Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Vegan Lunch Box

I ran across an amazing site the other day. Check it out. I'll wait.

I don't know whether to be completely intimidated or overwhelmingly grateful when looking at those lunches. I don't think I've mentioned it here, but WonderGirl is starting pre-K next year and we will have to begin packing her lunch. We have been very, very spoiled by the fact that her current preschool serves breakfast, lunch and snack every day. DT is really looking forward to making her lunch, but I'm afraid it will be overwhelming - just one more thing to make sure we get done regularly.

The situation is somewhat complicated by WonderGirl's vegetarian status, which is currently in flux. We decided when she was born that we would raise her vegetarian until she was old enough to make her own choices. (Have I mentioned that DT is not a vegetarian? People usually assume he is.) Anyway, WonderGirl emphatically made her preferences known one memorable Tuesday night. We were at a local restaurant that serves fried chicken only on Tuesdays, and although I don't eat it, I can tell from the smell that it is true southern fried chicken and my grandmother would have approved. WonderGirl started asking for pieces from DT's plate, and once she started, the jig was up. That girl can eat. Now she loves most weird seafood (yes on the octopus, no on most fish - huh?) and fowl, with a special fondness for duck. Actual conversation:
DT: Do you want some lamb, WonderGirl?
WG: No, I couldn't eat such a cute little animal.
Ruth: But you eat ducks - aren't they cute?
WG: No, I can't eat that cute little animal any more either. (Pause) Unless it's grilled.

She's generally preferred to eat vegetarian at school because the vegetarian menu there is better, but often eats meat when we go out. A couple of days ago, she told me she wants to be vegetarian full-time, though. Of course, I want to support her if she's serious, but I don't want her to do it to try to make me happy. It also makes me anxious about finding things to pack for her lunches next year that are vegetarian. Because I grew up eating turkey or ham sandwiches every day, meat lunches just seem easier to me. So, back to the point of this post (yes, I made it back eventually!), the vegan lunch box site seems like a great way to get some ideas.

For DT.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Better, and yet no change

Okay, okay, everyone stop fighting in the comments about what we should have done re: the stinker Rocco situation. An update:

It turned out that his crib mattress could go down one more level, about an inch, and that appears to be enough to keep him from standing for now. However, and I'm sure most people could have predicted this, he was not necessarily happy about the change.

Last night, he went to sleep easily, woke up at 4:30 to eat, went back to sleep easily after that, and then...

5:37, woke up for good. Cried. Pleaded, "Please, I've been so good, I smile at you and scream in happiness whenever you turn me upside down. Please, for the love of God, someone come play with me!" (Did I mention how verbally precocious he is? Not perfect grammar, but not bad for someone who still can't crawl like a normal human being.) When I finally got him at 6:30, he was sitting up in his crib, looking mightily pissed off that he wasn't standing. Can't win for losing.

We'll see what happens tonight, when DT and I are in there with him. Rocco's accusing looks should be even more powerful when there's someone there to receive them.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sending out an SOS

Okay, lurker parents. I need advice.

Bit of background: Rocco has always been a picky sleeper. He's noise-sensitive, position-sensitive, just generally a SNAG (sensitive new age guy). About a month ago, we finally bought Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and it worked for us. After two days, Rocco was on a better nap schedule at home (read: one where he napped) and was sleeping better at night. He has always woken up once during the night to eat, but now he goes (oops, went) right back to sleep after. I've been okay with the once-a-night feeding, although DT and I did just start talking about trying to eliminate it. (Side note - our pediatrician accused me (nicely) of spoiling him, which is approximately the first time anyone has ever accused me of that.)

