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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Solids Confusion

Evan is at that age where I am considering seriously starting solids. "Seriously" meaning to try them once a day and actually get him to...you know...eat. We have tried a couple things with him in the last week: we gave him a chunk of banana that he put in his mouth and made a "what-the-heck-is-this?" face; I gave him an apple core that he licked; I tried giving him some brown rice cereal, which all dribbled down his face.

I'm wondering if I'm starting too early or if I should be trying different foods. But, there is so much information and confusion out there about when to start solids and what to start with.

Evan's GI doctor told me that the latest literature is showing we should be starting solids at about 4 months. Evan's pediatrician said to start some time between 4-6 months, whenever he's showing the signs (sitting upright in a bumbo or highchair, showing interest in our food, waking up at night or earlier in the morning, not being satisfied by breast milk or formula, etc. --- which he is). A doctor of a friend of mine says absolutely DO NOT start until 6 months.

Then there is the what: some say to start with whole grain cereal mixed with lots of liquid since it will be closer to breast milk/formula, making the transition easier. Some say absolutely DO NOT use cereal because there is really no nutritional value and it doesn't teach them about food texture. Some say start with banana because it's easily digestible and very unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. Some say absolutely DO NOT start with banana because then they'll expect every food to be sweet and will create a picky eater. Some say to use purees because it is easier for them to eat. Some say absolutely DO NOT use purees, but use chunks of solid food so they learn different textures and how to eat different types of food. Some say absolutely DO NOT use chunks because the baby could choke.

And round and round we go.

Holy crapola, batman. Information overload! And contradictory information at that.

I know, with this many opinions out there, clearly this is one of those things you should just trust your gut on and do what you think is best for you and your baby. The problem is my head is reeling from all of the do's and don'ts that I don't know whether I'm coming or going.

What's funny is I know this is one of those things I will look back on and wonder what I was so stressed and worried about.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Girl Who Played With Fire: Book Review

My fifth book of the year was The Girl Who Played With Fire - the second book in the three-book series written by Stieg Larsson.

I wasn't all that impressed with the first book. That was, until I saw the movie, and then all of a sudden my opinion of it greatly improved. So much so that I was intrigued enough to read the second book. I'm happy I did, because it was so much better than the first!

One thing I found annoying in the first book was the first 100 pages or so were totally useless and completely filled with tiny detail after tiny detail. The kind of details that you think must be important to the story later on - because why else would the author include them? - but they weren't. I found this to be true in this book's introduction as well, but the difference was the story was more interesting.

Another thing about the first book that I didn't particularly like was how dark and disturbing it was in parts. If you have read the book, you know what I'm talking about, if you haven't read the book, let's just say there are a few scenes that are squirm-worthy. This wasn't the case in this book. The main female character, Lisbeth Salander, was portrayed more like a heroine than a victim. It was a refreshing view point of the character, and I liked that Larsson showed both sides of her in the two books.

The book was fast-paced and really interesting. It was full of surprises and, even though the book was over 700 pages, it flew by (thanks, in part, to reading most of it on my new Kindle).

Overall, the book had some of the downfalls of the first (too many names and places to keep track of, a 100-page introduction and tiny details that didn't matter to the story), but the writing was much better and the story was more interesting. Since I gave the first book a 3.5/5, I'm going to give this one a 4/5 and hope the last book of the series can top it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Powder Room

Two of the major issues we had with this house when we moved in was the horribly ugly and out-of-date kitchen and the lack of a second bathroom on the main floor. However, when considering the house, we realized we could rectify both these issues relatively easily (i.e., it wouldn't require moving walls or any other major structural changes).

We took care of the kitchen situation as soon as we moved in. I mean, really, could anyone have lived with it as-is? Yuck. We had professionals come in and do it all. We didn't even paint the walls. Needless to say, it cost us a pretty (but well-worth-it) penny. That, coupled with the expenses of painting the whole interior of the house and putting up new gutters/soffits/etc., we put the second bathroom project on hold for a few months.

