finally be off the job market, and now it looks like I need to get out there again. Also, this once again forces us to put all new house plans on hold. In the mean time, I haven't actually been laid off yet, but I'm spending each and every day at work surrounded entirely by scared and demotivated people who are all just waiting for the shoe to drop, and it is incredibly depressing. Ugh.

The very same day that the layoff rumors started circulating, I went home to discover that Rosie, the nanny who has worked for us for more than three years, needed to talk to me. She hurt her back a little while ago, and had been waiting for some MRI results to know whether it was serious or not. Her doctor had finally called her, and the answer is: yes, it is fairly serious, and constantly lifting and carrying Kermit is making it worse. Her doctor ordered her to quit her job immediately, start physical therapy, and hope that the therapy will be enough to improve things, or else she'll need surgery. Rosie is hopeful that she'll be able to return to work in 6-8 months, but in the mean time, we are once again without childcare.

To be clear: this is much worse for Rosie than for us, who now needs to figure out how to survive for at least 6 months without income. But it sucks incredibly for us as well. As long-time readers may remember, we have had awful childcare luck over the years. Awful. As I've said many many times, I find the uncertainty around finding reliable high-quality childcare to be the absolute worst thing about parenting. The thought of needing to find someone else, on short notice, has me incredibly anxious and depressed.

It might seem like there is a slight silver lining: if I do get laid off, we won't need childcare, so just staying home with Kermit will save us some money. But, we've lost all childcare for Kermit immediately, but I have not yet lost my job, so being under the threat of layoffs is quite possibly the absolute worst time for me to be absent from work for childcare reasons. Also, even if I do get laid off, I have no idea when it will happen. My manager has given us a likely time frame of "sometime between next week and September," so going without childcare for now because of the possible layoff isn't really an option. And, I will presumably be looking for work immediately if I do get laid off, and it is very difficult to really look for a job while taking care of a needy toddler.

So... my mom is flying in on Sunday to help out. She bought a one way ticket, but I don't think she'll be able to stay for more than a few weeks, just until we line up some sort of childcare. And I'm not sure how this is going to work out, because my mom has back problems as well, so she's not sure that she's going to be able to handle all day care for Kermit, either. Also, I tend to get claustrophobic when I'm stressed out, so it is less-than-ideal to be adding yet another person to our cramped house right when I'm feeling more stressed out than any time since my grad school qualifying exam. If I do get laid off, I'm going to crave space to deal with it more than anything else, and I'm not going to get it at home.

Also, our furnace broke this week, because I clearly didn't have enough to deal with. And Kermit is teething his molars, which is making him cranky and clingy and also gave him diarrhea, leading to the worst diaper rash of his life, which isn't helping. And LL, possibly sensing the stress in the house, decided that even though he skipped the Terrible Twos, he doesn't want to miss out on all the fun, so he has become an absolute terror at home. Defiant, petulant, argumentative, contrary, all just for fun. Oh, and Kermit is still not sleeping, so I'm dealing with everything while also sleep deprived.

So far, not really enjoying being 35.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

500 Days Later (Subtitle: The End)

Hm. Five hundred days come and gone. I made this list back in October of 2010, and now here I am, 500 days later, 35 years old. My executive summary: I didn't do too bad, and the list itself was hugely helpful in general. Here are the details:

1. Have two happy kids. (Done!)

2. Finish my PhD. (Done!)

3. Own a new (bigger) house. (Nope. We've taken a deep look at our budget and finances, priced out what we think we can afford, identified where we want to buy and what we want in a house, and then we looked at the market and ... there is no inventory available. All that stuff you've been reading about a buyer's market and tons of extra inventory and foreclosures flooding the market with houses? Doesn't apply in our area. I'm hoping things pick up in the spring.)

4. Work in a job that I enjoy. (Done!)

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. (Nope. I still have two small undergrad loans. We have the cash on hand to pay them off right now if we wanted to, but the interest rate on the loans is pretty low and I'd rather keep the cash to use towards an eventual house downpayment. Soon, though. I'm getting rid of these stupid loans very soon.)

8. Lose all pregnancy and fertility treatment weight from both pregnancies. (Nope. At the time when I wrote this, we were talking about 30 pounds. I still have 14 to go. I actually gained a pound in the last 100 days, thanks to the daily latte habit that came with my new job and my total lack of sleep and my lack of time to exercise.)