Last night, we had our typical bedtime routine, culminating with me nursing Rocco, then putting him in his crib. He fussed a bit as I went to the door (normal), then stopped as I closed the door (normal). About two minutes later, he started - hmm, what is the word? - squealing, shrieking, screaming, none of those really do it justice. It was an unusual timbre for his vocalizations, so I went in and found him standing up in the crib. He's been pulling up, but hasn't really tried sitting down yet, so it's fair to say he was stuck. I lay laid placed him in a supine position and left again. Lather, rinse, repeat. We did this three times within the space of a few minutes, at which point I stopped going in, because clearly my options were:

  1. Get carpal tunnel from repeating the drill a hundred times over the next hour or
  2. Let Rocco figure out what to do.
Bad mother that I am, I chose option 2. It took 45 excruciating minutes, but he finally got himself back down somehow and went to sleep.

All was well until he woke up at 4:30 for his usual feeding. He was just cooing a bit, not crying, but when I went in, yes, he was standing up again. No problems after the feeding, but then at 5:45 (NOT our typical hour to wake up), he was up, screaming, standing, again. After 30 minutes, when it became clear that he was too well-rested to feel motivated to solve his problem, DT went to get him out of the crib.

I don't think we ran into this with WonderGirl. Her height:coordination ratio was different from Rocco's, and I don't think she was tall enough to pull up in her crib before she had figured out how to sit down again. So, once again, we run into a situation where Rocco might as well be our first child for the amount of useful experience we have.

Any suggestions? I hate to leave him there standing up and crying, but I also know him and know that if I keep going in, we could continue this forever. It's just his nature. This is complicated by the fact that we'll have houseguests for several days, so starting tomorrow night, DT and I will be sleeping in Rocco's room. I can just see him standing there, watching us, waiting for rescue. So, when you give me expert advice, please include something that will work, oh, I don't know, immediately.

Thanks so much.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I never thought I would write this sentence:

Perhaps it is time to lay off Britney Spears.

I was as appalled as anyone else that she drove with her baby on her lap, and then was brainless enough to install his carseat incorrectly later. (Side note: it's difficult where I live to find an "expert" to help make sure you have your carseat in correctly, but I can't imagine that is true for good ole Brit. Although, now that I think about it, maybe she was just trying to call attention to carseat-safety issues in her own clumsy way?) Clearly, the story behind her son's skull fracture is a little wobbly as well.


If we are at the point where a mom of an infant can stumble and make tabloid headlines, well, I think we've gone too far. I have personally done worse than stumble with my child, and I'd be surprised to hear from a parent who hasn't. There was an awful time when I looked over to the high chair at a restaurant and saw only Rocco's hair, as he had slid out of the chair. Luckily he was propped up somehow, since he can't stand on his own power yet, and luckily, I'm not famous so no one remembers except for DT and me.

Clearly, there's a bit of parent oneupsmanship going on here. Those of us who raise children without the advantage of huge amounts of money and unlimited nanny services like to feel like we're still doing a better job than someone who has, practically speaking, no excuse for ever making a mistake. I know that when I hear about celebrity moms, I tend to have a moment of thinking that they don't really know what motherhood is in the same way that I do - they don't have to figure out how to get through two bedtime routines at once so that no one gets overtired, they don't have to schedule dentist and doctor appointments in such a way that traffic won't cause problems on the way from one to the other, they don't have to think hard to try to remember the last time they had a night away with just their spouse. There is a part of me that thinks that yes, all they have to do is wear clothes that won't cause them to trip. Is that so freaking hard?

But the fact is, when we criticize famous moms for doing the same thing that any of us might do, we're only making it harder for all parents. The modern expectation of perfect parenting helps no one, and when that expectation is coming from within, it can be especially damaging. We will all make mistakes. Those of us that are lucky will not cause permanent damage and will only have the scene replayed in our own minds perpetually, not in the public's.

Ugh, defending Britney Spears. I didn't even get into my pet peeves about people making fun of her for not losing her baby weight immediately, and I still feel like I need to shower.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Fair and balanced

The sinus infection I've been carefully nurturing on the left side of my head is now competing with the lovely pain/numbness hybrid that is the result of the filling I just had on the right side of my mouth. My head can't figure out which side to pay attention to.

