Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Oh how time flies

Today Little Monster had her first solid food and got her first bloody lip face-planting after attempting to sit up. It's pretty amazing. Tomorrow I will get that proper post on all her development written because it is long past time. She's almost 6 months old. Sheesh!

I also realized today just how soon school starts again and that I'll be out of town for a week in October. That's just over 2 months away. I have 60 bags of milk left to freeze for that trip... So my time slacking off at pumping is over. Alas. I have the draft of a post on pumping written and I'll get that together sometime soon too. Nobody seems to want to talk about it but at the same time it is important. 

And now, I should get some sleep. I pondered a post commemorating that this little blog is now over 200 posts, but... I think I'll use what's left of my summer to take naps, go on long walks, and figure out what happens next with our lives. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013


It recently dawned on me that I was totally lying when I said I wasn't upset about not being asked to be in my sibling's wedding. There's only the two of us and although we aren't super close, we get along well. 

I mean, this is more complex than me just not realizing how hurt I was the first time I was asked about it. At first I was shocked, honestly. The kid was invited to be the flower girl in passing so I figured that there would be a more formal "ask" for me to be involved in the wedding. And then the conversation went, "You're not upset you aren't in the wedding, are you?" What response are you supposed to give to that anyway? With just a second to respond, the clear choice is "of course not" and my sleep-deprived self just went with that, the first appropriate thing I could think to say. 

I also think some of my extreme unhappiness about it is related to the rest of the weddings I haven't been in. We got married first by a long stretch and I haven't been in another wedding since. My cousin I'm closest to had a giant wedding party with almost all her female cousins in it, and not me. One of my cousins got married last year and we weren't invited but all the other cousins were (the ones we see anyway. My crazy cousin with the mistress also wasn't invited.). It's awkward to go to the baby shower a year later (of course. Oh to be so fertile) and have the rest of the family fondly recall the wedding that I didn't get invited to or see pictures of or blech. We have moved 8 times in as many years so it's been hard to stay in touch with anyone but it hurts. I hate that we haven't stayed put. The kid had a meltdown again today about how she wishes she never had to move and she misses her pets and old friends. It's the third one this week. (Aside: we moved 4 times before she was 2.5 and she remembers nothing so if you have a small one and need to move, no worries.) So there's that feeling of abandonment that goes both ways when you move a lot. It's not possible to keep in touch real well with those you leave behind and yet it's hard to feel settled enough to meet anyone new. 

Some of it is the collision of my very messy feelings about this last move to "too far to visit" distance again and the feeling that I crashed my life for the job opportunity that flopped for the spouse. We lived the last place for 2 years and it took me 1.5 of that to feel like I'd built a life for myself. I had a job I liked a lot and I had made friends and I felt like we were somewhere I could stand to stay (probably). Maybe not exactly there but the area. Then we decided the spouse would leave a stable job for a huge benefit increase plus a bigger salary and opportunities for advancement the old job would never have had. We moved really far, I gave up all that little bit of a life I'd built, we moved really far away from our family, and look how well that went. The spouse got fired after 3 months and we've been wandering around in a fog waiting for the end of the contract. Now there's no job and no new job. Just great. I hate that I sacrificed what little space and peace of mind I had for financial security. Sigh. 

Anyway, my friends are now all married and I haven't been in a single wedding. At least when the spouse's brother got married there was no question of the spouse being in the wedding party. There was no question for us either that my sibling be in ours. 

So here I am. I was wrong. I'm very upset that I presumably won't be in my sibling's wedding, slightly irked that nobody asked me about the date (it's at an awkward time in my school year), and I have no idea if I'm being totally irrational or not. I mean, maybe it's just everything else that's added up to make me extra upset about it. Probably it isn't a big deal. And yet, to have my sibling's best friend's attachment in the wedding party just irks me. Is it all about me? Of course not. I just have no idea where to go from here. Can I take it back and explain that I am actually really hurt to be left out? Do I go with my "nobody wants their fat ugly sister in law in their wedding anyway" defense to myself and try to forget that it's at all personal and pretend it's all cosmetic? Do I make the case that I'm avoiding needing to shell out a fortune for a dress I'd just look super fat in and that I can't afford anyway? The spouse wants to tell the sibling but I feel really stupid to go back and say I was wrong, twice, and I am actually so upset I wrote this really long post and cried for far too long to admit. 

