Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Six months already

Dear M:

All those months as you grew inside me, I thought you would never get here. I was impatient. I wanted to fast forward through the pregnancy and hold you in my arms. And then you were here. Now six months have passed and my impulse is the opposite: I want to slow things down a bit. I want to savor this because it is going quickly, and one day I am going to look up at a rosy cheeked toddler, and I'll have a hard time remembering what that toddler was like as a baby. I'll love that toddler to bits, of course. But I'll miss the baby.

Last week you celebrated your six month birthday with a double ear infection. I'm experiencing some mom guilt over this one because, looking back at your sleep patterns, I'm fairly certain that you had at least a mild infection for several days before I carted you to the pediatrician. I was trying not to be a neurotic mom, but all the signs were there. By the time we saw the doctor, one of your ears looked awful and the other was well on its way to awful. This is your second major infection in less than two months. I see tubes in your future.

Yesterday we took you to your six month appointment. You are a long thin baby barely breaking the 10th percentile for weight, but nearing the 90th percentile for height. For a teeny thing, you are strong and you struggled with the doctor who wanted to check your (still infected) ears. You turned beet red and let out a mighty wail with each of your four immunizations, but you quickly settled down and were smiling again by the time we made it to the car.

You are so happy. A smile machine. You flirt with everyone, even the nurse who has just jabbed you with four needles. On my desk I have a favorite picture of you grinning pure sunshine. When I am feeling down, or when I miss you, I study that photo and it helps.

I haven't had eight hours of sleep since I was seven months pregnant and you, my dear, are the reason. You don't sleep as well as your big sister did at this age. I've initiated sleep training several times, but you've been a bit stubborn, and you've also been sick with seemingly constant colds and ear infections. I have a hard time letting you cry when I'm not certain that you are free of discomfort.

You are still a breastfed baby, but you are eating solids now. So far, you have not refused anything I've offered. The nice thing about your eating solids is that it slightly reduces the amount of milk you need at daycare. This is marvelous because I am able to keep up with you and we've not needed to supplement with formula yet. There may come a time that I decide to stop pumping, but we aren't there yet.

You've been sitting well for a while and you are now getting up on your hands and knees. You haven't worked out how to go forward, but it won't be long. When you do work this out, we are in trouble. In anticipation of your impending mobility, I am trying to get big sister to keep toys with small pieces off the floor and I'm looking at what needs to be baby proofed for a second time.

You have no teeth, but given your new game of "bite mommy while nursing" I suspect teeth won't be long. I've been reading up on this biting and I'm either supposed to yelp and say "no bite" sternly, or I'm supposed to observe you and remove you when you seem to slow down while nursing. Most gurus suggest the former technique, but there is some debate over this. At least one web site suggests that yelping may scare you off the breast starting a string of negative feeding associations that will lead to later food issues and eventual obesity or anorexia. Nothing is ever straightforward, is it?

Your big sister adores you. She wants to feed you. She wants to hold you. She wants to bathe you. She wants to dress you. You return the affection. You watch her and try to catch her eye when she is not focused on you. You squeal when she talks to you. You laugh from the joy of her company. When I first learned I was pregnant with you, I had a vivid image flit through my brain. It was of two little girls holding hands as they ran along the beach. It fills my heart to see that my girls are well on their way to being friends, and I know I am going to cry when I see my girls hand in hand on the shore.

Love and devotion,


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

That's a Man for You. . .

I recently decided it is time to get fit, lose some weight and become reacquainted with my prepregnancy wardrobe. About the same time, J decided he needed to lose some weight as well. He has been diligently weighing in each morning and has upped the exercise and cut back on what E calls "goodies."I've been walking more, visiting the gym, and trying to make healthier choices.

So how has the weight loss gone?

I've lost half a pound. J has lost ten pounds. How is this fair?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Two Really Is Terrible

I have a confession to make: I find my 28.5-month-old daughter, E, trying. VERY trying. As in, I better understand why my stay-at-home grandmother became an alcoholic during her children's toddler years.

Today was a particularly bad day. E and M were both home from daycare with colds and fevers.* M was a little cranky, but she was fairly content to be attached to me either in the sling or the Bjorn. E, however, made it her mission to share her misery.

Today, she simultaneously wanted my company and did not want my company. For instance, if I were holding M, nursing M, talking to M, or otherwise paying attention to M, E would say, "my turn," and attempt to push her baby sister out of the way and sit on my lap. She also pulled M's hair and pinched her. I realize that jealousy is normal when there is a new baby present, but why did she wait five and a half months to start this? Just to mix things up, when I would approach M, to wipe the snot off her face or check her temperature, she would scream, "No, Mommy, no," and burst into frantic tears. Diaper changes were much the same. Even attempts to hug her were met this way.

When she wasn't yelling at me to stay away or begging to sit in my lap, she was busy removing every article of clothing. Seriously, I think we may have a stripper on our hands. Today, when she was clothed, she wore a hideous ensemble of her choosing: hot pink leggings, a pastel pink shirt with a whale on the front, and purple crocs. As much as the outfit disturbed me, I was more disturbed that in the time it took to rinse and replace a dropped pacifier, E was able to completely disrobe. If she were potty trained, it would be one thing, but so far she hasn't demonstrated any bladder control. To me, the sight of my naked toddler declaring, "I not wear pants and diapers," while standing on my good rug is anxiety provoking.

