Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring is sprung

Watching people wearing shorts coming into the library from frolicking in the park last weekend, it was hard to believe that we were closed three weeks before for a snow day. It's been gorgeous the past week (although less so the past couple days). Sunday, we found boxes of the most delicious strawberries for a reasonable price at Trader Joe's, grown in this hemisphere no less. Florida, actually, which falls in my zone of "not local, but at least within a day's drive." Better than California, at least. It was a reminder that it's not too long before we start getting good produce again locally, as the warm weather comes north.


I've been working on this entry for the past four days, with nothing more impressive than the above as my result. I don't know what it is lately - I sit down and the words just aren't there. I go through my days mentally crafting things to write and they go walkabout as soon as I'm in a position to type. It's always been a bit that way (I have some mental posts that I've been wanting to write since K was a baby), but it's worse lately.

I'm tired. The children have been off and sleeping badly since the time change. K has been extra... feisty lately, pushing boundaries in every direction. Alec is forcing us to be a lot more aware of baby-proofing, which is a lot harder this time around with an older child skipping around throwing up handfuls of choking hazards in her wake.

And I've been thinking a lot, about how much I hate pumping and I want to stop. I don't think I need to explain why exclusive pumping is a no-fun, very bad, extra spicy pain in the ass, do I?

Only I don't want to stop lactating. This presents...difficulties. I don't question that switching to pumping and bottle feeding was necessary, given that his suck was so weak that he wasn't gaining enough weight with a bottle with a newborn nipple. The fact that he gained 3 1/2 pounds the month after I switched to a faster flow nipple is proof of that. Even Dr. Sears says that dealing with a weak suck is very difficult and not likely to work out. I regret a bit not trying harder to get him back on the breast when he was three or four months old, when he was bigger and stronger, but still young enough that he probably could have been persuaded without too much difficulty. But as it turns out, I only have time and patience to do two out of the three: 1) take care of two small children, 2) pump, and 3) attempt to breastfeed. Since the first two weren't optional, the third is what slid off my plate more often than not.

So now I have a nine-month-old, and I'm torn between packing it in and searching the Web for any clue if it's possible to get a baby this old on the breast. Preliminary research says "Situation uncertain," although there are adoptive breastfeeding websites where people say they've managed to get an older baby to start nursing. What they don't really do is give good instructions as to how. It would be awfully nice to find some, if for no other reason than to be able to look at them and decide whether it really seems realistic or not.

So right now, I'm sitting here, not wanting to continue pumping but not wanting to stop because that would really be the end, and I'm not ready for that yet.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sleepless (which is to say, unattractive ungrateful parental bitching)

Oh lordy, I think somehow when we set the clocks forward Saturday night, it opened some sort of portal that allowed a horrifying demon-spirit through to possess my children. We set the clocks an hour later, so naturally they both woke up three hours earlier than normal on Monday.

One of the paradoxes of small children is that when they haven't slept enough, they don't drag around looking tired before requesting an early nap. That would be what their parents do. No, instead they became increasingly more manic and wild in a desperate bid to stay awake at all costs. Thank goodness B took the afternoon off, so together we managed to pry our children off the chandelier and collapse in a family nap.

Today, K ran away from me in the school parking lot and went outside after I told her not to, so our trip to the playground got cancelled and my evening of solo parenting was off to a rousing start. I don't blame K for being upset, since it was a beautiful day. But repeatedly defying me, and then when I sent her to her room instead running into her brother's room where he was napping and screaming wore my sympathy a bit thin. One of the most wearing things about this sort of day is that K feels the need to cling to me as closely as possible to make sure I still love her, and still defy me at every turn to demonstrate that I'm not the boss of her. I look forward to her teen years so.

Alec, meanwhile, has started sleeping like a newborn again - eating every two hours, and not sleeping well anywhere but on a parent's chest, firmly swaddled. Hello, 37 week developmental spurt, no doubt made extra piquant by all of the physical developments he's been making lately.

I am so very tired.