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. (Done!)

11. Read 10 fiction books. (Nope. I only made it to 3.5. Still, that's 3.5 more fiction books than I had read in the previous 1,000 days, so let's call this one a semi-success.)

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, and then I actually started a job, for which I didn't actually need Objective-C at all, and I totally stalled out.)

13. Learn perl. (Minorly done! Did I learn perl? No. Did I learn two different languages on the job in the last three months? Yes. Which was kind of the point of this one, so I'm declaring success.)

14. Have permanent assigned "homes" for most objects in the house. (Nope. Need that bigger house.)

15. Update work wardrobe. (Done!)

16. Shower every day. (Close enough for now.)

17. Wear makeup every work day. (Done!)

So... out of seventeen goals, ten of them got done. Five were partially done (debt, weight loss, breast feeding, books, Objective-C). Two didn't come close (the new house and the organized house). That's not too bad, really.

Now, for the meta-discussion about the list itself. Five hundred days was a pretty decent amount of time. Long enough to allow me to put some fairly major things one the list, but short enough that I didn't lose focus.

I'd like to do this again. A few of the things from my previous list I plan to carry over (like buying a house and losing weight), a few I should probably carry over just to maintain them (like cooking dinner and wearing makeup), and I have a whole bunch of new goals that I'd like to add to the list. But I need to find an appropriate length of time. Part of why 500 days was cool was that I was counting down to my birthday, but 500 days from now is ... nothing special at all. Maybe I'll wait a month and then make the next period 700 days (slightly less than two years) and count down to my birthday again. But two years seems too long. Thoughts?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Back to Work

So, I've been working full-time for a little over two months now. Some thoughts on what is going well and what is not:

- I am enjoying being back at work. I like being able to structure my own time. I like being able to talk things out with reasonable coworkers (as opposed to toddlers, who are basically psychotic tyrants). I like having a bit of predictability, where I can be reasonably certain of getting time to eat lunch sometime around lunchtime, instead of it being contingent on getting somebody to take a nap. I like being able to discuss things with S that aren't related to somebody else's bodily functions.

- I am exhausted. Though my exhaustion has very little to do with work and much more to do with the fact that my children are conspiring to never let me sleep. In other words, I'd be exhausted right now even if I was still home full-time.

- Our morning "routine" is still not routine, and takes way too long. After two months, I'm still regularly leaving the house a full hour later than I want. Most of this problem is related to the exhaustion -- if I got out of bed when I'm supposed to get out of bed (which is, coincidentally, the same time that I got out of bed throughout grad school, and I was totally fine with it) things would be fine. Instead, I find myself unable to function, because it feels like I just fell asleep a few minutes earlier, so I cannot manage to drag myself out of bed.

- Also, LL is the pokiest breakfast eater in the world. It's kind of ridiculous.

- I used to not drink coffee. I averaged one cup of coffee a week. (Yes, you read that right: one per week.) I cut out all caffeine when I was pregnant with LL, and never went back. After I stopped breast feeding Kermit, I would occasionally have a cup of coffee in the morning. Then Kermit's sleep sucked and I had coffee every morning. I now have 2 cups of coffee every morning, and I often have a double-shot latte after lunch. It's insane.

- On Thursday, I skipped the coffee all day, and was incapacitated with a blinding migraine by mid-afternoon. Addiction much?

- I am home every day at 5:00 sharp. I play with Kermit a bit, then set him up with some toys in the kitchen while I make dinner. S picks up LL from preschool on his way home, and we try to sit down for dinner at 6:00pm, though it's usually more like 6:15. In general, this part is going fairly well, except on the days when Kermit decides that I am not allowed to put him down at all between 5pm and 6pm, which tend to be the days that I ditch my cooking plans and just order pizza.

- By the time the dishes are cleaned up and the kids are asleep, it's usually 9:30 or 10:00. We should just go to sleep (cf, totally exhausted) but then S and I would have zero time to do anything like pay bills, do laundry, do other household chores, get organized, read, or talk to each other. So, we stay up for another hour, sometimes two, to try to get other stuff done. But tons of things still aren't getting done. And we're exhausted.

