My Life (No Baby News Here)

Here I am in the most curious of situations; I have a generally clean house and two sleeping girls. I have time on my hands. I should spend it reading, because I have books which a due back on Friday and which I won't be able to renew because other people want them, but on the other hand I should post here, because clearly I have been neglecting this space.

About that... a long, long time ago, I posted a big whine about how I never do the things I want to do because I spend too much time watching television. Well, I am finally doing something about that. Last night I sat down and wrote down all the shows I want to watch (as distinguished from the shows I watch because I am parked in front of the tv when they are on) and what time they are on, and I don't intend to switch on the television except at those times. (Unless I am checking the weather on channel 24.)

That should free up lots of time for reading, which is good because I have forty books on hold at the library. And for posting here, which is good because I miss it, and for reading my favourite discussion board, which is really good because I really miss it.

Television isn't the only thing I am writing down; I also started making four-week meal plans -- I come up with list of dinners, make a grand shopping list and get Grocery Gateway to bring me everything I will need. Perishables I buy a week in advance. It's awesome knowing what I am going to make for dinner every day, and it's nice not to have to do a big grocery shop every weekend. Also it lets me balance and control the amount of, say, beef versus vegetarian meals we eat.

I'm also doing Fitday again, just to see whether I'm eating the right amounts of things.

Generally I seem to be seeking control over as many aspects of my life as possible. I don't know why, quite, but I expect it has something to do with the uncontrollability of babies and small children. And more directly, I was getting sick of my groundless feelings of helplessness regarding, on the one hand, my failure to read enough and on the other my failure to eat properly and take care of myself. Sitting around moaning about your problems doesn't make them go away, writing stuff down and getting on with it does. At least if you're me.

Incidentally, I feel (a little) bad writing this much stuff about myself; I feel like everyone comes here to read about my children, not me. Which is pretty amusing considering I had an online journal long before I had any children.

But more about me... we just got back from a week in Saskatchewan visiting my parents. It was a nice time; we flew our kite, Delphine and I went out in a boat, we ate lots of birthday cake (Delphine turned three and my Dad turned eighty-five while we were there), met new people. My parents had a nice time with Delphine; my mother was particularly amused by her constant "Why"s. We had fun coming up with good answers.

Now we're back home and everything is getting back to normal. These days, normal means Delphine goes to daycare two or three days a week, for the whole day. She still enjoys it, although she's been crying when we drop her off since we got home from Sask. I expect that will pass soon. The days she is in daycare, Cordelia and I go for a long walk. I do housework, I amuse Cordelia, I cook and bake, I read.

When Delphine is home we generally don't stray far from home -- we might go to the park or to the convenience store. I do more housework but less baking, and we read books, or do puzzles or play with playdough. I don't get to read when Delphine is home because she bothers me to read to her or play with her, except on the odd occasion when both girls sleep at the same time. Delphine doesn't usually take a nap at home, although I suspect she probably should. (She usually sleeps at daycare, they say.)

The girls have dinner at five and bedtime starts at five-thirty. If I am lucky everyone is in bed by six-thirty, although it's more usually around seven, and then Blake and I cook dinner together. We eat, we watch TV, we sleep, we do it all again the next day.

On the weekends I get up when the girls do (six), and I let Blake sleep until seven-thirty or eight. Delphine and I make pancakes and eggs one morning; the other morning we just have cereal, and then after Blake wakes up we go to the patisserie to get croissants and stuff and the deli to get meat and cheese for brunch. We go up to Eglinton to do errands (Shopper's, Dominion, bulk food, Future Shop), grab a coffee on the way home. That's our weekend. We're very domestic.

It's starting to feel a little crowded in our condo -- Delphine is now sleeping in her bed in our room, so that Cordelia can get used to sleeping on her own before we move the two of them together. There really isn't room in our bedroom for Delphine's bed, so I'm constantly shimmying sideways to get past things. The toys are starting to take over the living room, particularly the big things which can't be hidden in boxes. We have wagons and bikes and strollers tucked away in every nook and cranny. And the kitchen is getting too small -- there are multiple small appliances I am waiting on getting until we have a bigger kitchen, not to mention the frustration of only having space for one kind of rice. (Chinese food with basmati is just weird; ditto sticky rice with curry.)

