Thursday, October 24, 2013

To be filed under Random Acts of Weirdness:

There's a headless Statue of Liberty in my neighborhood.

California is weird.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A random snapshot of life, and grad school, and wishing I could sleep more than 3 hours at a time

Below is an email I wrote to a friend this morning - it's a sampling of what life for me has become based on a 14 hour snapshot from 7:30 last night to 10 this morning.  Read it and, if you don't have kids yet, make sure you're taking the pill religiously until you're really ready to live life like this; and if you do have older kids, read it and think back to when you had a newborn, and laugh and laugh and laugh because you don't have to do this anymore.

On an up note, I am starting to get myself ramped back up to go to grad school.  When I was 23 I sat down on a Saturday night and planned out my life and all of the things I wanted to do by a certain time.  Some of them I have completed (live in another country).  There are two big ones that are still sticking out at me that I haven't even touched.

The first is to publish one of the myriad of books that are floating around in my head (so I'm going to kick NaNoWriMo's ass this year as a jumpstart).  The second is to get three advanced degrees; a something (masters? phd?) in medieval/early modern European history, a MBA, and go to Seminary for a M.Div.    I want to get started on one of these in 2014.

I was ready to start Seminary last year, but then the whole pregnancy thing happened.  I'm pretty convinced that Seminary is something I want to do in person, not online, so I'm checking out online courses for the other two right now, because I don't think I'm going to get to go to school in person for quite some time.  I was looking at online courses in different universities and found that Cambridge has an online continuing education department that offers really cool online courses (not the masters I want, but it's a start).  So starting in January I'll be taking an online course from the university in my favorite British city on the early Tudors.  How cool will that be?

Speaking of the early Tudors, I checked out the download statistics on my English Renaissance podcast today, and I'm seriously pissed off at myself.  Over 2000 people download that sucker each day and I can't get my ass together to do a new episode.  Seriously, what is my problem.  That's a rhetorical question.  Note to self: publish new English Renaissance podcast within the next two weeks. (I know some of you got here through the link on that blog - welcome, and I apologize for my habitual suckiness, and I promise to get my shit together here soon).

Ok, so without further ado, here's the snapshot of my life last night into this morning.  Given that I spend so much time pumping, I was thinking I should have some kind of TV show: The Pumping Diaries, and it would be all about the things I do while I'm pumping.  Like pluck my eyebrows.  And chop carrots.  And take a bath.  Fold laundry.  Seriously, the list is endless.


7:30: start to put H down.  Bottle,  story,  cuddles.  Hoping for a bath at 8.

7:45: H screaming with really bad gas.  Babies don't understand gas obviously and it really freaks them out and scares them.
Put h in the big bed and lay with her,  burping her,  pumping her legs to help get the gas out,  rubbing her belly.
8:15: h still crying and upset. Put on the white noise machine that soothes her,  bring her back out into the living room to put her in her swing, which also helps.
8:45: h falls asleep in swing.  bath
9:20: 20 minutes of pumping.
9:45: wash all bottles and pumping parts.  Set out fresh pumping parts for overnight pumps. Get her first overnight feed ready so we can just grab it  (breast milk can be left out for up to 4-6 hours.
10:00 put h down in her bassinet.
10:15: I go to bed
1:15: wake up to h making hungry noises.  Feed.  Then go out to living room and pump for 15 minutes.  Wash pump parts and get second feed ready and fresh parts laid out for next pump session.
2:00: back to bed
4:30 h hungry.  Same as earlier... feed,  pump, wash stuff,  get next feed ready.
5:15: back to bed
5:45: h starts making wake-up noises.  Doze through it for a while.
6:45: get up with her when she starts crying for real.  Sit and help her with her gas.  Bicycle her legs.  Massage her belly.  Talk to j about calling the doctor since she hasn't pooped in a day and might be constipated.  Feed her.  Spend 20 minutes burping her.  Change diaper.  Play goofy games to make her smile.
8:15 put her in swing so I can pump. Wash parts. Etc. (Pumping is every 3-4 hours to keep supply up).
She fell asleep in swing so I nap on couch for 40 minutes.
9:25: she starts crying again.  Get j to handle.  I sit in a bath for 15 minutes with a cup of coffee.  Bliss.  Keep hearing her cry so put my head under the water.
10am: I start work.


