Sunday, August 31, 2008

brown bear brown bear.....

Overheard today while Geekygirl was drawing:

"Paper, paper what do you see?
I see a crayon looking at me.

Green, green what do you see?
I see Blue looking at me.

And later, somewhat less charmingly:

Pee pee, pee pee what do you see?
I see poo poo looking at me!

Friday, August 29, 2008


Geekydaddy and I cannot vote in the US presidential election, since we are not citizens. Like many of the Geeky folk that make up the bio and techy community we gained residency thanks to our scientific education. In fact of 26 PhD's at my company, 17 are foreign born and educated. Now I am grateful for the opportunities afforded to me here, so I'm personally glad that the US needs to import scientists and engineers, but like Barak Obama, I think America should be able to educate its citizens so that they too can have these opportunites.

We do however have two brand new little citizens in our house, who I very much hope will grow up in an America we can all be proud of. We watched Barak Obama accept the Democratic party nomination last night.

Geekygirl (mesmerized by his on screen presence): "Who's that man?"

Me: "That's Barak Obama"

A few seconds later

Geekygirl (standing on her head to see if he looks different from upside down:) "Who's that man?"

Me: "That's Barak Obama"

This conversation was repeated about fourteen times from several vantage points.

The stadium errupted in applause

GG: "Ooooooooh." She clapped along with the audience

Geekygirl then retrieved an electronic toy that has an "applause sound" button, and decided to use this during the frequent bursts of clapping in order to bring the atmosphere of the stadium to our living room. It was quite effective.

As the camera focused back on Barak her questioning began again:

GG "Who's that man"

Me: Who do you think it is

GG "Barak Obambapappa"

Me: It's Barak Obama

GG: "Who's that man"

Me: Who do you think it is?

GG: "Barak ObamaPyjama."

She collapsed into giggles and we decided to go to get her ready for bed. But Barak, I think you have a new fan, if only because of the endless rhyming potential of your name.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

you can take a dog to a tree but you can't make her pee

Before our garden landscaping project started, we had a few struggling plants in our flowerbeds. Only hardy shrubs that could withstand dog urine, and being leapt on by the hairy beast stood a chance of survival. The yard was Geekydog's oyster.

Now that it looks like a picture in 'Sunset' magazine, we plan to treat it a little more kindly. I am not sure how we will communicate this new need for respecting the plants to the dog though. We have optimistically desgned in a special 'dog privy area' (as the designer calls it.)

On returning home to the newly verdant back yard, I let Geekydog out as usual. Something about the new smells and sights turned her head and she started to rampage through the freshly planted beds. One plant got rather trampled before I could get her back inside. Though I am sure that some of the new flowery gorgeousness will fall victim to a crashing dog pouncing after a ball eventually, we do want to try and give the plants at least a few weeks to get enough roots to put up some resistance.

I took geekydog outside on leash and tried to get her to pee and poop in her 'privy spot'. Several times. The poor dog just didn't get it.

So instead, when I get home from work, I am now taking her out for a quick walk on the street. This is easier said than done with a baby and a toddler in tow. My first mistake was asking Geekygirl if she wanted to walk or to ride the stroller. She chose stroller, so I pulled out the double umbrella and strapped them both in. We set off down the street. Oh, and to make things more interesting, our street is one of the steepest in the city. It is so precipitous that it is used for the 'street louge' competition in the X games! We got halfway down the block, geekydog still has not peed, and Geekygirl now wanted to walk. So I was left trying to push an asymetrically laden double stroller with one hand, hold the dog with another hand and hold onto Geekygirl's hand with...oh wait, I only have two hands.

We compromised by having her hold the stroller instead, which worked fine until a well intentioned dog loving passer by called out 'can I say hi to your dog', at which Geekydog's ears pricked, and she darted toward him, pulling me off balance, causing the stroller to swing around, almost knocking poor Geekygirl down. Tears ensued, and the passerby sheepishly apologied for the mayhem he had created.

The dog finally found a tree suitable for peeing on, and we made it back to the house without further incident. But it made me wonder about starting a 'mummy X games', we're certainly in training for the one handed double stroller dog walking event.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hives alive

Poor Geekybaby awoke on Saturday looking like this. It didn't seem to bother him at all, but I was a little freaked out by my blotchy baby.

It lasted a couple of days, and is thankfully gone now.
We suspect the culprit was a jar of 'pears and rasberries'. The doctor says often you never figure out what the cause was.
Back to rice cereal and sweet potato for Geekybaby, we'll save the adventures in pureed cuisine for a couple more weeks!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

the power of cheese

Once, a long time ago, when geekydog and the cats were my only dependents I tried to become an expert dog trainer. Geekydog was obtained from an animal shelter, 9 months old, loving and willing but completely wild and untrained. I read books, watched DVDs and took classes. It was a lot of fun.