I've been working at a coffee shop since leaving the dentist, hoping that the numbness would subside to the point where I can go out for lunch and therefore reward myself for going through with the filling when I was sorely tempted to use my sinusitis as an excuse to cancel. Unfortunately, I still seem to be drooling without knowing it, so I will probably not take the chance of eating real food and possibly biting the heck out of my tongue.

I wonder if you can have ibuprofen powder added to a smoothie instead of bee pollen? Wimpiness, thy name is Ruth.

[Update, because I know you're breathlessly waiting for one:

  • There is no ibuprofen powder available at Smoothie King.
  • A single smoothie is not enough lunch for a lactating woman.
  • It is possible to eat a piece of chocolate cake while your mouth is numb, but the required fork will seem scary and sharp, and you will wish no one was around, so that you could just lick your fingers. And the plate.]

Friday, May 19, 2006

Julie Harris

When I was four, I met Julie Harris. We happened to be at the same park, wearing the same blue and red saddle shoes (not that it makes it okay, but it was the mid-70's) and that was all it took. We glued ourselves together.

We went to preschool at the same place, we had sleepovers. I have a distinct memory of her kitchen, and eating King Vitamin cereal there, which my mom would never have allowed. There is a vivid picture in my head of the two of us sitting on a two-person swing in my back yard, our blue and red shoes sharing the footrest.

When I was six, Julie moved to Kansas City. We wrote letters for several years, but gradually lost touch. She was my first best friend.

WonderGirl and her own first best friends are getting ready to leave the daycare/preschool they've attended for four years. They're all going to different schools next year - not exactly moving to Kansas City, but it seems comparable right now. Yesterday the school held a "bridging ceremony" and each child walked across a tiny stage to get a certificate in front of approximately 1.7 cameras per parent in attendance. Today, WonderGirl's class is putting on a play for the parents that they've been working on for weeks. They've built a set, memorized lines, tried to remember not to argue over who eats which pretend food during the picnic scene and practiced making quick, elaborate costume changes between bits. The kids are exhausted from practicing and performing for the other classes at the school; their typical classroom routine is shot and everyone is edgy. It has been an emotional week for them, to put it simply.

The parents, however, seem to be faring worse. We have spent four years together, too. We've watched our babies grow up and second babies be born. We've started listing each other on the "emergency contact" section of forms since no one has family in town. We've shared birthday parties and grown-up parties. At the bridging ceremony, the kids were having fun using their diplomas as telescopes; the parents were busy choking up. I'm sure we all have a Julie Harris in our pasts; we know what might be ending now. I know that WonderGirl will make new friends in her new school, but I also know that if she loses touch with her current friends, I'll have lost as much, if not more, than she has.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bacteria 2, Rocco 0

It turns out that not only did Rocco's ear infection require antibiotics, it is going to require more antibiotics. We went back for a well-child check today and heck, while we're here, take a look at that ear again and wow! It's still infected! And now the other one is as well! This is your lucky day!

Hubris, indeed.

Meanwhile, I had no idea that May was such a busy month for families. Given that the sum total of our kids' ages barely exceeds 5, our family has an astounding number of end-of-the-year events to attend and (worse) to help plan. I mentioned how busy life has become to my dad, who somewhat famously has blocked most of his parenting experiences (although he was very involved), and he immediately concurred. Fabulous - even a man who doesn't remember how or when my brother and I were potty-trained, doesn't remember when we slept through the night, doesn't remember at what age we wrote our first piece of literary criticism, remembers that May sucks. I better steel myself for next year, and plan not to run out of margarita fixin's again.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Random updates

