Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas is Awesome!

So last year, the Bug was sort of indifferent to Christmas. She got that we went somewhere other than our house, she got it, sort of, that she got some new stuff and that people paid a lot of attention to her, but mostly she just got a bit over-stimulated.

This year, she doesn't really get the whole thing... I mean the whole Baby Jesus and Santa and Practising Commercialism with Reckless Abandon thing, but what she does get is OMG!!!!!! TOYS!!!!! (Also, the Caillou Christmas Movie... if I have to watch it one more time... but that's an entry for a different day, as is the goody bag she brought home from her Mother's Day Out from Baby Jesus' birthday party.)

She got her first gift of the Holiday Season today (that is, except for the Baby Jesus goody bag), and she wanted to play with that doll RIGHT NOW so I opened the packaging. The doll and accompanying pacifier, bed, blanket and pillow were secured in the packaging (shown postmortem) using no fewer than 4 different types of fasteners, at least one of which required a blade to get it undone, and all but one of which is a choking hazard.

Since I'm packing for our Christmas travels (pray for us... 500-ish miles in the car with a toddler), I'm making lists, and I have included the following Important Tool on my list:

My Mom's old Swiss Army Knife. Seriously. How else will I get through the presents? 

(It might be interesting to mention that none of the toys we got her have this sort of packaging on them. Further proof that I'm a damn dirty hippie.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Toddler Food

So the Bug has hit a picky patch when it comes to eating. She subsists primarily on milk, air, and peanut butter smeared on the carb-de-jour. She will also eat tortellini, and so, inspired by the Noodle and Doodle TV show, I invented this recipe for the whole family.

Tortellini lasagna

1 20 oz package tortellini (I used Buitoni herb chicken tortellini just to get some extra protein in the child)
2-ish cups fresh baby spinach
1 32 oz jar pasta sauce
2-ish cups part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Lightly grease a 9'x9 or equivalent baking pan. I used my olive oil mister to accomplish this task. Layer about half the tortellini, half the spinach, half the sauce, and half the cheese. Repeat.

Cover dish with foil, place in oven for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese on top is melty and goey. Enjoy. Assume toddler will reject immediately the spinach as though it were arsenic or toxic waste.

Oh, and I'm not a huge fan of Noodle and Doodle, because while the link I put above is right that it encourages cooking and crafting together, it also features a dude in a bus (awfully similar to a van), riding around with a puppet and a dog inviting kids to come do crafts in his skeevy van double decker bus, and eat the yummy food that his puppet helped him prepare. The dog's life is so miserable that he has a vivid fantasy life in which he is the owner of an all-dog diner and creates beautiful meals for a variety of interesting clientele. It was, in fact, one of Doggity's creations that inspired this particular creation.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Parent's Perspective

We're watching 'The Wiggles' in the MomSnark household this morning, and I got to thinking about the mother of the guitarist in the group, Murray. I rather imagine that at first she was disappointed when he told her that he wanted to be a rock star, and then she was torn between being glad he had a paying gig and completely weirded out by the whole concept of The Wiggles when he told her he got that gig. Unless, of course, he set out to be a musical children's television star, then she was just so bloody weirded out by it she didn't know quite what to do.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Babies Just Do Stuff

So I have this friend who's daughter is about 6 weeks younger than MK. (A year ago, this seemed like a huge difference. Now, less so. In 20 years, we won't even think about it.)

She did everything different from the way we did it. She formula fed, she did CIO, she worked from the time her daughter was 6 weeks old. (I get how totally lucky I am to have been able to take a 10 month maternity leave, I really do.) Every Attachment-Parenting, hippy granola thing I did, she didn't. Every conventional thing that she did, I didn't.

Her daughter is having some sleep issues after a string of illnesses and teeth. (I hate teeth. Seriously.) And now she and her husband are trying to get their 'perfect sleeper' back. Since all of my methods are strung together from making crap work because I don't have CIO in me or in my soul, I know I can't really tell her anything she will find useful. Except this:

Babies do stuff. Toddlers even more so. They go through phases, are royal pains in the butt as often as not, and then they're just not anymore. They've moved on to some other way to make their parents crazy. I'm pretty sure that this continues until they're teenagers.

The Bug moved on from being weird about sleep to being defiant... I ask her not to do something, she looks at me, grins, and does it again, as though what I actually said was 'one more time, but with feeling!' Once I figure this one out, she'll try to get her nose pierced or something.

I really think that my only rule of parenting is this: 'kids do stuff. Once you've accommodated your life to that stuff, they start doing other stuff.' My primary task as a parent, I suppose, is to not get to attached to the stuff that worked in that mythical time 'before.'

Damnit. If I'm going to put this parenting plan in action, I'm going to need to spend some more time on that dusty meditation cushion.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

One Bad Mother Runner

(With thanks to One More Mile Running Apparel, purveyors of my new racing uniform)

I recently ran my first post-Bug half marathon. I ran 13.1 miles in 3 hours, 1 minute, 5 seconds, over 34 minutes faster than my previous personal best.

Here's how racing with a child in the picture is different from running before:

  1. Running with the stroller is like running hills, it slowed me down, but it also has increased my strength, which increased my speed. 
  2. As someone I used to know said all the time, 'it ain't gonna run itself.' No matter how the Bug slept the night before, no matter how much fun hanging out on the couch with her would be, no matter how warm and cozy the bed is, I had to put the time on my feet in. Making that time was harder than I expected it to be. 
  3. I used to be able to devote a lot of time to my running; planning runs, recovering from runs, fueling for runs, shopping for running gear. (See Sally's recent entry 'Being a Good Triathlete Date'; she was writing about her experiences with triathlons, but it applies to athletic endeavours in general.) As a Running Mommy, however, I now have to come home and pretty much directly resume my Mommy duties. No ice bath, followed by a hot shower, followed by tea and carbs. The evening after the race, when I could barely walk, I raced up the stairs despite the pain, to cuddle my sad little girl after a nightmare.)
  4. Skipping a run once in a while in a training program doesn't hurt. I'm not saying I could have paired down my training to 2 runs a week with ice cream in between, but I won't lie, despite #2, and knowing that if I didn't put the time in, the race would go badly, I still skipped some runs, and more than 1 speed work session turned into just being upright going forward. I still PR'd.
  5. Having my little girl meet me at the finish line was the best feeling ever. Someday she's going to know that her mom is active and hopefully follow along, and beat the pants off of my time. 
It's hard. I won't lie, but I'm going to keep doing it. It was super rewarding, too. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Four Block Radius...

