Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Alec at three months

My baby has reached the ripe old age of three months, the official end of the newborn stage. His skin has gone from mottled and translucent to smooth and creamy. He's lost his werewolf pelt of dark hair on his ears and shoulders. His eyes are alert and fixate on objects and faces, no longer gazing into the mysterious world only newborns can see. He's eating larger and larger amounts at a time, which gives him the ability to go longer between feedings. His skinny little chicken legs have been replace with meaty drumsticks. He can stay awake happily for two hours at a time now, and happily entertains himself under his activity arch, grabbing at the dangling toys on his bouncy seat and investigating the myriad wonders of his new Jumperoo.

He's a very social little thing, doing his best to flirt with and charm whomever he meets. He spent Sunday at church developing a devoted fan following by smiling indiscriminately at anyone who talked to him. He demands interaction from us by cooing at us like an insistent little owl and then flashing a full-face smile when we look at him. He loves being sung to, with favorites including Alouette, Lydia the Tattooed Lady (I'm not sure why this is a favorite of my babies, but they've both loved it), Alice's Restaurant (which turns easily into Alec's Restaurant), and Union Maid (which I would turn into Union Lad, but "There once was a union lad, who never was afrad" doesn't quite work*). What do these songs have in common? They're upbeat and I can remember the lyrics. It shows exactly what sort of library geek I am that I have been known to sing to my children with an open copy of Rise Up Singing in front of me, but when it comes down to it, the things I remember are the things I've listened to all of my life, which is mostly folk music and assorted oddities like Tom Lehrer. Thus, I have a wide repertoire of union songs and gospel songs which leads to my frequently singing to my children about the death and the coming apocalypse, along with populist rabble-rousing.

Physically, he is getting quite good at reaching out and grasping, as well as starting to manipulate the toys on his Jumperoo. He has excellent head control and when held up can stiffen his legs enough to hold himself in a standing position. On his stomach, he can lift his head for a little while and he's practicing frog-like swimming motions by lifting his arms and legs and flailing.

I'm a little afraid to speak of sleep, but it's perpetually surprising to me that we just swaddle him up or pop him in the sling and he's usually asleep within a couple minutes with no fuss. He's starting to be able to sleep without being held as well, and has even started falling asleep in the car seat. In fact, he's starting to not be too bad when it comes to the car seat. If he's awake and cheerful, he'll happily sit and entertain himself in the car, and when he's tired, he can now be convinced to go to sleep. Today, he even fell asleep entirely on his own. This can't possibly be a baby of mine.

Three months is one of my favorite baby ages. They're old enough to be social but too young to fear strangers. Old enough to start developing a routine but are usually still flexible enough to be able to sleep anywhere. Able to play and entertain themselves for a while, but not in any danger of moving on their own. Quite possibly the cutest things on the face of the Earth.


More pictures here.

*Oh, the words don't have to be clever,
And it doesn't matter if you stick a couple extra syllables into a line,
It sounds more ethnic if it ain't good English,
And it don't even got to rhyme...Excuse me, rhyne.

Friday, September 25, 2009


One of the few advantages of pumping full time is that you know exactly how much milk your baby is getting. I typically pumped about 22-25 ounces a day with K, but she nursed over night so I never knew precisely how much she was eating.

With Alec though, I'm pumping it all, so I know precisely how much I make. I'm currently producing 28-30 ounces a day, which is almost a quart of milk a day. Moo indeed.


1. Our driveway slopes downward, which has its disadvantages when it rains and our garage floods yet again. As you can imagine, it gets rather tropical in there in the summer, and mold is the very expected result.

(The much less expected result is the opossum that moved into the garage recently. We have to leave the door open periodically so things will dry out. Meanwhile, we saw Olwen recently, so we baited our live trap. We didn't get her, but we did find a very full opossum, who apparently decided to stick around and see if we felt like leaving out more food and hey look, here's a lovely semi-dry place to hide. We're like the best opossum hotel ever. I discovered it recently when I went out to dig out some of the baby toys and saw a pointy little face peeking at me from the corner. Since it was wearing neither a hat nor stripy shirt, and definitely wasn't speaking in a folksy humorous manner, I think we will be deploying the live trap again and relocating our guest)

Anyway, one of the casualties of the mold was our older Graco stroller. I had taken it in the house so I could try to wash the moldy fabric, but it was sufficiently inconvenient to remove that I hadn't gotten around to it. We have a much better stroller, a Baby Jogger City that I got at a shocking discount and love with an indecent passion, but it would be nice to have a stroller we could clip the baby's car seat to. And for preference, not so teeming with microbial life that it could possibly walk away on its own.