Nevertheless, we will have to put up with it until next spring. The plan, then, is that I will get a part-time job which will bring in some extra cash, and we can then make an informed decision about how much we can afford to pay for a house. I have a horrible fear that in the meantime our neighbourhood will become massively trendy and we won't be able to afford to stay here, but I am willing to put up with a pretty crappy house in order to stay close by, so I guess it will work out in the end.

That's enough blather. Cordelia is awake and any moment now she will get tired of chewing on my toes and go for the computer cables instead.

Delphine is Three!

Delphine just turned three. We went out to visit my parents in Saskatchewan for her birthday, and they furnished a suitable amount of cake, candles, fancy decorations and presents to satisfy her little self. We had a nice time.

We went to the doctor this morning for Delphine's three year checkup. She was a little nervous, but it turned out she didn't get any shots, so that wasn't so bad. She lay down on the examination table properly, opened her mouth nice and wide, and let the doctor check out all her vitals. Generally she is doing fine, although a little small for her age -- around the 40th percentile for height and a little lower for weight. We're not concerned about it because she eats well, but we'll do the measurements again at 3 and a half, just in case there is something up so we can catch it early.

And Cordelia is awake. Thus ends the blogging for this month...

List of Books with short reviews.

  • Accomodating Brocolli in the Cemetary or Why Can't Anybody Spell? by Vivian Cook. Fun, more list-y than I expected. Good for reading on the crapper.
  • Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Thought-provoking, stats-based perspectives on just about everything.
  • One Summer's Grace: A Family Voyage Around Britain by Libby Purves. I love Libby Purves. I wish she lived next door to me and could come by for tea.
  • The Well-Ordered Home: Organizing Techniques for Inviting Serenity Into Your Life by Kathleen Kendall-Tacket. Apparently I already have a well-ordered home, because I didn't find anything particularly new in this book. That is as I expected, and not to say that wouldn't be useful to you, if you do not find your home to be well-ordered. (I only took it out because it's by one of the authors of the nursing book I just read, and I was curious.)
  • The Devil's Feather by Minette Walters. Minette Walters is always great, and this one was better than usual because she didn't spend so much time being bitter and miserable about the English. This book ate an entire day of my life, which is pretty clever considering I am supposed to spend my days looking after my children, not reading thrillers.
  • The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman. I didn't finish this before it came due at the library; what I did get through wasn't anything new to me, since it was mostly about the Internet revolution, and I was there studying or working in software when Netscape came out and when the web got big and Y2K and so on. Towards the end of the book I think he gets into the social implications of the world being flat (ie, geography no longer being a limiting factor in the economy) but I didn't get to that part. I wasn't sorry -- this was one of those books I read because I felt I ought to, not because I was really interested.
  • Willow and Twig by Jean Little. Loved this.
  • You Don't Have To Be Thin To Win: The Official Chub Club Coach's Workout Program by Judy Molnar. Inspiring, if a little impractical -- I am not about to train for a triathlon, or even a marathon; who has hours every day to work out? (Having said that, I did put Cordelia in the big stroller and go for an hour-long brisk walk today. Like I said, inspiring.)
  • Goblin Market by Christina Rosetti. Why have I never come across this before? Creepy and good -- I would love to see Leontine illustrate this.
  • Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner. I wasn't sure about this at first because the protagonist doesn't really seem to like her children very much, but as it turns out she was just having one of those days, and also her husband was an asshole. I can't imagine dealing with kids without a good, helpful, present husband at my side. I think I would rather be not married at all than married to someone who was never home and not helpful when he was. But I digress. (You have to read that in a South African accent, because I always say it with one in my head. I'm not sure why.) Very fun book; I am happy Jennifer Weiner has written two more books I haven't read yet.

