Wednesday, February 17, 2010

McGyver Visits Mexico

Call me McGyver, but I solved this family's bed problems! I am happy to say that last night, all 3 of us had a restful time. Anya was not flopping around like a fish-out-of-water all night, and we all had plenty of space for our sharp elbows. Here's how we did it:

From Oaxaca Sabbatical: Days 1-3

We turned our bodies 90 degrees, and added the couch (with the butt & back cushions stacked) up to catch our feet. Anya can sleep on the part without the couch-extension because, you know, she's 2 feet tall.

We did make a couple of optimizations after the first night of this setup (when the photo was taken). For example, we had our bedspread laundered, and are using that instead of the too-small pink blanket to cover us. And I put the folded pink blanket over the arms of the couch, because I was hitting my shins on them. And I put a rolled-up 3rd blanket (on loan from nat & gus) under the headboard so that Anya can't roll in there and hurt herself. The second night was blissful.

One thing I'm still getting used to is the terrible pollution (noise and air) when walking around in the city. The cross streets (like the one we live on) are quieter and cleaner, but the north-south streets are loud and smelly. The fumes make me a little nauseated, and I feel really bad for Anya's little lungs. Maybe we'll avoid walking around during peak traffic times; I doubt she would really tolerate wearing a surgical mask or anything like that. The lucky thing is that the pollution seems concentrated near the source - the air feels pretty clean in our apartment and courtyard, and it's very tranquil.

Our only parenting fail so far is that we forgot to protect Anya's little feet from the sun. We generally keep her face covered up when she's in the carrier, but her shins and feet stick out, and now they have turned like 8 shades darker than the rest of her. She doesn't seem to mind, and thanks to solid south-asian genetics, she hasn't burned. We have been making an effort to stay in the shade during peak hours (for our own sakes) so hopefully there is no damage done.

Also we bathed Anya in a tupperware tub that was a little smaller than one of those USPS plastic bins (you know what I'm talking about?). Basically just big enough for her to sit in with her knees scrunched up, though luckily, she insists on standing, so that made it less cramped. It was pretty hilarious, but got the job done. Normally one of us just carries her in the shower with us, but she tends to drink lots of water when we do that, so we figured we should probably avoid that in mex.

Hm...yesterday was a little more challenging than the first 2 days. I felt more challenged by Spanish, and got a little worn out from the heat and pollution (made some bad choices about when/where to walk, and ended up carrying heavy groceries home at 2pm in the hot sun - though G did most of the carrying, thankfully). Also, G went for a shave & haircut, and came back with lots of cuts under his chin, which was alarming at first, but fine in the long run (they use a new blade for each customer and lots of alcohol-based products, so no worries). I was so tired that I almost didn't go out for beer/nachos with our friends; thank god I went, because I felt *so* much better afterward, and met some new people who all seem awesome.

Today has been great so far. We're all well rested, had amazing coffee and a yummy scramble for breakfast with super-fresh tomatoes, and are laptopping in the courtyard while the bearcub naps. I plan to check out the bilingual library today to get some books for all of us. Also I have been delighted by the awesomeness of the produce here - I've been buying what I think will last 3 days, and using it all up in one meal. So I'll be making another journey to the market soon.

I finally posted photos & videos, so if you haven't seen them, follow the link from the photo above!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wu-Tang is for the Children

We all remember that time that Ol' Dirty Bastard (may he rest) crashed the grammys (or something), and proclaimed that Wu-Tang is for the children. Similarly, I am proclaiming that this current adventure, our 5-week long sabbatical in Oaxaca, Mexico, is for Anya. "She will see so many new things! Be so stimulated! Learn so much! Be exposed to Spanish!" Obviously this is all complete BS. Anya is just a baby. She would probably always prefer to stay in our little condo in Adams Morgan, cuddled up with her mommy and daddy on the couch, or sitting under my desk chewing on the power strip.