Sigh. I feel like I am generating drama where maybe none is warranted, and in the same breath I know I'll look at pictures from the wedding with the kid and without me and be pissed at least a bit for the rest of my life. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

PAIL book club: No Regrets Parenting

I'm hosting this month's book club over at PAIL. Stop by and check out everyone's posts on the book!

No Regrets Parenting. This is an enticing idea to me as I have made it a project to avoid living with regrets. I try new things, dance like a fool even when my picture is being taken, and do my best to make the best choice and do the next right thing as it presents itself. Parenting I've found to be the hardest part of life to manage things without regrets.

Here are the discussion questions, and then I expect some rambling about what have you will happen (edit to add: nope! Disco questions covered it all for now!).

  • What, if anything, did you find particularly useful about this book?
    • It's a real middle way, in my view. So many parenting books want you to change your life completely, and that's a nice idea, but realistically I just can't change everything about life. This book gives very obvious ways to solve everyday dilemmas and enjoy the minutes you have with your kids more. The criticisms I read about the book were mostly "all of this is common sense... why did I need a book?" and at least for me, it's good to restate the obvious because I get stuck and miss really obvious solutions. It's one of the reasons I love blogs because I love to see what other folks are trying and see if it would work for me.
  • How did this book influence how you think about parenting or how you approach busyness?
    • I like the ways to improve transition times. I like the idea of giving your kids your full attention while driving them somewhere (aside from the driving part) instead of... whatever else I might want to do while commuting. I also like that it didn't tell me to knock off doing adult things or working.
  • What parts of this book you do disagree with and why?
    • I think the author emphasizes being with your kids ALL THE TIME POSSIBLE too much. Yep, it's good to bake cookies with the kids on a Saturday but it's also good for them to go out and play with the neighbor kids without me watching too closely. I'm a firm believer that children need independent play and that we spend too much time stalking them and structuring them. Example: I think he says at some point to walk your kid to the bus stop every day it's possible. Me? No. As soon as my kindergartener is ready, she will walk the 5 blocks to her stop alone because it's important for her to know how to be alone and unstructured and to accomplish something. As soon as she's old enough, my kid will go to sleep away camp for a week for sure because, at least for me, the most I ever figured out about myself happened in a space without my parents. Nobody told me who to be at summer camp or who I was or who I should be, and I think that openness is crucial to kids.
    • And of course, the author totally misses the point of video games and why playing them with your kid is fun. Totally the wrong approach but then the author didn't grow up with video games and so doesn't get why they are not the enemy or something parents begrudgingly accept as inevitable. I should write a post about video games sometime soon.
  • The author keeps talking about time, time time with your kids. I know a lot of us at PAIL have young toddlers, and I'm wondering what others do with their kids in this age range. Sometimes when I have the whole weekend, at some point I feel like I run out of ways to keep everyone entertained.
    • I send the kid outside. When we moved from an apartment to a house just after the kid turned 2, we learned the yard boundaries and when she could show me where they were, we sent her out to play. Usually we put sunblock on her and weather-appropriate clothes, but that was about it. I may be a weirdo but I don't think it's my job as parent to be continuously entertaining. I get out a book and tell the kid to go play. Sometimes I play with her, usually not unless she asks me to. Another sneaky tactic for fun time together is asking your kid to retell the story you just read as a book. You can suggest costumes or props or something. You could start acting it out. Play dough also is a great way to fill any space of time. Yesterday my 5 year old and her buddy played with the stuff for 2+ hours. So to me, it's beneficial at times to stop being the source of entertainment and to instead possibly watch my kid playing without me (or maybe not so much watching because I need a break too since I'm a human).
