Author Archives: labmonkeyftw

bless her

Bless my friend, mom of two and imminently practical, who said “just feed him the boob today”. For giving me permission out. Out of a day where Spud sipped and spat his full feed. Where he cried at everything (oh, leap. goodness me). Where I was going to be late to pump and late to put him for a nap and he was starving because he didn’t swallow any of the milk I’d offered. When it was just too much work.

As she said, Spud will always associate me with the boobs. I won’t be the one feeding him from a sippy cup or bottle or (damn it) syringe (if it comes to it). I won’t be pumping when I’m also trying to care for him, around his schedule.

It has been a lot of work. Monday he drank 2 oz and refused the cup violently for the rest of the day, which was worse than the full week before. Tuesday he drank 8 oz in 6 hours, for the ~11 I pumped. Wednesday he drank five ounces in five hours, for the ~8 I pumped. A steady deficit, despite eating technically enough. Today he spat out 4 oz over three attempts, and I caved. Fed one side, drove home*, and pumped the other to get 1 lousy ounce. A steady decline in output too, for reasons unknown.

EEF moms are frigging superheroes, my goodness. All the work, none of the benefits of either method of feeding.

* drove home from swimming!! Met my friend, and we took our three boys swimming, Spud’s first time in a pool. He frigging loved it, kicking away in this hilarious rhythmic stroke. Best moment of the week so far, by far.

fiscal responsibility

I am almost done my mat leave. I am 18 months into living in New City. I am 35 years old. I am taking stock.

I have some savings, but they are only, when all pooled together, enough to buy a non-luxury car. Which is not much when one considers I’m pretty deep into my working years, but, if being fair, is pretty good considering I spent a full eleven years in post-secondary education and have no debt to show for it.

I have watched my mother pick up the shambles of her finances following the passing of my step-father, who, it turned out, was merrily driving them into ruin. I am currently watching my father and step-mother navigate an extremely rocky path forward that appears to be driven more by financial dependency/greed than affection.

I do not want my retirement plan to be “Pea’s got us covered”, because that leaves me deeply vulnerable. I have made a good salary for 18 months now, where before it was, if not hand-to-mouth exactly, certainly not plush enough for any significant retirement planning.

I have spent the last 18 months buying a house (equity!), and, frankly, throwing a lot of money at a lot of problems. I have had both more money and more problems than usual. I have not had the bandwidth to do more than solve problems however problems needed to be solved. Airplane tickets. Hotel rooms. Trains, so many trains. I do not have much in the way of savings to show for a year and a half of salary, and I can directly attribute that to the year that it was.

I have not been able to account for my money for the past 18 months, and that is so far out of character that it makes me blink, twice, hard. I spent some desperately-needed-elsewhere time today making up a spreadsheet to track my finances moving forward. I set up some direct transfers to a retirement account, so some saving happens without me thinking about it.

We are going to have to add childcare into the mix come September, and I want to know where I stand before we negotiate how to split that cost. Pea’s tax return this year was the size of a salaried care-giver (the joy of doubled tax on foreign investments once he moved to Canuckia; at least he got most of it back), so I know we can afford it. I want to know what I can afford.

And I want to be sure that I’ll be ok no matter what life throws at me down the road.

Anecdotally

Pea: the cloth for Spud’s face is the one with boats on it.

Me: oh, ok.

Pea: you can remember it because of Boaty McBoatface.

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Last week I fell while holding Spud. I tripped on a stroller frame, slammed violently into a wall edge, and landed on the ground. My elbow and butt took a beating, and are both grisly colours this week, with a four inch long scrape down my arm. Spud was fine. I couldn’t tell whether I’d slammed his head, his arm, or nothing into the wall on the way down and spent some minutes frantically assessing him for concussions and dislocations and breaks. He did hit his arm, it turned out, as in the bath that night I discovered a red weal across the back, which faded by morning and has not bruised. He cried upon landing on the floor (still in my arms), but calmed down quickly. It took me four hours to properly calm down, being badly shaken and reasonably injured.

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My mother-in-law, visiting last week, upon hearing of the fall and being reassured Spud was fine: “but how are YOU? You mustn’t ignore yourself in this! We are feminists! The trope of the self-sacrificing invisible mother is not something we will perpetuate!”

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Spud is in a leap, and has been wailing whenever I put him down, change his butt, put him in the crib, or hold him for snuggles. He wants only to be held, but to also be allowed to roughhouse, grab, and squirm. It is not the most fun, after the first twenty minutes or so.