Enter Babies R Us, which decided to run a sale where you could bring in your old baby equipment in exchange for 20% off of new baby equipment. So we unloaded Biohazard Stroller on the suckers them, and were even allowed to use a 15% off coupon on top of that to acquire a double stroller, for about the price I see for lightly used ones on Craigslist. And now we can take both children for long walks without either having to flog K into walking the entire way or wind up both carrying a 15 pound baby and pushing a 40 pound child, a recipe for hot back death if there ever was one.

2. I did a bit more research on the tax incentive for buying a car this year and discovered that 1) it was for new cars and 2) it wasn't really that good. So since my brother is going to have a lot of trouble coming up with enough money to pay off our ten-months-left-on-it car loan before paying the rest in installments, we decided to wait a while on the new car. The longer we wait, the more he'll be able to collect, and the less will be owed on the loan. I don't want to wait until next August to do this, but certainly we could wait until spring.

I've still been doing car research. A phrase I never thought I would utter when car buying is "I think we should seriously look at this Kia." And yet, the Rondo has that right combination of more space but not too big, decent gas mileage and a good reliability record. Apparently Kia has been improving a lot in recent years. And while I've never thought I would be the type of person to be changing cars so often, my goal for this car is really to last long enough that someone comes out with a good station wagon or minivan as a hybrid or other alternative fuel vehicle. What I would really prefer is to own something like a Prius for driving around town and a minivan that B could drive the mile and a half to work and we could take on trips, but we can't afford insurance for two cars living here.

Another phrase I really really never thought I would utter is "I think we should look at these SUVs." And yet, apparently the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V are both relatively small and have comparable gas mileage to the other cars I've been looking at. The main drawbacks are that 1), they cost considerably more than the other cars I've been looking at and 2), I saw a couple up close in a parking lot the other day and found myself thinking that even though I know they have decent mileage, they're still so large that I would feel like an asshole driving around in them. Part of my problem I'm sure is having to accept that if I want a larger car, I'm going to have to deal with a car that's, well, large, but there are larger cars with less aggressive profiles than an SUV.

So currently the state of the car project is still unexpectedly leaning towards a Kia and waiting for spring.

3. My mother's birthday gift to me this year is money for a new dress for B's sister's wedding, since nothing in my wardrobe fits over my breastfeeding rack. Surprisingly, I have no tales of agony and woe, stumbling through store after store full of clothes that have been beaten liberally with the ugly stick. Instead, I found a dress from Lands End almost immediately and ordered it without hesitation. It's a flattering cut, has easy access for exposing myself and has a belt to compensate for the fact that my milk-enhanced bust is a full size larger than my waist. The fact that Lands End currently has a coupon code available that give both 25% off and free shipping was just gravy.

I read a lot of sewing and crafting blogs, which have been giving me a lot of treacherous thoughts lately about converting t-shirts and button-down shirts into dresses. But I keep feeling hesitant about possibly ruining perfectly good clothes so I can produce something that looks amateurish. But then I walked into Target and saw a rack full of dresses that looked like they had been badly adapted from thrift store rejects and then sat upon by a team of elephants for the extra wrinkly look, and realized that if people are walking out in public wearing those, I have nothing to worry about.

Friday, September 18, 2009


The budget crisis has been averted! The Senate approved the bill, and all it needs is the governor's signature, which I can't imagine he wouldn't give. We will both remained employed for now.

I can't express how relieved we are, although I feel a bit at sea tonight. All of our thinking in the past few weeks hasn't gone beyond the beginning of October, so now I actually have to do things like figure out my work schedule for next month and contemplate scheduling volunteer hours at K's preschool. We had also been putting off proceeding on buying a new car. We certainly could have survived fine without doing it, but it would be nice to have something a bit bigger, and between the fact that there's a nice tax credit for people who buy cars this year and that my brother's car is falling apart and he would happily buy ours for considerably more than we could get in trade-in, it would actually be financially advantageous to do it now. I've been researching both the Mazda5 and Kia Rondo, which are very small mini-vans that are small enough to have good gas mileage, but have more cargo room than we have now and optional third rows of seating so we will have enough room for everyone to travel in one car if grandparents are visiting.

B is going to continue sending out resumes even if he still has his job for now. His job has been under threat for a year now, and after surviving two rounds of layoffs we're not counting on anything. There's also the small matter of the fact that his contract expired June 30 and negotiations are going about as amicably as two rabid badgers tied in a sack and poked with sticks.

But for the moment, yay!


K started Big Girl Preschool this week, which is what we've been calling the public school preschool program to distinguish it from the daycare she had been attending. We went in last week to meet her teacher and see her new classroom, and acquire approximately 35 forms to fill out that all wanted exactly the same information.