Yep, this is life.  We tried for years to get this, so I ain't complaining.  But I sure would love to feel rested again in this lifetime.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Trying to raise a bilingual kid

One thing I've been doing a lot of recently is re-learning German.  It's been fifteen years since I've studied it properly, and I really want to raise Hannah to be bilingual from birth.  I've read lots of research on how growing up bilingual gives kids a huge head start in brain development, etc., so I've been kind of immersing myself in German for the past few weeks.  The more I do it, the more I remember - words come back to me that I had forgotten I even knew in the first place. And I looked up the phrases I use the most with her (such as "my, what a dirty diaper you have, little lady!") so that I can speak at least 10% auf Deutsch to her now, and that will only continue to grow as I learn more.  I figure that by the time she's really speaking, if I do this right, she'll be pretty much bilingual.

I am using the DuoLingo app each day, and have bought German children's books to read to her, which will also be good for me, but a few other things that are helping in the "immersion" goal are:

The Slow German podcast at - a podcast of German information and news read very slowly so that non-natives can easily follow it.  This is great!

I also found, which streams German comedies, full episodes, for free.  This serves multiple purposes.  First, since I'm feeling old and tired and sore, and eating lactation cookies and drinking fenugreek tea (I'd never heard the word fenugreek three months ago - now I'm obsessed with it), laughing at German comedies I can't understand is awesome.  And of course, it's helping me learn the language.  But the laughing at weird German stuff I can't understand is really the highlight right now.

In addition to the fact that growing up bilingual will help her brain development, and make it easier for her to learn new skills as she gets older, I just plain like the idea of having a second language that I can speak with Hannah, kind of like our secret language.  Not too many people in Southern California speak German, so we can have secret conversations, and I can't think of very much that's more awesome than having mother/daughter secret conversations.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Imagining 6000 people virtually naked

So I moderated a panel today on our ebook project in an online web conference for Library Journal.  I did this from my bedroom with our baby in the living room, and J on standby in case she freaked out and needed to be taken for a walk.  My new home office isn't heated yet, and it's chilly outside, so I was in the bedroom.  The computer was on the dresser, which is a good standing height for me.  I put on real clothes, and even some make up...being dressed in real clothes made me feel a little bit more professional than being in my pj's would have. Over 6000 people had registered, which made me really nervous, so I pretended that they really inflated the numbers and there were only 80 people listening to me, max.  From the twitter feed, I think I may have underestimated it a teeny bit, but it got me through the 40 minute time slot, and that's what was necessary.

My mommy-brain only reared its ugly head once at the very beginning, which probably had more to do with me being nervous than actual mommy-braindom, but it's easy and useful to blame everything on either hormones or being tired.

Yesterday was Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day, and we went to the lake with Hannah and put some of Baby T's ashes near "his" bench (where I used to sit when I was preggo with him).  We lost him on October 12, 2010, so every year we have that anniversary followed immediately by the remembrance day and all the walks and ceremonies that people have around this time of year.  It's like a week or so that is heavily devoted to Baby T, and I like that.  Sometimes I feel like the Mustard Seed Baby misses out because we don't remember her as much (I think it was a her).  But when I say Baby T I kind of lump them both together, and we had TMSB for such a short time, I'm sure she understands.

One thing I've been happily surprised by is how much time I still have to read books.  I had expected all book-reading to go out the window when I had a baby.  But she spends so much time sleeping now, even when she's sleeping in my arms I can read on my kindle easily enough.  I don't get deep reading periods of, say, an hour or two uninterrupted - the same way I don't get deep periods of uninterrupted sleep - but it's enough to keep me happy.  I'm almost done with the JK Rowling mystery, The Cuckoo's Calling.  I will admit to reading it just because it's JK Rowling.  I've never been a big mystery reader.  But I think after this I'm going to have to try some good mystery writers now because I'm totally addicted.  It's all starting to become clear now, and I'm on pins and needles waiting to see who the killer is.  I sure hope Hannah is quiet tonight because I need some good reading time.

7 more working days until I start back full time.  I'm exhausted, but I'm going to enjoy using my brain a little bit more each day.  