On the other hand, K spent part of this afternoon calling me "Princess Horse" (which is to say she was the princess and I was her horse, not that I was a horse princess) and hitching me up to her carriage so we could go looking for dragons to slay, which she would do with one mighty swipe of her sword. And Alec manages to defeat any irritation you might feel when he loses any ability to play independently by being the most gratifying child in the world to pick up. Grin, grin, press lovingly against your chest, pull back and look utterly delighted, press lovingly again, Oh! It's you! My life is complete now! Now put me down so I can go chew on that power cord.

So maybe I'll keep them.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I passed the test for a new online job this week. It's doing the same thing as I did last year - evaluating search engine results - but for a different company. It doesn't pay quite as well as the last job and the company is definitely less personal - the last job involved a week of training over the phone and lots of personal communication, where with this job I was sent a training manual to study and all of the e-mails I've gotten have been form letters - but on the positive side, there will be a lot more flexibility on how many hours I work and when. Really, the main sticking point of the last job and the reason I didn't go back is have to work 20 hours every week, four hours every day, was just not compatible with my other job. Either I would go to work at the library on Friday and then come home to work another four hours, making for 12 hour work days, or I would work at home all week and work at the library all weekend, giving me no days off. If I could just have worked only four days, it would have been fine. But those Fridays were killing me.

More money will make life easier in general, but my big hope for this job is that it will make it possible to afford daycare again. I know the big advantage of working at home is theoretically being able to take care of children, but I've learned through painful experience that while I can be more or less happy taking care of children full-time, and I can be happy working while my children are cared for by someone else, trying to work without the benefit of daycare makes me a dull girl, and it's only a matter of time before the ghostly bartender appears in our kitchen. Right now, our current schedule of only having one day off together every two weeks is slowly killing me. For a brief, shining moment in January, I thought I had our Gordian knot of scheduling issues surrounding daycare unraveled, only to look at our budget and realize that daycare would take everything I make and as it turns out, we really need that money for frivolous things like electricity and water. Sigh. I love my job, but it mostly pays me in satisfaction and as a filler for the gigantic black hole that would otherwise be on my resume. I could make more money with a paper route.


K crawled into my lap this afternoon, and I instantly felt the toastiness of a feverish child. Before I had children, I always used to wonder how you could ever feel a fever since children feel like little furnaces all the time. But now it's just obvious, like porn - I know it when I feel it. Poor little bunny. She had another bladder infection two weeks ago and we hadn't even managed to get her back to the doctor to get a urine sample checked to make sure the infection was gone, and clearly it isn't. She spent the evening feverish and in pain, although not so sick that she couldn't roughhouse with her brother.

Of all of the things I could have passed down to her, a tendency towards bladder infections is one I wouldn't have chosen, right up there with eczema and social anxiety. It's never comfortable to see your more difficult traits appear in your children, whether physical or personality. I can empathize when she's shutting down in reaction to an uncertain situation or the godawful annoyance of your skin freaking out for no good reason, which no doubt makes me one of the best people to help her. But I'd rather spare her the difficulty entirely.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Alec at eight months

All of a sudden, we have a baby on the cusp of mobility. This is astonishing, given that he has spent the past month perfecting the ability of capturing seemingly out-of-reach toys without ever moving his butt off the ground, using techniques ranging from stretttching his torso out until it's parallel to the ground to pulling the blanket under the desired object towards him until it's in reach. A few times, he's leaned forward and wound up on his hands and knees, but he looks utterly perplexed as to what he should do next. He spends enough time attempting to wiggle across the floor before giving up and screeching in frustration that I'm no longer quite as sure that he'll just skip crawling, but I certainly don't see it happening any time soon.

But our sedentary baby has a passion for standing upright, and after a prolonged period of pulling himself onto his knees, and pulling himself to stand from his knees, in the past couple of days he's managed to put it together to pull himself completely to standing. Once there, he doesn't precisely cruise deliberately yet, but he manages to move through some sort osmosis where we look away and suddenly he's moved a foot somehow. He does the same thing on the ground as well, somehow oozing several feet over the course of a play session without ever lifting his butt off the ground.

He spends a great deal of his day sitting surrounded by toys, picking them up in turn and examining them with intense scientific interest before putting them through various stress tests. He has perfected his pincer grip, the better to pick up small overlooked objects just the perfect size for choking. He has eight teeth now, but despite happily eating as much mushy food that we will spoon into him, he isn't really ready for anything more solid yet.