About a month ago, we went to a home and garden show and came across this bathroom place that had some interesting fixtures. We started to get excited about the project again, so we decided to get them to give us a quote.

We want to convert a walk-in closet off one of the stair-well landings to a small (very small) powder room. It's a complete install, so we were thinking it would cost about $5000. The quote was for almost $9000.

DH decided to do most of it himself.

At first I was kind of worried. I mean, he's a handy guy. His job is very hands on, building these intricate things that I would have NO idea how to do. But, that's different than doing electrical, duct, and plumbing work. I had nothing to worry about though! He's done a great job so far, with the very little free time he has. He did all the demo work, and the electrical work is done (he converted the pull-string light to one with a switch, centering it in the ceiling instead of having it off to one side, and installed a GFI outlet) and he's also installed a ventilation fan (the light and fan are in the same unit, but he had to put the duct work in and have it vent to the outside).

We have chosen the tile (hexagonal to match what is in the other bathroom), the toilet and sink (both corner units), and the faucet. We've decided to replace the current leaded window with a stained glass window of the same basic design. I'm in the midst of picking the color of the walls.

The only things we'll probably have a "professional" do is attaching plumbing to the main line that goes to the city, and changing the swing of the door (the doors are very old, and we don't want to screw that up). And, of course, the stained glass window will be made and installed, but we're choosing the design and colors.

We're not sure how long it's going to take - it will depend on how much free time DH gets! Stay tuned, though, as I will post photos when it is done.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kindle: A Review

I think I'm in love.

Seriously, this thing is amazing, and I've barely used any of the functions. It is making reading so much easier for me!

Right now I'm reading The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson both upstairs (paperback) and downstairs (Kindle), just to compare --- and there is no comparison! The Kindle is so much easier to work with and it's just plain cool. Especially with a book as thick as this, it's so nice not to get a cramp in my hand while reading. "Turning" the page is super easy, and there are options such as highlighting, making notes, looking up words in the dictionary, and other things (none of which I have used yet, as I'm just in awe of the thing right now). I can now read while pumping, which makes it not such a pain in the ass.

Buying a book is really easy - I just use my 1-click account on Amazon (which I already had and the Kindle was automatically linked to when it was shipped to me) and it downloads to my Kindle in a matter of seconds.

I have played around with a couple of the other functions, such as the web browser, which will be really handy to have while traveling. I did get the 3G version, so I can use these features while out and about (though one does have to be careful, as they do charge for certain things unless you choose the "free" options).

Don't get me wrong - I love the feeling of a real book, but all in all, I'm really happy with it so far! I'm so glad I chose it as my birthday gift!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

5 Months

Anytime I ever heard someone talking about their baby being 5 months old, I thought that they were no longer really a newborn baby. Like, at that point, they are really developing their personality along with their physical abilities and becoming a little kid. So, how on earth is Evan 5 months old already?

- He's so good at playing with toys now, and he loves his exersaucer. He can hit and grab with accuracy - even something as small as my knitting needles (don't worry, I'm holding them at the time!).


- He had his first swimming lessons. He hasn't enjoyed it so far, but we're switching to a pool with warmer water, so hopefully that helps.

- He turns his head and looks at us when we say his name (also when we talk to him, but that's not as cool).

- He can roll to his side from both his back and tummy, and is thisclose to rolling over completely from back to tummy.


- He finally somewhat enjoys tummy time and is doing what he's supposed to (holding his head up instead of face-planting and screaming).


- His night-time sleeping is still awesome. He usually falls asleep around 7pm and sleeps until 6:30am or so. Sometimes he'll wake up in the evening, but only for a few minutes. Sometimes he'll wake up at 5am to do some exercising, but will fall back asleep on his own.

- That being said, he's in the fighting sleep stage during the day. I have to watch the clock pretty closely, because if he goes to long without a nap, he gets pretty nutso!