Geekydog will do anything for a food reward, so after obtaining her many diplomas, she can now sit, heel on both sides, drop into a down 40 paces away from me in response to a hand signal and even execute a series of jumps and run through a tunnel on an agility course. What she won't do is reliably come back when she is called. The fact that I have failed to train her in this most basic and important command has led to some heart stopping moments.

A year or so ago, realizing that something about her chow chow genes, my lack of dog training chops, and the lack of time to even attempt to train her any more made it unlikely we would ever truly master this skill, I bought one last DVD. 'Really reliable Recall'. The principle behind this is quite simple. You know how your dog will come running when she hears the kibble being poured, or in our case when she sees the cheese grater being pulled out of the drawer (maybe it will rain cheese again!)? What this trainer has you do is create a reflex response like that to a word. You pick a word you don't already use as a command (we picked 'Now') and when you say it, your dog gets the best treats and love you can bestow. You treat your dog like she has just been swept from the jaws of death every time you say this magic word. And you rarely ever use it as an actual command, that way you don't dilute its power.

Yesterday afternoon we had a series of events that could have led to disaster. One of the guys working on our yard project came in to use the bathroom and left the french door unlatched. Orangegeek the cat miaowed at his friend Geekydog, who nosed the door open. The doors through the garage to the street were open, since the garden guys were bringing in plants, and Geekydog bolted off for the freedom of the street, completely out of sight in a moment. I called 'Now', and after a tense few seconds I heard the jingle of her collar as she bolted back through the garage and into the kitchen. Where I fed her about a pound of smoked gouda, and locked the door.

Monday, August 25, 2008

birth is biology

After taking the birth survey, I started to ruminate on my experiences giving birth to Geekygirl and Geekybaby. I was incredibly fortunate in that both babies arrived into the world after exhilarating, empowering labours and deliveries, with little medical intervention.

It appears a little incongrous to some of my friends that I feel so strongly about eschewing intervention in childbirth. After all, I have a career devoted to developing pharmaceuticals, a belief in modern medicine, and many friends who are medical professionals. I just don't think childbirth is a pathological condition. It is part of our normal biology, something our bodies know how to do, much like digesting our food (OK, maybe a bit more dramatic and life changing than than eating a bag of chips, but it is not akin to having open heart surgery either.) And since we still don't fully understand the nuances of hormonal and neurological signaling that occur when we do something as simple as eat a sandwich (I work in this area, its amazing what your body and your brain do when you eat!), I would hesitate to say that we understand the process by which we give birth to a child well enough to interfere with it with synthetic hormones and blockers of neurotransmission unless absolutely necessary.

I believe strongly that everyone should be able to make an informed choice about how they give birth. I just don't think our obstetricians here give us the right information to make those choices. For example, apparently 80% of women here are given pitocin (synthetic oxytocin) at some time during their labor. It just can't be the case that 80% of American women don't make enough oxytocin. I have noticed that attitudes toward childbirth are very different here in the US, where the majority of women (and their doctors) assume that they will give birth in hospital and have an epidural, compared to in the UK, where most people aim to try for as few interventions as possible.

When I became pregnant with Geekygirl in San Francisco, I sought the care of a hospital midwife rather than the more typical obstetrician, since midwife care is more usual in the UK where I'm from. I learned from friends who had given birth about the value of having the support of a doula during labor, so I hired the amazing Germaine Reidy, who now works in Ireland. If anyone reading this is planning on having a baby in Ireland, check her out! The picture on her site here is of me taking her infant massage class with Geekybaby.

I went into labour gradually with Geekygirl. People always ask 'how long was your labour?', but I am not sure how to define when it actually started. I had contractions while climbing the stairs from the dog beach at fort funston on Saturday, decided to redo all the planting beds in the back yard on Sunday, and went into what was clearly labour that night, which watching a Wallace and Grommit film. I laboured at home with Germaine and Geekydaddy for most of Monday, ending up in a very peaceful inner place, rythmically rocking on my glider chair for a couple of hours, and ultimately made the dash for the hospital while I was going through the transition phase of labor (I realized after the fact). The back seat of our Subaru was not the most comfortable place to be at this time and I think Geekydaddy thought, as we hit every red light in rush hour traffic, that I was going to give birth in the car. When I got to the hospital I was thrilled to find I was 9cm dilated, though quite dehydrated. IV fluids and a few whiffs of 'gas and air' (Nitrous oxide, this being one of the very few US hospital that offers this wonderful elixir) got me through to 10cm, and to the birthing stool, where I pushed for about forty minutes, being transferred to the bed to deliver Geekygirl, 6 lb 12 oz, so tiny and so perfect.