A while back, I mentioned that I wanted to post something about children in public. Well, several friends have recently posted a link to this story about a couple in a Toronto Neighbourhood who want a municipal bi-law to make a 4 block radius around their home child free.

I can empathize with this in some sense. I frankly like my own kid, love her even, but would be perfectly happy to avoid most other children most of the time.

Here's the thing. On both sides of this, there is being a good neighbour and there's being an a**hole. For the childless, being a good neighbour might include occasionally tolerating that your neighbours who have reproduced might bring their children with them to a dinner out, because like you, we have made the conscious choice not to cook and to translate some of our hard-won economic capital (money) into a yummy dinner that someone delivers to us. Just because we have children does not mean we should feel obligated to settle for the sub-par fare served at establishments such as Jack Astor's or Chili's. My foodie tendencies didn't disappear with my ability to sleep through sneezes. It might also mean that sometimes, getting an injured, hungry, or sleepy child in the house quickly might trump immediately hiding away all evidence that a child lives within.

However, out of respect for those who do not share my absolute entrancement for a noise that the Bug makes that I choose to call a squeal, but might more accurately be described as a shriek, I do the following when we go out: in addition to giving her free reign over the breadbasket and any crackers that may be on the table, I bring along quiet toys, food I know she will eat (bunny crackers and milk, generally) and an overall sense of flexibility. I also bring the willingness to ditch the whole venture and get my meal to go, should all go terribly, terribly awry.

 Around my home, I rather expect my neighbours to adhere to basic standards of cleanliness and safety, as well as the local noise ordinances. I expect them to look both ways when driving on the street, put away their bikes and lawn equipment and so on. From the front of my home, the only sign that a child lives within is that there is a wee garden chair between the larger ones on our porch. Because we put away our crap when we're done with it. We have a neighbour whose older children (between the ages of 6 and about 9) run in the streets and leave their stuff everywhere, and it makes me nuts, not in the least because it makes the rest of us with kids look bad. (Also because the little jerks have kicked a ball against my garage door and somehow damaged it.) That said, I understand that sometimes we don't get our stuff away right away. We do our best.

*** (Added 18 September 2011) Upon further inspection of the radio show's website, I discovered that the CBC radio program 'This is That' is, it turns out, sort of like the Daily Show for Canadian radio. Nonetheless, they have fairly succinctly summed up the nexus of conflict between people with children and the vehemently childless.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I (heart) My Job

So as part of my 'first-day-of-classes' spiel, I mention that I change more than my share of diapers while at home, so I rather expect my students to behave as through they are (metaphorically) potty-trained. I say (and have a power-point slide to back me up, so you know it's serious) 'Since you have been admitted to this university, I expect that you are at least 17 years old, and therefore an adult. I expect you to comport yourself as such.'

Now, let us pretend for a moment that they all know what the word 'comport' means. The thing is, one of my sections is made up almost entirely of brand-spankin'-new freshmen. (Are we calling them fresh-people these days?) They need their hands held for every task I expect them to accomplish.

In some ways, it is exactly like parenting a toddler.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bad Mommy

So, the Bug has had an illness since Saturday. (It is now either Thursday or the First of Octember,  I am honestly not sure which at this point.) The cold/flu/whatever (more on that in a minute) came pretty much on the heels of immunizations, so we've had 2 weeks of lousy sleep and clingy toddler and Mommy staying up until midnight to get her work done. (Or just not doing it. My students barely notice that they're supposed to be in class. If I use the wrong word, how likely is it that they think I was speaking Portuguese and so weren't listening anyway?)

So what does the Bug have? Well, she either has a cold or she has hand-foot-and-mouth disease. When we went to the baby doctor on Tuesday (while the Bug had a freak out on account of being in the same place where a week before they had stuck her with needles. Note that she remembers the needles, not the Popsicle she had as a consolation prize), she had a red throat and a sore on her tongue, so the doctor came to the conclusion that it could be HFM, but that it could be instead a cold with a coincidental bite to the tongue.

It doesn't really matter. Treatment is the same for both: rest, fluids, cuddles.

So last night, her fever went away, totally for the first time in days. Although she slept with us, once she was in with us, she slept like a rock. (A 31.25" rock that slept horizontally in the bed, leaving me with about 18" of the bed to sleep in. Whatever. She spent the night before last flopping her head onto my stomach and kicking DH in the armpit.) This morning, she woke up cheerful and ready to play. She even ate some breakfast. She had no fever. I checked. 3 times I checked.

So I decided to take a chance. Even though, strictly speaking, she didn't quite meet the 24-hours fever free, I took her to 'school' this morning. I told a big whopper little white lie that she had been fever free for the officially sanctioned amount of time. Within 2 hours they called me because she had been mopey during gym time and wouldn't eat her lunch, so they checked her temp. 100.6. So I got her, brought her home, and now she's napping. I'm feeling a bit guilty, since she could have stayed home with me from the start, but... them's the breaks, I guess.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Probably a Bad Idea

I had the following thought today, which has been what one might call 'challenging:'

What if I just filled the little stainless water bottle with with some wine out of my box over there, packed the Bug into the stroller, and go on down to the playground? After all, it's after five.
Then I decided one of three things would happen:
  1. One of the over-achiever moms in my subdivision who are all at least perfect looking would call child protective services on me for mothering-while-drinking (like that's any better than their xanax habit, but I digress).
  2. My normally not-great filter between brain and mouth would be further impaired, and I would instruct the Bug to feel free to hit that little slide hog as much as her little heart desires. 
  3. The other moms would try to wrest the bottle from my hands and be super-jealous that they didn't think of this themselves. 
Anyway, I'm not going to try it. It's like a gazillion degrees out (I think that works out to a bagillion degrees Celsius), and anyway, the bug finds an old magazine and a stack of ancient cassette tapes just as interesting as she would the slide.

