Thursday, March 31, 2011

Do you hate grapes?

Here's what Jack thinks of cut up food:


It's been an extremely busy two weeks for me. In absence of text, I thought I should at least post a video.

We're having terrible troubles with our daycare provider over this food issue. Now they're sending back the homemade mashes. Ugh.

More later.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Our little steamed vegetable dumpling

Jack's daycare is wonderful. Every time I pick up Jack, I am regaled with stories about his day, about his personality, about his development, about everything. For the most part, they've accommodated our "unconventional" wishes, and this is more than I could say for what many other daycare providers are willing to do (though how cloth diapers and glass bottles suddenly became unconventional, I'm not sure).

Still, there are some sticky points. Take, for instance, the styrofoam bowls. The JCC chooses to heat up pureed foods in styrofoam bowls. This is not OK with me: styrofoam in the microwave is a health hazard, no doubt about it. I was told I could bring in my own paper bowls if I wished. The paper bowls at the grocery store are huge (what a waste!), and terribly expensive. Then I noticed the paper cups.

Well, why not?, I thought. The cups are the same material as the bowls. They're smaller. And they're cheaper. I brought in the paper cups, and a skeptical conversation followed.

"Cups? I don't know about cups... I don't think we can use cups"

"Why not?"

"We're supposed to use bowls"

"Oh. Well, I thought this might actually be better... since they're smaller and what you're reheating is so small, too"

"Yeah I don't know about that. That's not going to work. You're going to have to talk to R--- [the director]"

So talk to R--- I did, and we reached an agreement: cups are now an acceptable vessel in which they can heat up Jack's food.

Huh. If only there was more food to heat up...


Food's been a sticky point: some of it their fault, and some of it mine.

I've already described a few of my thoughts about baby food. My personal opinion is that we have a tendency to feed babies too much food too soon. I've just never understood the concept of watering rice cereal down with breast milk to encourage a baby to take it. Although I am not opposed to feeding purees, I don't see why babies can't experience the texture of adult food through play: all the better to teach Jack about interesting flavors and textures and to emphasize actual caloric intake via breast milk, right? Greg and I decided to follow a "Baby Led Weaning" approach, whereby we offer Jack a selection of what we're eating and let him take as much or as little as he can manage.

We give Jack the opportunity to eat as frequently as we can. We give him purees once a day or every other day, he gets yogurt and hummus and other soft things, and we often squish small items (like beans) up to feed him on a spoon or our fingers. But we also give him his solids in a form that would usually be reserved for an older toddler: large chunks. Broccoli trees. Whole rice cakes. Baked sweet potato fries. Fig sections. Roasted chicken drumsticks. Dried apple rings. Whole, steamed dumplings, big enough to hold in his hand and packed full of delicious, fresh vegetables (video below):

What we don't do is give him small chunks of food. Jack gags easily on small chunks of food.

See, imagine it from Jack's perspective: you're a baby, you're holding a broccoli tree, and you're mashing up the florets with your gums. Once the food gets into your mouth, it is already chewed and ready to swallow. So you swallow it.

But then somebody gives you a bite sized chunk of non-chewed food directly to your tongue, you try to swallow that too, and you gag.

One result of our avoidance of small chunks is that Jack's pinscher grasp is not very good. When you put small bits of food in front of him, he just smashes it with his fist until it flies off the table, or he tries to pick it up with his whole hand and gets frustrated. Jack much prefers to pick up things he can hold in his hand, like a slice of apple or a large tomato core. And when he does get small bits that we put in front of him or offer directly to his mouth, he's quick to swallow them without chewing. Jack doesn't like eating small bits of food, and we don't like feeding them to him.

Back to the JCC. Because our approach to feeding Jack is not mainstream, we've avoided sending him into daycare with solid food. For the last few weeks, he's gone in with three bottles of milk and a jar of pureed food every day. They've been not-so-subtly hinting that he might like more solids in his day. I explained that he gets them at home and we've been hesitant to introduce that mess at daycare. They urged me to bring in whatever we are feeding him at home.

So I did. I packed a tupperware for him this morning: broccoli trees, crescent tomato slices, discs of boiled potato, and a jar of homemade bulgur wheat for spoon feeding.