- I wake up, get the kids ready, go to work, work, leave work, get Kermit, make dinner, eat dinner, play with the kids a little, bathe the kids, put the kids to bed, clean up dinner... and that leaves just one more waking hour in the day. Where do people make room for running errands? So far, I have shifted as much as possible to online stuff, but occasionally, I need to run to the drug store or the grocery store. Occasionally somebody needs a new pair of shoes, or something has to be dropped off at the post office. I haven't yet figured out how to get those things done, because they can't all be done on weekends.

- In an attempt to separate home and work, I have made two commitments: (1) I will not do any work in the evenings while the kids are awake; and (2) I will not do any personal computer stuff while I'm at work. The first one has been easy so far (I just don't open my work laptop if the kids are up). The second is actually much harder, because if I don't do personal stuff at work (like buying something online that I need for the kids, or looking up preschool stuff, or placing an online order for groceries, or paying an occasional bill) then I have to fit it all into that one hour of time before I go to bed. Which is why stuff isn't getting done. I may have to ease up on that one a bit.

- My coworkers think I'm a freak for leaving work so early. They also think I'm a freak for arriving at work so early. I am usually the only person in my office until nearly 10:00, and the majority of my coworkers do not arrive at work until closer to 10:30 or 11:00.

- I think things will be better once I get into a better groove with the morning routine, and once the kids settle down a bit with their bedtimes, which have gotten thrown off lately by a series of colds.

- Also, things will be better once Kermit starts sleeping through the night.

- It is amazing how many problems go away with more sleep, actually. More sleep -> getting to work earlier --> occasionally leave work a little earlier --> do an errand on the way home from work once in a while --> things get done.

- Also, let's not forget this part: More sleep --> happier mommy --> better able to cope with the things that don't get done.

- Did you hear that, Kermit? Sleep through the night already!!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sleep. Please, Just Let Me Sleep.

Ugh, everybody has been sick. First Kermit spent several days throwing up, then LL got a runny nose and cough that was bad enough to get him quarantined from daycare for two days, then everybody was healthy for one glorious day, and then Kermit spiked a fever of 104 and cried for three days straight. We finally took Kermit to the doctor on Day Three of the fever, worried that the fever was indicating some sort of secondary infection after whatever stomach bug had him throwing up earlier in the week. Our regular pediatrician was on vacation, but the fill-in doctor acutely diagnosed, "Some sort of virus, followed by a totally different second virus. And they were both icky, bad viruses."

She was probably right. But I miss our normal pediatrician who speaks to us using words other than "icky" to describe what is going on.

Anyway, the worst of the symptoms seem to be gone now, but both kids are left with horrible hacking coughs that only appear at night when they lie down and let their sinuses drain into their throats. We tried propping LL up a bit, but he just rolls off the pillows (and flips around so that his head and feet end up reversed; why does he always manage to do that?!?). And Kermit is too small to prop. So they both end up waking themselves (and each other) up multiple times each night from the coughing. And they both require parental comfort to soothe back to sleep.

I'm so exhausted. Barely functioning. Three cups of coffee every morning and a double shot latte every afternoon and I'm still barely getting through my day.

I haven't had a full night's sleep in 18 months.

I haven't been well-rested in four years.

So tired. Seriously. Reaching a breaking point of some sort.

In related news: my friend's wedding. We investigated the suggestion of flying a grandparent with us to the wedding. My mom was very excited about it, actually. Then we discovered how expensive it would be to fly five of us to a hot vacation destination during Spring Break, plus book a large hotel room to accommodate everyone, and we decided that it was not worth it. Then S suggested, then strongly encouraged, then insisted, that I go to the wedding by myself. I think he is feeling a tad guilty that he has had a few nights away and I never have. So, I'm going to the wedding. By myself. Yay!

But honestly, the part that I am looking forward to more than anything else is the two nights alone in a hotel room, when I can go to sleep whenever I want and be positively assured that no children will be waking me up. Pure heaven! Also, I'm bringing a totally fluffy book to read on the plane. Suggestions?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chanukah Wrap-Up

I'm like a month late writing up my Chanukah wrap-up, but here goes anyway.

LL was just 3 months old at his first Chanukah (2008). We bought him two (very small) presents, we lit candles the first few nights, then we flew to visit my parents, where we celebrated with my brother and his family as well. It was low-key, there were limited gifts, and we did very little to establish or follow through on any actual holiday traditions, but it didn't matter much, because LL was just 3 months old.