And in here, I can drink my wine in a glass.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Toddler Speed

I am slow. I run at a pace that would make John Bingham say "oh, come on, lady." When handed my medal at the conclusion of a race once, the volunteer kindly said "I love the walkers," and, nearly in tears, I said "but I ran it." I've always been the straggler, the one who gets winded climbing what seems like an ordinary hill. Some of it is that I have my ADD moments where in I get distracted and wander off in an odd direction, but some of it is that I'm just so slow.

The thing I didn't know was this. I've been in training. For being the mother to a toddler. My whole life of dawdling has been in preparation for this. I move at exactly toddler speed. I am very rarely exasperated at her meanderings or her slowness because I'm already moving at that speed.

I'm in so much trouble when she's 5.

Friday, July 8, 2011


So last time, I posted about how I was considering not changing the Bug's diaper and just taking her to Mother's Day Out for the day and pretending that it happened in the car. Well, of course, if I'd done that, left her in her poop for too long, diaper rash could be the result.

Karma's a bitch. Since I even considered it, we now have the nastiest diaper rash we have yet faced. At least that's my guess as to how this rash happened.

Dudes, it sucks.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

What Would You Do?

You are already running late and while stuffing gently putting your toddler daughter's shoes on, you smell it. You know, you rather suspect your charming and well-behaved offspring has made a poopy. You are taking her to a caregiver and have packed more than enough extra diapers for the day. What do you do?

  1. You immediately change her diaper. It isn't hygienic for her to have poop on her bottom for longer than a second.
  2. You swear under your breath (and pretend later, when she repeats that word cheerfully to your significant other that you have no idea where she could have learned it), then change the diaper.
  3. You leave everything exactly as it is. It's only a 3 minute drive after all, it isn't that bad. Pampers are really absorbent, right? There's rash cream in the bag. You can pretend when you get to the caregiver that the sweet little dear did it in the car and act all hurried, so they'll get the hint and change the diaper for you.
  4. You would never ever be one of those parents who is always late because of the pressures of toddler-wrangling. You also wouldn't find yourself questioning if you had brushed your teeth while in the car on the way there.
So I know what I did (I'll give you hint, it wasn't #4). I also know which thoughts passed through my head in the interim.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Conversations from MommyLand: Episode 3, The Wiggles

Upon seeing the following video, DH and I had a conversation. (Trust me, it is only a minute long. It might be the Wiggles, but go with me.)

DH: Since when is there a new Wiggle?

Me: Huh? [I should probably mention that this took place prior to 9 am and before I had any tea]

DH: There is an extra guy up there.

I look.

Me: Honey, that's Al Roker. The guy who has been the weather man on the Today show for the past 15 years. The Wiggles have been the same 4 guys since before they were old enough to be slightly creepy.

DH: Huh. How was I supposed to know that?

Then I remembered, I have the whole suburban future-soccer mom thing going on, and so I watch the Today show, unlike DH who is at work when it is on.

I also remembered that although my life very rarely looks like a Katherine Heigl movie, in this case, just a little... in the movie Life as We Know It, something along the lines of "You will want to find out where the Wiggles live and shoot them in the face." Okay, not quite, but I do want to give Captain Feathersword a wedgie, that's for sure.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Traveling Mama

So. We all survived the trip. The Bug had a fantastic time with her grandparents (who she generally calls 'Ampa and Gamma), only stayed up overly late one night, and was just generally pretty happy. I got to attend sessions, reconnect with old friends, and make some new friends. Pretty freakin' awesome.

Some things I learned:

1. Going away for 4 nights did not diminish the Bug's desire to nurse at bedtime. The first bedtime after we were reunited, she attempted to pull down my shirt.

2. I wasn't really disappointed by #1. If she was 4, I might feel differently, but she's not yet 2, and you know what, it is a nice, cuddly time with her.

3. Other people's small children out and about still annoy me. A friend said it shouldn't, as I am no sometimes the person with the pain-in-the-arse small child and therefore I should be more sympathetic, but here's the thing: when I'm out with my pain-in-the-arse small child, I do stuff to help calm her down if she gets upset and I attempt to provide for her entertainment. I overheard several instances of parents failing to make a serious effort to calm their yelling children. Helpful hint: if your tiny baby is screaming her fool head off in the stroller, item #1 one how to calm her down is to PICK HER UP, particularly if jiggling the stroller hasn't really helped or done anything but annoy the crap out of her. I understand not everyone is a hippy, granola, baby wearing ,nursing in public, attachment parent, but I think maybe we all can agree that babies need to be held and that it is actually kind of pleasant. (Please understand that I have a little empathy for being around a baby who cries a lot. I lived through colic and reflux and a really bad 4 month sleep regression. But, when necessary, DH and I took turns holding her and eating and working to keep her happy and our fellow diners also happy.)

4. The very best part of the whole time away from her was that I got to go to bed at night and sleep until I woke up on my own or at the time I had preselected on my alarm clock. No one else's sleep schedule or issues had anything to do with my own sleep.

5. The second best part of the whole time was that I got to knit almost as much as I wanted to. I didn't manage to visit a yarn shop, but I did finish a sock and a coffee cup cozy.

6. I missed the Bug like crazy. I figured I would, and I was right. But you know what? I was able to not feel guilty for most of the trip.

So. I'll travel again without her. I won't like it, but travel like this is part of my job, and I'll keep at it. I actually feel refreshed as a mom and more determined to make sure that one of my goals in parenting is to make sure the people around me don't hate my kid and me by extension.

(By the way, I do think there is a distinction between kids being kids in public, which I find tolerable and kids falling apart and making life unpleasant for everyone. There is a future post on this in the works, but I'll start by saying that children under 1 cannot be spoiled and cannot manipulate, and that you have to know your kid and know what they can take before deciding to take them somewhere. There's a reason I'm seldom out with the Bug after 7pm. She just can't take it.)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mom Knowledge

As the owner of an unreliable brain, as I like to call it, I write things down all the time so I don't forget them. If I don't, I forget far too much, and the results can be comic or they can be semi-disastrous. On top of that, I have the added burden, it turns out, of being a Motherless Mother, which, according to Hope Edelmann, makes me even more likely to take 1,000 steps just in case something happens to me. (Although I actually didn't loose my mom until I was 27 years old, so I should probably try to let these fears go at least until the Bug is potty trained.)