Can you guess what's coming? This did not go over well. This did not go over well at all. They didn't just say "no", they got very upset with me and we spent the morning arguing. I'm still not sure why... perhaps they think I'm doing Jack a disservice? I don't know why they were *upset*. All I know is that they were terribly judgmental and would not even consider that Jack might have learned an alternative method of eating solid food.

This harsh reaction from a group of folks that I like very much made me feel quite bad and I spent the good part of the morning fretting about whether I've screwed things up by not getting Jack accustomed to bite sized pieces of food. I want Jack to be able to work on his food skills during the day, but the teacher in charge at the time flatly refused to give him any of the "whole food" items I brought.

Then I got really annoyed, because, seriously, people: how is Jack possibly going to choke on a broccoli tree? See, the whole point is that he can't fit a broccoli tree in his mouth. The only way Jack can get the food is by CHEWING it, hence the non-choking part of giving Jack a piece he must chew instead of a piece that he can accidentally swallow or inhale.

Jack chokes on puffs, not on broccoli trees!

Anyway, while I was still feeling bad and upset about the whole situation, I went and found R---. She's quite reasonable, understands the issue fully, and we had a good conversation. I find this hard to believe, but perhaps milder whole-food requests never made it to her desk: apparently we are the first family to ever ask that a baby/toddler be given a broccoli tree or a piece of potato that can be held in its fist. They only want forefinger-thumb foods, nothing to be held in the fist.

Clearly we all need to feel comfortable with feeding Jack. And if they're not comfortable feeding large pieces of food, they shouldn't do it. They've been taking care of children for far longer than I have, and while I would not say that either approach is better or worse, they have their methods and it is not my place to force them to do something that they feel is a safety hazard. What's upsetting me now is that nobody would even consider that there could be multiple ways of teaching a baby to eat solid food and everybody was implying that I am negligent or putting Jack in harm's way. Argh.

The head teacher has been out for a while, and she will return next week. We'll wait until she's back, and we'll sit down and come up with a game plan for how to feed Jack. In the meantime, he'll continue with purees at daycare and whole food at home.

I haven't felt BadMamma Guilt to this extreme in a while. Now I'm feeling it. Big Time. Food is an important part of our lives and I hoped to make it a good experience for Jack, too. Instead, I'm picturing him sitting at the daycare table with his pathetically boring baby puffs and jar of pureed fruit, gazing longingly at the other babies while they happily mash at small chunks of cucumber and carrot.

Then I picture the superbly happy half hour he had eating the whole dumpling by himself, and the hour he spent with that chicken drumstick, the sweet fig he mashed up in a matter of seconds, and the fun that we have at dinnertime as we hand him whole pieces of whatever we're eating... then I smile.

Then I think about daycare and the guilt returns.


1. Push the JCC to let Jack eat what eats at home, or at least, some selection of foods that they perceive as safe (like broccoli trees, which are particularly safe)
2. Bring on the pureed cereals, big time, to fill him up
3. Work with Jack at home on the small chunk issue*

*But isn't that regressing?

I guess we're going with number three, but I don't like it. Anyone else have any ideas?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011


See the size difference? The "medium" on the left was one that I bought on Craigslist. The "medium" on the right is brand new.

I said I wouldn't talk about Jack's poop anymore, but that doesn't mean I can't talk about his diapers!

We are using cloth FuzziBunz for Jack's diapering needs. We have smalls, mediums, larges, and a few "one sizes" (the "one sizes" adjust to fit Jack as he grows). The smalls have gotten too small for him. Actually, to be specific, they're too small for his chubby thighs. Our son has Thunder Thighs like you've never seen...

Back to diapers. We decided to transition Jack to the larger size, and Greg brought up our big box of mediums from the basement. The first set of diapers I ever purchased was a huge lot of 18 (used) medium FuzziBunz on Craigslist. Then a friend sent us a box of brand new mediums (6), and I received 1 new medium as part of a promo on some other diapers I bought. Great. This is a TON of diapers.

Except here's the problem. When I purchased the used mediums off of craigslist, I didn't know anything about diapers, and I failed to notice how worn out they are. The elastic is shot. Like, totally. Mediums are supposed to last from about 15 to 30 pounds, but, seeing as the elastic is loose, these diapers are really only going to work from about 25-30 pounds. (You can see the size difference in the photo up top). That sucks. They were $10 each.

I might try to resell them, but then the only right thing to do is to tell the buyer that the elastic is completely worn out. There's no way I'll be able to recoup the cost.