Three Food Things

1. Square Meatballs.

I got this from Better Baby Food, which is my favourite cookbook these days. In the book it's a recipe but here I will just describe the idea: square meatballs. Instead of making little round meatballs, which involves lots of time spent with your hands coated in raw meat (not so good when the baby gets into the Choking Hazards), you pat your meatball mixture in a thin layer (three-quarters of an inch?) in a baking dish, and then bake them for twenty minutes at 350F. Yes, it's basically a thin meatloaf.

After they are done, use a sharp knife to cut them into little squares for the kids and bigger squares for the grown-ups. Genius!

2. Thing

My in-laws make a dish called Zucchini Thing, which is really so unlike anything else that the only possible name for it is Thing. I have the recipe, but I am loathe to make anything that calls for Bisquick. To my delight, though, I found a recipe in a magazine for the very same thing, except without Bisquick:

3 C grated zucchini
1 small onion, chopped
1 C all-purpose flour
1 C grated provolone cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 C vegetable oil
4 T grated Parmesan
2 t chopped fresh basil
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper

Mix it all together, slap it in a greased pie plate, cook it at 350F for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown, let it cool for 10 minutes, and voila! Thing!

The nice thing about Thing, though, is that it is forgiving. Substitute some other pureed vegetable for the zucchini (provided it is about as moist as grated zucchini, which is pretty moist). Stick some other kind of cheese in! And best of all, kids love it and it has three (3) food groups. Cut it into little squares and let 'em pick it up in their fingers.

3. Chocolate charoset

I just made this up today. I was making charoset for Passover dinner tonight (I know, we're late) and I did it Sephardic style, in little balls rolled in cinnamon. After I had done a few I thought they looked like truffles, and my mind wandered to truffles coated in cocoa. "Hm." I thought. "I wonder..." So I tried it, and they're really tasty. Dessert charoset!


Okay, I am deleting this whole post on the grounds that it makes me look stupid, and it's my website, I can feign intelligence if I want to.

Look away, look away.

Sleeping Like A Baby

Har dee har har.

Inspired variously by the fact that Cordelia isn't growing as fast as she should, the knowledge that she isn't getting nearly as much sleep as she needs, and Dooce's post on the topic, Blake and I decided to gird our loins and start putting Cordelia to sleep in her crib, alone, at appropriate times.

We, too, are using Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Mark Weissbluth; it was what got us through teaching Delphine to sleep. The idea is to put Cordelia to sleep, after a nice little routine, at a good early hour. Then we just walk away and let her work it out by herself. Also, we're supposed to put her down to sleep in her crib for two naps a day, when she seems tired.

(Incidentally, don't take this as advice, because it probably won't apply to your child at whatever age she is now. If you want advice you should really go read the book, because I am far from qualified to give advice on this topic.)

Last night was the first night. Cordelia didn't have a nap in the afternoon because she is so abysmal at getting to sleep; the more tired she gets the more worked up she gets, and she won't be soothed unless I catch her by surprise with a nursing. So after unsuccessfully trying, from two in the afternoon until five, to get her to sleep, I decided I would take advantage of her sleep-deprived state and my own determination born of frustration, and get on with teaching her to sleep in the crib.

I changed her into her pyjamas and then nursed her, at which of course she fell asleep, so I carried her into the bedroom and put her in the crib. She immediately detected the fine layer of hot pins we keep always at the ready in the crib, and started screaming. I tried to soothe her by rubbing her back, patting her bum, giving her a soother, but she was having none of it. Finally I just left her and closed the door (after the cats decided they didn't want to stay in the bedroom listening to that racket, thanks). She cried from 6:20 until around 7:10, and then again from eight until, I don't know, 8:30? I wasn't really paying attention. (New Battlestar Galactica.)

At that point (well, during an ad break) I broke down crying at the idea of leaving her in the crib overnight; I am not ready to give up (for life!) the delicious solid warmth of a baby at my side in bed. Blake figures that Cordelia is smart enough to deal with sleeping in the crib from 6:00 until 10:30 and then coming into bed with us. (I'm still not sure if it will work but I really want to try it. I want to have it both ways -- a baby with a proper bedtime and a baby who co-sleeps.)