- His eyes are still blue - I wonder if they will ever change?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter: Book Review

This book was written by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the author of the Yarn Harlot blog. I find her blog to be very charming and funny, with gorgeous photos of wonderful knitting along the way, so I thought I'd try out one of her books.

It was great! Each chapter is a self-inclusive story, which makes this book easy and fun to read. She doesn't write too specifically about her knitting, but stories that revolve around her knitting: where she learned her craft, how crazy her yarn stash is (she uses her piano and a chest freezer as storage for some), the love-hate relationship knitters have with their projects, and what the difference is between a knitter and a Knitter (I am, most definitely, a member of the former category).

Her love of knitting really shines through in each and every chapter, even when she struggles with it, and I found it motivating to get back to my own knitting. I have now completed 8 squares of the Penrose afghan - only 56 squares and 96 parallelograms to go! Oh, and the stitching together too.

I give this book a 4 out of 5, reasons being some of the chapters refer to specific patterns and it would be great to see photos, and the book is too short! I recommend this book to any knitter (and especially Knitter)!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sensitivity

Evan seems to be a very sensitive baby. If he hears another baby crying, he'll get upset and start crying too. He also flinches a lot, like when a toy makes a lot of noise or moves a lot (spinning toys especially).

The worst thing, for me at least, is that he tends to get overwhelmed when we're out of the house. It doesn't seem to matter where we go - somewhere loud like a mall or restaurant, or somewhere quiet like someone's house - he gets upset after an hour or two. I don't know if he just likes the comfort of home, or if he just gets overwhelmed when surrounded by new things.

At first I thought this was just because he was, you know, a baby. But, I'm starting to think that it's just part of the way he is. People said he would cry/scream less after that magical 3 month mark, but it hasn't gotten any better. It makes it hard to get out of the house for any length of time. It also makes him look like a very fussy baby, but he's mostly happy when we're at home (though he's in that extra fun phase right now where he screams his head off trying to fight off sleep --- at least I hope it's a phase).

I don't know if this is related, but he seems to be a lot gentler than other babies too. When he plays with toys, he just reaches out and calmly brings them toward himself. He examines them, chews and them, and touches them, but he doesn't hit or swat at things very hard.

Anyone have any experience with similar traits? How do/did you deal with going out of the house? I'm particularly worried about our upcoming trip which will involve airports, planes, driving long distances, staying at a hotel and at my parent's house, and being around new people and things. Especially since DH won't be with us!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Expansion

A post by JLK over at Pieces of Me (so glad she's blogging again!) has prompted me to write about our desire (or lack there of) to expand our family at this point in time. There are so many factors to consider. Let's break it down!

Complications
Between Sept. 2009 and Dec. 2010 we stressed over "trying", experienced a miscarriage, tried again, had a somewhat difficult pregnancy, Evan was born early, he was in the NICU for his first week, and then had another week-long hospital stay a month later. Add to that Evan being a pretty fussy baby (even though, thank God, he sleeps well at night), that makes up a good percentage of our life span.

If there is a next pregnancy, things might go better, but there's a better chance things will go worse. Because of my history, we might experience another miscarriage (or more), and there's a higher chance the baby would come early and therefore may have health issues. Oh, and don't forget that I'll be older. Apparently that never helps. Yay biological clock.

Completeness
I know some women who had a baby at the same time as I had Evan are already thinking or talking about having another child. They say they can just feel their family is not complete, that they know another baby is out there waiting to join their family.

DH and I do not feel this way at all. In fact, we feel so happy and complete with our current family that we just can't fathom what it would be like to add another to the mix.

The Only Child Syndrome
So many people (who aren't only children) love to say how awful it is to be an only child. "They have no one to play with", they say. Or, "It's so nice to have more than one child when you go on vacations so they can keep each other company."

First of all - I think my brother and I got along for a grand total of 2 months, 1 week, and 3.5 days of our childhood. Yes, we could be forced to get along on vacations. But, the majority of the time we either fought or ignored each other. And we were pretty good with each other compared to others (DH and his sister used to get into serious physical altercations sometimes involving flying pogo sticks).