In 2009, LL was one, but he still had very little concept of presents. We bought him a few books, he got a few gifts from grandparents, we lit our menorah moments before he went to sleep each night. And I was super busy with work. Honestly, Chanukah barely registered for us that year.

In 2010, LL was two, and we decided that since he was old enough to understand the whole opening presents thing, he would open one present each night of Chanukah. (When I was a kid, we had one present each night; some were very small, and one or two were bigger, and there was a ton of strategy involved in looking at the pile of presents on the first night and plotting out which one to open each night. Open the big one first? Save it for the last night? What if size doesn't relate to how cool it is? So many decisions!) We got LL his own little menorah and we lit candles as a family and played with dreidels and read Chanukah books. It was nice. Also, I was 9 months pregnant at the time, and I was a little desperate for LL to have a great holiday before his whole little world fell apart with the addition of a sibling. So it was needlessly stressful. Also, even though LL understood the presents, and enjoyed lighting candles, I don't think there were very much comprehension of the holiday.

Which brings us to this year. LL was three. Kermit was days away from turning one. I had started a new job just days earlier. Things were hectic. And they got a bit out-of-hand. Grandparents sent gifts; aunts and uncles sent gifts; we bought (too many) gifts; and when we added it all up, we had a pile of thirty presents sitting in our dining room on the first night of Chanukah. We hadn't put up any decorations (I usually decorate a bit, just to make things look festive for a few days), we barely got the menorahs out in time, we were lucky that we had enough mismatched candles to make it through the holiday, I didn't find the dreidels until the week was almost over, and I did a crappy job of explaining to LL what it was all about. As a result, I'm pretty sure that all he got out of the experience was that you light some candles and then you get toys. Which really sucks, honestly. Big Chanukah FAIL, in my opinion.

The only thing working for us, I think, is that LL is likely to have only vague memories of Chanukah 2011 when it rolls around again next December. He'll remember a bit, I think, but not very detailed. But this year is probably the last one for which I'll be able to say that. Half-way through Chanukah this year, I told S that I felt like we had blown it this year, but we now had eleven months to figure out what we want this holiday to be for our family, and one more shot to get it right before we would be confusing the heck out of our kids by changing stuff on the fly.

So. Next year, there will be a plan. A conscience effort to celebrate Chanukah the way we want to celebrate it for the majority of our kids' childhoods (with minor variations based on changing circumstances of course; right now, we're trying to get the broad strokes to line up with our family values, if that makes sense). And while I know that Chanukah isn't "supposed" to be a major holiday, it has always been important in my family, and I would like it to have special meaning for LL and Kermit as well. (Though still not as big a deal as Passover.) (I love love love Passover.) Here's what I'm thinking:

We should put up some decorations, because I like the idea of the house looking different during holidays. For us, this usually means dreidels and menorahs decorating the windows and a foil Happy Chanukah sign hanging in the living room. It also means a blue wooden star gets displayed, which my grandfather made when my mom was a little girl, which he gave to me when LL was born and I didn't even manage to take out of the garage this year. We should get out the dreidels and teach the actual game to the kids, and we should have M&Ms on hand to play with, since that is our traditional dreidel currency. We should have some chocolate gelt around the house as a treat after dinner. Lighting the menorahs should be the centerpiece of every evening. We should have homemade latkes one night, and at least one really festive dinner. We should get out the pile of Chanukah books that are mixed into our bookcase year-round and make a point of actually talking about them during the week. And we should limit our own gifts for the kids, so that they end up with truly one gift per night, some of which are new socks, because every Jewish kid I know gets a pair of socks as a gift for at least one night of Chanukah.

Not to say that we got everything wrong this year. I was happy with how a few things played out. LL loved "lighting" the toy wooden menorah that my mom got him last year. Both kids ended up liking latkes, which was a nice surprise, since they both hate potatoes. (The applesauce helped.) The abundance of presents included many books and very few things requiring batteries, and really, it's hard to complain that we were just so darn fortunate that our friends and family bought too many shiny new toys for our children. And best of all, I overheard LL explaining Chanukah to one of his friends, and he carefully told her that after we eat dinner, we light candles and then we sing and then we all get a big Chanukah hug, and then we open presents.