Until that moment when I saw her I don't think I had truly believed, despite the 9 months of pregnancy, that I was really going to become a mum, that I was actually having a baby. The euphoria of that reality, of her shear amazingness, stayed with me for days, and I can still summon back traces of the feeling when I reminisce.

Though I still think Germaine gave us good advice when she suggested I get to the hospital well into labour in order to avoid interventions, with Geekybaby I wanted to avoid the frantic 'We're about to have a baby in the car' experience. Though there was a long, long ten day wait for it to start, after being in labour for a couple of hours my water broke and recognizing the feeling from the last time, I knew the baby was clearly on its way, so we headed to the hospital. This time the car ride was much more relaxed, and after I checked in to the birthing unit at UCSF  I was able to focus on the panoramic views from the 15th floor as I breathed through contractions. Germaine being in Ireland, we had had another doula,  the fabulous Jessica Berman. Jessica's acupressure technique (on my hand, between thumb and forefinger) allowed me to foregoe even the gas and air this time. I had it brought into the room, and was comforted by its presence, but with Jessica's reassurance that it would just be a few more contractions until pushing time, I never actually picked up the mask. She also kept me hydrated with energy beverages so I didn't need any IV fluids. It felt great not to be hooked up to anything.

Our wonderful nurse brought out the birthing stool, and gave the medical residents attending the delivery the confidence to get down on the floor and assist me in delivering him right there on the stool, in less than ten minutes of heroic pushing. I was amazed at how quickly this stage went compared to the last time, I was prepared for a marathon pushing session and I had hardly got going before he was here, delivered right into my hands. My first impression of Geekybaby was how much bigger he was than Geekygirl (he was 8lb 6oz, and 22 inches long. I'm 5ft 2). He was bright pink, vigorous if a little squashed looking, and immediately demonstrated his functioning kidneys by peeing all over his dad. Meeting the fantastic new little person the second time around was just as incredible as the first.

I enjoyed my labours, and not just because they brought us our babies, I enjoyed the actual process. I admit that the power of endorphins must have blunted my memory of how much it hurt, and though I know intellectually that it was very painful, I don't really remember the pain,  I just recall the incredible intensity of the experience. Surrendering to the power that my own body has inherited over the millennia since the first placental mammal gave birth brought me, the biologist, in touch with my own biology, and helped me to see that being strong is not necessarily about being in control.

I won't have any more babies myself, and I'm actually sad that I will never experience labour again.  I want to try and spread the message that giving birth is not just something to be endured, but something that can be enjoyed, and embraced. It was a chance conversation with a friend, shortly after she had  given birth but long before I thought about children myself, that opened my eyes to this concept. I had never heard anyone wax lyrical about the wonder of labour before. I hope I can pass it on.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

the birth survey

I'm not a person who usually gets swept up in causes, but after giving birth to two children and sharing stories of the experience with friends on both sides of the Atlantic, I became more and more disturbed by the trends in maternity care in the USA. At first glance it seems we are dazzled with 'choice' in this country, if fortunate enough to have decent health insurance. We can choose our obstetrician or midwife (if we can find a hospital that actually has midwives, or have insurance that covers home birth midwives) and choose the hospital where we get our care and give birth, but when you dig deeper it becomes apparent that without reliable data about rates of intervention such as the use of pitocin, Edpidurals or C sections for individual hospitals and practioners, this choice is an illusion. This survey from the coalition for the improvement of maternity services is collecting data about hospitals and health care practioners that women will be able to use in the future to make informed choices about where to give birth. If you had a baby in the USA in the past three years you can contribute.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

all our children are above average

Much like the inhabitants of the fictional 'lake Wobegon', where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average" , I am convinced that my own children, and the children of my family and friends are far superior in both looks and intelligence to the average child.

Geekygirl amazes me with the language skills she has for her age (she is exactly 2 and a half). Perhaps because it seems such a short time ago that she spoke her first words (one of her earliest and most adorable words was 'butter' for butterfly, accompanied by a charming hand flapping imitation of the insect), I am blown away when she says things like:

"today I celebrate someone's birthday"

"I ate my dinner already"

" I spilled my milk yesterday"

"He wish he could have cheerios too" (about her brother, who was indeed eyeing her cheerios)

"I like muscetti (spaghetti), it's a different kind of pasta"

and my favourite, from last week

"how are you feeling, Mummy?"

I feel that this is one of the most rewarding things about being a parent, to watch their minds and emotions unfurl and bloom through the aquisition of language.

Which is a good job, because it seems that geekygirl has inherited from one of her parents (who me?!) the need to use six words when one will do, and to have her two penneth worth inserted into every conversation. A common refrain in the house whever her father and I try to have a conversation is

"talk to me, what are you talking about?, talk to me, TALK TO ME!"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

good fences make good neighbours

We are in the midst of a garden landscaping project here at geekyhouse. Neither geekydaddy or I are in the least bit handy, so we have called in the professionals.