  • Mother's Day was wonderful in the QoD house. WonderGirl's card was beautiful, and she was justly proud of it. The kids in her RE class at church also made giant cards by dictating to the teachers what made theirs moms special. These are the times your kid can come up with gems like, "My mom is special because she gets my boogers out, " or "My mom is special because she stops singing when it hurts my ears." I was pleasantly surprised that WonderGirl had a long list of why I was special, none of which made me cringe. Apparently she likes cooking with me, taking baths and doing puzzles. Most importantly, she knew I loved her and that made the list. Yay.
  • Note to our interim minister: The parents at the service already knew that letting children into your heart gives you access to both highs and lows that you just can't understand otherwise. It wasn't necessary to belabor the "lows" part. It's Mother's Day, for goodness sakes. Did you have to rub it in for the family that was experiencing their first Mother's Day since their son died?
  • The trivial and unpleasant part of Mother's Day for me was that apparently, the night before, I stuffed my head full of something - maybe a pillow? - and woke up yesterday morning with the left side of my skull about to burst. On the plus side, whatever was stuck up there is now draining out of my left nostril. (I say "on the plus side" because you're not here to see it.)
  • The Thin Man is just as snappy a movie as I remembered from when I was a teenager. I think I may have unwittingly based my idea of the perfect relationship on Nick and Nora Charles.
  • Where I am right now: wearing jeans, sitting at my desk at school, eating a miniature Special Dark candy bar. Implicitly, where I am not: outside at my school's graduation ceremony, gaining the privileges and responsibilties of being a PhD. Good thing I have a peppermint patty sitting at the ready to keep my mood stable.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Two dumb-ass things DT has said today (so far)

  1. "Wow, we made it just in time." (As we ran to the train station, each carrying a child, trying to beat the rain. Crucial note - we were not actually at the train station. We did not, in fact, make it just in time - the cloudburst was timed perfectly, just after he closed his big mouth.)
  2. "Maybe WonderGirl doesn't need to take a nap anymore." (The truth is, she hasn't napped at daycare in almost two years and rarely does at home. However, that quiet time in her room each afternoon is crucial for everyone's sanity, in my opinion. In any case, if you're going to discuss ending naptime, don't do it when WonderGirl is sitting on your freaking lap, listening!)
[Now I feel guilty posting this. The fact is, DT also has been quite thoughtful today, but do I mention that? No. Such is the life of the husband of a world-famous blogger always on the lookout for material...]

Friday, May 12, 2006

An embarrassment of riches

Like most women who have experienced either infertility or miscarriages, I have had ambivalent feelings about Mother's Day in the past. I was cataloguing past Mother's Days in my head last night and came up with this list:

  • 1997-1999: missing my own mother
  • 2000: trying to get pregnant, afraid I wouldn't be able to
  • 2001: newly pregnant - happy happy happy...
  • 2002: my first Mother's Day as a mom
  • 2003: see 2000
  • 2004: still in the phase of immediate grief after Celeste's death
  • 2005: pregnant with Rocco, scared he wouldn't be healthy
Truly, until this year, I think I have always associated Mother's Day more with my own mother, who died too young, than I have with myself. My mother, her mother and Celeste all died within a few weeks before Mother's Day (different years, thank goodness), so over the last decade, I've often spent the day missing people that weren't with me instead of feeling celebratory.

2006 is shaping up quite differently, and it's taken me by surprise. WonderGirl made a card for me already, and it's taking every bit of her willpower not to describe it to me in gory detail. A typical exchange over the last few days:

WonderGirl: I made you a card! But I won't tell you what it looks like or where I made it.
Ruth: How exciting! Okay, don't tell me about it, it'll be a surprise.
WG: Guess where I made it.
R: I don't know.
WG: At school, in the atelier. But I won't tell you who helped.
R: Okay, sweetie.
WG: Daddy helped! But I won't tell you what it looks like.
R: Look, there's a tree!

In truth, I have been excited out of all proportion to actually see this card, because I know she's proud of it and I can't think of anything more meaningful. This year, she's old enough to express her feelings and thoughts in a (semi-)sophisticated fashion and I feel beyond lucky to be the recipient of some of them.

This morning, when I dropped Rocco and WonderGirl off, the school was having their annual Mother's Day breakfast - some pastries and oj set out for the moms, and everyone was in a "Happy Mother's Day!" kind of mood. It just seemed so wrong that not only do I get to actually be a mom, people give me cheese danish for it. It left me strangely emotional - I am so grateful to experience a Mother's Day that isn't heavily tinged with sadness, or worse, fear. I know that my mother and grandmother would be proud of the way I'm raising my kids, and they would all have a blast together. I will always be sad for my babies that didn't get to experience life, but I am at a point now of accepting what happened. Most importantly, I have two children now that need and want my full love.