So. In a few days, the Bug will be staying with her grandparents without me. I'll be in a whole different country. I'm a little freaked out by this. I know she'll have a great time and I will have a super productive time at the conference, and my dad and step-mom are going to have a super time with the Bug, but I'm still a little freaked out. I'm going to be in a WHOLE DIFFERENT COUNTRY.

In addition to making sure I have everything I need to take the Bug on a plane without DH, I've created a document called "stuff to know about the Bug" that I'm going to print out and give to my folks. They will almost certainly tell me I'm being silly, and maybe they'll have a point. It is chock-full of practical details like how to get in touch with her pediatrician,  her dosages of a couple different fever reducers, and her bedtime routine, all tidily in one place.

But there is this whole other set of knowledge I'm not sure I can write down or that I'll even remember. It is one thing to say that she takes 1.2 mL of infant tylenol, but what about her preference for emptying laundry baskets, or carrying her stuffed monkey around her neck? What about how she most of the time likes to sleep with her head touching something silky or something soft? What about all of the spots where she is ticklish or the fact that she'll mostly be still to have her nails trimmed during Dirt Girl World, but not during Thomas the Tank Engine? This is the short version of the list. In fact, I'm willing to bet that I don't know the whole list myself.

I guess all of this is what I'll call Mom Knowledge. The 1,000 little things that I know as her mom that no one else knows. I've been the one most intimately with her on a day-to-day basis, and so I know her quirks, I know her likes, I know her dislikes. These are things that other people just don't know, and I'm not even aware of them, I just respond to them, deal with them, live with them. These aren't the sort of things that I learn in an e-mail from BabyCenter. It's just stuff I know, stuff I do, stuff I've stored in muscle memory, where cognition can't mess with it.

I'll bet she'll be more fine than I will. She's younger, and far more adaptable than me.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

This Stuff Didn't Used to Happen To Me

Two weeks in a row, the Bug and I have made it to church. This is a miracle. The Great Whomever has blessed us, and it has worked out.

Last Sunday, in the middle of one of my favourite services of the year, Music Sunday, where rather than a sermon or normal, church-y activities, some sort of musical event happens,and is always quite good. In this case, it was the performance of a cantata composed by a friend of mine. I played in the orchestra when it premiered, and so it has sentimental and artistic value. I was enjoying it, the Bug was enjoying it, when, out of the blue, I felt warm and wet on my lap, and not in the elimination communication sense, but instead in the "oh, crap, I just got peed on sense," and yep, for the first time in ages outside of overnight, the Bug overflowed her diaper. Right onto my skirt.

In my old life, even when I worked for doctors, I never, ever, got peed on. Just sayin'.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Bookshelf: Baby Care and Infant Happiness

I've been recommending books to various people in my life lately, so I thought I would share the things I read, mostly the things that are useful to me in my mom life, but also books that are relevant to my other roles in this world, too. So this is the first in a series about my bookshelf.

The Baby Book, by Attachment Parenting gurus William and Martha Sears (co-authored by two of their children, one of whom is the pediatrician from The Doctors.) that has been my most useful guide through this mothering experience. It was a gift from a friend, and when I got it, it was a bit like I had just been given my reading material for a college course, as it weights in at a slim 769 pages. However, once I got over its heft and let go of my compulsive need to read books cover-to-cover in short order, this book has proved very useful. It is basically a travel-guide for children ages 0 to 2 years, and has sections on breastfeeding, discipline, and potty training. While it lacks the month-by-month guidelines found in What to Expect the First Year, it also lacks the "OHMYGOD IF YOU DON'T DO THIS EXACTLY, YOUR BABY WILL SUFFER A TERRIBLE AWFUL DEATH OR AT LEAST SOCIAL DIFFICULTIES THAT YOU WILL FEEL PROFOUNDLY GUILTY OVER" tone that the What to Expect books have. It also has dosage charts for common infant and toddler medications, which has saved me from making yet another call to the pediatrician on the weekend because the Bug has a wee bit of temperature.

Harvey Karp, MD's The Happiest Baby on the Block very seriously saved my sanity when the Bug was tiny and colicky. It's ideas may seem a bit obvious-- swaddling, swinging or rocking, white noise, sucking, and so on, but I'm the sort of person who needs to read stuff from an "expert" to really get it. (Probably the scholar in me. DH just needs to find it on the internet, and he's good.) I have just recently gotten over my disappointment that these things have stopped working.

I have 2 books that live on my bookshelf regarding baby sleep, and one will probably be a surprise for those familiar with the various positions on baby sleep. I'm too much of a liberal arts professor to just accept as gospel one idea or another, so I took a little from one and a little from another and finally sorted out the Bug's sleep a little.

The first book, particularly as it is suggested reading in The Baby Book, won't come as a surprise. It is Elizabeth Pantley's No Cry Sleep Solution.
Most authors on baby sleep pretty much say that either you have to let the poor dear cry-it-out or you have to live with multiple wake ups and/or sleep with the poor dear. If I got nothing more out of Pantley's book, it is that it is okay not to be satisfied with either path.

Speaking of all-or-nothing approaches, my second baby sleep book is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, MD. I disagree with Weissbluth's preferred solution for infant sleep problems, which is to let the child cry it out after identifying the correct time for bedtime and naptime. What I did find useful is that the book is packed with information on the science of infant and child sleep, and by applying some of those ideas about when and why the Bug should sleep to the how from Pantley's book, we've been able to mostly assemble a sleep strategy that works for our family.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Part-Time Everything

At the moment, I'm in a week off between the madness. (I was asked at the last minute to teach a summer session course.)

I've been reflecting a lot on all of the junk that is on my plate that never seems to get off said plate. I think it comes down to being a part-time worker, a part-time SAHM, and never feeling 100% like I'm in the right place, doing the right things.