Our house is built into a steep hill, and the small yard is in two levels. From the top yard we can see over the top of our house. This means that the yard has very high fences. Rotting, swaying fences, painted with a dubious flaking red paint. Parts of fence have fallen down in every storm over the past 10 years. It was the sorry state of the fences that prompted the garden remodel, and today is the day the much anticipated new fences are being put up.

This meant that yesterday the old fences came down, so last night we could trespass into our neighbours yards! The site of the yards next door, one beautifully tended; the envy and inspiration for our own remodel, one urban jungle furnished with rotting kitchen chairs and rusty barbeques, reminded me of newsreel pictures of apartment buildings torn apart by disasters. The view seemed an intrusion into something personal. The fence just creates an illusion of private space, creates little pocket worlds seperated by boards.

It also prevents geekydog from pooping in the neighbours yards, so I didn't let her out when I got home.

Now, keeping everyone fed, cleaned and contented in our house, in the 2 hours between getting home time and bedtime, is a very fine balancing act, and it doesn't take much to tip the equilibrium from harmonic to horrific. Somehow that lack of fenced yard made last night one of the less succesful ones.

I tried taking geekydog out on her leash, at the same time attempting to keep geekygirl away from nails and heavy machinery strewn around the yard, but apparently the novel contents of the yard needed to be sniffed, and the dog would not pee. The neighbours dog was out having a good sniff too, so I relented and let geekydog roam free with him in the new territory. Now geekydog is quite a well trained and obedient dog, but she suffers from a selective deafness when exploring exciting new things. And the neighbours dog suffers from actual deafness. The dogs romped off and would not come in.

By the time the dogs were returned to their respective residences, the kids were starving. For some reason I had decided to make chicken stew from scratch for Geekygirl, (every now an again my guilt at too many fish stick and tater tot meals kicks in and I become toddler gourmet for a day, but this was definitely not the night to do it).

Geekybaby is a recent recruit to the world of solid foods, but he demands them with menaces. He had already been sitting in his high chair, dribbling with longing, for far too long. When I took a break from shoveling pureed carrots into his mouth in order to fetch an equally hungry and impatient geekygirl her much delayed dinner, the shriek of protest he let out caused her to burst into sympathetic and even louder howls. As I sat the table surrounding by tearful, bellowing children, I felt like bawling myself. Then as Geekygirl spooned up her chicken stew with gusto, and I resumed the carrot shoveling, the din turned to blissful silence for a few moments. I caught my breath, looked at the clock and counted the minutes until bedtime.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

le weekend

The weekends seem to have so many more hours in them than they used to. Possibly because we now get up at 7.00am (if we're lucky), rather than some time after noon. I sit here on a Sunday night, totally but yet pleasantly exhausted after a really very uneventful weekend. One of the things that keeps me sane in life is to keep a Pollyanna like tally of all our little succesess and achievements. Here is my 'jobs well done' list from one ordinary weekend. I'm going to start with Friday afternoon to make the list longer!

Obtained passport photos of both children on the way home from daycare. This seemed like a great idea. How long could it possibly take? Well, quite a long time, apparently. It started well, the large tattooed man dropping of 27 rolls of film let us ahead of him in line. Geekybaby managed not to cry while I suspended him puppet style in front of the white backdrop, trying not to have my hand visible; 'look no wires'. Geekygirl threatened tears, but the kind assistant promised her candy.

And then, as ten, twenty, thirty minutes passed without the production of our photos or the promised candy, Geekybaby began to cry for his dinner, Geekygirl bored of trying out her new found counting skills on the displayed items and I started to get ansty. I decided to purchase our own candy, since I realized the assistants bribe must have been a cunning ploy to get me to do just that. Mmm Swedish fish. (What is Swedish about them, I always wonder?). Fortunately the candy held us over until the overpriced pictures were delivered.

Saturday morning in an amazing feat of efficiency, we got the passport application in, and all our grocery shopping finished before 9.30 in the morning!

Seven loads of laundry were run. It should have only been five, but I discovered that if you hurl the contents of the kids laundry basket into the machine without panning through it first, you may accidentally launder a used diaper (pee pee only, before you cringe at the horror). The result of this 'experiment' was one very saturated diaper, and gel from the diaper spread all over the 'clean' clothes. Two washes later they were almost gel free.

The dining room table was cleared of many weeks worth of junk and real mail, old newspapers still in their blue pastic bags, magazines that I am certain I have never subscribed to, and other sundries. This is an incredible feat. And we didn't even have the threat of dinner guests to motivate us this time. We have to invite people over at least once a month otherwise we would drown in paper.