We're definitely seeing some separation anxiety. He can be entirely happy playing on the floor until one of us moves into his sight, which reminds him that he's unbearably lonely and abandoned and must be held by a parent. He still happily flirts with strangers, but there are times he only feels safe doing it from my arms, and he has perfected a particularly devastating move where he hides his face in my shoulder and then peeks out at people and smiles, to universal devastation. He has an extensive fan club at all of the places we go regularly.

His personality isn't always sunny - he has a drama queen streak where the weight of his extreme woe is so great that he has to lay his head on the floor when he cries. Diaper changes having been accompanied by piercing shrieks lately for no better reason than he just doesn't like to be lying down when he could be up with a will for doing instead.

He's been doing the typical babbling and vocalizing for his age. This morning, however,B was changing his diaper to the usual strenuous protests, and when I came over to him, he said a very definite "Mama." I'm not given to trying to hear words in babbling, but since all of the other sounds he was making were more along the lines of shrieks and nothing like the sort of babbling that could be mistaken for a word, and B heard it as well, I'm going to call the first word. It's exactly the same word, at exactly the same age and same circumstances as K's first word.

It's hard to believe how fast Alec is growing and changing, both developmentally and physically. He's already starting to outgrow the 12 month clothes I just finished buying him (Dear son: if you could please wait to bust out of your clothes until warm weather hits so I only have to buy one new set of clothes, I would be ever so grateful). But he's still my little baby:


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Edumacation, part 2

We have mostly come to a decision about kindergarten for K next year. I did some research on the public elementary school K would be going to, and it's really not that bad. We're in a fairly solidly middle-class area, so even if our school doesn't get any more money, the parents have more ability to be involved than schools in poorer areas, which can make a significant difference.* They also have an active music program, one of the areas I was worried about with public schools (she could start learning the violin in first grade!), and they have both a library and a librarian. With books. And I'm not being funny when I say that - there are schools in Philadelphia where they have a beautiful library room that was endowed, but with no books for it. And the early childhood education is in a separate building from the rest of the school, so although this school seems relatively safe, we have even less to worry about because the little kids are kept separate from the rest of the school. And as I said before, it's more the middle school and high school years that I worry more about in regards to safety. She's unlikely to get knifed in the first grade.

It doesn't look like even the cheapest Friends school will be financially feasible next year, so we'll hold off on that for at least a year, and maybe pull it out as an option if we get unhappy with her current situation. This is where I get mad at the mayor once again, because B was supposed to step up in pay in January, but since his union is working without a contract while it's in negotiations, the mayor is claiming that the city doesn't have to give step raises. That's $200 a month we could find plenty of good uses for. It should come through eventually, along with a nice chunk of back pay, but I'd rather have it now. The car is going to be paid off in August, which will free up more money. And while I don't want to go back to the online job I left in June, I found a similar one recently that has a lot more flexibility in the number of hours I would have to work and when (my biggest problem with the last job was having to work four hours a day, every day with no flexibility, which made for some exhausting days when I worked both that job and at the library on Fridays). If I could only have taken Fridays off, I would probably still be working there). So I have to take a test to qualify for that, but I'm not terribly worried about passing, and hopefully that will bring in more money.

There's a long shot compromise option - there's a nearby charter school we've applied for. Charter schools aren't necessarily better academically than regular schools here, but there would be smaller classes and involved parents. They also have a big emphasis on community building and conflict resolution, which is a lot of what I wanted from a Friends school. Unfortunately, there'a a lottery to get in, and even if we do really well in the lottery, they have sibling preference. So I would be shocked if we get in.

Of course, the real question here is when did my baby get old enough for kindergarten?

*I've realized that there's no way to talk about this without sounding like an elitist asshole who doesn't want my pwecious snowflake around those icky poor people. But as I've said before, there are my ideals - that all children have an equal right to a quality education and it feels unfair to leverage my privilege to get K in an advantageous situation - and then there's the fact that I have a real, concrete responsibility to the non-theoretical child in front of me to prepare her for the world in the best way I can. And that means not sending her to school that would give her a bad education if I can send her to one that won't. It's unfair, but so is the entire system.