  • What kinds of things do people do to "double dip" as is discussed in this book?
    • Cooking, swimming, biking/walking (generally the 5 year old bikes and the rest of us walk/stroller), coloring pictures (mostly the spouse and kid do this), nature walks (especially if there's a scavenger hunt involved where we are checking off a list of things we see/hear/smell/maybe touch)
  • Do you have child activity limits or do you let your child sign up for everything like the "potpourri" parent described? If your kid(s) is(are) young, what are your plans?
    • I think we're going to limit things that happen after 6:30pm to "very rarely" because we try to be in bed by 8pm. Our kid gets overloaded so easily that she needs a lot of time to wind down from things so we need to keep evenings pretty calm. We signed up for Girl Scouts this year (aside: who knew kids this young sell cookies? sheesh!) but the spouse is the leader so I'm hoping the meetings will be on the weekends. Next year if this goes well we may add another activity. The kid wants to take violin lessons (oh my) so we're going to run the budget in September and see if that's possible to add. I feel like two things or maybe 3 is absolutely the maximum number of activities we could handle as a family and could still convince the kid to sleep. 
  • How do you make time for yourself if you are focusing on spending time with your children and keeping up a demanding career like the author describes?
    • I schedule it. I try to be deliberate. We adults go work out at the gym and take the girls to childcare and they are pretty happy with it. I need at least an hour of alone time a week though, so sometimes when we go to the gym, I don't actually exercise... I bring a book and go hide somewhere to read. I'm also going to try to arrange a "date night" once a month starting soon so we get to continue having an adult relationship.
  • Frequently people tell parents to "enjoy every minute" while their kids are little, and at times this book has that sort of feeling. What do you think about this advice and how can you make it practical as a part of your life?
    • I like that this book helps with ideas of how to enjoy more minutes, but I dislike that preachy tone. You can't make me enjoy the 10 minutes my kid screamed while we attempted to leave the library where the baby also wailed. It was unfun. No enjoyable elements. Yep, I will try to appreciate the babbling in the car after childcare pick-up because that actually can be enjoyable. I just don't think it's possible to enjoy every minute so I won't waste my time trying to enjoy it.
  • How do you keep track of your child's activities? Do you find it helpful or hard to see what you might be missing?
    • This book inspired us to create a specific calendar for kid things that the spouse and I both subscribe to so their events are one colored dot in the listing of events for the day. So far in the 3 weeks we've had it, it's been very helpful but I think that if I were working and unable to go to some/most of the events, it would add extra stress knowing what I was missing. Then again, life happens and the best thing is to make the most of the time we get, so I will work on letting go of the guilt. Work has to happen and in pharmacy it's rare that it won't conflict with evenings at least some of the time.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The case of the well-documented childhood

It really boggles my mind how fast the world changes. Example: 15 years ago, I needed an invite code to start my first blog because server space was limited so only a few new users at a time could be managed. Or 5 years ago: a camera was a discrete object and not part of another techno doodad like a phone/mini computer. 

Fundamentally what this means is the hundreds of pictures taken with the real (digital) camera of the kid as a tiny human pale in comparison to the glut of pictures taken of her sister. I foresee an extended "you love the baby more! Why didn't I get my picture taken all the time?" tantrum some day when she realizes the hugely different number of images. It isn't like we planned this! I never meant to perpetually have a camera within reach, let alone a video camera. It just happened one day and now it is hard to imagine another way of life. 

I suppose this is how anyone living in interesting times feels - a bit dizzy at the rate of change and couldn't things just stay the same for a few minutes so I could catch my breath and in awe that life was possible before. 