Then there was the whining. If there is an evolutionary advantage to whining, then our genes are safe. "I don't want Dora. I want Dora. I want WonderPets. The dolphin. I need the dolphin. I'm stuck. I don't want books. I want books. You do it, Mommy. You do it. I want crackers. I want to go bye-bye. My turn. My turn. I don't want a nap. I want water. I don't want water."

There must be an equation that quantifies the difficulty of raising a toddler. Something like four infants= one toddler. Or maybe it is three infants + inlaw=one toddler. Something. I do find the baby much, much easier than E.

Still, she has her moments. For instance, we are sort of potty training and what she lacks in bladder control, she makes up for in enthusiasm. This may explain why, when I use the toilet ** she says, "Good job, Mommy!"

If only I could have that positive immediate feedback for all my endeavors.

*I was shamed on Friday because E's cold was so bad that they copied the "sick child policy" page from the parent handbook and made me sign it. In my defense, she barely had the sniffles when I dropped her off that morning. How was I to know she would spike a fever of 101 and that her nose would start running like a snot river.
**I've given up on ever again going to bathroom in private.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


I "chatted" with the publisher. It was enlightening.

It was a pleasant enough conversation at first, but when she said, "and now for something unpleasant," I knew it was time to find my backbone.

My heart was racing, but I managed to blurt out, "I won't be done by April! I won't be done by May, and I doubt I'll be done by June. July seems more realistic."

There was a silence at the other end.

And then she let me know why she had been "rough" on me during the last few communications.

Back while she was visiting* in the Fall, I told her about my research (not the hellish text, but my real academic work). I mentioned that I would be doing some data collection during this sabbatical semester. Apparently that was enough to set her off. How dare I work on anything else while she "owns" me and I owe her a text! I had mentioned April as a possible month to send a survey. That is why she decided that my new deadline was April 1 and commenced to make my life hell with snide emails and veiled threats.

As it turns out, I am not personally collecting data this semester. I have a graduate student who is starting the data collection** while I do the literature review.*** He and I meet every two weeks to check in, but until the data collection is complete in June, this isn't a big time sink for me. As soon as I told her that I will not be collecting data, she relaxed and was pleasant again. She is a control freak, isn't she? It isn't just me is it?

My real deadline appears to be this summer which is what I originally thought and is what I can live with. It is going to be tough, but I can make it if I continue at my current pace. I didn't ask for a new contract (to be honest, I blanked on it), but in looking at my contract again, I think I am safe. Plus, as J has pointed out many times, they have invested too much time into developing this text to drop me now.

I feel like I can breathe again. I don't mind working to deadlines when they are realistic. However, when they are unrealistic, I'm anxious and less productive.

I don't really feel like I found my backbone, but I'm glad I looked for it. I feel like I got closer to it than I've been in a while.

**Tedious work that he enjoys. Something is wrong with that boy.
***Tedious work that I enjoy. Something is wrong with me, too.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Assertiveness Training

Tomorrow morning, I have a phone "chat" scheduled with the publisher. I dread it. I would rather visit the dentist (and I hate the dentist). You see, there is no way, I am going to make the deadline. I think I can finish by the end of the summer going at my current rate, but there is no way I can finish by April. It is not possible. For someone else, maybe, but not for me.

Last week, I sent two sections. She emailed upon receipt of the second section. It was a rare rah-rah note. "At this pace, you'll be done in no time!" she said. And I felt good. I wanted to write more! Go faster! Get done in no time!

My happiness at having finally pleased her lasted all of a half hour. Then she sent a second message. A grim message. A tersely worded message. She had done the math. In order to meet my deadline, I would need to do seven sections a week. They are depending on me to get it done. The end. No more cheering.

I turned off the computer. What was the point?

I stewed for a few days. Then I finally realized just how angry I feel about the project. This was a huge step for me, because I have trouble recognizing when I'm angry and even more difficulty expressing my anger. I'm not a hothead. I don't raise my voice, I don't confront people, and I don't throw things. I wish I did. It would probably be healthier than my approach which is to internalize and to stew.

How did I get this way? My father bragged that he "broke me" of my temper when I was a child. He told me that I was mercurial and had a hellish temper.* He didn't tell me what he did to rid me of my temper, but he was clearly quite proud of changing me from a hellion to a sweet southern girl.

I wish he hadn't done such a good job of it. I am far too passive for my own good. I try to get along by giving in or by finessing situations. Neither feels good. Unfortunately, the publisher is dominant and aggressive. I don't know how our conversation will go tomorrow, but I need to communicate some things.

First, there is the small matter of deadlines. Each time I have told her that April is a huge stretch, she has just come back with a "that's the deadline." I need to tell her in no uncertain terms that April is not happening and to find out whether she is dropping me.

Second, I am not allowed to talk to my editor unless the publisher is copied on all emails or is on a third line on the phone. It would be OK (not really) if she were unobtrusive, but she frequently gets involved with what I consider to be editorial issues. It seems very controlling to me.

Third, there is the issue of her acting as if she owns me. OK, she has actually said as much: "We own you." I need some boundaries, babe.

Finally, my contract has already expired. I just looked at it tonight and it isn't clear to me that I am going to get paid since I have already missed the original deadline. I want a new contract with an August 2007 deadline.

I'll let you know how it goes.

*Sounds a lot like E. Shoot me if I ever attempt to "break her" of her temper.