Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A pause in the winds


... I am speaking metaphorically, of course, referring to the high winds of the holiday season, the frenzied storm around Christmas and the secondary frenzy of New Year's. I am also speaking literally. Two days before Christmas Eve, a Midwestern windstorm whipped through our region, high-pitched and groaning. It woke our children in the night, making the baby cry and sending Bean-girl scrambling multiple times into our bed; until finally my husband and I gave up and brought both girls into bed with us. When we all woke up, it was into darkness. The storm had ripped down powerlines, taking out electricity for most of the city. My parents and sister had been visiting for the weekend; now we all decamped to Grandma and Grandpa's place for the holidays, two days earlier than planned. My husband made a big show of calling Santa Claus on the phone to let him know that we were moving Christmas, so could he please redirect the presents to Grandma's house?

After the presents and food, the storm of giftwrap and scattered boxes, we are now back home, catching our second wind and waiting for the next trip. Tommorrow we board a plane headed Out West, to spend New Year's with my husband's family. I haven't seen them in a year. It will be Baby Legume's first flight.

So this, today, is our pause in the winds, our chance to catch a breath. It is probably my last chance to write here before the end of 2007.

It's been a good year. A busy year. One of great changes for us all in my little nuclear family. In this past year we up and moved across the state to a new city and into our first "real" (that is, one with a backyard) house. My husband started his new job. I adjusted to caring for the Bean-girl full-time. And only one month after our move, I gave birth to our second and probably last child, the Baby Legume.


Over the Christmas holidays my sister R commented that I seem to be obsessed with blog-reading and motherhood issues. Maybe. She recently found religion, and she is proudly wrapped up in her new faith--"hard-core" as she puts it. Is it too extreme to compare the transformative effects of motherhood to that of religion? I've never been religious, so I can't say. I can say that nothing I've ever experienced wrenches me, exhausts me, wrings me out and then simultaneously pierces and expands my heart the way motherhood does. I was a mother to the Bean-girl for ~2.5 years before the Baby Legume, of course; it's just now that I've had more time (or made more time) to read and reflect on it all. And I have my new habit of blog-reading to thank for that: I've discovered voices in the blogosphere writing about motherhood in honest, thoughtful, and beautiful ways that I have never seen in commercial print.


I read a lot of women-in-science blogs, too, of course, as a glance at my blogroll will tell. I have now been out of research science for over a year, and yet I continue to read these voices. Leaving the world of academic science has been very very difficult for me, and I am still trying to reconcile myself with this loss. The other night my husband and I were watching a news show on stem cell research, and as I watched the scientist on-screen pippeting fresh pink media into tissue culture dishes I swear that I felt the most aching nostalgia. That used to be me! I thought. Everything playing out onscreen--the lab equipment, the lab benches, the mundane procedures, little vials being removed from the liquid nitrogen tanks--oh, I knew all that, that was my own "home" not so long ago. Of course, I'd often felt tissue culture to be a royal pain in the ass, so how ironic to be feeling nostalgic for it now.

Leaving my job, being forced into the realization that scientific research is mostly likely NOT a viable long-term career for me--that, too, has been a huge adjustment this year. I'm trying to find a way to reshape my career, to rescue (in my eyes) a decade worth of training. I've been taking on freelance medical writing/editing projects. But I still don't know if that's what I really want to do. Or what I really want to do.


So... career transitions, a move to a new city, and the birth of a second child. A heaping plate. And on top of that all--the cherry on top, the chocolate sprinkles if you please--let me add the discovery of the blogosphere. My funny new addiction. My late entrance to the party. Because I learn so much, reading these other voices in the ether. Because you make me think. Because writing in this blog forces me to sit and think, to work with words again in a way that I haven't since I graduated from college. I love that. And I love the community I've found here, a tribe of smart, thoughtful, supportive women, writing and commenting and coming together in a mental (if not physical) space.

So in the waning days of 2007, I find myself offering up an out-of-season valentine--a valentine to you, the blogosphere, my fellow bloggers and blog-readers, my friends and any who might one day stumble on these words and become a new friend. Thank you for offering me this space. Thank you for writing. Thank you for reading.

Christmas is over. The new year is about to begin. Safe journey through the last days of the old, and welcome to the new.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Haiku Friday

4 days left

Next time I join those
I've mocked in the past: Christmas
shopping in July.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The sisters



Of late, this scene is played at least once a day in our household:

Baby, baby, the Bean-girl croons, touching her little sister's face, playing with her hair. Baby Legume laughs and laughs, all pink gums and crinkled eyes, her little body shaking with the force of her laughter. Her laughs provoke answering peals of laughter in her big sister. They both laugh harder, squealing and laughing, a feed-forward cycle, positive feed-back loop of delight. For as long as 10 minutes (an eternity in baby time) they play this game, this mysterious game that their parents look upon; their father and I are amused and wondering, but, ultimately, outside their shared circle of mirth.

A friend of mine once told me that her oldest child had the ability to make her youngest laugh harder than anyone else could. I don't know how she does it, my friend had said. She makes faces, but I don't think that they're at all funny. But her little sister just laughs and laughs.

Now I see it for myself. I can make the Legume laugh with tickle-kisses and peek-a-boo. But frankly, I don't have the patience to keep it up like her older sister does.

I think of the times my sisters and I laughed our heads off at some silly private joke, some silly thing that provoked only exasperation in our parents. My two younger sisters are closer in age to one another, and they shared more of these moments when we were all young--laughter that bordered on hysteria, laughter that caused my mother to warn, "Stop that!" because, she said, laughter like that would always turn into tears in a matter of minutes. (She was often right. Little girls are volatile that way).

We still often laugh at things that leave our parents completely cold. (No wonder, perhaps, when we're often laughing at them). We laugh at things no other person would "get." For all the squabbles and tensions and sometimes distances, sisterhood is a special circle that has no replacement.

I know that the Bean-girl and Baby Legume won't always have it so good together. Right now is a honeymoon phase--little Baby Legume idolizes her sister, Bean-girl adores her "baby." There will be plenty of squabbles and tears in the future. But I hope they will always have this laughter. When childhood tensions and squabbles are over, I hope they will remain the best of friends.

*********************

Tonight as I put the Bean-girl to bed, I told her that tommorrow is a "mommy day." That's a day when she doesn't go to preschool/daycare, and gets to spend the whole day at home with me.

Will Daddy be at work? she inquired.

Yes, I said sadly. Daddy will be at work. He won't be home with us. Do you miss him when he's at work?

Yes, she said. And then, after a moment. But sometimes I like it with just one person. A beat. And sometimes I like it with four persons. Even with the Baby Legume

Friday, December 14, 2007

Haiku II

Composed in a stupor last night.

I appreciate
that you love me, my dearest.
But no need to wake

every few hours
to tell me. I scoop you from
tears. Nestled, you seek

with closed eyes, blind mole,
for warmth, milk, and me. I know.
Oh, baby. I know.

For Sciencemama--Haiku Friday

For Sciencemama

I'll take your notebook.
You take my house: toddler-wreaked
devastation, all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Baby Legume eats jook

Baby Legume had her first taste of table food today. A few sips of warm jook at the dining table, as her big sister and I had it for our lunch.