Greg thinks we should sew in new elastic... but, honestly, it's just not worth my time right now.

With the new mediums and the one-sizes we've been using all along, we have 14 diapers that will currently fit Jack. That's enough to wash about every other day. Hmmm. I'm not sure whether I'll purchase a few more to get us back to washing every third day. It might be time to go back to the (far cheaper) thirsties with cotton prefolds inside.

Bummer. Fuzzibummer.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy 8-month day!

Dear Jack,

Happy 8-month day!

Spring is nearly here, and everyone is in a better mood for it. The weather was so beautiful today: as soon as I got you home from daycare, we all went for a walk and had dinner outside. You celebrated turning eight months old by having a french fry! You realized fairly quickly that fried things are pretty awesome. It was a good french fry, too, you know -- a thick cut fry that came with your dad's turkey burger. You loved it. I still feel kind of guilty about letting you have something so unhealthy. If you end up eating nothing but macaroni and cheese until you're 15, perhaps we can all look back on this day as the start of it all.

For the time being, though, you are trying all sorts of stuff! You want to eat everything that even remotely looks like food and we are giving you tastes of it all. Sometimes I have to sneak away to eat my breakfast in peace. Here are a few of the foods you like: hummus, yogurt, kefir, roasted peppers, roasted cauliflower, rice cakes, BEANS, and tomato sauce. I think you get a kick out of sour flavors: you scrunch up your face when the sour part hits, but then you inevitably get all excited and want to have more. Oh, we gave you the drumstick off a roasted chicken, and you had just about the best time of your life (so far). You spent the better part of an hour waving the drumstick around in the air like a tiny infant caveman, banging it on the high chair tray and burbling about in excitement. Part of me was a little sad, because you are no longer a vegetaran... but, well, we eat meat sometimes, and now you do, too.

By the way, every time I give you something new, I hold my breath and look for hives. We've tried all of the major ones so far: dairy, gluten, eggs, peanuts, strawberries, and fish. So far you've tolerated everything. I'm hoping it stays that way.

It's interesting to see how quickly you became interested in food. You were so excited by all of these new edible things that you went on a bit of a nursing strike a few weekends ago. You wouldn't nurse at all during the day and insisted on eating lots and lots of solids to make up for it. I was so worried. I thought you might wean yourself. But I kept pumping to keep my supply up, and after the excitement wore off, you went back to nursing regularly.

You're sleeping much better now. The co-sleeper had become a place where you went to cry until we picked you up. The big crib is all new, and you can see us through its sides. I think the change has been good for you. We didn't do anything differently, but suddenly you started falling asleep on your own. Tonight I put you down in the big crib when you were wide awake, and you put yourself to sleep without a peep. Most of the nights that you've been in the big crib, you've had a good schedule of sleeping in 3-5 hour clips. You will fall asleep at 7pm, and then you're up again at 10 or 11pm, 2 or 3am, and 7am. It is amazing to me that I only have to get up once to nurse you at night. I think the extra sleep has been good for me, Jack. Sometimes the day to day practicalities of being a mother are challenging, but having a little more sleep really helps me tackle things.

Night time has been easier, but, truthfully, I miss you so much. I miss having you between your dad and I, with the top of your head right underneath my chin: the perfect kissable distance away. I usually fall asleep with the monitor right next to my ear, listening to you breath and questioning whether it's better for you to be asleep in your own bed or in ours. It's probably better that you're in your own bed now. I guess you are growing up.

You really are the chattiest baby. I know I keep saying that you are chatty, but it's true. When you get happy and you're face to face with someone you know, it's a constant stream of conversation. Lately you've been all about the back of your tongue. You click and cluck and go "durgh gur gu du duh duh grr ugh rghh" and then you click a bunch more and then you go "durgh dur gu du duh duh... " etc and we just crack up watching you make these funny sounds. You're all about squealing (again). The first time you got into squealing, I think it was a way for you to learn about your own voice. This time around, you squeal when you're happy, and when you want attention. Truthfully, Jack? You're a bit of a ham, and we love you for it.

I thought because you seem to be so verbal, you might like it if we taught you baby signs. We've been doing signs for "food", "more", "diaper change", "up", and "milk". We're not terribly consistant about it, plus your daycare doesn't do signs... but maybe with a little time, you'll see what the hand-waving is all about.