So at least he knew to list all the important parts.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Time Away

Confession time: I have never spent a night away from Kermit. And the only nights that I've ever spent away from LL were when I was in the hospital with Kermit (three nights when Kermit was born, and another three nights when Kermit was hospitalized for RSV one month later). During the nights in the hospital, my mom stayed at the house with LL, and S visited every evening, to make sure that LL was okay. So while LL was away from me for a few days, he was in regular contact with me, and still saw S during the day, and I was only a short car ride away.

S has spent a few more nights away -- in addition to the nights at the hospital with Kermit, he also spent one night at a bachelor party and a few nights on business trips -- but that's it. No weekends away. No time at home while the kiddos visit with Grandma. I have spent every single night responsible for at least one child since LL was born more than three years ago. And I've never been more than a thirty minute drive away from either of my kids, ever. I have always always always been nearby, close enough that I can get to either or both of them if the need arises.

When S and I want to go on a date, we typically do "date days" instead of "date nights" -- we know that we have reliable childcare during the day that the kids are comfortable with, so when we want to go on a date, S and I each take the day off from work (or make strategic use of holidays, when work is closed but childcare is not, like this Monday's MLK Day holiday) and we spend the day together. Our typical "date day" involves a leisurely morning coffee at our favorite coffee bar, fancy lunch at a nice restaurant, early afternoon movie, then more hanging out at a coffee bar, often with a few games of cribbage or similar portable game thrown into the mix. On the rare occasion when we have actually gone out at night, we have typically gotten one of our friends to come over to babysit, we're home by 10pm, and I can count on one hand the number of times that we've done that in the past 3+ years.

Yes, I acknowledge that this is a little ridiculous. We should be going out more. We should be spending more time as a couple, away from the kids. And if we had local grandparents, I'm sure that we would. But childcare is hard. We have no reliable evening or weekend babysitters. Most of our friends have kids of their own now, and the few that don't tend to have very busy schedules. LL does not do well around strangers, so random babysitters are kind of out of the question until we can find one that we can introduce slowly. And twice now, we have tried to groom teenage babysitters from our neighborhood, only to have their parents decide that they should really be focusing on their schoolwork instead of "working." (As an aside: dude, when did parents start prohibiting kids from babysitting on Friday nights?!?) And I have no idea how we would possibly orchestrate a weekend away, because there is definitely no one local who could watch our kids overnight.

But, we are now facing a decision. One of our best friends from college is getting married. (He quite possibly is my best friend from college, except that I should probably give that designation to S, since I married S. But S and I were both close friends with this guy, all through college, and we've remained close.) He's getting married several time zones away from where we live. He has expressed several times that he really really wants me and S to attend his wedding. And he has also told us, somewhat apologetically, that he and his fiance do not want children at the wedding. (Yes, that is an annoying thing to impose on out-of-town guests with young children, but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and saying (a) he doesn't have kids so he doesn't realize how annoying a restriction like this is; and (b) he and his fiance deserve to have whatever kind of wedding they want.)

So... what do we do? The options, as I see them:

1. Bring the kids anyway. Seems kinda rude, if they're not wanted.

2. Bring the kids on the trip, then ask our friend to help us find a babysitter for the wedding itself. I'm not all that comfortable with this option, because I hate the idea of cooping the kids up in a hotel room for an entire evening with someone they don't know. I do not see it going well, at all. LL, in particular, would freak out (he's very very shy around strangers; we've tried this sort of thing before), and Kermit would absolutely never go to sleep. They would both be crying the majority of the time.

3. Ask some grandparents to come to our house to watch the kids while we go away for the weekend. I'm sure we could get one of the grandmas to agree to this plan, but it would be expensive for either one of them. (They would need to fly here.) Also, it makes me very very nervous that on my first extended time away from Kermit, I would be a plane-flight away. Honestly, this option makes me a bit queasy. (But only for Kermit; LL would totally do fine with this option.)

4. I go to the wedding while S stays home with the kids (or vice-versa). Theoretically fine, but seems very unfair to whomever doesn't go. Also, it would be very hard to decide who that would be, since we're both friends with the groom. Also, if I were to go without S, I know that I wouldn't have as much fun, so I'm not positive that it would be worth it.