That said though, she has been a trooper so far. We arrived the night before last; she was fantastic on the flights, and has been napping in the backpack or quietly taking it all in while we roam around. She didn't seem to mind when it got hot yesterday afternoon, though she would always bury her face in G's back when the sun hit her in the eye (good reflexes? check.). She still has not adjusted to the new bed - this whole family slept very lightly and woke up about 500 times both Saturday and Sunday night. Anya was sleeping fitfully, the blanket was too small, and the bed might be a little smaller than our one at home, which is already too small for this family of 3 extremely sharp-edged Indians. I don't think this is a major issue; we'll acquire a new blanket, and will adjust in a day or two. Worst case, we train her to sleep in her little play pod, though I don't know if either G nor I have the perseverance to train Anya to do anything.

I think my first 24 hours were dominated with germ paranoia. I was trying to find a reasonable middle ground; I am not normally one to worry about such things, but I think it would be a disaster if Anya or I got sick, especially in the first few days before we know what the hell is going on. It was a tradeoff between tasty street food vs. trying to figure out another option when we were hungry. The street food won out, but we took care to only eat cooked stuff (ok, and maybe a dash of salsa). Luckily, so far so good.

The other thing that I tried to worry about was whether or not Anya should crawl around on the floor. It took maybe 20 minutes of holding the wriggling mass before I was like F it - she's going to crawl. So far so good there too. We'll try and wipe down the floors pretty often.

The hardest thing for me about using Spanish is that I start to panic every time I try to speak. This morning, I had a series of successful exchanges, and the panic problem seems to have subsided. Its SO much easier to think of words when you're not panicking! I was able to get some supplies from the landlady and ask about procedures (laundry, etc.), and buy lots of veggies from vendors.

Speaking of which, Natalie took us to the market today and we bought chicken, produce, and some spices. G and August had made a grocery run yesterday for milk, cereal, coffee, etc. We're getting set up! I'm getting a picture of what our days will be like, and I'm liking it!

Its lovely to be all set up here. We are living in a little complex with a bunch of retirees from Minnesota (why are all the American tourists in Mexico always from Minnesota?). Our apartment is adorable. I am adjusting to the india-style floors and bathroom (don't worry, western toilet, just india-style shower). Photos will be provided soon. Our apartment opens onto a wonderful garden/courtyard with tables and chairs. The kitchen is great. Its all great.

My main anxiety now is how to wrangle this adorable creature I call my daughter. She's sleeping less and moving more. She is not yet used to Natalie and August (our awesome friends here), so we can't even really hand her off yet for a break. I guess we'll be taking lots of walks with her in the carrier. Cest le vie (anyone know how to say that in Spanish)?

Ok - that's all I've got for now. Sorry for all the repetition, disorganization, and lack of photos in this post. The wiggle worm calls. Will try to be better about it in the future!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Five Most Annoying Phrases in Product Reviews

#1 - "Exactly what I expected - but I only gave it four stars because I haven't tried it yet"

When reading reviews for baby products, I think about 90% of all products have one of these reviews. Something along the lines of "I got this for my baby shower! It was great! I was able to set it up over my 8 month pregnant belly with minimal assistance from my super-handy husband! But...I don't have a baby yet, so I have no idea how this functions in the real world."

You people clearly do not understand reviews, math, or assessment. This screws up the whole overall rating, which is usually an average (or some function) of all the reviews. Also, why are you reviewing a product that you haven't even used yet? If you *really* have that much time on your hands, go volunteer at a soup kitchen. Or knit something and sell it on Etsy. Or whatever else it is you "have always dreamed of" doing. Jesus.

#2 - "That can't be good..."

Example: "I also don't like the crumpled up look that newborns have in car seat travel systems - it can't be good for the spine!"

Listen lady. The "lack of imagination" argument is not an argument. Why can't it be healthy? Are you a baby-spine expert? And B all, I have no reason to believe that anything is even crumpled (except that your slouchy baby looks crumpled to you). Your review is useless. You get zero stars.

#3 - "My husband is a picky eater, and even he asked for seconds"

Example: "My husband really liked it (but this is a man who only likes veggies when they have been boiled beyond the point of recognition!)"

Who cares about your stupid picky husband? Unless your husband is 4 years old, this is ridiculous and you should both be embarrassed (and if he is 4 years old, you should also be embarrassed....and in jail.) All I read from this review is "This dish was bland. Add some garlic, and reduce the amount of cheese by 75%."