Second of all - anytime I ask an only child if they felt like they missed out on having a sibling, most say no. We asked a friend of ours the other day about it, and he said he's starting to realize now that it might have been okay because then he won't be solely responsible for his parents when they're old and decrepit. Most of them are interesting, well-adjusted members of society - or at least the ratios of normalcy don't seem to be any less than those with siblings.

I don't think wanting Evan to have a buddy on vacations is a good enough reason to have another child. If that's the only reason, he can bring a friend. At least that way he gets to choose his companion.

Granted, if my parents felt this way, I wouldn't be writing this right now.

Our Needs & Wants
DH and I have hobbies, and there are things in life we would like to do. Right now we have the time, energy, and money to make sure all three of us have a very good life. If we add another child, sacrifices will have to be made, and you can bet your ass it wouldn't be Evan's needs or wants on the chopping block. This is an important consideration that I don't think too many people think about. Some people call it selfish, but we don't want to be a martyr to our child(ren). Our happiness counts for something too.

Moving Forward
Even though it's sad at times to see Evan grow up so quickly, we are fascinated by the changes. It's amazing to watch him experience and learn new things daily - to go through the stages of life. This might sound really strange (perhaps two Physics PhD's can be a bit on the analytical side), but we feel like having another child is like moving backwards. All of a sudden you have to go back to "trying", go back to being pregnant, go back to the newborn stage, etc. etc.. It seems like life would be in a rewind or repeat mode.

Conclusions
Well, I think it's pretty obvious from the above what we're thinking right now! But, one thing I've learned in my nearly 32 years on this planet (well, as of this Wednesday - YAY for my birthday!) is to never say never. Because I would like to have my childbearing days behind me by 35, we're going to wait until summer/fall 2012 to revisit things.

How did you decide to not have children, stop after one, or to have more? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Best Advice

A post over at Ask Moxie asks what was the best advice you got or most helpful thing that happened to you in the first month of parenthood. There are a LOT of great things in the comments, so I suggest heading over and taking a gander!

It got me thinking of the best thing that happened to me early on in my mommy-dom.

No question, it was one of my friends simply saying "it is what it is" (no, Mom & Dad, it wasn't your son!) when I told her that we couldn't get breast feeding established.

Many of you know that I was filled with guilt over this. I was worried that we would lose out on that precious bonding time people are always talking about, and what people would think if they saw me feeding Evan from a bottle (even though it was breast milk). So, I forced myself to keep trying even though it was making us both miserable.

I think it was about 4 weeks in when we went to visit friends of ours and their then 7 month old daughter. She (the mom, not the daughter) asked how things were going, and I immediately went into this long rant/sob story about the breast feeding thing. She looked at me with sympathy, but just said "Well, it is what it is. Just do what you can and don't worry about it!".

I was flabbergasted! I was so scared that other moms would judge me for not breast feeding. But here she was, not saying that I wasn't trying hard enough or that it will come, but being supportive and understanding! And what I loved the most about the situation was that she was so laid back about it.

It really made me realize that, even though we think our decisions are life and death right now, in the long run they really don't make a huge difference. Yes, I was disappointed I couldn't breast feed, but there were a million other ways I could bond with my son. I tried my best, it didn't work, so we moved on. It's a wonderful, freeing feeling to think that way.

What was the best advice you've ever received (about parenting or otherwise)?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Weaning

On March 1st, I decided to reduce my number of pumps from 4 to 3, officially starting the weaning process. Meaning that I'm pumping less to produce less milk on purpose.

It feels weird. I mean, for the last 4.5 months, my life has been about increasing and/or maintaining my milk supply. Now, all of a sudden I have to change my mindset and pretty much reverse all the hard work I have put in.

It's bitter sweet, to say the least.

I'm very excited to be done with it. It takes up at least 2 hours of my day, and for some reason I often need to pump at the most inopportune times (when I was pumping 4 times a day, I had to do it at 5:30 - making dinner later and eating into our evening). Also, it's getting harder and harder to pump while I'm alone with Evan because he's getting so active and is hard to entertain him for 30 minutes while attached to the pump.