Jook, also known as congee, is comfort food in my family. White rice simmered in broth until the grains break down and melt into a creamy porridge. Chicken broth or pork broth, or (as my mom makes it) a homemade broth of whatever bits of meat and bones are on hand--chicken, pork, and even shrimp shells. Flavor with salt, white pepper, ginger--again, whatever is on hand and strikes your fancy. You can serve the jook plain or with an array of condiments and sides--Chinese fried crullers, pickled vegetables, preserved eggs or an egg omelete. Jook is adaptable. Everyone makes their own kind. My parents are from Thailand, and in Thai we refer to the dish as jok, with a long "o." (Jook is the Chinese term--Cantonese, I believe. I think variations of the dish are ubiquitous in Asia). My mom flavors the rice porridge with fish sauce (because what Thai dish doesn't use fish sauce?) and serves it with little dishes of slivered ginger and cilantro for topping.

I don't make jook often. I can't make it like my mother, of course. She uses homemade chicken stock, always. I don't have the patience for that, and I often don't even have the patience for all the little dishes of toppings she makes. But when it is cold and gray I yearn for the stuff. It's restorative and soothing, the Asian version of the chicken-and-noodle soup cure (but better tasting, in my humble opinion).

This week winter is blasting us with snow and sleet. My whole family has come down with a cold; Bean-girl's nose is a wondrous fountain of snot, and the Legume has just started sniffling. My throat hurts, and the Husband is next (not that he's ever gotten over his hacking cough from our last family cold). Yesterday I dragged out Thanksgiving's turkey carcass from the garage freezer, and set it in a big pot with cold water to make some turkey jook. I tossed in some Chinese sausages and several hunks of ginger for flavor. After several hours of simmering, I took out the turkey, added the rice, and added the shredded turkey meat back in just before serving.

When the Bean-girl saw it at dinner time, her eyes lit up. For once, she did not shake her head and declare her desire for "something different" for dinner. Instead, it was "Can I try that?" She has grown up on her grandmother's jook, and loves the stuff.

She even loves my version (but hold the turkey/chicken/meat please. Bean-girl prefers the plain rice version).

So this afternoon I was very happy to introduce my youngest to jook. Jarred sweet potatoes and bananas are fine, but who eats that stuff after the teeth come in? This is real food, Baby Legume. Bean-girl and I sat with our bowls in the cold winter light, sipping spoonfuls of warm comfort. Baby Legume sat on my lap and grabbed at things on the table.

I gave her the smallest sip of broth, with just a few creamy grains of melt-in-your mouth rice. I know the baby books say to avoid sodium for infants her age. But just a sip won't hurt, right? And in Asia, babies are weaned on this stuff.

Baby Legume liked it, of course. If it's on a spoon, she likes it.

But I'm glad that she liked this, my jook, and her very first table food.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Baby Legume is 6 months old



















Baby Legume, you're more than half a year old. 6 months now, and 5 days. I meant to write this post on your half-birthday, of course, but so many of my intentions get waylaid these days.

It seems that just yesterday you could not even hold up your head. Now you are sitting up, very briefly, on your own. You are eating solid food. Squash and sweet potato at the moment. You sit ensconced in your purple Bumbo chair as we feed you, like a tyrannical emperor of myth, yelling for more more more! lunging wildly at the spoon and screaming if we take too long to refill it. You also make a huge mess.



In fact, you are lunging forward at everything these days, grabbing at everything in sight. Even the cat. Especially the cat. It is your ambition to grab that cat and stuff her right into your mouth. You have, in fact, nearly succeeded a number of times. That stupid animal insists on sitting right next to you on your blanket, flirting with disaster. You have swiped at her face, grabbed her by both cheeks and tried to bring her down to your greedy mouth, pulled at her ears and pulled out clumps of her fur. I suppose I'm remiss for not supervising the two of you better, but she would insist on coming back for more. I think she must actually like it.



You grab at your sister, too, and this delights her. You pull my hair, grab your father's face. Your little arms wrap so tightly around my neck. This world is so big and exciting for you. Are you just (literally) trying to swallow it all in? But sometimes it's too much for you, as well. You've developed a touch of stranger anxiety in the last few weeks, and you cried the last time Grandma and Grandpa came to visit. Some selfish part of me secretly relishes the way you sometimes cling to me, how it is I that you trust above all others, and sometimes only I that can comfort you.



Your whole body wriggles with delight when I walk in the room. I love this. I love that broad baby smile that nearly splits your face. Your hands clench in excitement, and you make a soft chuckle-gasp.


You learned to scoot backward on your belly this morning! I set you down on your blanket, and turned away for just a moment. When I looked back, you were not where I'd left you! You were busily scooting yourself backward, and were just backing into the space under your big sister's bookshelf. I retrieved you, set you a few feet forward, and you promptly began scooting back under the bookshelf again. However, you have not yet shown your daddy this trick.


So much more to say... the way you bounce like a maniac in your exersaucer. The way you perpetually have two fingers jammed in your mouth, sucking. Your ultrasonic squeals. We can't record it all, baby Legume. But we love you. And we love watching you grow, becoming the person you were born to be.



Happy half-birthday!




Haiku Friday--Dec 7, 2007

Sciencemama is a poet who can turn even a poopy diaper blow-out into a thing of beauty (John Keats, eat your heart out). Lately she's been turning out these gorgeous, poignant lines (here and here).

I might not be able to compete in the poignancy department, but here are my entries for today:

For Baby Legume:

Irresistable
Her round cheeks like ripe fruit. Warm
and pressed against mine.


And here is an entry from my guest poet, the Bean-girl. She composed this on the couch while I blew her nose.


Where does snot come from?
From in my head, deep inside?
I would like some grapes.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Naked Bean

Well, the Bean-girl's anti-clothing streak is running well into a second week now.

Of course, a streaking toddler is nothing new. Once they learn how to walk, it's not soon before they are off and running naked away from you, bare bottom and giggles vanishing down the hall. But it is not funny this time. My 3-year old is a stubborn, cunning adversary. And despite her diminutive size, she's suprisingly strong.

She doesn't misbehave much. And her misbehavior isn't a matter of actively doing something bad--like drawing on the walls or hitting her sister. Her misbehaviors are more a matter of refusing to do something asked of her--like putting away a toy, or allowing her father to put her to sleep. In these cases, a single good tantrum and its consequences has usually been enough to stop the behavior--we ignore her and walk away, or, in really severe cases, confine her to her room. After much "crying and wailing" (and those are her own words) she acquiesces, and the battle is not fought again.

Except now. We are fighting the same battle, day after day after day. What is that saying about insanity again? And who is it in this family that is insane?

This morning we all got up late, which is both blessing and curse. Bean-girl heads into preschool with her father in the mornings. She did not want to get dressed. After cajolings and attempts at reason and finally threats, her father made the decision to forcibly dress her. This is an approach I normally avoid because (1) the Bean-girl feels humiliated and degraded by it, and I greatly empathize with her on that, and (2) I do not have eight arms with which to wrestle her.

My husband and I combined have four arms. However, it is still nearly an impossibly task to forcibly dress a 3-year old child who does not want to be dressed. He held on while I tried to fit flailing limbs through pieces of clothing, and he snapped at me helpful remarks like Come on, Mommy! Hurry up! Just do it! Finally the deed was done. Husband went off to his morning shower while the fully dressed Bean-girl sobbed and sobbed at the unfairness of it all.

I want to get dressed by myself! she hiccupped.

You want to get dressed by yourself? I repeated.

Furious nodding of her head.