#4 - "The instructions were too complicated, so I didn't read them, and then xyz happened"

Seriously? Ok, the first half of that statement is valid for a review. Its good to know that this product comes with complicated instructions (though we all have different thresholds for this, so it would be nice if you specified why). The second half, not so much. If you didn't follow the instructions and a product malfunctioned, then its not the product's fault. Its your fault.

#5 - "I gave this to my son/daughter/friend/mom as a gift, and she loves it!"

Example: "My daughter loved this set up and claims it will work perfectly for them."

Of course they told you they love it. It was a gift. That's how gifts work. I know you feel really good about yourself now, but you need a reality check. If this product really is that awesome, let your son/daughter/friend/mom write their own first-hand review. Thanks.

Sorry I couldn't find more links. My baby is a ticking time bomb, and I need to publish before she wakes up and asserts her ownership over my teat.

Friday, September 25, 2009

FAQ about being a new parent

I was hoping to avoid turning this blog into a baby blog. As much as I enjoy reading other people's baby blogs, I thought that forcing myself to blog about things other than the baby would encourage me to keep other interests alive. That said, most of my new thoughts and realizations lately have been related to parenting. Also, since the vast majority of my friends don't have any kids, I find I am surrounded by a lot of curiosity about what exactly goes on in a newly expanded family. So I'm not sure what the future of this blog holds, but for now, I would like to answer some frequently asked questions:

Is having a baby anything like what you expected?

Yes; logistically its been pretty much exactly what I expected. Which leads me to think that the cause and effect are probably the other way around; I have probably set up my life/routine *based* on what I was picturing. The baby is still very adaptable and sleeps most of the time, so really, she fits into whatever environment we decide to create. In some ways, I think we were mentally prepared for the worst, since we had no idea what to expect. For example, I was able to start squeezing in a bit of work each day much earlier than I expected (within a week I was at least able to respond to urgent e-mails - I thought that would take a month). Similarly, I don't think we ever really struggled with sleep deprivation, though it was a challenge to actually wake up and not nod off during those middle-of-the-night feedings for the first few weeks. Still, I've always felt pretty rested and alert during the days, even during the early weeks (more on that later).

What was the most difficult thing that you did not expect?

Baby hypochondria! I can't help but worry about every little thing that might be wrong with her. And I must say that the Internet is probably the worst invention ever for hypochondriacs. I have already made a vow to never read Yahoo! Answers or any other user forums, since only the most vapid, misinformed people tend to discuss their baby's ailments on the internet instead of talking to a real doctor. Some published articles are OK, but still often cause intense (and unfounded) alarm. All that worry is exhausting!

The other major challenge has been my constant state of slight distraction. I find my social interactions to be a little less fulfilling because I am always using a few brain cycles to keep tabs on the baby status. Its made it a bit tougher to keep up with and contribute to really interesting conversations, and I often find myself mis-speaking or unable to think of exactly the right response to something.

Are you breastfeeding? What's your opinion on breastfeeding in public?

Yes, breastfeeding. It was a huge pain in the ass (or, more literally, pain in the nipple) for the first few weeks, but since then, its been super convenient. Its allowed us to be extremely mobile (both around town, and for weekend trips), and its an instant way of quieting an irritated baby when we're out-and-about (for example, I took her to a wedding last weekend, and she just suckled through the ceremony). The downside is that on the rare occasion that she's really angry and shoving a boob in her face doesn't calm her, she will spit milk all over me, and its really sticky and annoying.

As for breastfeeding in public, I'm not sure why this is an issue that even comes up. It seems kind of absurd to think of a functional breast as some kind of sexual/indecent object. My opinion is that if you don't like it, you can hide yourself in a bathroom stall until I'm done. I do my best to be discreet and stay covered up, but beyond that, my priority is to keep my baby from getting upset (which, honestly, would be much more annoying to bystanders than a 2-second flash of nipple while the baby latches on).

Can you even remember life before the baby?

Yes. One reason we were anxious to have a baby is because we were getting a little bored. We had a lot of time on our hands. I think our current life is pretty similar to the old one, except it involves more bouncing, more colorful objects around the house, and attending fewer crowded events. And its way more fun. One major difference: tasks that require more than one hand are very difficult to accomplish.