It still blows my mind to be dropping my baby off at the elementary school every morning, to a classroom filled with four-year-olds, complete with all of the trappings of elementary school like hot lunch and Scholastic book flyers. So far she seems to be having a good time, although when asked, she tends to give answers like "I took a nap," which doesn't exactly give me a... lively picture of her school day.


After hearing an interview with the creator on Fresh Air last week, we sat down and watched the first two episodes of Glee. Oh my, how fantastic.

I enjoy the music, of course and the demented depiction of high school society. I had expected it to be funny. But it surprises me a bit how much the tone and style remind me of the largely underrated movie Election. This is definitely on the dvr, and is providing some consolation for Leverage being gone until January.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mixed trio

1. So the amended budget relief bill has passed the House, with most of the amendments the Senate added stripped out. Now it falls to the Senate to pass or punt it. They have four days before layoff notices go out and three weeks before the city shuts down. I hope they can pull their heads out of their asses and compromise before then.

Meanwhile, I've realized a problem with the move back to Michigan plan is that if we haul all of our stuff back to Michigan, then gets called the next week to get offered his job back, he'll get kicked off of unemployment if he turns it down. Yet at the same time, our lease is up at the end of November, and I certainly don't want to get to February or so and run out of money only to be stuck with another 9 months of lease. So it's going to be a weird timing act balancing the likelihood of the crisis being resolved versus needing to move. Assuming it's necessary.

Sigh. I don't do limbo well.

2. We went to a church picnic Sunday and had a lovely time. There were four babies in church today and we had a good time talking with two of the other sets of parents. One of the babies was a day older than Alec and K had a great time playing with his 2 1/2 year old brother, so I'm hoping we might be able to get together with them.

We've had the worst time trying to meet people since we moved here. It's been a combination of weird work schedules that prevent us from going to the places where we could meet people, having a small child and bad luck. We perhaps haven't been as proactive as we could have been in following up on continuing to get together with people after having an initial social contact, but, well, our phone receives calls too, so it's not like it should all be on us. This is the first time in a long time that I've had multiple good, long conversations with people I'm not related to or have known for 15 years. It makes me hopeful.

3. Alec and I had a productive thirty minute nursing session tonight. It wasn't enough to fill him up - I eventually ended it because he was getting frantic and handed him off to his father for a bottle top-up. But I had pumped less than two hours previously and got only two ounces when I pumped again after feeding him when I would have expected at least four, and he drank only two ounces out of the bottle when a typical feeding for him is 5 1/2, so he clearly got quite a bit of milk from me.

It took a while to get up the will to try again. First I had thrush, then he developed painful reflux. And as it turns out, I felt so defeated after his one months appointment where he was only half a pound over his birth weight despite bottle feeding on demand that it took a while to get up the courage to trust that he would get any real nourishment. But as it turns out, I really hate bottlefeeding in the middle of the night and would give quite a lot to be able to breastfeed him in bed, especially when I find myself dropping the bottle on his face as I accidentally drift off and lose my grip. I also have the pressing dealine of wanting to be able to breastfeed him on the plane when we fly to California next month. Even if we have to give him formula as well, I really don't want to have to figure out how to pump on the plane and there's no way I won't have to relieve the pressure somehow on a six-hour flight. I don't feel the need to work towards exclusive breastfeeding; I like being able to hand him off to B so he can do a late-night feeding or nudge him to get up with the baby in the morning. But the ability to breastfeed when it isn't convenient to pump would be the best of both worlds.

It seems like as I had hoped, getting older has increased his strength. I was reflecting today that it should have been a hint to me that when I was in the hospital, I was marvelling at the fact that my nipples weren't hurting at all despite all of the breastfeeding. I suppose they wouldn't if your infant isn't sucking on them with any real suction.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I had my first day back at work on Saturday. It was a quiet day due to the holiday weekend. We actually often get a lot of people on nice days since people like to go into the park on nice days and will then wander in to check us out. But I think a lot of people had plans, or were getting their last trip to the shore in so I was spared having to do much work.

Leaving the baby wasn't too bad. It helped that I was only gone for 6 hours and he was home with B. I'm not sure it will be as easy when I have to start leaving him at daycare when I work on Fridays. Of course, part of my feelings about daycare are currently being colored by the fact that every time I go to pick K up, crowds of children, their upper lips glistening with snot, gather around Alec and reach out to touch him. It's all way too reminiscent of the first day I dropped K off at daycare as a baby, when I saw a two-year-old with a snotty nose and thought, "Here comes our first cold." And lo and behold, by Friday night we were all drowning in baby mucus. Colds aren't a huge problem. But this is Swine Flu season and Alec isn't old enough to get vaccinated. This doesn't exactly make me thrilled to place a small baby in a daycare surrounded by two dozen walking plague carriers, even only one day a week.