I thought quickly. Husband was still in the shower. I knew this girl. She did want to get dressed by herself. We could take off her clothes and she could put them back on herself in two minutes. She just needed to have some control over this, and we had taken all control away. She was behaving like this all the time now--refusing to do something, and then when I did it for her, insisting that she be the one to do it after all, all by herself.

I want to put on my own socks, she said. I want to put on everything myself.

I helped her take off her socks. She took off her pants and underwear. I pulled her shirt up over her head.

You can all see where this is going.

Okay! I beamed at my naked girl. Time to put it all back on again, all by yourself!

She ran away.

3-year old tot versus 30-something Ph.D.-educated mom. A tot who can't even grasp numerical quantites over four. Is it any contest?

We did eventually get her dressed, before my husband was late for work. If you don't get dressed right now I told her, we will take you to school naked!

She was sniffling in the corner of her bedroom. Her father was bustling around downstairs, getting ready to leave.

Then we heard the roar of the garage door opening, directly below her room. I think she thought that we really were going to toss her naked into the car at that point, for she came running out of her corner toward me. I handed her the clothes, and she obediently put them on herself, all within the space of a minute or so.

There, that wasn't so bad, was it? I said, as I always say after one of our battles.

She had a perfectly good day at school today, so the teachers said and so it seems. And of course she was a sweetheart when I picked her up, and has been the most charming little sprite all evening. But I really really hope she grows out of these clothing battles soon.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dictionary definitions

Balrog --noun.
1. A character in the Lord of the Rings trilogy; a demon of shadow and flame that fights with Gandalf the Wizard in the Mines of Moria.
2. The term my husband uses to refer to our children when they act up and get crazy.

Brain-dead --adjective
1. Characterized by brain death, the final cessation of activity in the central nervous system, especially as indicated by a flat electroencephalogram for a predetermined length of time.
2. The state of being that my husband and I exist in after spending an entire evening wrestling with two tiny yet ferocious balrogs.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Haiku Friday

Defiant toddler
disdains her clothes. Why not be
cold, naked, and free?

Thunderstorm of tears.
Baby watches sister sob,
wide-eyed, curious.

Finally dressed, she's
sweeter than richest honey.
Schizophrenic tot.

'Tis the season...

... for decorating gingerbread men!




Thursday, November 29, 2007

Peanut butter oatcakes

I feel like a failure sometimes. At all of it. Professionally, since I never "made it" in my field. And then personally, on the home front, at the thousand mundane tasks of motherhood and domesticity. The thousand simple tasks of daily living.

And then I read a post like this and am blown away.

I've been following sweet/salty kate's story for several months now. She writes beautifully about motherhood. She writes beautifully, period. She has lived through what no mother should ever have to live through: the death of a child. This past summer she gave birth to identical twin boys, born too early. They went straight to the NICU. One survived. He came home, and he's now thriving in the love of his family. The other one never left the hospital.

I don't know the full details of this story. When I stumbled upon Kate's blog, it was already the aftermath. And I haven't had the fortitude to read the earlier posts, the ones where it all began. I may never have the heart to do so.

But I've read her posts in the aftermath... And what is so amazing to me is not only that she survived, and is surviving; but that she is surviving and grieving and also living with such grace and love and even joy. That there is still joy, after such tragedy.

I am haunted by this line of her latest post: "You're riddled with bulletholes, but there's still peanut butter oatcakes and vanilla steamers ....."

The minor stresses of daily life seem to fade into a larger space. I wonder if I *could* live through what she did. And I'm grateful to be reminded of those peanut butter oatcakes.

****************

I know this is a somewhat unusual posting for me, but I haven't been able to shake the effects of Kate's post all day. And I hope others will find her writing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Meme: 7 random things about me

I've been tagged by Sciencemama for this meme! And it's easier than EcoGeoFemme's, so I'll start with this one.

1) I cannot carry a tune. Neither can my husband. As far as we can tell, neither can our toddler daughter.

2) I was born in a very small Midwestern town and couldn't wait to get out.

3) When I was young, I was a big sci-fi/fantasy geek. I still love the stuff (the Golden Compass trilogy is one of my recent favorites), but it's a struggle to find time for pleasure reading now.

4) I went to college at the University of Southern California. Go Trojans!

5) But I hated L.A. I mean hated, detested, despised, loathed. I used to refer to as as "Mordor." I have repeatedly asked my husband to never never get a job there. Can you tell that I don't like the city? (Apologies to those who do. And I did love my time at USC, even though I hated the city).

6) My new viewing obsession is "Jon and Kate plus 8," a series on the Discovery channel that follows the lives of a young couple with one set of 6-yr old twins and one set of 3-yr old sextuplets. You read that right. I am in complete and utter awe of both parents. If I were the mother, I would long ago have run for the hills (even though the kids are cuter than pie).

7) I am American, but of Thai and Chinese ethnic background. When people learn that I am Thai, they often feel compelled to tell me, "Oh, I love Thai food." I never know what to say to that.

I don't know too many bloggers who would likely respond to a meme request from me, and those that I do know have already been tagged! So I will just pass this one on to my little sister at flaming hot cheetos. And I will tag Mrs. Chicken, who I don't really know, but who has a lovely parenting blog at Chicken and Cheese.

Rules:1- Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.2- Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.3- Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.4- Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog

Friday, November 23, 2007

Haiku Friday

Thanksgiving

New face? Baby cries.
Grandma hugs, plays peek-a-boo.
Baby starts to laugh.

Three generations.
Too much food. Pumpkin ice cream
was over the top.

here's today's final haiku.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The day before Thanksgiving

My little one is asleep, cozy in her crib.

My other girl is snuggled with her father, singing her special "Bean-girl song" that she made up all on her own. It's an off-key humming that is very faintly reminescent of the tune to "Hush little baby don't you cry." However, it is not "Hush little baby," it is the "Bean-girl song," as Bean-girl will remind you if you forget.

I have a little time to myself tonight. My editing work is (mostly) on course now. The cranberry sauce for tommorrow is already done. It is raining outside, and the forecast calls for snow. But inside all is warmth and light, safety and shelter. And right now, there is even quiet.

For all this I am thankful.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The end of colic?

Wonder of wonders... The Baby Legume did not scream tonight. She fussed lightly, then drifted off peacefully to sleep in my lap. Beautiful.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Remembering

She fights sleep. She thrashes in my arms, arches her back. Her hands scrabble frantically at my face, little claws. Short, bleating cries of distress. Then her head knocks against mine (ow!), and she rears up suddenly, scarily, a red-faced gremlin in my hands, and really lets loose: a long, ululating siren cry, a cry like a migraine, aimed right in my face.

*********************

Some nights it's not so bad. Tonight, for instance, she just seemed to fuss and cry intermittently from 5 pm on, but went right to sleep (hopefully for good) after minimal screaming. But scream she must. At least one holler, her signature farewell to the day, before she can conk out for the night.

What's wrong with her? my husband, the pediatrician, asks. Bean-girl wasn't this bad, was she? We keep asking ourselves this. Wasn't Bean-girl over her colic by now? Colic is supposed to last 3 months; that's what all the books say, that's what the definition is. It's almost 6 months now. Is it any better? Why not? Why is the Baby Legume still screaming?

Baby Legume, my husband announced this morning, is more high-maintenance than the Bean-girl was.

That's not true, I retorted. You have no idea.