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I am trying to convince Spud to eat from a sippy cup. Last week, he drank from the cup between his first and second naps, meaning I nursed at around 9:30 am and not again until about 1 pm. This week the goal is to extend this to after third nap, or around 3 pm. Today, Spud was having none of it. See above, re: super fussy leap stage. I shall try again tomorrow.

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We planted our raised garden, including six tomato plants from the campus greenhouse. This weekend Pea picked up those round trellis things for tomato plants. Yesterday I noticed there were only four in the garden.

Me: are some of the tomatoes sharing a trellis?

Pea: looking very sheepishly grumpy No!

Me: did you know we had six tomatoes?

Pea: Yes! I planted that side!

Me: are you just bad at counting?

Pea: Yes!

Me: we can’t keep being this bad at counting. We’re going to have to teach Spud to count soon!

June goals

  • Train Spud to nap independent of nursing. No more nursing to sleep ever.
  • Train Spud to nap longer than 40 minutes without a mid-nap nursing break.
  • Gradually increase sippy cup time during the day until Spud is not nursing between 9-5

All this in preparation for my return to work, and Pea taking over. 

The first two bullets are important, but Spud can already fall asleep on his own, and often goes down for a nap without nursing. I’m just lazy, and when he is hard to settle, tend to whip out the boob. Pea won’t have that option, so better to install good habits more strongly. 

Given Spud resettled himself at the 40 min mark for an additional ten minutes in his first nap today, and just took a record 1.5 hour nap in the crib for his second, this may just be a developmental step we’ve reached naturally. Timely!

The third bullet is critical. Spud still only survival-feeds, 1-2 oz at a time, if faced with the sippy cup. I don’t want him dehydrating in the summer, or swapping his nights and days for feedings. He’s more interested in food now, and he likes the sippy cup to hold or chew. Hopefully this just gets better. But I will be actively working at it for the next month.

The only real problem is that I don’t want to do it. Now that we are through the hell of starting nursing, thrush, bad latches, and pain, I really like nursing. We’ll still have mornings, evenings, and nights, but I’m already mourning the loss of cuddles and little grabby fists and milky smiles. It has to be done, though, so I’m girding myself for the added work of pumping and the likely fights with Spud.

Conversations with Pea, part the rock

Pea likes rocks. Pea has a tendency to pick up rocks from places we have traveled and bring them home. Sometimes this is handy, like when I wanted to do a Gillian Micheals work out series and used two of his rocks as my hand weights*. Some of the rocks are really neat looking. At the end of the day, though, there is a running tension between us as to how many rocks is a reasonable number of rocks to haul home, where one can take rocks from without being a jerk-face tourist, and how much of our baggage weight is ok to partition to rocks. These tensions are very very similar to the tensions we maintain around bowls, as Pea is also very fond of bowls**. I have nothing against rocks or bowls, but have fallen into the role of sane foil to Pea’s mad collector. Having purchased a house that has significantly more space than anywhere we’ve lived before, I’ve relaxed my stance on rocks and bowls, but I haven’t actually said this to Pea.

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In Icy Country, at a famous basalt beach.

Pea: None of the pieces of rock that have fallen are hexagonal like the formations on the cliffs.

Me: there are some – that one is sharp edged. Oooh, and that one is a hexagon. points at rock the size of a badger.

Pea: Ooooh, that’s a good one. Picks it up with effort, beams.

Me: Oh no, no – if it doesn’t fit in your jacket pocket, no deal.

Pea: frowns but my jacket pockets are already full….

Me: smiles, shakes head best to not go swimming then, Virginia.

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At a volcanic crater lake

Pea: Oh, that’s a really neat chunk of lava! Points at warped and melty rock, approximately the size of a large sourdough loaf.

Me: that IS a really neat chunk of lava.

We walk on.

Pea: wistful That was such a nice rock.

Me: So go get it. 

Pea: Yah?

Me: you’ll have to smuggle it out of this park, and you’re the one carrying the main suitcase all the time, so it is your weight to deal with. But yah, if you want it.

Pea: scurries back up the trail, picks up rock. Beams. Stuffs rock in coat, giving himself a misshapen beer belly. OH! This is cold! This rock is so cold!

Me: it is ten degrees and raining! Why did you stick it in your jacket?