She started crying again after ten, and since we were going to bed anyway Blake went and picked her up, and once I was ready for bed tucked her in with me.

Today we screwed up the naps royally; she was tired at 9:00 am, as she should be, but we were in the middle of bathing Delphine and getting ready to go out for croissants. We weren't quite ready enough to put her in the stroller to sleep (she sleeps really well in the stroller, even if it's just sitting in the living room), but if we put her in the crib and waited for her to finish her nap we would have been too late. So Blake held her, and she fought sleep for half-an-hour. She slept on his shoulder for a few minutes, maybe twenty, then woke up and didn't fall asleep again.

For the afternoon nap, she normally gets tired at 2:00, but today we all went out to get cat litter and milk at around 1:00, and she fell asleep in the stroller. We were only gone around a half an hour, and she woke up soon after we got home. (Naps are supposed to be in the crib, and at least an hour, according to Weissbluth.)

So tonight, again, she was good and tired. I changed her into her jammies at around 5:45, gave her a little nurse (she didn't fall asleep this time) and put her down at 6:00. Again she screamed frantically, but at 6:09... silence. Nine minutes! She awoke at 7:50 but didn't cry for more than a couple of minutes. It's almost too easy.

I remember this from Delphine, the weird feeling of emptiness that you get when neither of you is holding baby. You can read, because you don't have to keep the lights down! You can play on the computer! You can cook! It's like... why, it's like having no children at all! Bedtime is awesome.

I have some friends with children Delphine's age whose kids stay up until their parents go to bed, and I think they are INSANE. I would easily trade a few nights of screaming, for whole evenings of adult time. Not to mention how badly you are screwing you kid over by depriving them of the hours and hours of sleep they need, that you don't.

Incidentally, lest you think I am a completely callous bitch, I hate the screaming. It sucks, and like I said to Blake, I wish I could somehow be with Cordelia to comfort her, and simultaneously not be with her so she can learn how to sleep by herself. But the dangers of leaving your baby to cry it out are hypothetical, while the dangers of sleep deprivation are well documented, and this is the best way of getting my children to get the amount of sleep they need -- possibly the only way. Weissbluth actually has a whole section about why he thinks it's okay to let your baby cry it out, which I found quite convincing, if hard to remember when the actual crying is taking place and your blood pressure's up and your boobies are leaking all over the place.

Anyway, so far so good. As you can see, when we did this with Delphine Blake actually thought it would be such a big deal that it would need a whole category to itself. You will also see that the category has only one post; it really turned out to be a non-event, and she has been a fantastic sleeper ever since. Here's hoping the same is true of Cordelia.

Oh, I'm sure Baba would like me to mention that Cordelia said her first word: "Baba". I think Russian grandmothers are the smartest grandmothers, picking baby's very first consonant to form their name.

Six Month Statistics

We took Cordelia for her six month checkup. She had two shots (Pentacel and Prevnar, I think; I wrote it down) and was weighed and measured. She's 17 lbs and one ounce, 27 inches long and has a head circumference of around 17 inches. Her growth curve is levelling out a little too rapidly for our doctor's liking; the same thing happened with Delphine, and it only resolved itself when we started enforcing a proper sleep schedule. Cordelia's sleep is appalling and we are going to have to fix it, but I don't want to think about it. There will be crying.

She still smiles a lot, and has taken to laughing. You can make her laugh by tickling her, but she also laughs if you laugh, or if you make a silly face, or if you put her on your head like a hat. And she makes me laugh, with her silly gummy smile and her noisy babbling.

She says "Ba ba bah", and pushes up onto her hands and knees, and can sit up by herself, although I still like to lurk nearby when she's sitting because she's not adept enough to fall over gracefully, and inevitably smucks her head on the floor. She's pretty mobile, in a limited kind of way -- she gets around on her belly, and I'm never sure how much of the getting around is deliberate and how much is just incidental to her flailing.