I'm on a roll with taking Hannah to the lake, too.  I still get hella scared each time, but I can't live my life in fear of her freakouts.  The more I do it, the easier it will become.  On Friday I'm taking her to a hospital 45 minutes away for a breastfeeding clinic.  I'm petrified at the thought of her wailing in the car for the entire time, but then I remember that the 80's station is a great resource for dealing with screaming babies.  She can scream, I can sing along to Duran Duran, and eventually she'll stop, and so will I, and all will be well again.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mundane and Getting-Old Angst

I wish I had something to write about besides the regularity with which my Hannah has a wailing fit; mostly because that would mean I had other stuff going on in my life, other than being a feeding and diaper-changing machine.  Alas, the highlight of my days right now are Tummy Time, and playing with the Fisher Price Piano Gym (which is really super fun - don't knock it till you've tried it).  

That's going to be changing here in a few weeks when I go back to work full time, starting off with going to Internet Librarian and then the following week, the California Library Association conferences.  I'm speaking at both, which means that I need to start digging through my closet for a Professional Outfit.  I've been wearing yoga pants and maternity jeans almost exclusively for the past 7-8 months.  

I did have fun Me Time on Saturday when I went to the mall by myself and bought new non-elasticated jeans.  

Is this seriously what my life is?  Getting excited by going to the mall by myself?  

The other thing that has me really excited is the new Bridget Jones book that came out today.  It appeared on my kindle when I turned it on this morning; and when I started reading it, I was suddenly 24 again, riding the Northern Line to work, exhausted (and possibly hung over).  For about three weeks I picked up smoking, and being a nonsmoker I didn't know what brand to get, so I bought Silk Cut because that's the kind Bridget smoked.  Like Bridget I obsessively logged units of alcohol logged, and carbohydrates consumed.  

Like Bridget I was a klutz (I regularly came dangerously close to getting caught in escalators) and would make overly-dramatic gestures (I was nursing a broken heart, and one of my favorite things was to walk along Old Compton Street in Soho in the rain, hugging my chest, feeling the rain on my face and then standing outside Patisserie Valerie's where I had once eaten quiche with the boy who caused the aforementioned broken heart, looking in through the wet glass at all the happy people eating cake, and thinking that I really would be perfect in a Dido video).

So it's weird reading an older Bridget, who is still a lovable klutzy narcissist, and wondering where the past 13 years have gone.  I feel old.  I blame hormones (I blame most things on hormones these days).  But I don't like it.  I'm looking forward to getting back out into the world, having a reason to wear makeup and nice clothes, and exercising with regularity again.

But to end on a happy note; Babygirl and I went to the lake yesterday, just the two of us, and for the first time it didn't end in wailing.  She woke up midway through our walk, and quietly rode and made faces at me.  A definite improvement over the last time I tried, a few weeks ago, when halfway through our walk she decided she needed to be held or else she'd scream bloody murder; so I wound up pushing the empty stroller with one hand and carrying her with the other the rest of the way.  Maybe it's more confidence, or maybe it's me not caring as much as I did at first, but I'm becoming ok with her screaming.  I don't like it, and I always try to soothe her, and hold her, but sometimes it seems like she just needs to scream, and really, there are times when I do too, and I didn't just go through the traumatic experience that she did.  Even a week or so ago, I was held hostage at home because I was afraid that I'd set off her wailing when we went out.  But I'm becoming more ok with it now.  And I think that as I become ok with it, and become more confident taking her places, she'll be ok with it too, and maybe not wail so much. 

Here's hoping.  Because as much as I'm a homebody, I'm really not hip with spending this much time at home.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

3am feeds just got a lot cooler

Two pieces of awesome happened to make nighttime feeds a lot cooler (which isn't actually saying as much as I'd like, considering nighttime feeds aren't very cool to begin with).  So here's where I'm at with feeding:

Hannah won't breastfeed.

My girl likes to eat (she's like her mom that way).  And she likes to eat a lot very quickly.  You could say she scarfs down her milk.  In the NICU when she wasn't even 48 hours old, they were already changing her to the slow-flow bottles because she ate so damn fast and kept spitting up.  Plus, speaking of the NICU, she got hooked on bottles and pacifiers there.  So then, when I tried to feed her, she was all, "hey, this is more work, and it's slower, and I'm not a fan of more work and slower when I can get more faster for less work."  She's clever and into efficiency like that.