For the women who are waiting for a Mother's Day that isn't fearful or sad, I hope that it happens for you soon, and that it is a rushing surprise for you in the same way it has been for me this year.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A new definition of "good enough" mothering

There is a tendency in real life, which seems magnified in the blogosphere, for mothers to judge other mothers' parenting. I know, I know, it's shocking and you would never do it. Nor would I, I don't care how screwed up a kid becomes because his parents let him watch Pulp Fiction at age 6, I would never criticize a parent who is trying his or her best to raise a happy, healthy child. (Actually, in the interest of honesty, I will admit that yes, not only will I criticize that parent, I will do it frequently and for years afterwards, noting especially that it is strange to allow your child to see all of the violent parts of the movie, but cover his eyes during the love scene between two consenting adults.)

Here's the thing, though. Apparently even the human mothers waaaaay on one side of the parenting bell curve are doing well, when you look at what passes for mothering in other species. There is a fascinating article in the NY Times today which exposes the seamy underbelly of kangaroo moms, rabbit moms, nurse shark moms and even, yes, penguin moms. It's a measure of just how much I anthropomorphize most animals that I found the details unsettling and hard to read.

A quote from the article, about chimpanzees who take excellent care of their own young but view the neighbors' as expendable:

...because female chimpanzees live in troops with other nonrelated females, a ravenous, lactating mother feels little compunction about killing and eating the child of a group mate. "It's a good way to get lipids," Dr. Hrdy said.
Next time you feel judged as a mother, comfort yourself with the fact that at least you don't suck your child's blood (often), like ants of the genus Adetomyrma. And next time you feel like judging another mother, watch out, for that mother might decide that your child is a good source of lipids.

Happy early Mother's Day.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The road to antibiotics is paved with good intentions

Here in the QoD household, we strive to minimize the expansion of antibiotic-resistant bugs. That striving is often low-key, as when we choose dish soap without Proven Antibacterial Powers, but it feels like striving to us, nonetheless. This means, of course, that we try not to give WonderGirl and Rocco antibiotics unless we're darn sure that they've been waylaid by a bacterial illness instead of a viral one. This is not always easy, because the identifying signs that the germs hold up are not always easy to read when you're squinting and we're usually squinting for some reason.

Rocco has already had two ear infections, which is one more than WonderGirl ever had. It's a bit surprising, because I'm still nursing, and breastmilk has Proven Antibacterial Powers also, and don't you know that breastfed kids don't get ear infections? And they're smart. And their poop smells like gardenias. And they're biologically incapable of farting when anyone is close enough to smell it. Plus, I knew someone whose aunt's neighbor breastfed for two years and her kid never got sick. And the plural of anecdote is, in fact, data.

Anyway, Rocco timed his two previous (hah! foreshadowing!) ear infections well - each was right before we were about to fly somewhere, so we felt a bit pressured to go ahead and start treatment so that he wouldn't be in avoidable pain on the flights. Last week, he started pulling on his ear and got a bit cranky, so DT took a look at his ear. (DT's job is one which requires him to be able to diagnose ear infections - right, he's an ear sanitation engineer.) It was heading down the path of infection, but wasn't there yet, so we resolved to keep an eye on it. I was secretly sure it wasn't really infected because we have no air travel planned anytime soon. Sadly, I'm not kidding about that.

Over the next several days, it got worse, then, miraculously, got better. The small pus pocket resolved, the bulging subsided, Rocco became happier and we congratulated ourselves on following the AAP's recommendation to observe a child in his situation instead of immediately starting antibiotics. One less course of antibiotics! Woo hoo! We were public health revolutionaries!