Speaking of trying, you have a new obsession: standing up. You want to pull up on anything that is at your shoulder height or lower. Getting up to your feet is challenging, but I've seen you manage it a few times now. Actually, what you really like to do is kneel. You're pretty stable when you sit up on your knees like that. Oh, also? I just want to say, for the record, you are FAST at that army crawl. You don't have much motivation to learn how to get your belly off the ground, because that army crawl gets you from point A to point B as quickly as anything else could!

Well, Jack, there are so many stories I could tell, but it's getting late and I think I should take advantage of my ability to sleep through this part of the evening.

You're really doing a wonderful job with this growing up thing. Keep going.

Love you always.

Ode to the diaper (AKA, don't read this post if you're the slightest bit squeemish)

There comes a time

In every mother's life

When an important milestone is accomplished!

She decides to change her 8 month old son's diaper

Expecting a bit of unoffensive baby poo

But she opens the diaper

And discovers a man-poopie instead.

Giving Jack those beans might have been a bad idea.

*And that's the last I'll ever say about baby poop, because it isn't baby poop any more!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Another short note

Big news: Jack has spent four full nights in his own crib! Many thanks to Greg's sister and her husband (Jen and Pete!) for passing down this crib, and of course to Greg's parents for the original gift.

Moving Jack from our bed to the crib was much easier than I thought... we now have a baby who will asleep within a minute of being put down (AMAZING). His sleeping pattern seems to be the same as when he's in bed with us: he's mostly up every 2-3 hours, but there's an occasional 5 hour stretch in there sometimes.

I'm reluctant to night-wean Jack (to stop breastfeeding him at night) because we are having trouble nursing during the day (he's so distractible than he just can't seem to nurse for more than 20 seconds at a time). I think if I night weaned him, he'd probably sleep more... but I'm just not willing to risk decreasing his milk intake by that much. For now, things are working.

Eat food. Mostly milk. Not too much.

Jack, feeding himself a chunk of steamed zucchini (dehydrated strawberry chunks on his hands!)

I keep putting off posting about Jack's eating habits. Why haven't I written about baby food? Well, I feel quite strongly about baby food and I can't seem to get into a calm enough mood to write a coherent, polite post about it all. So I give up. I'm just going to get this out of the way, and then maybe in the future I can write something better

Here are my beliefs
  1. Babies. Need. Milk. Babies do not need rice cereal. They do not need supplemental (poorly absorbed) iron, or mysteriously concocted vitamin mixes. They need milk. This is how we evolved: to drink breast milk for a long time, a lot longer than we typically nurse in Western society
  2. If I have to puree something and water it down into a runny consistency to convince Jack to eat (drink) it, he probably isn't ready for that food yet
  3. The advice our doctor gave us about avoiding allergenic foods to prevent allergies...? That advice is not based on any research that I can locate. There is very little data to suggest that avoiding food allergens will prevent allergies, and, in fact, there is a significant amount of data suggesting the exact opposite. I have to say, this really ticks me off. I don't understand why doctors are continuing to perpetuate the avoidance myth in babies that have no evidence of a food intolerance.
  4. Just because a baby is interested in food doesn't mean he's nutritionally deprived, for the same reason that Jack's interest in my water glass doesn't mean he's dehydrated. Babies like to explore, and food is something they are curious about for reasons other than hunger.
  5. The recommended approach is to introduce foods one by one, leaving 3-5 days in between to watch for a reaction. Now when I think of the immune system, and I imagine what it sees... interval feeding feels like a bad idea. When I think about taste buds, and programming them for later life, having one thing with nothing else also seems strange. This part is all about instinct, but I can't help my instinct: it seems weird to me to feed a baby anything other than, well, actual food.
The societal norm for baby food in America is purees: homogenize the food, mix it with breast milk so that it tastes familiar, and keep feeding more as the baby nurses less and less. As soon as I started reading up on infant feeding practices, I knew we were going to have to do something different than the norm.

My approach to baby feeding is to follow my instinct. And my instinct said this, very strongly: let Jack eat what we're eating. Bite off a little piece into a size he can manage, and let him figure it out. That's what we've been doing for two months, and it's working for us.

We tried to put off the whole food-at-daycare business, because we knew they would not be willing to give him adult-style food. But they kept bothering us, wondering when he would eat solids, so we decided to send Jack in with a jar of mashed or pureed food for lunch. But when he comes home at night? That's a whole other story.