That being said, I'm sad that I won't be giving Evan breast milk for very much longer. In fact, this week we've had to start supplementing with formula. We had given him some before, but that was more to make sure he would take it than anything. But, now it's a must, and we had to buy our first formula yesterday (we had some free samples before).

I'm not sure how long it will take me to wean. I plan on going down to two pumps on April 1st. At that point, I'll only be pumping in the morning before DH goes to work, and then before bed, so I might end up staying at two for a while since it will be relatively easy. That way, Evan can get at least some breast milk past 6 months.

So, I didn't really fulfill my resolution to pump exclusively until 6 months, but I will pump for sure until then and probably after. Nothing to feel guilty about!

It's funny how I can feel this way about something I hated doing for so long! I am proud of myself for sticking with it, even though it was/is a giant pain in the ass.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Daycare Update

After some wonderful advice from my readers about daycares (we are going to do full-time), we started our search back in January. Apparently, around here, that's late. One of my friends started searching when she was 6 months pregnant (and had a year off for maternity leave), and just now got into her first choice (she goes back to work on May 1st). Another friend said she got on the university daycare waiting list before she even got pregnant. Needless to say, we were kind of worried!

Over the last couple of months we got onto four wait lists and managed to get tours of three of them. The fourth has been giving me the run around with simply booking a damn tour, so even if they're the best daycare on earth, I think we'll pass. All I picture is trying to call in to see how Evan is doing and never getting a call back!

The first one we saw was really great. I am familiar with the programming they use (one of the outreach programs I worked for during grad school created it), the staff were very friendly, their meals looked healthy and interesting with very little processed food, the centre looked well-funded, and (most importantly) the kids looked happy. The down sides were centre was HUGE (at least compared to the others we saw), their outdoor area was pretty small, and the wait list seemed to be very long (although they wouldn't really tell us what our chances were to get our ideal start date).

The second one we toured was not great. It was in the basement of an old folks home, it was small, it was LOUD (even though there were way fewer kids than the first), and it seemed like the kid-to-floor-area ratio was lower. It seemed a bit dirty too - like all the toys, beds, books, etc. looked dingy or grimy. In the pre-school room, we witnessed a girl bullying another girl. and the staff just watched. They weren't very forthcoming with information, so we had to push for answers, and even then sometimes they didn't respond very well. They did have a larger outdoor area, but that's about all that was better than the first.

The third one we were pretty worried about. When I called to book a tour, she mentioned that they were associated with the attached teen pregnancy centre. Yes, I know, we shouldn't be so judgmental, but a part of me wondered if we should even bother. I'm glad we did though, because we were impressed! They were the only daycare with a buzz-in system so people can't just walk in. It was smaller than the other ones we saw, which is a bonus with us. The rooms were clean, organized, and personalized with pictures of the kids and their art. The staff seemed happy, and so did the kids. They have a HUGE outdoor space, and are close to the Children's Museum, a large park, and splash pads. Their menu looks awesome too. The only down sides are it is more expensive than the other places, you have to supply your own food if they can't eat table foods, and they're relatively new so they are still buying equipment (especially for their outdoor area). The best thing though? They have a spot open for August 1st! I guess, because they're associated with the teen pregnancy centre, they have to keep spots open during the school year for them. But, in the summer, they all go home and the daycare tries to fill up as many spots with community members as it can!

If you can't guess, we have decided to go with the third! Yes, it's a bit more expensive, but I think it is worth it to get Evan into a daycare that's smaller and more personal and so close to so many great places. It's also right on the way to/from work for both of us, and is pretty close to home too.

I am so relieved that we have found a daycare for him. Now I just have to come to terms with being away from him all day long. At least I have another five months to figure out how I might do that :(

Friday, March 4, 2011

Scientiae: Change is the Only Constant

After some discussion, it's nice to see that the Scientiae carnival will continue this year! Instead of doing monthly posts, the carnival will be done quarterly. I hope there are many contributors, both old and new, this year!