*************************************

When I think back on those early months with our first-born daughter, I remember long days trapped on the couch, a sleeping baby propped up against my numb forearm. She couldn't sleep by herself, woke up when she wasn't in contact with me. She cried when she wasn't touching me. I couldn't put her down. Oh, and she screamed at night! Far louder and longer than Baby Legume (or so I remember). From 9 pm to midnight, every night. She was so regular in her rhythm, you could set your wristwatch by her. We would all be watching tv in the living room, the Bean-girl peacefully asleep in my arms, and then she would stir slightly, and then, as though someone had stuck her with a pin, let loose with a piercing wail. I'd have only to turn my head and look at the clock to see: Yup, 9:02 pm. And it was probably the clock that was off, not her.

*****************************

But the Bean-girl slowly did get better. Her colic started fading away around 4 months. Didn't it? we ask ourselves. Didn't it go away then? Wasn't it gone, completely, at the age that Legume is now?

The truth is that I'm not sure we really remember. There's a fog over that whole first year. Immediate and intense as it was at the time, the details are now blurred. When I was still pregnant with the Bean, I had a chance to travel back to the city where I did my Ph.D., and I met with my former advisor. He congratulated me on my pregnancy, and then he had this say:

Raising young children is hard, he said, leaning back in his chair. So hard, I think a kind of amnesia descends on people afterward, and they forget how hard it actually was. A good thing, since if we remembered, no one would ever have a second child.

I think my old advisor was right. He said a number of gems during the the time I worked for him, and this was another of them.

When I think back on that first year with the Bean, I wonder how I got through it. Yet it was no more than what countless mothers are experiencing right now, with their own infant beans. The colic. The endless nursing. The repeated night-wakings, every 2-3 hours, all through the night. For months on end.

What I'm trying to say, Baby Legume, is that you're not really that bad. You only wake up once at night. You can take a bottle and a pacifier. You can play by yourself on the floor during the day. It's really only at night that you get a little crazy.

And when you get older, we'll probably forget even that.

Or maybe we'll remember. I've written it down here in this blog, tonight. On November 17, 2007, Baby Legume aged 5 months and 3 weeks screamed as usual before going to bed. But then she passed out against me, her head on my shoulder, her warm weight on my chest. And I indulged myself. Before putting her in the crib, I pressed my cheek against hers. I felt the soft curve of that flesh, felt her warm, steady breath. I held her that way, not wanting to put her down. My infant baby, mine, sleeping and at peace in my arms.

May I remember that.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Haiku Friday

My Friday Afternoon

Eyes bleary, head fogged.
Laundry to be folded. Stuck,
baby-bound on couch.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pictures for my friend

When I first started this blog, it was important for me to protect mine and my family's privacy. So I decided to blog anonymously, and not post photos. But two days ago, Sciencemama asked to see my beans, and I find that I am a shameless show-off. And anyway, Sciencemama, you're the only one (besides my sister, who doesn't comment regularly) who even reads this blog.

We've never met. We only just found each other's blogs. But I feel that we are friends. And I love showing off pictures of my girls to my friends.

Horsing around. (That's a toy giraffe the Bean-girl has)
Bean-girl as a witch on Halloween.
Sleeping Tootsie Roll on Halloween.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Sisterly love

Things that Bean-girl says to and about her little sister:

That's one little baby!
Is that my precious little baby?
She's just a little baby. She's sooooo little.
Don't cry, Baby Legume. I'm here.
Touchy, touchy, Baby Legume! (said as she touches the baby's cheek)

And when she wants Mommy's undivided attention:

Put Baby Legume down!!!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Halloween, 3rd birthday, excitement excitement

It's back-to-back days of excitement here in our little household. First Halloween, then Bean-girl's third birthday, then a hosting of our toddler playgroup this morning. Toddlers tore through Bean's left-over birthday cake, tore through presents and toys, and generally ran rampage through the house. Then one by one the little mites began to melt down, dissolving into tears and clingy limbs in their mothers' arms as noon and naptime approached. My own Bean is now fast asleep, after vehement protest.

I know that all birthdays are special, and that all Halloweens are special to a child. But this third birthday and Halloween has been especially so. This is the first year that Bean-girl really gets it. She gets Halloween. She'd been noticing the jack-o-lanterns in the neighborhood, the ghost decorations and spiderwebs. She'd been parading about in her purple witch hat for days. She understood what was going on. And then afterward she gloried in her loot, sorting her candy into piles with her father's help: sour candies, chocolate candies, lollipops, cookies. We put the candy back into her bag, and then she wanted to dump it out and go through it again, just to look at it, just to see.

And it's the first year she understood--really understood--that it was her birthday. I don't think she understands that she was born on that paticular date, but she knew full well that a birthday meant cake, presents, and "party hats." (We didn't do the party hats). She solemnly requested a cake "with blue icing, in the shape of a car, and with whales."

Whales? I said, dumbfounded.
Whales.
What color whales? I asked.
Green, she said.

I was panicking over this blue car cake with green whales, when her father finally figured out that she was saying wheels.
*******************

We had a quiet birthday for Bean-girl. Just our immediate family. We had a family dinner at home, then cake, then presents. Opening all the presents seemed to take a long time. Afterward she had to watch one of her new birthday DVDs. And in the bathtub she had to play with her new motorized submarine toy. Then hear her new storybooks. She went to sleep quite late, poor thing.
*********************

I could bring up all the cliches about seeing my firstborn grow up. I feel all the cliches. She is growing so much, and I am so proud and in awe of her. In these last six months she has moved to a new city, become a big sister, and started preschool. In just the last month she has toilet trained herself (mostly) and learned to ride a tricycle. Every day she seems to become more articulate, more skilled at expressing herself. I am proudest of all at how she has grown into her role as big sister. Sometimes, as I cook lunch or finish up some household chore, I feel guilty that I don't pay enough attention to the Baby Legume, that she doesn't have my sole attention the way the Bean-girl once did. And then I look over to her, and I see that Bean is lying on the activity mat next to Baby Legume, and Bean is touching Legume's cheek and laughing and talking to her. And I can almost feel myself spilling over with pride, and I know Baby Legume is lucky indeed.

As are we all.

Happy birthday, my always-baby Bean!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Autumn

After an unusually warm Indian summer, it finally feel like fall. The trees are fluttering in golds, reds, and brilliant orange. The sky is a deep, vivid blue. And the air is tart as a newly bitten apple.
It's my favorite season. A season that will always be associated, for me, with new beginnings: a new school year, the whiff of newly sharpened pencils, new school clothes and the promise of a new beginning. This is the season that I met my husband, and fell in love. The season that we first walked hand-in-hand down cobblestone streets, under flaming trees and through the falling dusk. This is the season I gave birth to my first-born daugher. This is the time that I feel alive.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Project Life Change Update



Um, can I amend that "Project Life Change" vow I made?

How about writing or reading every day? Or how about writing every other day?

This is harder than I thought. It's hard right now just to sit here--the dishwasher needs to be emptied, miscellaneous stacks of paper appear to be breeding in the den and on my kitchen table, the toilet upstairs is clogged, and I'm hosting playgroup this Friday. Oh, and it's my Bean-girl's third birthday this week, and I haven't even bought her a gift. (bad mom!)