Does she sleep through the night?

There seems to be some kind of morbid fascination with babies' sleep habits. So here is a full breakdown of the sleep progression so far:

Week 1: complete blur. we had no idea what was going on. I do remember that we would have to wake her up during the day because the doctor told us that she should go a MAX of 3 hours between feedings. She probably ate every 2-3 hours around the clock.

Week 2: she was sleeping a few 4-hour blocks per day; often one was at night, and one during the day.

Week 5: she consistently slept from around midnight to 4:30am, then would eat and go back to sleep for another 3 hours. Not bad.

2 months: she slept her first 8-hour continuous block. hell yeah. Here's a video taken around 2 months, just before bedtime:

present (3 months):
a typical 24-hour schedule is (all times are approximate):

midnight: falls asleep after eating. I hold her for about 20-30 minutes to make sure she's really out, then swaddle her in her velcro contraption and put her in her bassinet, where she generally sleeps soundly for the next 8-9 hours.

midnight-8:30am: baby sleeps; G and I usually putter around for about 30-90 minutes (finish up work, watch the rest of a TV show that we tried to watch earlier, shower), and then go to bed. Sometimes during the night the baby stirs/whines and I just pat her. Hopefully she falls back asleep quickly - I wouldn't know, because I fall back asleep first. On rare occasion, she'll wake up around 6am for a feeding/change, but will then go back to sleep for another 2-3 hours.

8:30am: everybody wakes up extremely groggy. by the time Gautam changes her diaper, however, she realizes her intense hunger and starts freaking out. She is then tasked with eating from an overfull boob, which is not that easy. She usually does a pretty good job, though if she's too groggy, sometimes it gets a little messy. depending on when we (mom and dad) went to bed, we sometimes try to make her go back to sleep at this point so we can sleep for another hour or two. often it works.

8:30am-1pm: she eats every 1-2 hours, maybe to make up for the long night drought. naps/plays/smiles/talks/whines between feedings. We either sleep, or get up and have breakfast, read the newspaper and start checking in with work stuff.

1pm-4pm: she usually sleeps pretty solidly, especially if I take her out. G usually works during this time.

4-8pm: baby eats approximately every 2-3 hours. plays/naps/smiles/talks/whines in between. G and I work and alternate baby care.

8-11pm: all hell breaks loose. her moods swing dramatically; she eats every 1-1.5 hours, and requires lots of bouncing. sometimes she'll sleep a little bit and we'll watch TV. My theory: storing up food for the long night.

11pm: if we're not feeling super lazy, we'll give her a bath. Then I feed her again, and prepare for bed.

How did you come up with her name?

I honestly don't know the answer to this question. Its the only one that met a bunch of criteria we had (short, sounds nice, vaguely indian), and that G and I both agreed upon. I think its a pretty sweet name.

What type of "parenting style" did you use? Any specific tricks that worked or didn't work?

I tried to avoid reading too much about parenting, and wanted to just do what felt right. The one baby care class I took preached "attachment parenting" and it made a lot of sense to me, so I used it as a guideline. Attachment parenting prescribes as much physical contact with your baby as possible; babywearing (sling/bjorn as much as possible), co-sleeping, breastfeeding. They also say to pick up your baby as soon as she starts crying (because supposedly you can't "spoil" a young baby, and comfort/security are vital to an infant). The funny thing is that sometimes, she gets annoyed at being carried around and just wants to be put down. So much for that. Overall, its been working well; lil' A loves being in the sling, and I love having a soft warm bundle near me...

Lastly, I haven't decided whether or not to use her name on the internet, so until I decide, please keep her name out of blogger comments (facebook comments are OK).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

For The Record

I am very skeptical of people who claim that they "loved every second of their pregnancy." My theory is that after you give birth, you are so enchanted by your baby that you forget about all the discomfort of being 1.5x your normal size and remember your pregnancy with rose colored glasses. So I figured that now is the time to put this in writing: being pregnant is a huge pain in the ass. Please let the record show this, so that in 2 months when I start babbling about how magical and beautiful pregnancy was, you can all laugh in my faces.