The first carnival of the year is hosted by JaneB over at Now what was I doing?:
A truism widely used in one of the fields my research area touches on (way to be vague?) is: Change is the only constant.
A recent post by Biochembelle has influenced my post today. If you've been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that my PhD experience was not stellar (to say the least). Looking back, I can see now that part of it was because I could not accept my mindset changing about my career.

When I graduated from my bachelor's degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do. So, I took a job as an inside technical sales person for an industrial electric motor company. That lasted all of two months. At that point, I decided to go back to school, go back to astronomy, and get a masters. During that time, I loved research. I loved the people, I loved the subject, and I was having the time of my life. So, it was just natural to continue with a PhD with the future goal of becoming a tenured professor.

I moved across the country and switched fields. The first six months were okay. Not great by any stretch, but I attributed it to being in a new city with new people and studying something completely different. All of a sudden I didn't have any close friends nearby for the first time in my life, and I had no idea what I was doing in my research. On top of that, a paper came out basically scooping my PhD project, so I had to start from scratch.

Things continued to get worse. I would get into these funks that lasted for days or weeks, hating my research and hating my classes. But, when I talked to other students or professors about it, everyone said they feel/felt that way during their PhD. Everyone convinced me that being miserable and frustrated all the time was perfectly normal. Clearly, they didn't have a grasp of my particular situation. At one point it was so bad that, after a melt-down in our living room, my now husband suggested I see a therapist.

I knew I wanted to quit. My husband knew I wanted to quit. My therapist knew I wanted to quit. But, I just couldn't do it. It wasn't about letting other people down, though that was part of it. It was really about seeing myself as a failure. It was about finishing what I started, because I didn't want to be one of those people who were never happy no matter what they did.

So, I pushed through. I finished my research, wrote up my thesis, and couldn't be done fast enough. I was so incredibly happy when the committee told me I passed. Not because of the accomplishment (I couldn't even stand to be called "Doctor"), but because it was finally over. I could move on to something I enjoyed.

I knew very early on that I no longer wanted to do scientific research at that level, but I just couldn't bring myself to leave. I couldn't accept that I had changed my view about research and about becoming a professor. Looking back, I would have to say it's one of my very few regrets in life that I didn't leave my PhD.

In the end, I do think I've learned from the experience. I now allow myself the option of leaving or quitting or giving up. I try not to do things I don't want too (within reason, of course - we all have obligations and responsibilities that must be tended too!). Two years ago, if I had the problems I did with breastfeeding Evan, I would have just kept going, being miserable for months. Instead, I gave myself a specific time-line: if it wasn't working after a certain amount of trying (six weeks), I could move on. And you know what? It worked. I was able to give it a good try. It didn't work, so I stopped. No guilt (okay, some, but not as much as I thought), and things got so much better so much faster.

So, here is my advice to anyone out there struggling with something - be it your job, your relationship, or some other facet of your life: give yourself a specific time-line (don't say "well let's see what it's like in a while"; say "I'm giving myself until July 1st"), give it a fair chance during that time, and if it doesn't work out, change the situation. No guilt. There is nothing wrong with changing your path. In fact, it can be quite liberating!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fashion Homework

I have made an appointment with a stylist to come to my house at the end of the month. I am very excited about it, and I hope that I can get a lot more mileage out of my current wardrobe than I do now.

She sent me some homework to do before our session. One of the things I have to do is go through magazines and pick out clothing, jewelry, furniture, etc. that I really love. I picked up a Vogue, In Style, and a couple other magazines. The problem I'm finding is that I'm not much into trends, and these magazines tend to focus on those. Plus, there isn't a ton of selection in the pages of a magazine.

So, I would also like to search around on the web for things. And this is where my readers come in. Let me know and fashion blogs or websites you really like, or online stores you frequent. Any suggestions would be great!