While both kids miraculously overlapped on naptime, I found time to dowload pictures from my camera and fancify this blog page!

We even spent time with friends, friends who we have known since long before we had kids, and who now also have two kids. These are the best kind of friends, and these guys are the best of the best. Our kids get along great too (admittedly in a rather loud, overexcited, insane, chasing, throwing things kind of a way). Its takes a while, with friends you meet after you become parents, to figure out whether you really get along, since the kids are the force that throws you together. Would these people have been the kind of people you would have hung out with before kids? And with long time friends who don't have kids, though I love to spend time with them, I find myself embarrased by my complete inability to focus on a conversation for more than two or three sentences, my patchy knowledge of current affairs, and am ashamed of my unfashionable outfits, designed for easy baby to boob access and if clean, certainly not ironed.

Of course I have a far longer list of things that still need to be done, but I'm not even going to depress myself by thinking about it. There are always more things to do. Right now I'm going to bask in the enjoyment of having had a very productive and fun weekend.

Friday, August 15, 2008

hot lunch day

Fridays are fabulous for many reasons, and we have one more reason to love Fridays in our house. Friday is hot lunch day at daycare. The staff make yummy healthy food for the kids and us parents get a break from packing a lunchbox. We love hot lunch day.

The knowledge that it is Friday is greeted with great delight by Geekygirl. Here is how the conversation went this morning in our house

Me: "Guess what day it is today?"

GG: "Its Friday! Hot lunch day, yay!"

she continued "It's not Tuesday anymore. Tuesday is old lunch day"


I assure you we always pack our daughter a fresh meal, but apparently the lunches we make are now referred to as 'old lunch'.

I really hope she isn't saying this to the daycare teachers.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

urban babies go to music class

Back when I was a mother of one, with all that time on my hands, I signed Geekygirl and I up for 'music together' class. Just because I work outside the home why should I be denied the pleasures of waving scarves and beating tambourines in a room full of toddlers, I thought? Fortunately a class is offered at 5.00pm for us masochist mums. While it is a bit earnest and hippy dippy (think indian chanting, scottish folk songs and 'frere jacque' rather than 'the wheels on the bus') we have enjoyed it. Geekybaby has been attending class since he was in utero, and now he too has started to bounce along to the songs and eat the instruments, so I have bitten the bullet and paid them both up for another semester. Though I am starting to have second thoughts, because of the gargantuan effort required for the 45 minutes of fun.

Class is held in the rec room of a swanky new condo complex in SOMA, beside the ballpark. It has a Safeway on the ground floor, so us music mummies can park there for free if we make a purchase.

Perhaps because of the rather well heeled catchment area of this class, many of the little musicians are dressed up to the nines for the occasion. There is one little girl in particular who always looks as perfect as a new pin. Her outfits are of the kind that I would only buy for a wedding; delicate dresses with matching sweaters and Carrie Bradshaw-esque oversized flower hair clips. Think Suri Cruise, only cuter. Geekygirl is more of a leggings and funky T shirt kind of a girl (a particular favourite being her 'children under the bed shirt'
a gift from auntie followthatdog).

This would be just fine, except that after a day at daycare, she is usually dressed mainly in paint and glue, and her hair is decorated with mulch. Often she has so ruined the mornings outfit that she is dressed in her spare clothes, horribly shrunken leggings that may have once been pyjama pants, and threadbare, stained T shirts.

Since one of the pleasures of taking my adorable little girl to a public forum like this is to show off both her adorableness and my great taste in toddler wear, I felt humiliated by the sideways glances we recieved. "what a lovely child, but what a shame her mother dresses her like a refugee" I sensed the glamourous parents thinking. So I now try to make an effort to put our cutest feet (and other body parts) forward for class.

Getting to class on time, with both children in a mood to coorperate is a ridulously complicated operation. Here are all the things that must be achieved for a successful music class outing:

1. Remember that it is music class day
2. persuade Geekygirl to wear cutest clean outfit available and not spill breakfast on it.
3. Remember to put double stroller in car
4.Remember to bring diaper bag, and to put diapers in it.
5. Remember to pack spare fashionable outfit in case too much fun was had at daycare and Geekygirl is in hideous spare clothes by days end.
6. Remember to bring snack, and empty sippy cup
7. remember to fill sippy cup from water cooler before leaving office
8. Get out of office by 4.00pm.
9. get both kids out of daycare by 4.30pm (unexpected last minute diaper changes, or a toddler's need for one more go down the slide can seriously impact the timeline)
10. Cross fingers that there is not a home Giants game to snarl traffic, and get to parking garage by 4.55pm
11. Put parking ticket in a spot in cluttered purse where it can easily be found later.
12. Perform emergency parking lot costume change on Geekygirl if required, and if time and toddler temperment allows
13. Arrive at class in time for the 'hello song', and behave well enough to stay until the 'goodbye song'.
14. Dash around cramped urban safeway-trying-to-be-whole-foods with giant double stroller filled with hungry tired children, meeting horrified gazes of young trendy folk, in order to get grocery purchase to validate parking.
15. Remember to give cashier parking ticket to validate
16. Get kids and groceries back in car and out of garage before 90 minute parking time is up.