These days I think a lot about my grandma and the magnitude of change she saw in her 90ish years. She grew up on a farm with no electricity and a windmill for water but no plumbing. Laundry was an all day process. Mayonnaise was so much work you made it once a year because whipping the oil & having enough eggs to spare was tons of work & a special treat all at once. She went to secretarial college and learned to type when she moved to the city, although I'm pretty sure she never was a secretary or had a typing job. When she had babies, of course they had cloth diapers that got hung out to dry. My great aunt was a very competitive lady & she remembered racing the neighbors to be he first one with a diaper hung out to dry on the line every morning. 

I think about how at the end of her life, my grandma used her typing skills to send emails. She often gave my aunt a hard time for leaving the city to start a small farm because "I worked so hard all those years so you could have a better life and look what you are doing with it! You are undoing all that progress and for what?"

I think about the meticulous photo albums my grandma made of all the interesting things her first three kids did, and how when it came to the fourth, the pictures just stop. There was no time to document four and then more children, not in that same way with images of all the firsts. 

I wonder at a world in which my younger child is far better documented than the elder. What happens if someday there's a third? Will that baby have even more pictures taken because the oldest will have a pocket sized camera/something else? Or would the breaking point hit and hardly any documenting happen?

You might have noticed a lack of baby growth posts in the last...3 months... But I have a digital baby book where I've been collecting snippets to post and then get back to weekly-ish updates. Just you wait. 

I also wonder at the sharing or over-sharing that we are able to do these days. Saturday the baby went to stay with a friend of mine for a couple of hours and I got two photo updates on how she was doing. One picture an hour. We post many of the girls' pictures on a public photo sharing site and about one or two a week to FB to my 300+ friends plus the spouse's 100+ friends all over the place. I have no idea how many people actually look but since over 150 "liked" or commented on our impending baby announcement, that's somewhere near half and a whole lot of people watching closely as the girls get bigger. It's great on some levels that we stay connected to friends far away (and the kid looks at pictures of her friends that their parents post with me these days so it connects her to them too) but it's a bit scary too. Should anyone be that microscopically watched as they grow? It seems to go very badly for celebrity kids to be hyper watched and gossiped about but I wonder how that translates to ordinary kids' lives. 

At any rate, I am going to try to use some time soon to make a proper book of photos and stories for the kid so she gets some documentation of her life like I used to get from flipping through photo albums. It just amazes me that my girls' great great grandmother didn't even have photographs as a child, only 130 years ago and we take oodles every day using technology that would clearly be magic to that same great great grandma... Except somehow it is ordinary now. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The big K

That's right folks, it's almost time for kindergarten. The kid will be attending our fancy area school where they have all day, every day kindergarten. She will take the bus this year and walk after that. 

I always imagined I'd feel very emotional or sad about her starting school, real school. This has not been the case. I am relieved that it's finally time for her to start school. Academically she was probably ready last year but emotional and social stuff is huge for her (meaning they are not areas where she excels so more time to learn has been helpful) and she's improved a lot in this year. 

I wonder if it will hit me at some point that this is real, that I haven't filled out paperwork in triplicate just for fun, that her days will be profoundly different now and forever. Maybe it already did in a sneaky way and I've accepted it so totally it doesn't phase me anymore. 

I read this great article recently about the eleven or some other number of things you need to know to be a great parent, and the most important thing it said was that parenting is cyclic and so if you screw up the first time, you get a do-over in a few years. I am glad this continues to be true even after age 5. We are approaching another first day of school. For the first day of preschool, I couldn't find a real camera so I used my webcam on my laptop to take a few pictures. They are terribly grainy but cute nonetheless. She was SO excited for school. I am hoping we get some momentum and excitement built up for school to start but I won't hold my breath. Maybe when the new backpack with a picture of her favorite stuffed animal on it arrives it will seem real to her & she will get excited. So we will see. There's still some time left. 

Media exposure

There's this complexity to parenting that I never really thought through. It's about media consumption by osmosis that children do or don't, based on what they get exposed to. 