End of March

Jeez, I just typed out the names of the books I read since my last post, and it's clear I read too damn much. Honestly, I don't know where I find the time, so don't ask me.

(I remember when I was a kid I would say -- well, brag about, really -- how many books I read, and the mothers would look at each other and roll their eyes and say "Well, I guess you have a lot of time!" Hah! Take this, snarky mothers!)

Anyway, I have time to read them but not blog about them, so this is going to be short. Ish.

Akimbo and the Elephants by Alexander McCall Smith is also short, a little wee thing which I think took the author as long to write as it took me to read. It had a hurried feel, the characters were thin, it was all a little obvious. As if some elephant charity had called the author and said "Write a nice little book about elephants!" and he knocked it off in an afternoon.

I Gave My Mom A Castle by Jean Little is a wonderful collection of poems about families and gifts. Little has a knack for capturing children's thoughts and voices. I remember enjoying her stuff when I was younger; perhaps now is a good time to revisit it.

Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac is one of my New Year's Resolution books, because it has a character named Delphine in it. It might even be the character that my Aunt Delphine is named after, although naming your kid after this Delphine seems like asking for trouble. Anyway, Balzac is one pessimistic bastard and almost everyone in this book is scheming and dishonest, and those that aren't mostly get screwed in the end.

Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohnbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett is an excellent book on nursing. I got it out so I could look it over and decide whether to recommend it to a friend, but I ended up learning a bunch of stuff myself. It approaches nursing from the perspective of what's going on and how you can make the natural process work for you, like growing a seed, rather than giving a series of steps on How To Nurse, like building an Ikea bookshelf.

I think this book should be recommended reading for every expectant or nursing mother.

It also has a fairly tacky website which might have some useful stuff in it. Check out that title! Now that's professional! (Ah yes: "<meta name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft FrontPage 4.0">" Always a good way to make a crappy impression.)

The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid Of The Wrong Things by Barry Glassner is a nice, reassuring book, in the sense that you don't really have to be afraid of all the things the media would like you to be afraid of, but very unreassuring in that it give you the sense that people are very stupid and can't seem to think for themselves.

Sir Charles: Wit and Wisdom of Charles Barkley by Charles Barkley and Rick Reilly; Charles Barkley is a pretty funny guy, in that he says stuff that everyone else is scared to and he's usually right. What I would give for this kind of self-assurance.

Don't Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff. Apparently if you are a good enough writer you can get someone to pay you to do crazy stuff like visit a cryogenics lab, or fly the Concorde, or interview some dude at the Log Cabin Republicans, just so you can write about it. That's what this book is, and it's pretty funny and well-written and occasionally thought-provoking. (I liked the part about the faux-poverty.)

Understand Your Child's Growing Mind by Christine Healy is another interesting, science-based book about a parenting topic. It's pretty dense, covering lots of ground with respect to mental development, but readable. I would recommend this to anyone concerned with their child's intellect.

The book has lots of neatly sidebarred tips on how to help prepare your child's mind for reading, mathematics, etc. Unfortunately if you added up all the sidebars you would end up with about eight hundred bulleted items, and if you tried to follow them you would never have time to brush your own teeth, you would be so busy massaging your kid's brain.

Dress Your Best by Clinton Kelly and Stacy London is basically What Not To Wear in book form. It's divided up by body type with tips for each type, but there are general tips for everyone scattered throughout the book, so you have to read the whole thing to get maximum utility out of it. I managed to glean a full page of tips from it, but sadly there was no five thousand dollar credit card in the book, nor anyone to babysit for a week while I shop. I guess looking fabulous is going to have to wait.

Things That Have Made Delphine Cry

  • the oatmeal gun in that one Wallace and Gromit short movie
  • the angry people in Frog Goes to Dinner
  • the crying pirate in a Wiggles video (He's crying because no little ducks came back.)

She's so sensitive! On the one hand I love that she's not cynical and blase about everything, but on the other hand I hope she toughens up. She's only (almost) three, she has time.