When I'm at work, I'm checking my phone for text messages about the Bug. When I'm at home, I'm looking at the same phone for e-mails from students and/or administrators regarding work stuff. If I was a full-time SAHM, sure I'd be looking at mother's day out programs, but so I could go knit or run, or take a spin class and shower in peace. Instead, I'm looking at these programs in order to have a day or two per week to work on writing my dissertation. I haven't been to the yarn shop in ages, and the last time I was there, I basically bought 2 balls of yarn I needed desperately, then talked for about 20 minutes while knitting a total of 2 rows and keeping the Bug out of the cashmere. (They have a strict you-drool-on-it-you-buy-it policy. I have 2 balls of merino sock yarn on account of this policy. I can't afford cashmere. I do think it is a little unfair that the cashmere laceweight is almost exactly at Bug height.)

I know there are plenty of full time working moms and stay-at-home moms who are jealous. The full-time mommies are jealous because of the time I get to spend with the Bug, the SAHMs are jealous because I get to talk to grown ups and I'm mostly able to remember not to talk about poopy. (Well, except when I have a fresh, steaming pile of student research papers.)

But. There's that old saying "Jack of all trades, master of none." I feel like that's where I am. Because every time I forgo some educational game with the Bug in favour of marking papers while she plays with the army of plastic toys that have taken over our home and Sprout plays on the TV, I feel like a bad mom. Every time I don't clean my kitchen and take the Bug for a run and then some swinging at the tot lot, I feel like a bad wife. Every time I hold onto a pile of student papers for an extra couple of days because I went grocery shopping instead of mark them, I feel like a bad professor.

I feel like I'm stretched in 1000 different directions.  I feel like I don't do anything as well as I could, and then (evidence of my crazy) when someone offers to help, I have trouble accepting because I feel like by accepting because I'm afraid that it might make me some sort of failure. Because I feel like I'm not living up to any of my roles 100%, I feel like I screw up a lot. Of course, I already felt like I screw up a lot. As the owner of what I will call an unreliable brain, I've spent most of my life internalizing the message that my brain fails me all the time, and from there, I often conflate events to "it is all my fault and I'm a hopeless screw-up."

Feminism sold us a bill of goods. It was quickly transformed from "women should be able to choose their role in the household" to "women should be able to do it all." Somehow, I bought it hook, line, and sinker. I learned from Martha Stewart that I should be able to manage my household perfectly, while also running my multi-million dollar empire and wearing pearls. I've gotta let that go.

Monday, May 9, 2011

TV Moms

So here's where I admit it. I'm a reality TV junkie.

Sort of. I've never been a big fan of the sort of reality TV where somebody gets voted off the peninsula or whatever every week, and despite the fact that I would like to do an adventure race someday, I have never really enjoyed the shows where they drop someone off in the middle of nowhere with a sponsored cellphone, a camera crew, and $10 to see what happens.

What I am a fan of is the sort of reality TV that looks a little like someone's real life... but is enough removed from mine that I can judge them from a safe distance. This is why I like almost the entire "Real Housewives" series. (I'm not crazy about the New Jersey housewives. It's like Bravo's casting call included "must be a stereotype of New Jersey tackiness while not being quite as trashy as those 'Jersey Shore' kids.) But give me the "Real Housewives of Orange County" or the "Real Housewives of New York" and a drinky-drink and I'm a happy mama.

I was watching the "Real Housewives of New York" spin-off "Bethany Ever After..." and I was struck by something. Of all of these shows, her life looks the most like mine... she struggles to find balance, she has fights with her husband, she never seems to have enough hours in the day. And yet she somehow finds time to go out with her husband, go to the spa, and never has complained about how much baby sleep is a royal pain in the arse. I must be flawed if I complain, right?

But then I realized something. I expect everything in my life to look like the life of a TV mom. and Frankel struggles to make it all work and she has a multi-million dollar income, a assistant who works out of an office in Frankel's home, a live in nanny, and make up and hair artists who make her pretty any time she has to appear in public. I have.... well, I have a dog, who thoughtfully cleans the highchair after the Bug finishes eating. Also, I don't have an editing director who picks the interesting funny parts of parenting rather than the pain-in-the-arse exhausting parts to show.

I'm in it all the time.

Oops. There's the chatty sweet girl waking up on the monitor.

I wonder why they don't show poopy diapers on TV?

(Oh, and Skinny Girl Margaritas are awesome!)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Miss Being a TA

Before the Bug was born, I had what was, in some senses, the perfect job. While it paid almost nothing, it also had almost zero real responsibility. There was enough busy work to leave me feeling as though I had earned my paycheck, but not so much that I was truly overburdened.

Now that I am fancy-pants adjunct instructor of meaningless-liberal-arts-whatever, however, I have all the responsibility I used to so gleefully upward delegate. Grades, curves, all of this are 100% up to me, which is kind of scary. Also in my corner are the 10.000 whiny e-mails that will go like this:

Student: I don't understand why I got an F in your class. I came to class, I did pretty well on the tests.
Me: Well, actually, Student, you did okay on the tests, but you failed to turn in any of the written work.
Student: I didn't know it was assigned.
Me: It was listed on the syllabus, mentioned in class, and an assignment sheet was posted to the course website. 
Student: It's not fair. I'm telling, and I'll do what I have to to get my grade changed to the grade I think I deserve. 

I so wish this was an example was an exaggeration, but sadly, not even a little. Indeed, I might be representing the Student in this exchange as though they were being more reasonable and mature than they actually will be when the excrement hits the fan.

Therefore, I miss my old job. Seriously. I have no desire to deal with any of this. I want to head into summer blissful and ignorant of what a terrible and unfair human being I am. Growing up sucks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not So Snarky

I'm sure some of you have seen the It Gets Better project aimed at young people grappling with their sexual orientation. There have been a lot of really moving videos posted by celebrities and ordinary people with the theme that it does get better. A number of bloggers have posted about this. Franklin at the Panopticon posted a brilliant entry on this topic.

I bring this up not to talk about sexuality or not to reveal some deep secret about myself, but instead I bring it up to talk about the experience of being a new mom. A friend of mine just had a sweet, beautiful baby girl after a number of trials and troubles. She is now struggling with learning how to breastfeed her daughter, how to manage her family with this new person, the fluctuating hormones, meddling family members, everything. She is one of my fellow posters on a internet discussion board I post on frequently, and I posted a message to her that I can sum up in the words "It gets better." I've expanded it a bit, but I wanted to share it with both of my fans, so maybe, if someday, you know someone in this situation, you can send them this, and they'll maybe find a ray of hope that yes, it does get better.