Take me as an example. By age 5 I had seen every episode of Cheers, watched oodles of other TV, plus heard huge amounts of NPR. My parents had dueling media on all the time with NPR in the kitchen and TV in the living room. 

We don't watch TV around here these days because we don't have TV access (no cable or antenna) and we don't have a radio either (except in the car). We do watch some movies and some TV shows via netf.lix but it's pretty limited aside from Saturdays when it's cartoons for hours.

But then there's the issue of audio books. The spouse and I listen to a heap of audio books. I'd guess we get through a couple a week on average and more if one of us commutes as well. 

I think that audio books that are not kid-appropriate should not be played when the kid is around. I switch to listening to music or reading a book on my mobile doodad if the kid is around, even if she's ignoring me and strolling in and out of the room. Recently the spouse has been listening to a very engaging book and has taken to carrying around the iDevice listening to it all day long. It is not kid-appropriate at all. Murderous intergalactic government take-overs rarely are. I'm just not sure whether to be fussed or not. 

We have a policy that no adult TV (say Warehouse 13 or Bones) can be watched when the kid is around but for the nonverbal child, it's all right. When she starts trying to watch TV then that ends. We let NPR be on while the kids are around but it's only a few minutes at a time so it worries me less. 

So what do you think? Should audio books not strictly for kids be restricted to kid-free times or is it safe to assume the kid isn't listening or understanding anyway?

Slow transitions

The biggest challenge we've faced since ending daycare is managing transitions. The kid is a notoriously slow adjuster. I expect that it will take her ten minutes to put on her shoes to go outside. That's quite normal for her. After preschool or daycare, leaving took at least 7 minutes and often over 10. It just takes her a huge amount of time to get ready for the next thing. 

We made this nice schedule for her and planned out our days. We built in transition time. It has totally crashed around us, as usual worst of all at bedtime. The routine is fought tooth and nail and with stomping & shouting NO! Seriously. Us announcing it's time to brush teeth gets a flailing no-fest. Every time. I have some ideas about what's wrong in the routine and we're going to try these fixes so we can have our lives back from the non-stop tantrums. I should add that once she is convinced to try the new activity, she refuses to stop, so it isn't a refusal to change activities, it's a refusal to change activities when she isn't totally ready. As the 2.5 hour bedtime marathon of slow transitions and infinite chances isn't possible most nights, we have to reframe this into something less awful. 

Step 1: enlarge the schedule and include clock pictures. We have a wall calendar that lists her fun thing to do each day but the schedule is on a single piece of paper high on the wall. With a larger schedule, she can see the clock indicates it is time to move on and we can give 10 and 5 minute warnings. Bonus: learning about clocks and telling time. 

Step 2: vocalize the steps to transition. We have been saying, "Now it's time to play outside." This will extend to the 10 minute "new thing" warning and 5 minute "clean up" warning. We adults are going to say the steps to transition out loud for her, possibly in a silly song so there is no mystery about what is happening. The TV goes off, the toys go in the bin, try the potty, walk to the mud room, put on your shoes, go outside to play. Hopefully that relieves some of the stress caused by transitions. 

Step 3: enforce rest time. An overtired kid is one who melts down at everything. Les tired=less tantrums=happier everyone. 

Step 4: offer more beverages. We mostly expect the kid to get drinks if she's thirsty and I think this is a mistake. If we offer them, she will stay hydrated and healthier and hopefully happier. Crankiness comes from physical discomfort as well as emotional discomfort. Snacks and meals are scheduled and I'm all right with that, but we need to offer drinks so she realizes she's thirsty. 

Step 5: help her deal with emotions with words rather than kicking and throwing things. Kid with an enormous vocabulary gets frustrated and just chucks things at me or tosses herself on the ground? No more. We will spend some time every day going over the words for feelings and why it matters if she uses them. 