Last Friday, of course, Rocco got cranky again. Over the weekend, he developed a nice fever. (By "nice," I mean a fever that was obvious enough that we didn't have to take his temperature, but when we finally did, it was nicely 101.5.) He then either: a) started chewing tobacco without having a spit cup nearby, or b) developed a nasty drool reflex indicating a "nice" sore throat. I started worrying about strep, so DT looked down his throat (using, of course, a Gerber plasticized spoon to keep his tongue out of the way) and it was "nice" and red.

Today, I bundled Rocco off to his official pediatrician, and yes, you're right. Ear infection.


Friday, May 05, 2006

Listen to the genius

How can you argue with Einstein? When we send off the paper (any minute now!), we're going to include this.

Thanks to CityMama for the link.

Edit: On the good side, Dr. Nice just submitted the paper! Woo hoo! On the bad side, I couldn't get this picture to him in time. Think we still have a chance for good reviews?

Friday weirdness

On my way to take WonderGirl and Rocco to day care today, while driving through a relatively dense neighborhood of expensive homes and pampered dogs, I had to swerve to avoid two turkeys in the road.

Is that a sign, like a black cat in our path? I'll assume it's a lucky omen of some sort. Please don't correct me if I'm wrong.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go

Dean Dad, who's guest-blogging over at Bitch PhD, has a striking post up about the glass ceiling for parents. There's just something wrong when institutions are removed from the idea of faculty and administrators having families. Actually, that's not it, it's that they're removed from the idea of faculty and administrators (and, I would suggest from my own experience, students) being full partners in raising their children. Who is it, exactly, who benefits when there is a selection process that only allows those without children or with a stay-at-home partner to participate fully in the life of a university?

I do find it interesting that Dean Dad is able to put in those long hours. Thanks, Dean Dad's wife.

Update: Dean Dad comments further:

Prof. B. makes a similar point when she invokes the 'brains on sticks' model of academia. We aren't brains on sticks, and to the extent that we have to be in order to be taken seriously, something has gone very wrong. If wanting to be a real parent to my kids disqualifies me from advancement, and you generalize that model, it shouldn't be surprising that some incredibly family-hostile decisions get made. The folks who could spot the effects of decisions on families aren't at the table to say so.
Can I get an amen?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

In which I probably jinx everything

I've been working on the first bit, I mean third, I mean half, no, huge honkin' chunk of my dissertation for a couple of years now. It has morphed through several incarnations:

  • somewhat small extension of a method developed by Drs. Nice and Brilliant (let's call this method A1, initially supposed to be the extent of the project)
  • extension of method A1 for a different type of data (method B)
  • comparison of method B to someone else's method
  • Ooo! Eureka! We can do better if we do it THIS way! (method C)
  • Hmmm, someone else is doing method C1 - here's a way that we can do the same thing, but more easily than method C1 (method D)
  • If we don't have any controls in the data, we can still do it. (Dr. Brilliant: "Ruth, why don't you program that? It shouldn't take more than a day." Ruth: "Huh?") (method E)
  • For more fun, why don't we add the ability to use even more types of data? Easy, right? (method F)
Throw in personality conflicts between my advisors, miscommunications, lack of communication, trips to conferences and other continents, and tables in a draft paper that contain columns for information that everyone should know we don't have available...

It's been a nightmare.

As each method has piled on, the previous ones have become irrelevant. It's hard for me to believe how much work I've done that isn't even publishable because we've rendered it useless with subsequent ideas. (Great attitude, I know.) We have been trying to get to the finish line to submit a paper forever.

I think it might finally be happening.

Right now, Dr. Nice has all of the data and simulations results that we agreed we'd need. The random table columns have all been figured out and filled in, the appropriate comparisons have been made to others' work, our relevant methods have been compared (methods D and E, if you're playing along at home), the drafts have been revised and nit-picked. I'm sitting in front of my computer, waiting for emailed questions from Dr. Nice that are coming slowly, if at all, now. We might actually send this thing off, and I will get to move on with my work and a new project.

When this paper is submitted, I won't have a baby bottle big enough for the margarita I plan to make.