When the Bug was a newborn and I was a shellshocked new mom, it was hard. The form my postpartum hormonal shifts took is that, for about 3-4 weeks, every night after dinner, I got the weepies. (This is not to say that I didn't get the weepies at other random times, just that the postprandial weepies happened like clockwork.) I would be sitting at the table, having a normal conversation, and all of a sudden, I'd be crying. Not much, not big heaving sobs, just watery eyes and an inability to deal with even the simple task of putting my own plate in the dishwasher. I mentioned this to my doctor, and she said that if it kept up, to call and they'd medicate me, and I was frankly, ready to beg for the pills then and there. But I gave it a few weeks, and by 6 weeks after the Bug was born, the random weepies had mostly passed.

Breastfeeding is incredibly hard. If you give a baby a bottle of formula, you know exactly how much you made, what the nutritional components of it are, how much the little dear consumed. When offering the breast you know almost none of that. You know that they latched, they ate some, then they got full and stopped. Or maybe the baby didn't get full. Maybe she got distracted, maybe she fell asleep, maybe she just gave up. These things don't come with dials like a gas tank (boobs or babies). It would be easier if they did. It can be incredibly tempting to just give up and formula feed because you know exactly what they're getting. Those first few weeks, where it takes 45 minutes for one feeding, and then, half and hour later, the little screaming mass is hungry again, it is so tempting to just give in. Then, maybe, a helpful family member says "OH, just give her a little formula, it won't hurt her," and all of a sudden, the little dear sleeps better than she ever has, and your confidence is shot, when really it isn't because they got any more nutrition than they would have from nursing, it is really just because formula is harder to digest, so they don't get hungry quite as fast. Those first 6-8 weeks, where the babe goes through at least 3 major growth spurts are exhausting, even if you are willing to give up everything you are accustomed to doing around the house and eat whatever oddness your DH throws together, and live in dirty, spit-up smelling clothes. (The spit-up scented clothes happen anyway)

The first few weeks of trying to work out being a breastfeeding pair are really, really hard. And throughout the Bug's first year, I had many times where I felt like nothing more to her than a meal on wheels.

Then we had colic. And reflux. I thought I would never sleep again. I found out that in addition to the local morning programming that starts at 5 am, there are shows called Early Today and Earlier Today. (F@#k you, NBC. For doing anything to acknowledge or legitimize those early morning hours.) I also learned a lot about complex real estate investment schemes that I never learned in real estate school.

Then, it got better. I can't explain exactly how, except. The Bug (like most babies) grew out of the colic. Our awesomesauce pediatrician prescribed Zantac for the reflux.  She and I both learned how nursing was going to work for us. She got more efficient at it... where feedings had taken 45 minutes to an hour, she was done in 20 minutes. She started smiling and interacting other than using her signs and signals to show me she was hungry.

It got better. I didn't plan on nursing her into her toddler years, but she still asks for it. She does fine when I'm not around, but if I am, she furiously signs "more" and pulls at my shirt at times. Do I still sometimes wish she didn't? Oh, sure. (I hate teeth.) Could I cut her off right now? Sure. Would she or I suffer any emotional damage? Probably nothing long term. Would her nutrition be compromised? No. She'd still have plenty to eat, as waffles and bananas don't come from my boobs. But I'm not going to take away one of her favourite things just because I hate teeth. She'll let go of it soon enough.

Here's the things I know are true:

  1. It gets better
  2. Breastfeeding is really, really hard.
  3. It is even harder if you have a thousand visitors in and out of your house or have some other tricky living situation.
  4. It gets better. 
  5. Anyone who counts (including me) will still love you if you can't breastfeed for any reason. 
  6. Getting help for emotional stuff isn't weakness or a sign you are a bad mom. It is a sign that you love your child enough to get the help you need to be a better mommy.
  7. It gets better. I cannot say this enough. It gets better.
(Disclaimer: please seek the help of a qualified person should it seem like nursing isn't going right at all... i.e. your baby is loosing weight, refuses to latch, and so on... or if your postpartum weepies don't go away or get worse. Like any blog, this is just my story of how things worked for us.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Paradoxical But True

So, upon realizing that now that the Bug relies much more on my Costco card than on me for her sustenance and weighing myself and discovering an unsettling 10 extra pounds, I signed up for Weight Watchers, I realized the following truism about motherhood:

The child's portion is contained within the mother's portion, but the mother's portion is within the child's portion. 

What I mean by that is this: when we go to a restaurant, I'm not about to spend $4 on a grilled cheese or waffle or whatever for her. Her little tummy is still only a few tablespoons big, so, ordering a full meal seems excessive. However, I do go out of my way to place my order in a way that I'll be able to feed her some of what I order. On a recent road trip, we stopped at a Bob Evans, and I ordered us a waffle and some fruit. She munched briefly on the cantaloupe, ate a quarter of the waffle, and I ate the rest. Later, we split a fruit and yogourt parfait at McDonald's. Her portion was from mine.

However, at home, her favourite foods are Annie's Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies, frozen waffles, and cheese. These things are, actually, pretty yummy. So, on occasion, when cleaning off her tray, my solution is, rather than to throw out perfectly good food or to store away 3 cheddar bunnies and a bite of string cheese, to just eat the thing.  My snack comes out of hers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Usually I Don't Judge Other People, But...

Okay, so that isn't 100% true. I do enjoy sitting in judgment of other people. But usually I try to keep my hands off other people's crazy-pants parenting notions, and certainly don't use my public forum to advertise that I think it is a crazy-pants notion. Because I understand that what works for my family might not be what works for someone else's family.

But this morning, I stumbled upon the weirdest parenting trend I've ever heard of. I would be thrilled if the Bug potty trains on the early side of the normal window. Diapers are bloody inconvenient and expensive. Even cloth diapering, which costs less in the long run, is not without a large share of handling another person's poop. But this Elimination Communication movement is nutty. It is a set of ideas that you can actually start reading your baby's signs and put them on a potty at the age of 4 months, and go largely diaper-free.