This weekend I meant to get some writing done. I really did. But I had to finish up an editing project, there was my moms' group brunch on Saturday, Bean-girl would not go down for her nap... and while holding my colicky infant on the couch Saturday night, I got sucked into watching reruns of "America's Next Top Model." Yes, I did. And even after I got Baby Legume to sleep in her crib, I kept watching. God help me, I even TiVoed the last episode so I could see who won the 2006 season.

"Lame" is too poor a word for all this.

I did get some reading done... And this post counts as writing now, doesn't it? Even though it feels like an exercise in logorrhea.

When my Baby Legume spits up, the Bean-girl and I say, "Baby Legume went bleah!" That's how I feel now: I'm going bleah on this empty page. It's how I've felt lately every time I touch the keyboard.

So... three days into the challenge, and it's already harder than I thought. I'll be checking on the other bloggers at this page to see how everyone else is doing.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Project Life Change


Somehow, clicking my way through the blogosphere, I found this post. It's about Project Life Change, a challenge by two bloggers to take small, concrete steps toward the life change you want.

Now I have an unmanageable, impossible Christmas wish-list of goals, of changes, of things I want to do in my life. Even if I didn't have two little bean girls, it would be impossible to address most of them now.

But I can do one small thing (I hope). Surely in the chaos of my days, I can carve out a small space--just a little one, I beg you!--in which to write. Just the littlest space, a hidden pocket of air in which to breathe. Just for myself.

I don't have to write anything profound. I don't necessarily have to post on this blog. I'll write whatever I feel like, for myself or for an audience, to share with the grandparents or to share with no one at all. Even if it's just a few sentences in a Word file that will never be opened again.

I used to write. In high school I spent all my time up in my room alone, writing. It was the typical existential teen angst, but when I read those old scribbles I feel something... A wind moving through me, a wind of feeling and possibility. Something I no longer feel in my daily life.

I thought I would be an English major. I did minor in English, and I took creative writing workshops, including one from the novelist T.C. Boyle (who is really a very nice guy). And I wrote two, maybe three, stories that held truth at their core. And then I stopped for a very long time.

I became a scientist. And I loved my work. The only writing I did was academic and scientific. I stopped reading novels. Life got too busy, and the only reading I did were scientific journals.

But now that's past, and I'm trying to write and read again. So my Project Life Change is this: every day I will write something just for myself, and everyday I will read a little fiction. Because fiction was once my lifeblood, and writing was once my air. And even in the midst of squirming children, dirty dishes, and editing deadlines (as I've taken on some freelance scientific editing/writing work--and that's a whole other Project Life Change story)--even in the midst of all that, surely I can take some time for me.

And with this post, I've just started.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What she dreams of, what she says


Last night, while I lay next to the Bean-girl in her bed:

Bean: Mommy, what are you thinking?

Me: That I'm tired and want to go to sleep.

Bean: What do you dream of?

Me: Uhhhh... (too tired to think at this moment). I don't know. I often don't remember my dreams. Maybe I sometimes dream about my little daughters? What do you dream of?

Bean: I dream about drinking milk.

***********

This afternoon, while up in her bedroom:

Bean: Where's my favorite fish toy?

Me : It's on the kitchen counter. I'll go get it.

Bean: I'm coming too!

Me: I'm coming right back with it, Bean-girl. You don't have to come, I'll be right back.

Bean: I want to come.

Me : (exasperated) Why do you always have to go where I'm going? Why do you always have
to follow?

Bean: Because I want to follow you and go wherever you are going THAT'S ALL and I want to be in your arms so I can be with you wherever you are going THAT'S ALL and so I can be in your arms THAT'S ALL!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What I know now

I never meant to be a stay-at-home mom.

I went back to work full-time when my first child was 6 months old. She wasn't taking a bottle, and despite all our efforts, would never take a bottle. She starved all day in daycare until I picked her up. She was used to falling asleep in my arms, and wouldn't nap at the daycare center. Almost every day for the first month, the head teacher would complain to me that the Bean had been "fussy." I wanted to smack that woman. I was separated from my child all day, and the last thing I needed to hear was such complaints. And yes, they were complaints--not helpful or even matter-of-fact just-wanted-to-let-you-know-how-she-was-doing statements, but out-and-out whining complaints from this teacher.

I knew before I enrolled her in the daycare center that she was not taking a bottle. But my husband and I enrolled her anyway, and hoped for the best.

I went back to work because I was on a research fellowship that had to be completed. (NIH fellowships have nasty pay-back schemes where you have to either finish out the two years, or pay back all your salary). I went back to work because I had told my boss that I would do so. But most of all . . . I went back to work at that time because I had to do so. I was climbing the walls. I felt slightly insane. It was the dark of winter. I loved my child, but I needed to get away, out of that house; I needed to see other people, to be something more and other than a mother. I needed to return to my work, to go back to my lab and do my science and run those Western blots, damnit!

This time is different.

This time I am different.

I was laid off; we relocated to another city (husband's job); I was pregnant with my second child, and in a city with limited job opportunities for me. And it is a time of limited opportunities for all of us in science--a crisis in federal funding that can only be described by that word, crisis.

I'm not the ambitious go-getter anymore. I'm realistic: I know that the time for all that has passed. It's been six years since I received my Ph.D., and if I were to "make it," I'd have "made it" by now, during my first postdoc.

I've been a full-time-stay-at-home mom for more than half a year.

My second child is now four months old.

When we made the decision to move to this new city, my husband and I placed our unborn daughter's name on the waitlist for his employer's daycare center. We thought that I might eventually want to return to work, and we knew how these waitlists work--it might well be a full year before her name reached the top.

Well, her name has reached the top. They have an opening for her in the new year.

And even if a job in my field were to miraculously open up for me here in this city; even if I could find a great postdoctoral or staff scientist position--a position like that in my old lab, studying science that I am passionate about, with colleagues that are like family--still, I would not be able to take it. Not this time.

And not just because I am now wary about science. Not just because I know there's probably no long-term career there for me. But because I also know now how fleeting the first year of childhood is. I know how fast they grow up. How those dumpling arms and legs stretch out and lose their baby fat. How that dense baby weight, pressed into my arms, will soon be a memory. And a memory, too--the sight of those round baby cheeks, drawing themselves in and out, as she nurses from my body.

I don't regret going back to work with my eldest, the Bean-girl, when I did. Things turned out fine, and I did what was best for me at the time. But things are different now.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

From colic to teething

Two little white bumps have appeared on my youngest daughter's lower gum. She's having a really rough time of it. And that means we're all having a rough time.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Potty time

My little girls are changing each day.


The Bean has toilet trained herself--partially. Toilet training has been such a trial that I don't have it in me to go into the full details now. We've been trying off and on since she was two, and it seemed mostly three steps back for every one step forward. A few weeks before preschool started, I panicked and instituted toilet training again--thinking she'd be the only kid in her classroom still in diapers. She became very resistant--actively running away from us and preferring to sit in a poopy diaper rather than use her chair. So we gave up again, not wanting to put pressure on her. I even stopped asking her "Do you have to use the potty?" since the question was always met with a vehement "NO!"

And then last weekend she toilet trained herself. Out of the blue, she announced one afternoon that she had to use the potty, pulled down her pants, and walked over to her toilet. When I asked if she needed help, she told me that she didn't. She came out of the bathroom without having gone (and she pulled up her own pants again!), but about five minutes later she wandered back in to try the potty seat again. She did this a few more times, and then I heard her announce triumphantly from her chair, "I made a pee pee and a poopy!"