Pea: To hide it! Oh this is so cold! It is dripping down my pants!

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At our Airbnb that evening.

Pea: I’m gonna wash the rock! Limit the mud in our bag.

Me: Good plan, Stan.***

Ten minutes later.

Me: to Spud where did Daddy go? Hears blow dryer in bathroom start up. Oh for gods sake, Spud, your father is a lunatic who is blow drying a rock.

Pea: from bathroom I don’t want to carry extra water weight!

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Twenty minutes ago, home safe in New City^.

Me: notices front door is unlocked, walks through dark front hall to lock it. 

*thunk*

Me: Ow! Why is the rock in the middle of the floor where it blends in?

Pea: I don’t know where to put it yet! 

Me: It hurt my foot! Points at foot, looks at Pea acccusingly.

Pea: picks up rock, shakes finger. Bad rock! Bad!

* Pea bought me a set of weights for my birthday that year, but I think only because he was worried I would drop and somehow damage the rocks.

** Pea believes with utter conviction that a bowl takes up no space in a suitcase because you can pack into it, so bowls are often harder to defend against.

*** not Pea’s real name. I like rhymes.

^still needs proper permanent nickname, hmmmm.

Travel days

It turns out Spud is a better traveller than I am. He sleeps soundly on planes, where I doze and dream fitfully. He is calm and unworried when navigating airport security, train transfers, and car rentals. I wait tiredly, walk briskly with heart pounding, talk quickly. Spud looks at the overhead lights, smiles at the people behind me*, gurgles at Pea (who is doing better than me but not as well as Spud. Neither of them get hangry, so I am the only one needing to be plied with food to maintain familial harmony).

Spud likes to hang out in the stroller, or the carrier, or our laps, or the travel crib, or the floor of various apartments. He especially likes to jump in our laps: if home, he’d be trying out the Jolly Jumper. Since we are traveling, WE are the Jolly Jumper machinery. He also really likes being in the stroller on cobblestones, despite the online review of our stroller that said “not good over cobblestones”. Pea and I agree with the review. Spud emphatically does not. 

He doesn’t seem to like the (front-facing, difficult to tighten, disaster of a) car seat we have here in Icy Yet Greener Than Neighbouring Island, which may prove troubling, but which may just have been the fact that neither doting parent noticed his diaper was dirty. It is early days.

Spud has slept through several famous churches, two scenic walks with his dad while I was at work, the foyer of the Nobel museum**, a palace, and exactly zero restaurant meals. He has cried through exactly 0.25 restaurant meals, and is instead adept at surprising us with his reach, each day able to grab something we thought was far enough away. I have spilled three things on restaurant tables, Spud has spilled two: he’s winning there too.

We are slightly under halfway through this trip, and I must say, it is going swimmingly. Today was our first full day in Icy territory, and it was more challenging. The car to carrier transition is awkward with me having to remove my layers, which, as it is cold with driving rain, isn’t much fun to do frequently. We adjusted, and stopped bringing Spud out to see all the neat formations, and instead now take turns at the shorter stops and just let him stay in the car. The weather is meant to hold at cold with occasional rain for the next nine days. One can see why this island is famous for their woolen sweaters. 

* to navigate airports, Spud is on me in a carrier, and Pea is pushing the stroller loaded with our bags. The stroller is a piece of crap, and I hate many aspects of its design, but as a last-minute logistics-based purchase when I was freaking out about this trip, it is a godsend. It has paid us back its price in full several times over for helping us get where we need to go, giving us somewhere to put our giant baby down, and as a mostly-sun-shaded hangout for Spud. Even once, on a commuter rail train with no bathroom, it has acted as a change table.

** Me: this is expensive for what looks like a very boring display. 

Pea: we can come back once you have your Nobel, then it will be more interesting!

I have become them

My academic advisors all, without exception, work on talks at the last minute, and include brand new data that is only moderately analyzed. In preparation for giving a talk in Nordic Country, leg one of our upcoming trip to Europe, I find myself manically analyzing hot-off-the-presses data instead of prepping the actual talk. Or ordering things my students need while I’m gone. Or packing. Or finalizing some other things that are waiting on me. Or staring at the wall wondering why we decided to take a two week long Europe trip with a four month old.

Playing with new data is fun! It is my favourite part of science.

I need to buckle down right quick though, as we leave Saturday and the talk is Tuesday and disaster approaches.