Maybe I am overachieving by even attempting to get to this music class. I think this might be our last semester!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

little Mr. Handsome

One of the reasons I started this blog was to brag about my fabulous children. My kind and lovely coworkers often ask me 'and how is the baby?' as we congregate around the microwave at lunchtime. I think they are expecting a one word answer, not ten minutes of me waxing lyrical about his accomplishments. So in order to preserve my professional image, I will pour out my delight in his fabulousness here instead.

I'm always making up nicknames for the kids and animals, and at the moment my favourite name for geekybaby is 'little Mr. Handsome.'

Perhaps this is because when Geekybaby was born he was not very handsome at all. Crushed in my pelvis, (I['m 5 ft 2" and he was 22 inches long) 10 days late, he was battered and bruised with bloodshot eyes, and a deep crease where his nose met his forehead. I'm pretty sure there is a 'Star Trek TNG' species that looks exactly like him, but I'm not quite geeky enough to know the name of it.

He had the most amazing grimace

But as his bruises faded, and his eyes cleared, his sweet and mellow personality started to shine out in his face

And he just grew more and more gorgeous. He also developed great taste in clothing.

He is so adorable now that I will even forgive him for the puncture wound in my right nipple that is making pumping at work even less fun than usual. I now understand why some women wean their infants when they grow teeth. And cannot fathom why anyone would get their nipple pierced.

Until I had babies I didn't really understand why people would have 3 or 4 kids. Now I almost understand people who choose to have 15. But we have decided that geekybaby will be our last baby, so I revel in his every precious gloopy flappy baby moment.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

skinny jeans and all

This morning I saw my favourite pair of jeans, my second skinniest, peeking at me from the top of the closet. I was in a brave mood, so I pulled them on. And they fit! When I say fit, I mean I can get them on, and I don't look too much like a sausage poured into its casing. Instead of elegantly skimming my hipbones, they push against the mummy muffin top I seem to have grown. And I am realizing that the snap fastening allows them to pop open when I bend over too quickly. But, with a loose flowing top on, they look pretty damn hot, if I do say so myself. I did have a baby less than 6 months ago, after all. My hipbones are still in hiding.

Driving to work, while holding my breath to keep the snap from snapping, I began to think about why fitting into an old pair of jeans should make me so happy. What is it with our obsession with weight?

In my line of work I get the opportunity to read and discuss the latest research on 'energy homeostasis', the broad term used to define the regulation of appetite and metabolism. It is a fascinating topic, and it really is amazing that our bodies work so well. Without us even thinking about it we consume and burn calories day in and day out, and we remain pretty much the same size. Most people do not forget to replace calories burned and accidentally starve to death. Evolution weeded those ancestors out a long time ago. For good reason, most of us err naturally towards the other side of the energy balance. We eat just a little more than we need, and store it for when times are hard. At the moment I'm producing pints of calorie rich milk, but I don't have to conciously decide to eat more to produce it. Through some poorly understood biological mechanism, my appetite increases to meet my calorific needs.

It is my belief that we actually have very little control over our body size. Gina Kolata's fabulous book 'rethinking thin' takes on this controversial subject. She points out that there are hundreds upon hundreds of scientific studies of diets; different types of food, with and without excercise, or psychotherapy, and every single study shows the same thing: most people can lose only modest amounts of weight, and most people end up regaining it. And yet we keep on repeating the experiment over and over, against solid evidence that it doesn't work. She also points out that the media are constantly telling us about the 'obesity epidemic', and it is true that all over the world, people are getting fatter. However all over the world, people are also getting taller, but we don't hear about there being a 'tallness epidemic' now do we?

Perhaps our perception that being overweight is unhealthy and being skinny is good is based less on scientific evidence than on predjudice. This news article popped up today, just as I was pondering these issues.

All I can say, is that although I'm delighted to be in my skinny jeans once more, I'm not giving myself any credit for this acheivement. I just lucked out in the energy homeostasis gene lottery.

Monday, August 11, 2008

cats don't like mondays

Monday always feels worse after a particularly lovely weekend. We just got back from three days in tahoe, and this morning were thrown right back to reality again. We try to keep our mornings fun, despite the goal being to get 2 adults and 2 kids out of the house by 7.30am.