Now she is going by herself on a regular basis. We have a toddler potty insert on top of a regular toilet in a bathroom. She climbs up on her stepstool, does her business, pulls up her pants, and flushes the toilet--all by herself. (Still have to work on teaching her to wipe herself and wash her hands).


I am inordinately proud of my little girl's achievement. Of course I know that most girls her age are toilet-trained. I know that many are trained even earlier. I know that eventually every child masters the potty, just as all children eventually learn to talk, walk, feed themselves with utensils, and ask their parents for money (and based on some conversations we've had, I think Bean-girl is already getting close to that last one). But still... I am just in awe every time she masters one of these tasks. As though she is the first little girl to ever grow up.


But my other girl is growing, too. She is already cutting two teeth! She can roll over, grab objects with her hands and bring them to her mouth (because everything goes to her mouth). When she's not crying over her teeth, she laughs and squeals. And so I have the chance to watch two girls grow up... To see an infant grow up again, to see and savor it all a second time. My precious little beans.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A break

I need a break.

The weekends are supposed to be a break for a stay-at-home mom. My husband was off call this past weekend. But the work never ends--it's errand time, shopping for kids' shoes time, time to do laundry and then fold it away. And oh yes, tend to the kids. The kids, who are ATTENTION MONSTERS. Their dad is around all weekend for them, yet they cling to me. No, let's amend that--the Bean alternately clings to mom and then dad, bouncing back and forth between us. The Legume mostly prefers mom, but is sometimes content with her dad. We spent the whole weekend trading children back and forth, me taking whoever was screaming at the time and my husband taking whoever seemed most content at the time.

So Monday is also supposed to be a bit of a break for me. The Bean-girl goes to preschool on that day. The same girl who demands to be "up on mommy!" every five minutes when we're at home, who is continually climbing all over me--now she's a model of independence at school. She runs off from me to paint and sit in Circle Time without a backward glance at good 'ole mom. I'd call it a Jekyl-and-Hyde transformation, if it weren't that calling her Hyde seems a bit harsh.

It's suppose to be a break.... But it isn't. There's grocery shopping to do, and a long list of dreamed-of tasks to be completed before I pick up the Bean... And I feel time ticking away inside my chest. The Legume has suddenly become sleepless during the day, and is in a cranky mood for it. I manage to read a few stories on a literary web site... But no, it doesn't feel like a break.

Then we pick up the Bean, start the round of dinner, bath, storytime, bed... And the Bean-girl is both exasperating and charming; I take a bath with her, she splashes water in my face and giggles, we read stories and she makes me a laugh... My husband, bless him, does the best he can with us all, and that is truly a lot. The Legume is crazy at night as always, and eventually passes out after her inevitable colicky screaming fit. It's just another day in our household and in my life: repetitive, tedious, tender, funny, irritating as an itch under your shoulder blade and then suddenly warm and cozy as your quilt in the winter. It's over, the kids are asleep, I'm here at the computer... and damnit, I still need a break.

And I suspect that I will not be getting any real kind of a break... Not for a long, long time.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Toddler haiku: "An infant's hands"

The Legume has recently discovered her hands, and now spends much of her time sucking upon them for comfort. While watching Legume suck away, Bean-girl sagely observed:

A baby's hands are like a binky.
A baby's hands are like a booby.
But they are not a booby.
They are just hands.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Legume, at 3 1/2 months

She sleeps now, my little dumpling, my round and sweet-faced second bean.

She is like and unlike her elder sister. If we compare baby pictures they are hardly distinguishable. She has the same mane of crazy hair that sticks straight up in the air like the hair of those little troll-dolls. She draws an admiring crowd wherever she goes (and the hair always provokes the most admiring comments). It's hard to believe that our now-skinny first daughter once too had luscious fat folds like the Legume--but pictures don't lie, and Bean was once too a miniature sumo wrestler.

But the Legume keeps taking me by surprise. She is not the Bean, and I have to keep remembering this. After all, Bean-girl was my first experience with an infant, and I keep thinking that Bean-behaviors were simply characteristic of all infants.

The Legume doesn't need, or even sometimes like, to be held as much. When the Bean was young I could not put her down. She had to be held constantly. She couldn't nap on her own. I spent hours imprisoned on my living room couch, holding a sleeping Bean in my arms, unable to move. She was colicky as all heck. (Husband thinks Legume is colicky; she is, but he simply does not remember how bad the Bean-girl was). This Legume is often far more interested in face-to-face contact and play than physical touch. These days she is a smiley, cooing delight, eager to engage anyone in "conversation." She is exploring her world, learning to bat and grasp at objects with her hands. She is exploring sounds, too--this weekend she discovered the "B" consonant, and has been fixated on "bur bur bur" and "boo boo boo." And her legs are constantly in motion--kick kick kicking everything in sight. (this includes our cat, but the cat doesn't seem to care.)

She can sleep on her own, unlike the Bean. Sometimes she protests against the confinement of arms, and would prefer to kick and wriggle on her blanket on the floor. She has discovered the pleasure of sucking her hands, and finds them an appropriate substitute for mommy's boobs. She even finds a plastic nipple a tolerable substitute, and is able to drink from a bottle, unlike her elder sister.

In three and a half very short months, she has grown from wrinkled comatose newborn to an alert little person. Now a lively, bright personality peers out of those dark gray eyes. A person who gazes at her mother with the most winning adoration. A person who gazes out at the world, ready to love.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Exhausted toddlers are not fun

2 pm today, an hour past Bean-girl's naptime. Bean-girl is rubbing her eyes.

Me: I think you're tired.

Bean: I am not tired.

Me: Then why are you rubbing your eyes?

Bean: (momentarily at a loss). For... For fun!

A little bit later. All attempts to force a nap have been in vain. Bean is crying over some little thing, a sure sign of over-exhausted Bean.

Me: I really really think you're tired.

Bean: I am not tired!

Me: Then why are you crying?

Bean: For fun!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Anything for a lollipop

The night before Bean-girl's doctor appointment, I told her that I would be taking her out of preschool early the next day so we could go see the doctor.

I reminded her of it again the next morning.

Bean-girl was so psyched! I'm going to get a lollipop! she exclaimed.

And kept exclaiming. By the time we were at the doctor's office she was bouncing off the walls. My little one was stripped down to her diaper, jumping up and down and up and down. I'm going to get a lollipop! I'm going to get a lollipop! At one point she even crawled up on my lap and confided, eyes shining, "I'm excited!"

Oh, it was heartbreaking, her innocent excitement. She didn't know she'd be getting a shot this day. It was time for a hepatitis A booster.

The Bean-girl continued her joyful dance, and Baby Legume sat in her carrier and laughed each time her big sister jumped. (And who knew that my little infant could already laugh like that?)

Bean-girl could barely hold still for the nurse's, and then doctor's, physical exam--so excited was she.

Then it was time for her shot. I stood next to her and held her hand. The nurse drew up fluid in the syringe. I tried to distract the Bean, but she was watching the nurse closely.

Then the nurse slid the needle in, slid it out in one smooth motion, slapped a bandaid on and it was all over. The Bean did not even wince. She watched the whole thing with a detached air of academic interest--hmmm, that looks like a needle going into my leg. Nice bandaid, that.

Then she got to pick her lollipop, and was appropriately thrilled.

That evening she asked if she could go to the doctor's again.