5. Don't go. The ultimate in problem avoidance. Except that, well, then we would miss the wedding.

Am I missing a magical sixth option that is better in all possible ways? Any thoughts?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cruisin'

When a child turns one year old, they transition (officially) from "baby" to "toddler." When LL turned one, this designation was a source of mild amusement, because he had barely learned to crawl, he wasn't particularly fond of pulling himself to standing, he wasn't all that into cruising, and he rarely consented to take steps even when holding onto our hands. He was still several months away from actually doing any toddling, so I was happy to still call him a baby.

Kermit heard that he was now a toddler and decided that he'd better start toddling, as soon as possible. He had been cruising with giddy abandon for quite some time, but in the week leading up to his birthday, he began to experiment with letting go. At first, he practiced just standing on his own (and clapping, usually, or signaling touchdown, depending on the context). Then he started "leaping" from couch to chair, from chair to table, from table to Mommy, launching himself through the air with a giant grin of determination. These weren't exactly steps, though he would sometimes need to put a foot down between objects, but rather a very deliberate attempt to fall into something other than what he was originally holding on to. It was only a matter of time before he started taking real first steps.

I'm not totally sure on the timing, since it's hard to decide what counts as a first step and what is just falling ungracefully away from the couch, but I'm officially saying that his first real steps happened on the day before his birthday. That day was when it became obvious that he was letting go of one object, steadying himself, then launching himself towards a different object that was at least two steps away. Mommy to chair. Mommy to Auntie. Auntie to Daddy. Couch to Grandma. By the evening before his birthday, everybody in the house was able to say that he had taken two or three steps towards them (after which he would collapse onto them; these early steps are much more like barely-controlled falling). He demonstrated this amazing ability to take two steps before falling down at his party, much to everyone's delight. And now, at the tender age of one year five days, he has improved on his technique by not falling down every time. Now he is truly doing the drunken Frankenstein thing -- he takes a step, pauses to steady himself, takes one more step, regains his balance, steps again... and before you know it, he has covered a decent distance and is still on his feet, albeit very shaky. The very definition of toddler.

Somewhat related: Kermit had his one-year checkup with Dr. K yesterday, where we discovered that he is at the 90th percentile for both height and weight. So, he's big, but he's proportional. I don't quite know what to do with him, because LL was always at the 30th percentile or less, and lately he's been stretching out, so that he's at the 40th percentile for height and the 20th for weight. He's all lanky preschooler while Kermit is a solid little linebacker. At this age, LL was eating mostly yogurt, rice puffs, and little jars of pureed food. By contrast, Kermit hasn't eaten anything pureed in months. He eats entire chunks of fruit and vegetables, and can polish off an entire cut-up chicken breast in a sitting. He ate short ribs for his birthday, and he would have happily gnawed the meat right off the bone himself if we'd let him. We went out to eat this weekend: LL ate one-sixth of a child-sized pizza; Kermit ate an entire fillet of chicken parmigiana, a side of spaghetti, and a handful of carrots.

Kermit is approaching the age where most kids begin eating like birds, so we're happy to keep feeding him as long as he's interested in continuing to eat. And his tentative walking is most likely going to turn into lots and lots of practice walking, followed by running, very soon, which is likely to burn a whole lot of calories. (Dr. K warned us that he may also start climbing. Um... he figured out step stools several weeks ago. He's already stacking boxes next to high tables in an attempt to get to out-of-reach toys. The climbing thing is already done.) (Also, he knows how to open doors. He can even open doors that open towards him, not just the ones that push away from him, so nothing in our house is safe.)

So yes, Kermit is figuring things out, at an alarming rate. Toddle away, little toddler.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Vacation Days

S and I were both off work for 10 days at the end of December. It is common in my industry for companies to just shut down entirely at the end of the year, which is one of my very favorite job perks. (As I told my coworkers, I'd been at work for almost three whole weeks at that point; I could really use a week off.)

Natasha's was shut down then as well, but we asked Rosie to work a few of those days so that S and I could have some rare child-free time. Thus, in addition to a full week of us both being home with the kids, S and I also had three entire days to ourselves.

What did we choose to do with this precious alone time? We rearranged our house, of course!

Kermit has been sleeping in our bedroom since he was born. He started out in a bassinet, then moved to a crib, but both were positioned at the foot of our bed. LL started out sleeping in our room as well, but we moved him to his own room when he was not quite three months old. With Kermit, however, we hit a bit of a roadblock: we didn't have a room to move him to. Our house does have a third bedroom, but it was set up as an office, by which I mean, it contained two desks, all our electronics, most of our books, huge piles of paperwork, and every piece of junk we own that doesn't have a permanent home elsewhere. The room was a disaster.