However, the daycare issue may be moot, because the entire city of Philadelphia is teetering on the precipice. And I am not exaggerating in the slightest.

Last March, we found out that the city budget woes that had us biting our fingernails over B's job had gotten much, much worse, to the point that every city department would have to undergo unbelievably deep cuts if we didn't find a new revenue stream. And after the usual political wrangling, the mayor did, in the form of a sales tax increase. Crisis averted, yes? Not quite, because the tax increase has to be approved by the state legislature, something you would think wouldn't take long at all. However, here we are six months later and the state of affairs is that the House, controlled by Democrats, passed a bill that simply approved the tax increase. Then last week, the Senate, controlled by Republicans passed a bill that approved the tax increase and contained some strongly anti-union measures cutting pensions and putting collective bargaining rights in jeopardy that affected every city in the state. The House can't possibly go along with this, since they're all up for re-election next year and most of them won't make it out of the primaries if they lose union support.

Here's where we stand: the House is supposed to vote on Thursday, and they are exceedingly unlikely to vote for the Senate version. If they send make amendments and send it back to the Senate, we will hopefully get something bearable. If they send their original version back, the Senate has indicated that they won't vote for that and we will be at an impasse. Bear in mind that this is the same legislature that as of September 8 has yet to finalize the budget that was supposed to take effect July 1, so that gives you a good sense of their ability to compromise.

As for us, if nothing passes before then, 3000 city workers will receive layoff notices September 18, and their last day of work will be October 2. All of the city libraries, rec centers and parks will shut down. Six fire engine companies will be shut down and over 900 positions in the police department will be laid off. Garbage collection will go to every other week and thousands of light bulbs will be taken out of street lights. The city will essentially cease to function in any meaningful way. It goes without saying that and I will both lose our jobs, but that almost pales in the face of the big picture.

We'll be okay. I've already talked to my mother and since she hasn't sold her house yet, if the worst happens we will move in. We have no savings thanks to the goddamn cat and her goddamn string swallowing, so we'll have to borrow money to make it through October, let alone move, but thankfully we have nice parents who have yet to not support us when we needed it. B will have unemployment for at least 9 months and I was told when I left my online job that I could have it back pretty much any time I wanted so I'll start that again and we'll be decently well off financially. Part of the stimulus package was covering 65 percent of the cost of COBRA, so our health insurance will even be relatively affordable. Honestly? There's a piece of me that gets really excited about the idea of moving home and living in my lovely large childhood home, ten minutes from my mother and less than three hours from 's parents. However, it's certainly not worth unemployment and the price the entire city would have to pay.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Family sick day

B and I took a sick day on Tuesday. I was getting a cold and he was tired enough to use that as an excuse to take a day off. I didn't think I was that sick, but after I went back to bed and woke up six hours later, it was apparent that the sick day was a darn good idea. I felt a bit guilty for sticking B with the baby so long until I discovered they had napped together for four hours. It's quite possible we were all a smidge tired.

In other health news, I finally made it to the doctor today to get something for the epic case of eczema I've been working on for the past month. I've had eczema on my hands plenty of times in the past - I had a case right before I got pregnant which I was able to beat down with judicious applications of K's prescription eczema cream. But this is the first time it's marched across my palms, climbed up all my fingers and then decided to annex my feet as well. Do you know how irritating it is to have eczema on the bottom of your feet? Since it tends to manifest as fluid-filled blisters, I've been feeling like I'm walking on little water balloons coated in poison ivy. The doctor looked properly appalled at my leprous state and gave me a prescription for a stronger cream. Since I'm coating so much of my hands and feet, I got some gauze pads and tape to cover the medicated areas. All of my hands and feet are now bandaged. I feel rather Christlike.


Alec is turning into 13 pounds of delectable ham. He sits and coos at me to get my attention, then grins and waggles his eyebrows at me. I was holding him on my lap this morning and he leaned forward and discovered his feet, to his great delight. The look of delighted intrigue on his face as he examined his toes was something to behold. Limbs! They're so endlessly fascinating!

He's developed a touch of painful reflux, poor lamb. He had the good timing to do it the weekend before his Monday morning two-month pediatrician visit, so we got him on Zantac with admirable speed. I think we need to up the dose though, since it seems to wear off about 2-3 hours before the next dose is due.


I would post about how K is slowly draining my will to go on, but there are only so many ways you can describe the horrors of a child who seems to suddenly delight in pressing all of your buttons like you're a vending machine and they have an endless supply of quarters. I prefer to focus on the fact that her new preschool program at the local elementary school starts on the 15th. Five days a week and FREE. But when did my baby get big enough to start going to elementary school?