My sweet, funny child. I worried about that shot, and it didn't faze you at all. You take so many things better than your mother does. Preschool, and now vaccines. You're growing up every day--"bigger and stronger" as you like to say. But I am still holding you while I can.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Bean starts preschool

My two-year old baby is no longer a baby. In fact, she has been classified as a "preschooler." And this week she started preschool.

There are still nights that she comes to our bed at 3 am. She still wants to be rocked to sleep in my arms for her naps. She still needs help putting on her shoes. She can't brush her hair (without making it look worse) and she eats spaghetti with her hands. During the daytime it's "Mommy, mommy, mommy!" almost without pause. She isn't even toilet-trained. But she's no longer a baby.

This week she went off to preschool with no fuss at all. I am still stunned. On Monday I dropped her off and she ran off to play with pom poms in the sensory table. She barely looked up as I kissed her goodbye. When I picked her up that afternoon, she was happy to see me, but appeared completely untraumatized. She was active and happy all day, the teachers told me. She had a great day.

And she napped okay? I asked incredulously.

Apparently, she did.

And that evening, when I asked her if she would like to go back to school, she jumped up and down and said Yes!

Now the Bean has been in daycare before. I went back to work 6 months after her birth, and she was a full-time daycare baby for nearly 2 years. She was happy at her old center. But she'd been home with me full-time for five months. And the past few weeks she'd been acting so clingy. So I dreaded what might ensue during her first week of preschool.

And she proved me wrong, naturally. She took it better than I did. I have stressed, and run around packing sunscreen and hats and diapers, etc. for her cubbyhole at at school, and filling forms, and planning on how to deal with an upset Bean... and she's just fine.

And now I'm home, with a sleeping Legume, wondering how to fill this day.

The Bean is growing up, even if she still refuses to tell me when she needs to potty. And yeah, I should stop referring to her as two years old. She'll be three in only two short months.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Odd conversations

My family and I are living in a midwestern town with a very homogenous population. That is, nearly everyone here is white. There are few faces of any color, and the Asian population is almost nil. This has made for some odd, if well-meaning, interactions between my family and others. (Oh yeah, my family and I are Asian).

Like the time I was strolling around the local mall with my girls. An older woman came up to us and peered at baby Legume. She made admiring noises, which I always like, then informed me that her daughter had just recently adopted a little girl from China. "You people make beautiful children," she told me. Uh, thanks? Better than our cheap plastic toys?

And yesterday my husband told me this story: His secretary was out to lunch, and a pharmaceutical sales rep infiltrated the office. She chatted him up, and noticed the pictures of Bean-girl on his desk. "Oh," she said, indicating the picture. "I'm getting one too. It's just taking a while, because China is clamping down on overseas adoptions."

Hmmm. I know they mean well, but it just comes off sounding rather odd. "I'm getting one, too"--like a purse or accessory ordered over the Internet.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Rainy day reflection

"Both girls are finally asleep.

It is gray and raining. The day began in grayness and is fated (if the weather report is true) to end in grayness. It is one of those days where you do not want to wake up, just to pull the covers back over your head and spend the day wrapped in a warm coccoon, while the rain patters and patters outside.

The Bean-girl seems to feel the same. At least, she had no desire to leave the house. Of course, she never wants to leave the house, even when the sun is shining and it's gorgeous outside. The difference is, today I don't want to leave the house either, and have been perfectly content coccooned in with my little ones. The Bean and I played with her hair (new hairclips and accessories, packaged in a little Dora the Explorer purse that I bought at Kohl's!); we watched tv, we played computer games and colored. And the Legume has been delightful today. After an entire weekend of colicky fussing, she has been smiley and sweet-tempered. While the Bean watched Dora the Explorer, Legume and I cooed and grinned at one another.

It's one of those days when I think I can handle this. This isn't so bad. I'm a good mother and I've got it all under control. "

************
Okay, I wrote the above yesterday. And I knew when I wrote it that the sentiment would probably not last another hour.

I was right.

That very afternoon cabin fever set in and I dragged the girls out into the rain for an outing at the library. And at a yellow light I realized I was in the wrong turn lane, slammed on the brakes, and got rear-ended by a car that could not stop quickly enough on the slick road. Mea culpa.

Actually, both of us got out of our cars crying variations of Oh-my-god-I'm-so-sorry!

The other driver was a very apologetic, very nice woman. I also admitted blame. If our husbands had been there to see it, they would probably have had both our heads for being so naive. Neither of us had been in this situation before, and neither really knew what to do. The cars and the passengers all seemed fine, so we just traded contact info and left it at that. The woman even gave me a hug and said, "God bless." That's people in this midwestern town of ours.

So I'm an idiot, and I just thank the stars that the Bean and Legume are fine. There have been one or two occasions when my husband or I have forgotten to buckle in the Bean properly. Thankfully, this was not one of those times. And yeah, my husband scolded me when I told him what happened. So I don't feel perfect after all. In fact, most of the time I feel downright frazzled.

It's the next day, I'm tired, and I still feel frazzled.

And it's still raining.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lullabies

Each night my husband or I sing the Bean a lullaby as we put her to sleep. I usually sing that morbid ditty, "Clementine." It's been the Bean's song for the last few months; for whatever reason, she loves the tune.

Then 4th of July rolled around and we went out to see the community fireworks. My husband tried to sing "The Star-spangled Banner" (although he really shouldn't). The Bean-girl seems delighted by the song. And tonight, she asks me to sing "Oh, say can you see--" for bedtime. I sang the first stanza twice, then begged off on a third try, explaining that that song is too hard for mommy.

Ugh, what has my husband done now? I'm musically challenged as is!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The end of another day....

Almost 36 weeks pregnant now. Woo hoo! Entering the last month, the home stretch, baby. Delivery at 37 weeks is considered full-term, and my ob is actually talking about inducing me around 38 or 39 because I had such a precipitous delivery with my first, and we want to avoid me giving birth on the highway or at home.



Sleep-deprived, but contemplative tonight. I left Husband cuddling Bean-girl to sleep; they look so precious curled together under her covers. By the end of the day I am typically exhausted; and yet bath time with the Bean is still one of my favorite times. I just sink down next to the tub and let my mind blank out as she happily swishes her bubbles about and makes up surreal stories starring her various bath toys. I let one hand trail in the water, luxuriating in its warmth as she herself is. Even when I'm tired and bored, she can catch me out of myself when she looks up at me with her laughing bright eyes. As she did tonight, as she laughed over a handful of bubbles.



I'm feeling a little bit better about myself... I made some nice money on my contract writing assignment. The previous writer had made a mess of things, and the company needed it corrected fast. Because they were desperate, they paid me a lot! It was only about 10 hours of work over four days, for a nice sum. Of course, fitting in 10 extra hours when you're caring for a toddler at home can be challenging! And my friend (and company contact) immediately got back to me saying that they loved my work, and had another assignment for me! Another rush job, tight deadline, lucratively paid. I turned it down because I didn't feel up to it this week, although I'm having minor regrets. But maybe science writing/editing really is what I should be doing? Maybe I can really make a go at it? Not just for now, as an occasional sideline while I raise the Bean Girls, but even afterwards? Anyway, the feedback I got was so positive that my confidence was really given a lift. Being laid off from my last job was a real confidence-dampener! Even though I know it was function of lack of grant money, not an indictment of my performance; and even though two other very good and smart post-docs were laid off that same year.