But, as we approached Kermit's first birthday, it was becoming increasingly obvious that he needed his own room, and we needed some privacy back. It was time to bite the bullet and transform the office into a bedroom. And we had three days to do it. Actually, less than three days, because S insisted that we had to have some fun during those days, too, because who knows when we'll get any alone time ever again.

But we totally did it. Over the course of three days, we emptied the room; boxed up everything that we won't need for the next 6 months or so; generated a ton of trash; stirred up enough dust that I broke out in hives; disassembled, moved, and reassembled all our office and Kermit furniture; decorated the room for an almost-one-year-old; saw two movies in actual movie theaters; and hung out in a coffeeshop for several hours. It was awesome.

And now, ta da!, Kermit has his own room. I still need to get new curtains, and I want to hang his penguin quilt on the wall, but other than that, the room is done. It's very homey, and I'm happy with how it turned out. One desk and a limited amount of office stuff is now living in our bedroom, where Kermit's crib used to be, but it is not very much, so I am pleased.

Kermit seems to have barely noticed the room. He loves crawling around and exploring his new digs, but he is not sleeping any better or worse than he was before the move. (To be clear: he was sleeping horribly before the move, and he's still sleeping horribly.) Kermit and LL now share a wall, which was not the case when Kermit was in our room, and my fears were realized the very first night when LL woke up every time Kermit cried. But LL seems to have adapted quickly, because we haven't had problems with him waking up from Kermit since then. (To be clear: LL has been waking up before 6am for a while now, which sucks, but it does not appear to be Kermit's fault.)

I'm a little sad and nostalgic not to have Kermit in our room anymore, which surprises me. LL was in our room for a far shorter period of time, and I was happy to move him to his own place. Kermit, nearly 9 months older than LL was, and probably twice the size, seems too tiny to be on his own, so far away from me. I've been obsessively checking in on him far more than I ever checked on LL. I'm hoping it's temporary. Either way, though, I'm happy that we got him into his own room in time for his first birthday. A growing boy needs his own space. Or something.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Happy Birthday Kermit!

Who in the world allowed my baby, my little bear cub, my precious Kermit, to have an actual birthday and become a full year old?!?

Yes, the years with children always go fast. And yes, when LL turned one, I could hardly believe where the time had gone. But Kermit's first year seems to have gone even faster, a total blur of breast feeding and teething and crawling, of finishing grad school and hunting for jobs and taking care of two kids, of car accidents and unexpected hospitalizations and airplane flights and budgeting. 2011 was an insane, ridiculous year; definitely net positive, but unusual in more ways than usual, if that makes any sense at all. Added up, it means that the year sped by at warp speed, and now suddenly, it is 2012, and my baby boy is one year old.

Kermit's birthday party was today. As is our tradition, we served a collection of his favorite foods, but thanks to Kermit's insatiable appetite for anything he can fit in his mouth, we basically had all of international cuisine to choose from, limited only by what we are able to buy locally in January. We served pears and kiwi and grapes, cheerios and cubes of cheese and these little pumpkin flavored Japanese snacks that Kermit can't get enough of but we have no idea what they're called (we call them "kabocha balls" because they're round and are often flavored with kabocha squash, and I'm sure that they have a real name in Japanese, but nobody in the family knows what it is). We served bagels and muffins and hash brown casserole, and we grilled fresh Korean short ribs, mostly because our family didn't believe that Kermit really does love Korean short ribs. And I baked a cake shaped like a teddy bear, since we usually refer to Kermit as our bear cub. The cake was my first attempt at real cake decorating, which I taught myself by reading web sites and watching youTube videos, and I have to say, it turned out much better than I expected. I frosted it mostly in blue, which ended up being an interesting choice, because once Kermit was done smearing it over his entire face, efficiently coating his hair and neck and arms and ears and neck with it, he looked a bit like a fuzzy Smurf.

I don't post photos of the kids, but I'm ridiculously proud of the cake, so here's a picture of the bear. If this whole PhD career thing doesn't work out, I can always go into cake decorating. But I can only do bears:


The party got a little out of hand (40 people? 14 kids? For a one year old? Um, probably too much) but it was fun, and Kermit loved being the center of attention. He even showed off his new super power, which is the ability to take two or three steps before falling over, when he's in the mood.