The principles of EC include some the basics of attachment parenting: listening to your baby's signals, paying attention to their habits and behaviour, and so on. It also suggests helping Baby to associate a certain sound with the different potty events, so that if you put your baby on the pot and make a particular sound, they will ... um... respond, as it were.

Okay, so far we've seen the part that made me go, "hmmm... interesting, but not for me." Here's the part that made me think "this is bat s&%^ crazy, I have to blog about this." They suggest that as one becomes attuned to one's child's urges, one will be able to rely on intuition to figure out when baby needs to "go." Here are some of the ways they mention that one might feel the tug of elimination-related intuition:
  • a sudden thought along the lines of "She needs to pee."
  • wondering or questioning, "Does he need to go?"
  • "seeing" or "hearing" the word "pee" or cueing sound (see below)
  • "just knowing" that your baby needs to pee
  • feeling the urge to pee yourself
  • feeling a warm wet spreading over your lap or other area while baby is dry
(From "Getting Started" on
Apparently, though this method, one can become so attuned to Baby's bathroom habits that they can just psychically know when to put Baby on the pot.

Even if this works, no thank you. I really don't want to be that attuned to any other being's bathroom habits. I would like to, at least bathroom habit wise, return to the part of DH and I's relationship wherein we both pretended we didn't do that sort of thing.

Friday, March 18, 2011

It's Worth It

So, if you're a loyal Mom Snark reader, you have undoubtedly noticed a them to my posts of late: sleep. I'm not getting it, the Bug isn't getting it, DH isn't getting it.

After a series of alternating good sleep nights and bad sleep nights, I was feeling quite bitter about having to stay up late into the evening to finish my work for the next day. Yesterday, I was working after 10pm for the second night in a row. But I realized something: it is totally worth it.

Don't get me wrong, I'd probably be a happier mama if I had a personal assistant, TA for my marking, and a maid for my house, but I make only the tiny salary of an adjunct instructor, so that seems unlikely at any point in the near future. (Although the next time that Groupon for our area is for a house cleaning service, you can bet I'm buying that sucker.) I would be a more pleasant person if I got more than 6 hours of sleep on an average night, but...

I got to spend yesterday playing and shopping and seeing my friends with my girl. There are so many moms and dads in this world who don't get to spend that kind of quality time with their kids. So if this means that sometimes I have to stay up until 11:30 to finish my work and have a small amount of quality time with my husband, it is absolutely worth it. (Our current favourite quality time is watching a great BBC comedy series called Coupling on Netflix. The only problem is that DH has laughed so loudly and heartily that he has fallen off the sofa and woken up the Bug.)

Therefore, for the season of Lent, I have decided to do two things:

1. I am participating in Sallaboutme's 46 day challenge. She's right, it is about making time. How we spend our time is a reflection of our values. What does it say about my values if I'm choosing to watch Grey's Anatomy reruns instead of doing an hour of yoga?

2. I am not going to complain, whine, bitch, moan, snivel, kvetch, carp, gripe, grouse or cavil until after Easter. This will be hard. Our society functions on complaining; it is the easiest possible small talk to make-- want to have something to discuss with your acquaintances? Complain about the government, whine about the bad service you got recently at a restaurant, kvetch about what a pain in the arse work is. But I'm going to do my utmost do do without.

I'll let you know how I do.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

When is it Time?

So the big debate in the Mom Snark household at the moment is when to move the Bug to her own room. After all, we have a room upstairs that is ostensibly hers, but basically it serves as a place to change her diaper and keep her clothes. Her crib is, as it has been since we moved back into our own digs, in our room. The problem is, she doesn't sleep well. Which means none of us sleep well. Which leads to a short-tempered mama who says things like "Liszt was an asshole" when it really isn't the appropriate thing to say, even if it is true.

The sides of the debate are as follows:

Side one:

She doesn't sleep well because she can hear us there, snoring, coughing, breathing, talking in our sleep. She would settle down better from little wake ups if her two favourite people in the whole world weren't sleeping a few feet away.

Side two:

It isn't as if she has the tools to soothe herself. She's barely a year old. If she really wakes up, she'll wake up unhappy, and she may wake up just as many times in the night being unhappy and needing mom or dad's help getting back to sleep, which will simply result in multiple trips up and down the stairs and the genuine possibility of injury on the part of the party doing most of the stair climbing.

The problem is, both parties in the debate are arguing both sides of the thing. It would be way easier if we were making different arguments, but alas, we both think both sides have good points.

I have a feeling I'm not going to get a good night's sleep until the Bug is 12.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tiny Children

For anyone who knew me in the large swath of my life before the Bug was born, you probably know this one fact about me: I don't like tiny children. I have revised the statement since her birth: I do not like tiny children, except for my own. She's pretty great.

Look, she helps me mark papers:

In light of this, recent events at and near my place of employment have caused me to utter the following phrases:

I went into higher education because it was a career path with very little gunfire.
I went into higher education because of the gunfire thing and because I don't want to be around strange small children.
And I meant it.


Today, when only 4 of my 14 students elected to show up for our regularly scheduled class meeting, I realized something: I realized that the 19-20-somethings I teach really aren't any more reliable than your average 4 year old. Like most four-year-olds I know, my students wheedle, whine, refuse to get the sleep they need, blame everyone else for their problems, and should all else fail, burst into tears and shout "It's just not fair and you're a big meanie." Also, your average 19 year old and your average 4 year-old have roughly the same understanding of when it is and is not appropriate to use contractions in writing and speech.

So, someday when I get my "grown up" (hopefully) tenure-track job, I've decided on one contract term I am determined to insist on: I think I'm going to need a sabbatical for the entire year the Bug is four, just to ease the load on my shoulders. Seriously.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Conversations from MommyLand: Episode 2

Tonight, after I had a minor mommy tantrum about the sheer build-up of crap to do in my life:

Me: I feel like I never have any fun anymore, and when I do, I'm so worried about not enjoying it enough, I don't really have fun. All I do is work and work at home. Fun isn't as fun as it used to be.

DH: Um... I think that's called adulthood.

Me: Hello. You bought me hoodie footies for Valentine's day, and I think they are brilliant. Clearly I'm someone with a problem with adulthood. And clearly you know that and want to encourage that.