Step 6: introduce new things repeatedly and several days in a row. Last week we went walking at the nature center one day, then to the interpretive center the next day and the kid was scared of the whole place. She hid from the guy behind the desk by bending in half. I convinced her to walk inside to get a drink with me, we met friends, and she wasn't afraid by the time we left. She only touched posters and no specimens or animals (petting the snake was out of the question quite far) the first day. Next day we went to the center again and she touched stuff at least a little bit and had a good time there and in her telling about it (she claimed to have fun the first day, hiding and all). The next day, she wanted to go pet the snake. Not just to fondle bear skulls or crawl into the replica bison, no, she had come so far as to want to pet the snake. She didn't actually pet it once it was out of its tank, but still. Huge strides. Repeating that trip 4 days running gave her time to adapt and stop being so scared. 

Step 7: no adult topics within earshot. I think the kid sometimes gets wound up about things she hears us discuss and adult topics need to leave her radar. We are broke but mostly that doesn't impact her so she doesn't need to hear any discussions about money outside of her allowance. 

Step 8: move chore chart completion to the morning. At night it just isn't working. We get snarled up with getting the baby to sleep or keeping her asleep through tantrums and the chart gets lost so the kid doesn't get consistent reinforcement to do her jobs. 

Any pointers on how to handle a kid who hates transitions? Has anything worked for you?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The case of the sidewalk pumpkin and the vanishing summer

Today I discovered two things: first, I had only today to submit my rotation selections draft one, and secondly, we have a sidewalk pumpkin growing. 

Here's the volunteer pumpkin. 

We are growing a few things in containers this summer with moderate success, including a pumpkin that's on the gravel not 5 feet from this one. I guess our volunteer pumpkin from the pasture last year that those jerk neighbor kids smashed before Halloween has lived to fight another year. That, or we are terrible at mowing the lawn. Hmm. We recently renewed our lease so we are staying put for another year. No job in sight, but we think with the low cost of living, it's worth staying. Also that way if we move either for my job or for rotations, we've had some continuity for the kid. She is still sad we had to move. I bet she will be for years to come. 

I did finally pick some rotations. 4 of them would be out of town so the other 4 would be close to home, if I magically get all my first choices. 3 of those 4 are close enough that I could come home on weekends at least. It is mostly terrifying to look the end of this degree in the face. Possibly totally terrifying. In 2 years I'll have my license (I really hope) and be working at a really real job. Wahoo! Eeeeeeep! My goal in scheduling the out of town rotations is to match them to school breaks so maybe the family could come with me for at least part of the rotation. Imagining the spouse has a job either with flexibility or none at all, at least.

The other earth-shattering thing around here is the reality of no more daycare. We have a schedule that the kid fights tooth & nail for some reason, but if we stick with it, it's a good schedule. Pleasant even. We have visited the nature center an insane amount of times but the visitors' center stopped being scary after the third visit, so it's much more fun now. The kid's field journal is pretty snazzy and has pictures she's drawn of a few bugs, birds, and plants. 

We went on a crazy trip (with my mother) to visit my grandma and yet again I didn't get any candid pictures of her with the kid. Sigh. The posed shots are nice though. We camped outside in a tent in rather cool weather and had a generally good time. Little Monster got a really amazing full body rash that looked like she'd been dusted in red candy sugar but it cleared up once it was treated properly. I suspect foreign laundry soap as the culprit. She also got about 5 bug bites which was by far the fewest of any of us. We fished and caught nothing but almost one fish that escaped inches below the surface. Good vacation. Our best decision was putting my mom in the back of the van during the long drive so they could chatter away. It meant I drove the whole way (erg) but we were all happier. 

I'm notably failing at my summer goals and there's a post coming up about that. Woooooo and such. Today I was so excited to start running, and then I tripped on an evil wheeled contraption and wounded my bad hip. Ugh. Hopefully it's just a little bruised so I can get back to walking (and running maybe) soon. 

Did you notice the Encyclopedia Brown reference? That boy detective is quite the hit around here. Junie B & Encyclopedia all the time. Oh that kid. She's getting so big! Both of them are!