He then took a long nap, watched in complete confusion while his older brother opened all his presents for him, screamed in frustration when his brother tried to play with all the toys he had just opened, ate a big dinner, had more cake, and is now sleeping happily, dreaming of a world of sugar that he never knew existed.

Happy Birthday, bear cub. I love you very very much.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Huge Momentous Incredible TMI Milestone

We interrupt the sporadic blogging brought about by the simultaneous starting of the new job / husband recovering from major car accident / end-of-year holidays / horrendous sleep regression ... to report some amazing milestone-worthy news!

LL went to daycare today wearing Big Boy Underwear!

(Yes, Big Boy Underwear is required to be capitalized. LL doesn't quite understand the concept of capital letters yet, but if he did, he would insist on it. It took him approximately 6 months to shorten "Big Boy Bed" to the more commonly understood "bed." I suspect that Big Boy Underwear will take even longer.)

You may recall that we started casually potty training LL in the middle of last year, way back in June. By casual, I mean that we bought him some Big Boy Underwear, asked him several times a day if he would like to wear it, and then went along with his answer even if it meant that he carried the underwear around the house without putting it on for days at a time. We asked him if he wanted to use the potty but stayed cheerfully silent when he (quite often) responded with, "No, I want to pee in my pull-up." In other words, we took the no-stress approach. (The no-stress approach, by the way, is also the takes-forever approach. It is the sometimes-appears-like-it-will-never-happen approach. It is the you-really-can't-care-or-it-will-drive-you-bonkers approach. To use this approach successfully, you have to be really really committed to passively not caring about how long it takes. Luckily, we totally didn't care.)

For five months, LL wore underwear around the house, except, you know, when he didn't want to be bothered. He wore pullups whenever we left the house. He wore pullups at daycare. He wore pullups whenever he needed to poop. And he most definitely wore pullups while he was sleeping.

Then, about a month ago, we forgot to change him into a pullup at naptime, and yet he miraculously woke up totally dry. This seemingly tiny victory apparently gave him a taste of being a truly Big Boy, and he started wanting to wear underwear more often, specifically so that he could stay in underwear during his nap. He wore underwear to the park. He tried out bathrooms at other people's houses. He investigated bathrooms in public places. He went to the bathroom all by himself sometimes, locking the door and shrieking at us to don't come in!!! But he still insisted on changing into a pullup whenever he needed to poop.

Eventually, he asked us if he could wear underwear to daycare. And we told him, very calmly and with no pressure, that he couldn't wear underwear to daycare until he was able to poop in the potty, so he should let us know when he felt ready to do that. And waddya know, within the week, he pooped in the potty.

By the end of December, it seemed like all the pieces were in place. He could go fairly long stretches between potty breaks. He could both pee and poop in a normal-sized toilet. He went to the bathroom of his own initiative whenever he felt the urge. He could stay dry during naps. And, most important, S and I were both off work for 10 days, corresponding with LL being home while his daycare was closed for the holidays. So, the first day of our holiday break, we put him in underwear in the morning and never looked back. And for the entire 10 days, LL only wore a pullup at bedtime. He had two accidents early on, but that's it. And we went out a lot during that time, too. He wore underwear to restaurants, to shopping malls, to parties at other people's houses, on walks around the neighborhood, and to the playground.

And today, he wore underwear to daycare. And he did great. I know that kids often regress, even after being accident-free for months, but for now, Yay!!! Only one kid in diapers!* Such freedom!**

* Well, one and a half. LL wears a nighttime pull-up at night, the ones that are super industrial strength, and quite often manages to pee through it. So I don't expect to be doing nighttime training any time soon.

** Except that every time we go anywhere at all, I live in fear of LL announcing that he needs to go and I can't find a bathroom,*** so I don't exactly feel free.

*** We went on a walk once with LL in underwear, and halfway home, LL came to a sudden stop and then asked in a semi-panic whether we were almost home. I told him no, and he got a weird look on his face, then insisted that I had to carry him the rest of the way. I asked him if he needed to go potty, and he cheerfully said, "No, not anymore!" And thus I carried a pee-soaked LL the last several blocks home.