In other news, we are house hunting. We are looking at houses, condos and townhouses in all kinds of neighborhoods in and around DC. We'll probably pick one soon because we are running out of time, and there are several good options.

Also, the weather is awesome! I've never lived this far south, and its everything I hoped, including those occasional crazy thunderstorms that sound like the apocalypse.

Gautam and I are getting very impatient to meet our baby. I am also looking forward to being able to lie on my belly, sit in a chair for more than 5 minutes without crazy pelvis pain, and being able to roll over in bed without swearing like a sailor. It would also be awesome to get in and out of the car without having Gautam pull me with both his hands - that's getting a bit old.

This past weekend was the world's best baby shower, hosted by the most-awesome Shilpi, Richa, Winna and Mom! People came from far and wide, and there was some hella creative onsie painting going on in the backyard. Check out the pictures Deb and Winna took!

If you want updates about the baby's pop-out status, make sure you are mine and Gautam's facebook friend. One of us will probably make some updates there when appropriate.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Goals for the Seattle Trip

Gautam and I will be in Seattle from 3/19-3/26. I was starting to give up hope that we would make it out there before my immobility sets in, but I'm so excited that we're going to make it happen! Here are the goals:

1) Get our condo renovation underway. Hire the contractor, order everything we need (cabinets, counters, floors, appliances), and watch over at least the first few days of construction so that we feel comfortable leaving the contractors in charge. (We're splitting it into 2 condos, then upgrading the downstairs one to be fully functional).

2) See all my peeps. I don't know if I have to set some kind of schedule to see everyone? I haven't had a chance to really talk to most of y'all yet - but if you've got specific times that you can hang out, hit me up. If not, call/text/e-mail us while we're there, and we'll meet up! Also, we will hopefully get to meet Stella Hill-Stach for the first time, which is very exciting.

3) Eat as many Habanero Chicken Sandwiches from Saley as possible. Is 2/day unreasonable?

4) Go to Faire multiple times, and make up for the wine I can't drink in cupcakes. (and maybe a glass of wine too...)

5) Check out the awesome new businesses my friends have launched since we left! Can't wait to see Lucid and Calla Bridal in person.

6) See what Alexis thinks about chopping off all my hair, and then getting her to do it (or give me more a moderate haircut if she thinks its a terrible idea).

7) Retrieve our Jamglue development server, that has been sitting at the Baird-Liang household for the past 6 months.

Am I forgetting anything?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Request for Activities

Ok here is my issue.

Every night after I eat dinner, I end up getting really bored and getting into bed within 1-2 hours. This is very bad, especially since being "in a family way" creates some heartburn issues. I would like to find some interesting way to fill up 3-4 hours after dinner before I lie down. Here are my constraints:

1) I'd rather not be at the computer. I'm already maxing out the number of hours I can sit with my computer without ending up with back and shoulder issues.

2) Exercise is tough on a full stomach. And I'm generally getting all the exercise I can handle in the afternoons/evenings (swimming, yoga, etc.).

3) By default, I have been watching TV or movies. This works for 60-90 minutes. Still leaves me with a few hours of default down time. And I don't even like movies that much, so this is just a placeholder.

4) Reading at night makes me really sleepy. So if reading is part of this plan, it should only be for the last 30 minutes or so.

5) Would be cool if this activity included Gautam, but not critical. He can always drink a beer and catch up on Colbert on the DVR without getting restless.

For awhile, we were playing lots of Wii, but my roommates seem to have lost interest, and I don't think its very fun to play alone.

I like the idea of doing some kind of project or doing something creative. I shy away from crafts because I don't want to end up with a bunch of crap at the end, but maybe there are ways around this. Baking is a bad idea because I have the appetite of a cyclops right now, and certainly don't need all those empty calories.

I think the weather will start getting nicer and the days will start getting longer soon. I suppose then I can start taking some kind of constitutional or sitting on the porch swing. Might as well apply for my AARP card while I'm at it.

Ahh - those hours were much easier to while away when I could pour myself a glass of wine and plop down on my belly and gawk at real-estate on my laptop. Or head down to Faire and watch some free Jazz and chat with whoever was around. Those were the days.