So I'm pumping.  8 weeks tomorrow of pumping 7 times a day for 15-20 minutes at a shot so I can give my girl my milk and not have to give her formula.  And it's not because I'm preachy about breastmilk.  I'm not a Boob Nazi like some of the lactation ladies at the hospital.  No, I'm just cheap.  Have you seen the price of formula lately?  They keep that shit locked up in stores because it gets stolen so much.  At my breastfeeding class they said that the average formula fed baby costs their parents $3000 the first year.  We've got a wedding in Sweden to go to next year - ain't no way I'm spending $3000 on food when my boobs make it for free.  Plus, it apparently burns 20 calories an ounce.  30 ounces a day = 600 calories = pass the cheesecake.

But I digress.

The point is, nighttime feedings are a bit tricky because when babygirl cries (her sweet little "ah-waeh! ah-waeh!") I gotsta feed her with a bottle first (I always keep an extra one out - I've read all kinds of stats about how long you can keep breastmilk out, ranging from 4-10 hours.  I average somewhere in the 5-6 hour range personally).  So babygirl eats.  Then babygirl burps.  

That's when Mama should be going back to bed.  But no.  Mama hooks her boobs up to a machine looking like it could have come from an episode of the Jestons, and sits in the dark for 15 minutes feeling like a cow getting milked (moooo).  Then Mama goes out to the kitchen to wash her pumping crap (though I recently got smart and now I have three sets of pumping crap so I don't have to wash overnight - I just store it all in a ziplock in the fridge), and then makes a fresh bottle to have on hand in another two hours when babygirl wakes up hungry.

The whole process takes about 45 minutes.

We live in a small house, and our bedroom doesn't have a lot of extra space, so up until now we've been sitting on the bed when we feed her, and when I pump,  This is horribly uncomfortable, forces us to slouch, and is generally an inelegant solution.

First bit of awesome: an amazingly comfortable upholstered rocking chair with stool we bought at an antique place in town over the weekend.  It's in the room that will become the nursery, so when babygirl cries, we just take her in there, sit down in back-and-arm-supported comfort, and rock away.

During my 15-20 minutes of pumping I can do whatever thanks to the hands free pumping bra I bought when I realized that this could very well be my life for the next few months (we still try breastfeeding regularly - my lactation consultant - yeah, I have one of those - thinks that as she gets older and her muscles get stronger, we might have success).  So I've been reading a lot.  15 minutes at a shot, 7 times a day is a lot of reading.

I have two apps on my ipad that are getting a ton of time right now.  The first is NextIssue, which is kind of like Spotify for magazines.  I have about 20 magazines in regular circulation there.  Some are intelligent ones like the New Yorker and Vanity Fair. But there's also Us Weekly with some Oprah, Real Simple, and Rachel Ray thrown in for good measure.

The other one is also like Spotify, but for ebooks.  Oyster just launched, and is only in an iphone app right now (which I use on my ipad) and they don't have a ton of publishers yet, but they seem to be a good effort in how to solve the problem of granting people unlimited reading at a price point they can stomach ($9.99/month).  Yeah, the library is free, but as we all know (me especially from our ebook project at work) the hold times on the popular titles are ginormous, and if this works, they will have a much bigger selection.  Right now the biggest publisher they have is HarperCollins (the only one of the Big 5 I believe they have), and they have a bunch of midsize ones like Houghton Mifflin, Workman, etc.  So they have a bunch of great titles.

The reader is pretty crap - instead of using one that's freely available (ie Bluefire) they went with building a dedicated one.  You scroll up to turn the page.  That's just weird.  They also don't have a ton of flexibility with changing the fonts and colors.  For example, there's a font I really like, but the nighttime setting has its own font, so I can't use the font I like with the nighttime setting, which seems stupid.  Let me pick the font, and the background.  The searching and browsing isn't great, but it's designed to be an app to use on your phone, so I can see why they are trying to keep it simple.  You can search on their website and add titles to your reading list online, so that makes it easier, I guess.

Anyway, on an average night I'm reading on my Oyster app at least twice, and I can definitely see it being worth the money for power readers.  It's available only through invitation right now, but if you sign up requesting one, it doesn't take long for it to arrive.

So between Oyster and the rocking chair, 3am is looking a lot less intimidating these days.  It's funny, the things that have become important to me.