We're all adjusting well to the move, I think. Husband likes his job, and his colleagues are all great (as we knew after meeting them during his round of interviews). Grandma and Grandpa have been coming up every few weeks to visit. The Baby Bean and I are enrolled in one of the local "Mommy and Me" type classes. The weather is beautiful; we've found parks and plenty to do; and we've found a good dim sum place, a decent Asian grocery store, and a pretty good pho joint. And just this week we also found a good Thai restaurant and Japanese restaurant in our neighborhood. What more do we need? =)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

35 weeks pregnant sucks

There it is. 35 weeks pregnant sucks.

Here I am in front of the computer at 3:42 am, because, as usual at this time of night, I can't sleep. I'll probably be up for another hour. And then the Bean Girl will wake and come into our room at 6.

I've been up late these past few days, too, working on a contract writing assignment that unexpectedly came my way. So up till midnight several days in a row, including this past night. Two hour spurts of sleep before bladder/Edamame/general "ugh" uncomfortable heavy feeling wakes me up. Oh, wait--flashback--it's like being the mother of a newborn, isn't it? Aaagggh--why does Nature do this to us?

I've been swaying here in the dark, trying to rock the Edamame back to sleep so she stops kicking and digging her feet into my ribs!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Letting go

Finally, the Bean Girl is asleep. Without any fuss. Just dropped off quietly in my arms as I swayed and rocked her after lunch.

I'm actually feeling good right now. It's remarkable what an extra hour of sleep can do for my mood.

It's been a time of great transitions for my family and me. Career changes for both Husband and I--he's left academic medicine, gone into full-time private clinical practice, while I am now a stay-at-home-mom. We moved across the state to a new city for Husband's new job. And, oh yeah--I'm expecting Edamame, our second baby!

I always had a plan. Not the most well-thought out plans, but I was on a track, I had Goals. Grad school, then post-doc, then ambitions for tenure-track faculty position. (Hey, no one said my goals had to be realistic). Boom, boom, boom--one after the other. Then I was forced to confront the reality that I am not competitive for those tenure-track faculty positions, at least not at any major research institution. Now I have no job, now everything is up in the air. Now I don't have Career Goals, now I don't even know what I'll be doing a year from now. That's scary for someone like me. I am staying home with the Baby Bean, I will stay home with the Edamame.... And then what? Science writing/editing? Teaching? Dabbling in literary writing? Full-time SAHM forever, with volunteer work on the side? Or dare I try another post-d0c, hoping to land a perma-post-doc/staff scientist-type position, or transition into a college teaching position? (Husband thinks it's a waste of time, that I should now avoid research like the plague, even if he won't quite come out and say so).

Letting go of plans, of structure, is probably the hardest thing of all. The lack of structure is one of the hardest things about stay-at-home-momdom. When I try to impose a Plan for the day, Baby Bean often has her own ideas. And no use arguing with a sleepy or hungry toddler! =) Someone said that pregnancy is a time for learning to let go. You can't control your body's reactions to the growing person inside--you can't control your mother sickness, the fatigue, the aches. You can only accept them and go with the flow, just as you will have to "go with the flow" throughout your parenting years. It's so hard for me to let go, to try to "live in the moment," as they say. There are isolated moments... Rocking the Baby Bean in my arms, feeling her warm weight against me, and inhaling the scent of her lavendar Johnson's-baby-shampoo washed hair... Watching her in the sunlight, temporarily stunned by her beauty. Only isolated moments, like rocks in a stream, and then I'm back in usual current of list-making, stressing, and worrying about all the future has to hold... Which is plenty enough, for anyone in any life! Why is it so hard to let go?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Toddler haiku

Okay, so it's not strictly a haiku. But still poetic. It was a beautiful day, and she captured it as well as I ever could.

Baby Bean's haiku (said while I pushed her on a swing):

The swing is taking me up into the wind
And up to the clouds.
The swing is taking my shoes
Up to the clouds.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Bean update--28 months

Last night I was reading the Baby Bean a story as she draped herself over the edge of her bed, long legs dangling. Since when had her legs become long? Now 2 years and 4 months, she is stretching into a Beanpole--a baby Bean no longer. She is amazingly articulate (at least her father and I think so), and every day she amazes us with a new word, some sophisticated new sentence structure. She remembers events well, and is able to recount them for us.

For example, here is her summary of a tantrum she threw the other day. While I was in the shower, Bean's father read her a story. When he asked her to put the book back on the shelf, she refused. He asked her several more times, and warned her that she would get a time-out if she did not do as he said. So she threw the book at his head. He swooped her up, sat her down on the living room stairs, and counted to 60 twice.

When I came down from my shower, all crying had stopped, and Bean was sitting on the couch calmly watching cartoons. Daddy was in the kitchen cutting up strawberries and bananas for her to eat. This is what Bean told me:

"I throwed the book, and Daddy counted, and Baby Bean cried."

"Yup," my husband said when I told him. "That pretty much sums it up."

********************

My girl is adorable, and my second is kicking away in my belly. She (the one in utero) seems to be moving constantly. But she squirms and kicks most at night, of course. I often find myself lying away at night, one child thumping away at my insides, the other stretched over me, her arm flung out across my neck or chest. On the far side of the Baby Bean, my husband lies obliviously snoring. The cat is usually on my feet, too, yet another weight pressing down. I'm pressed and squashed on all sides, inside and out! This is so far from what our lives first were, when my husband and and I got married and moved to this town and this house! When we luxuriously had the bed to ourselves!

We decided months ago: our next bed will be a king-sized one.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Bean Chronicles

Like many, I suppose I'm starting a blog so that I can vent. And try to come to terms with some things. And oh, yes, to preserve the memory of my children's early years and this time in my family's life. I suck at keeping the standard baby book updated (my older daughter's book is embarassingly incomplete), and I have never been able to keep up with any kind of hardcopy journal, despite attempts at various points in my life. I can type faster than I can write, and I'm addicted to the Internet, so maybe a blog will be easier.

I am currently a stay-at-home mom to one two-year old daughter, aka The Baby Bean. I am an expectant mother to the Baby Bean's sister, currently referred to as the Edamame Bean. In a previous life, I was a biomedical research scientist, and had ambitions of having a Real Career in science. Well, scientific experiments are not always predictable (or what would be the point of doing them?) and neither is life. Things didn't turn out the way I expected or wanted, but at least I'm still married, have a beautiful daughter, and am expecting my second. I try to remember to be grateful to my long-suffering, hard-working, patient-as-a-saint-husband who does far more than his share of domestic work and also puts up with all my crap. And I'm grateful every day for my daughter, even though I had to play the same "We are Dinosaurs" Laurie Berkner song for her seven times in a row today.

This blog is meant to focus primarily as a "baby book" for my children, the little beans. But I will also probably use it to vent on various other issues, including academic science, science careers, and the issue of women in science. I have been a scientist for so long that it is hard to give up. It's hard to not have that identity anymore. Anyone who's been through a Ph.D. program and worked in academics will know what I'm talking about. In my weak moments I still have fantasies of returning to research at some point, although the current state of NIH funding means that any chances of a viable long-term career in research is (for me, at least) very remote indeed.

Anyway, for whoever is reading this--welcome to the Bean Chronicles! You may read this sometime in the far future, my daughters. You will be adults then, of course, and dreadfully embarassed by everything I have to say.