So, despite the ticking clock, I was trying to be delighted that geekygirl wanted to remove her own diaper and pee on the potty, and patient while she tried to empty the little potty container of pee back into the potty stool instead of the toilet, and understanding while she hysterically rejected my choices of stickers for her new sticker chart , (the baby in the backpack was attained this weekend, and was huge hit.). I hurried to help her select her outfit for the day once the pee and sticker hysteria had switched, in true 2 year old fashion, into sunny excitement about the day ahead, and I was just starting to feel better about the morning, when I felt something cold and claggy under my foot. Ahh, cat vomit. Cats are such delightful companion animals, we have a house full of easy to clean hardwood floors, yet they almost always vomit on the rugs. I suppose it could have been worse; some mornings it is is eviscerated mouse liver.

Returning to the kitchen with a proud self dressed Geekygirl, I found Geekydaddy spoonfeeding Geekybaby his bowlful of mush, my breastpump bag packed, Geekygirls lunch and geekybaby's bottles all ready to go, and my coffee and toast prepared for me.

As I started my commute, which, crazy as this sounds, I cherish for the alone time it gives me, I realized how lucky I am to have a true partner in parenting in Geekydaddy. I recently read 'perfect madness: motherhood in the age of insanity', a theme of which is that 'working dads' (and when are they ever even called that anyway) in two job households don't face the same pressures of balancing career and parenting as 'working moms' do. I was reminded of an incident last week when Geekydaddy got a work related call at home one evening. He picked up the call, but informed his boss that he had to change a poopy diaper, and would get back to him later! One day I'll do a '10 reasons I love my husband', and that will be on the list.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

'monsterdink' - a tale of disappointment

Witnessing the disappointment in a child's eyes when something much anticipated and longed for turns out not to be what they hoped it would be has always been hard for me to bear. I knew that dealing with the inevitable disappointments, dashed hopes and misunderstood expectations of childhood would be a huge parenting challenge for me.

I just didn't expect it to happen so soon, and that I would be the harbinger.

We are potty training in the geeky household, and as an incentive to potty use we implemented the 'sticker chart' strategy. Five pee pees in the potty and Geekygirl was promised a special surprise present. Now for the past couple of weeks she had been very interested in monsters and dinosaurs and their ilk. Her favourite bedtime stories were 'where the wild things are' and 'the alligator under my bed'. One day in the car, on the way home from daycare she had said 'I want a dinosaur, buy me a dinosaur at the store, mummy' - having just finally realized that toys are purchased by mummy and daddy.

So on my monthly 'target therapy' trip (I love target, a quiet trip, sans kids, around its aisles at 8.00am when the store has just opened is a little bit of heaven for me) I found a very cool stuffed dinosaur hand puppet, and put this aside this as the 'potty present'.

Fast forward to this week. After a show and tell day, Geekygirl had become obsessed with her friend Samika's toy, a 'baby in a packpack". It was the day after show and tell that the goal of 5 stickers was achieved, so I produced with great fanfare the special surprise gift. I put on the puppet and wiggled it at her. "his name is Monsterdink" she said (maybe she was referring to monsters inc?). "I try". She chased me around the house with Monsterdink for a few minutes, then returned him to me.

And then it all went wrong. Maybe I should not have pantomimed him biting my arm with his rather realistic large plastic teeth. I clearly should not have pretended that he was going to eat up Geekybaby. I was carried away with my own dramatic monster games when I saw that Geekygirl had retreated to a corner of the room. "No, No mummy. I scared of Monsterdink" she cried. I removed my hand and made him inanimate once again, and tried to show her that he was not real, and not scary, but no dice. In a small voice Geekygirl said "I want baby in a packpack".

I realized then that she had believed that her special present was going to be this much desired and discussed item. She had forgotten last week's desire for a toy dinosaur. And Monsterdink was actually kind of scary looking, come to think of it.

So I asked her "did you think your special present was going to be a baby in a packpack"?
"Yes," said Geekygirl, "like Samika's".

I continued, "And you feel disappointed because instead Mummy gave you Monsterdink?" trying at least to get some kind of life lesson for us both out of this disaster, since we certainly weren't going to get far with the potty training with the message "if you pee on the potty Mummy will terrify you with a monster puppet"

"Yes, I dis'pointed. I want baby in packpack. I scared of Monsterdink". My heart hurt for her.

So we decided on a new strategy. A new chart will be made, and a new surprise present purchased. Maybe it will be a baby in a backpack, but maybe it won't be exactly the same as Samika's. 4 stores and 4 boxes returned to later (thank goodness for prime shipping and a no questions return policy) there is a "baby in a packpack" hiding in my closet.

Monsterdink sits on top of the bookshelf, eyeing us balefully. It seems he must remain in sight but out of reach. There are 2 stickers to go on the new chart. I'm hoping that this time Mummy has got it right. The baby is kind of scary looking, mind you.....