At night, Jack goes into his high chair, and I spread an assortment of baby-handlable food in front of him. I make sure it's all in safe sizes and shapes, I keep a very close eye on him, and I let him play. And he has a blast. And I have a blast watching him have a blast. When we sit down to dinner, or if I'm out with him in public, he usually gives a little shout when I start eating. So when he shouts, I give him bites of whatever we're having.

It's fun. Here are some highlights:
  • He was about 6 months old and I gave him a partially cooked carrot to suck on while I made dinner. He slowly wittled that carrot down to nothing. It occupied him for a good 20 minutes
  • Kefir, unsweetened
  • HUMMUS. Jack LOVES hummus
  • A mostly-eaten chicken bone... might be his favorite thing so far
  • Smoothie
  • Dried and dehydrated fruit (easy to pick up)
  • Squiggly noodles (ditto)
  • Grapes sliced in half
  • Steamed zucchini with the skin on (he sucks off the pulp)
  • Spicy food (no reaction)
  • Pesto
  • Roasted bell peppers
  • Half a rice cake
  • Beans: a recent favorite. I give them a little squish and he goes wild
  • Cabbage, which is great to suck on for a while
  • Guacamole
  • Etc
It's been great fun, so much more fun than I even imagined it would be. More later.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Nothing other than three photos

Things have been awfully busy this past week. Someone borrowed my good SLR and I haven't had much time to write about Jack lately. I think Jack Attack needs a little color to liven things up! Here are some photos from Greg's iphone

Friday, March 4, 2011

Only moderately so

It is (finally) no secret that I am searching job postings. The depressing result of massive google and networking effort is that I have contacted every person I can think of, applied for nearly every single job I am remotely qualified for / interested in in the state of Connecticut in academic AND industrial settings, i.e., a total of 6, and nothing has come through. I did get some news, though. I heard from one position, where I found out I was one of 180 applicants. I also heard back from a second position, where I found out I was fourth on a list of three candidates.

On the one hand, such news (fourth! at the same institution of-the-180s!) ought to be encouraging. On the other hand, it just makes me laugh, because Hah-I-Just-Missed-It has been the theme of these past few months.

I spent the month before Christmas preparing my materials for a faculty position at an academic institution where I had a very, very good chance of getting an interview. After delayed-meetings after delayed-meetings, the search group got together two days ago, my painstakingly crafted materials at the top of their stack. Huzzah! And that's when their superiors announced the hiring freeze.

On Wednesday night, as I recovered from this unexpected news, I told Greg about the last academic job I could think of that might interest us. It was in a geographic location that I wasn't too psyched about, but I knew someone there, and I knew they wanted me to come out for an interview. The next day, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a few months. Yeah... can you guess where this is going? She just signed the papers accepting her tenure track faculty position at said institution.

There are other such stories, but I'll stop there. Point is, the jobs are few and far between, and having a PhD has not helped the situation. Whether I look at Universities or at Big Pharma, the only slots anybody seems to be hiring are for bench scientists. I love science, but being a bench scientist simply is not a career option for me at the moment. Phew, 13 years of academia, it's time to get going already. If only there were somewhere to go.

Not only are there massive research cuts across the country, I am limited geographically, and, well, I missed the effing hiring season. I was on maternity leave, searching my closet for a single pair (any pair!!!) of pants that fit, soaking through nursing bras, and contemplating what appears to have been a massive hormonal reorganization of the "care for others" and "care for self" portions of my brain. Academic job search was at the bottom of my to do list, and now that it is has surfaced in all of its hideous glory, I seem to be exactly two months too late. Of course I can't help but wonder how things might have proceeded differently had the timing of this pregnancy been anywhere near what I hoped it would be. (Not that I have a chip on my shoulder or anything like that...). Ah, well, dismally underpaid and uncertain life goes on.

So my search goes on, too. And as I reach into the depths of desperate googling, I often find myself giggling from a particularly persistent case of gallows humor. I thought you might be amused, as I was (uhm, exceedingly), by the concluding paragraph of a description for a job that I may very well be applying for later today:

"...may occasionally be required to lift standard laboratory equipment/supplies; may be exposed to some risk of injury from such elements as toxic vapors, and toxic radioactive materials and/or disease bearing substances; may be exposed to moderately disagreeable conditions."

Teehee. This seems to the plight of the science PhD: if not moderately, then highly so.