DH: Hmm. [returns to playing StarCraft II]

I take that last bit of his as concession to the truth of my statement. I think he might even agree about the not having any fun. I'm not sure. This might be another opportunity to point out to him that he very rarely works after 9pm and even less rarely does any of his work crawl into bed with us and kick him in the face.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A New Adventure

So, in addition to teaching, dealing with random campus lockdowns, a baby who had a hella cold last week, and everything else, let's add one new adventure to parenthood. Travel with the Bug in tow on work matters.

Since the Bug is still nursing, it seems imprudent to travel for longer than a work day without her with me. So, if I go, she goes. Also, since the DH works long, occasionally unpredictable hours, it seems like I am the natural and ordinary baby supervisor.

So of course, last year, when I was relatively unencumbered, no matter how many abstracts I submitted to conferences, I couldn't get anything programmed. I probably wouldn't have been able to get a letter to the editor published in a local paper. This year, I am, for conferences I have heard back from, 3 for 3. I am actually programmed on 3 separate conferences, one of which will require international travel.

And I have to attend these with the Bug in tow. One of them, I have already persuaded the DH to come along and Bug wrangle. The other is being held about 45 minutes from my parent's house. While this will involve a plane flight, it is essentially a scam on my part to get my employer to pay me to take her for a visit with her grandparents.

I'm trying to convince my parents that they want to take a vacation to the international conference. We could all go together. They could spend 4 straight days playing with their granddaughter. I might tear my hair out (there is, after all, a reason I asked to go to boarding school at the age of 15), but they'll all have a splendid time.

But how do I balance my party-girl conference self (in so much as academics are, in fact, party girls) with my mom-self?

Also, how to take the pack 'n' play on a plane then a train and get us and my sanity there in one piece? Is it possible to do such a thing with a 15-month-old and remain sane?

I'm not really sure, but what I am sure of is that some hilarious posts will ensue.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Conversations from MommyLand

So the Bug has been sick, so she's been an unhappy little person and her sleep schedule has been off. Also, on Monday, she had a fever, so she wasn't able to go to the sitter's house for the day. Our backup plan, although a bit complicated, worked quite well: morning with Nana, DH came home to wrangle for an extended lunch, then I came home early from work and she and I headed off to the Baby Doctor's office.

The only problem with this is that it totally screwed up my usual work flow. I couldn't do my normal prep work Monday afternoon, as that was eaten up by the trip to the doctor's, and on Tuesday, where I usually get some work done during the Bug's naps, I wasn't able to, because my dear sweet girl wouldn't sleep unless she was no further from me than 2 inches. Further, rather than playing independently for a chunk of the day, she elected to spend most of the day with double fistfuls of my shirt and her face buried in my shirt. I did a bit while she slept on our bed next to me, but I could only do so much that way.

So when DH got home from work, I was rather counting on him to baby wrangle so I could have a few hours to finish my prep. He seemed a bit put out by this, which got my mom guilt going, but I had to get my work done.

When it was all said and done, and the Bug had finally settled to sleep, DH was watching some stupid Sci Fi show via Netflix, and when it was over (at around 11pm), he says "Well, finally, I got something done today," as though the entire rest of the day had been a royal pain in the arse and watching an entire TV show was a major victory.

I bit my tongue and went to bed. I did this because I didn't feel like having a stupid fight at 11pm. Because what I wanted to say was this:

Stop whining, you oversized baby. You think you got nothing done today? You're concerned about just one freakin' day. Try aiming to complete things every day and failing. Try getting to lunch time and realizing you probalby won't get a shower in because the has already gotten irretrievably away from you. Try not being able to do anything but cuddle a poor sick little person because there is nothing else you can do. I went to Costco today because I knew I could finish that, even with her strapped to me. I have crap on my todo list from August. So this one day things didn't go the way you meant them to? Then your wife wanted you to watch after your own off-spring instead of finish watching something that will still be there tomorrow? Yeah. Good luck with the pity party, 'cause I'm RSVPing with a big, fat no.

I didn't say any of this because the ensuing fight wouldn't have been worth it, and because the net result would be him telling all his buddies at work what a crazy bitch his wife has become since the Bug was born. I didn't want to give him that satisfaction.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Balance?!?!? WTF Was I Thinking?

So I'm working Mom now. 3 days a week, I venture out in the wee hours of the morning and impart wisdom on young minds. I teach them important things, although the recent batch of tests may make that statement appear to be untrue. At least, I stand at the front of a room and say important things. If they're not listening it isn't my fault.

And my life has swung wildly out of balance. I'm on the crazy-swing-ride that lands right in the middle of crazy town. I had finally found some sort of rhythm to the stay-at-home mama thing... I could balance most of what I wanted to do with the needs of the Bug and my DH's inertia. I'm doing all sorts of things I never used to do in my working life or my mom life. I'm letting the Bug watch TV to keep her busy, I'm not exercising, I'm eating fast food more frequently than I care to admit.  (I recognize that some of these are only contributing to the problem of lack of balance.) I'm burning the candle at both ends, and things are getting kind of toasty here in the middle, too. I get up at 5:30am, but I don't go to bed until midnight. I do work on weekends, and I'm fantasizing about a pedicure that I never seem to have time for.

In other words, this is hard, trying to be a good mom, while also trying to be a good adjunct lecturer. Both are hard by themselves. Together, I feel like the whole thing is held together with string, scotch tape and baling wire, and this is without making the time I need to get my research back on track. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Not as Good as Me

I think I have found a daycare provider.

She is a lovely woman who takes care of a few children on 3 days a week in her home. She's sweet. She's very southern. She's got a lovely little boy and a kind husband. She has a lovely home that makes mine look like something of a hovel. Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit, but I still maintain that the situation there is pretty great.

But I know that sending the Bug there won't feel as good to me when she was at home with me. I'm desperate to work. I recognize that I am not cut out to be a full time stay-at-home mom. My brain just isn't cut out for it. But I also feel like there is no way another person could take care of her as well as I can.

It's batshit crazy-pants to think that at once, I'm not cut out to be with her all the time and that no one else can take care of her as well as I can, but there it is. She'll know the difference, I'll know the difference, and it will make me kind of sad.