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

the most (un)natural thing in the world

Breastfeeding: a natural, beautiful, nourishing harmony between mother and child. One of the things I love the most about mothering an infant.

Pumping at work: a bizarre symbiosis between a woman trying not to get breastmilk on her 'dry clean only' suit pants, and a rhythmically groaning device. A device with many small, yet critical parts that can easily be misplaced. The thing I love the least about mothering an infant.

Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful that I am able to make enough milk to feed my child, but I am disorientated by this intrusion of the biology of motherhood into the fabric of my work day.

Pumping at work leaves me feeling anxious and vulnerable. Will there be enough milk? Will someone ignore the sign on my office door and barge in on me in all my pump bra and plastic cone clad glory? Will I forget to rebutton a critical part of of my attire after pumping and inadvertantly expose myself to my coworkers? Will I knock the bottle of expressed milk across my computer keyboard?- try explaining that one to your IT department.

So, although my breastpump has proved to be a sturdy and reliable partner in my efforts to remotely feed my children, I have fantasies of the day that I no longer need it. Inspired by the printer demolition scene in the movie 'office space', I dream of taking it to a remote location and beating it to a pulp of valves and wires.

Monday, August 4, 2008

miles to go before I sleep

You would think that as a seasoned mother, I would have learned to live without sleep a long time ago. But actually, I have a guilty secret, one I rarely shared with other new mothers for risk of being shunned from the 'Mom and Baby' gatherings. Geekygirl was one of those mythical babies that slept through the night. Not the 5 hrs that the baby books call 'sleeping through the night' but a solid 10-12 hours straight, from about 8 weeks of age. Rather than 'sleeping like a baby', she slept like a rugby player after a pub crawl, and she still does.

Geekybaby, however, sleeps like an actual baby. He sleeps a lot, but wakes up two or three times a night needing to nurse. I devoted this past weekend to reading sleep books and formulating a 'sleep plan'. I don't adhere to any particular 'parenting philosophy' so I chose two books from the opposite ends of the sleep training spectrum; 'The no cry sleep solution, by Elizabeth Pantley" and "solve your childs sleep problems" by Richard Ferber.

'No cry' gave the impression that a baby who wakes up only once or twice a night is basically the endgame of this strategy. After reading the sleep horror stories in the book, I feel grateful for the sleep I do get, but I'm greedy and I want more.

From Ferber what I was hoping to get was a strategy to allow for some crying to sleep, while minimizing distress to his sister who shares a room with him. Here is the very helpful advice he gives for children who share a room: "If you have a child who shares a room with the child being sleep trained, move them to another room for the training period"

Thanks Dr. Ferber, that is a big help. I guess I'll have to open up the east wing. Or maybe geekygirl can sleep in the billiard room, we can sacrifice our nightly game of snooker.

Since we don't actually have a billiard room, and since two children crying all night is not something I want to face, I guess I am officially joining the sleep deprived mummy club. And although my favourite place to be at 3.00am is asleep in bed, nursing my sweet geekybaby while the city sleeps and the geekycats stop by for a little nocturnal company is not a bad alternative. After all, in the blink of an eye he won't be my little baby, and may well be a rugby player going on pub crawls.

Friday, August 1, 2008

the hair of the dog

It was a Saturday morning in the geeky household. One of those Saturday mornings when you need your coffee so badly that you are actually incapable of successfully making a pot of coffee (common caffeine deprivation induced mistakes include incorrect counting of scoops of coffee, use of cold water, oatmeal in coffee pot instead of coffee, failure to screw together french press plunger or combination of the above).

While concentrating very hard on the challenge of generating a drinkable pot of coffee, I heard the voice of 2 year old geekygirl saying

"mummy, I have hair dog?"

I did a double take. Did my sweet child just ask me for a morning cocktail? I know that it is 'dance party' day at daycare on Fridays, but surely the toddlers are not sneaking in booze in their lunchboxes.

Turning to look at geekygirl, I saw her holding up a long black hair that she had discovered in her oatmeal. I explained to geekygirl that yes, you do indeed have hair dog. I mean dog hair. I explain that geekyhound's hair gets everywhere, but that hair in our oatmeal is a small price to pay for the joy and love that a dog can bring to a family.

"mummy, you have hair dog?", geekygirl responded.

I looked at the clock: 7.15 am. It was tempting, but perhaps a little too early to start drinking.

I realized though, as I contemplated the overwhelming list of things to do that weekend, that hair dog in the breakfast is my metaphor for what happens when I try to do it all. I can nurse an infant, feed a toddler and play fetch with an overexcited, underexcerised dog all before my first cup of coffee of the day, so I am bound to end up with hair dog in the food.

And you know what? I think that is OK.