Monday, April 26, 2010


Shortly before Will was born, I went in to talk to SL about whether or not I would attend and present something at the annual Physical Anthro meetings the following spring. It had occurred to me that abstract submissions were due, as always, in mid-September, shortly after the baby was to be born. So if I was going to submit something, I would have to get it sorted out right away.

It was decided that I would present the results of the toughness chapter of my dissertation. That part was pretty straight-forward: the data were analyzed and the chapter was written, so it would be comparatively easy to put everything into a presentable format. The logistics would be the hard part. It would require Rob to take off work and fly with me to Albuquerque (this year's meeting venue) to take care of our 8-ish month old infant while I attended the conference. To further complicate the situation, the Boston Marathon (which we both planned on running) was the Monday after the meetings, which meant we would probably have to fly directly from Albuquerque to Boston. With our infant. I tried not to think about all these things and just remain confident that it would somehow all work out.

A couple months later, when the Boston Marathon registration abruptly closed before either Rob or I had registered, the only thing that kept me from punching my fist through a plate glass window was knowing that at least now I wouldn't have to run the Boston Marathon on my way home from the meetings. With an infant.

At any rate. After submitting my abstract in September, I didn't even think about the meetings again until March, when it was time to put my presentation together and get ready to go.

The whole thing turned out pretty well. Will was great on both plane rides to Albuquerque (he slept most of the way). Will's first plane tripAnd my although my limited previous experience with traveling as a vegan had been difficult, this time I had no trouble at all. (Thank you airport 360 Burrito for having TWO specifically labelled vegan options on the menu!) My ease in traveling vegan was partially a result of my recent ability to eat food containing onions and jalepeƱos again. After 16 months of wanting to claw out the eyeballs of anyone who so much as mentioned onions and jalepeƱos, I am finally able to eat these and other spicy foods again. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. We ate Mexican food for every meal in Albuquerque, and it was great. Although there were not necessarily vegan options on the menu, it was no trouble to ask for a specific dish to be made without cheese. Around here when I ask to hold the cheese, it feels like waiters and waitresses often look at me like I'm crazy and that they have never before heard such a request. In Albuquerque, it seemed like no big deal-- like people ask for things to be made with no cheese all the time. Oh, and also, Albuquerque introduced me to the sopaipilla, which seems to be some type of wonderful Mexican croissant that comes at the end of every meal. It is probably good we only stayed a couple of days in Albuquerque or else I would have come home weighing 4,000 pounds.

Aside from the dairy-free, spicy food, the rest of the trip was great too. I got a lot of really useful and supportive feedback on my project, and as a result, was able to set up some collaborations with other people doing research on toughness. It's made me feel slightly less dismal about my career prospects.

Meli's poster

Momma presents her poster

It was definitely a lot more difficult to navigate the meetings with a child in tow though. I could not have done it without Rob. Will was my top priority, and I skipped out on a lot of talks/sessions to nurse him or spend time with him. Not to mention, I could not focus all my energy on absorbing information or networking, because Will was foremost on my mind. Whenever I was talking to someone (even about my own work), about 90% of my brain was concerned about Will-- wondering if he was tired, hungry, thirsty, cold, hot, or anything else.

Who knew an Anthropology conference would be this fun?

For the most part though, Will was great throughout the whole trip. He definitely knew that he was somewhere new because I could see it in his eyes, how he just looked around and took everything in. And he seemed really happy-- like he enjoyed seeing new and different things. I am very much encouraged that he is going to be a good little traveler! He did have a bit of trouble eating during the trip though. Ever since he started eating solid foods, I have made his baby food for him, but on the trip, he had to have store-bought. I bought organic versions of the same kinds of foods he is used to eating (i.e., pears, sweet potatoes, carrots), but he would have none of it. He just seemed not interested in solid food at all, and would turn his head every which way to get away from the spoon. Prior to the trip, he had been sleeping great-- 7pm to 7am every night for about 2 weeks. But while we were away, he woke up a couple times in the night. I figured it was partially because he was in a different place and it seemed weird to him, but also partially because he was hungry. He nursed less often than normal during the daytime (because I was away from him at the conference) and he ate next to no solid food, so it seemed like he was hungry at night. The sleeping arrangements also probably had him a little messed up. I had requested a crib and even called the hotel to confirm there would be a crib, but when we arrived there was no crib. Will has never been a co-sleeper. He will gladly sleep in my arms (the only way I've been able to get him to take a nap for more than a month now), but the instant I try to lay down next to him, he screams. So sleeping in bed with us was not going to be a viable option. We ended up taking out a dresser drawer and trying to make it all comfy for him. I'm sure it wasn't all that comfy, so all things considered, I was really proud of him for how well he did.

King for a day

One little monkey, jumping on the bed.

Makeshift crib

In addition to the conference, we also made time to do some fun stuff, such as visit the Rio Grande and go to the Aquarium and Botanical Gardens.

Albuquerque aquarium

Albuquerque botanical gardens

Rio Grande


So, I'm relieved that the whole thing is over, that it went well, and that I did not end up flying directly to Boston to run the marathon. I am still disappointed that I missed out on what may have been my only chance to run Boston, but I'm hopeful that I will someday requalify. Like maybe after Will is weaned or in college. And I'm really happy that Will did so well traveling! My next order of business is to get him a passport, so that we can take a trip to Nicaragua one day.

Will and Rob also blogged about the meetings, so you can check out what they had to say too, if you want. Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dear William (8 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 8 months old. You are growing up so fast!

You have changed a lot during this past month. You started sitting up on your own just after you turned 7 months old. You were sitting up before then, we just always supported you. Then one day your dad sat you up and let go, and you stayed sitting and grinned. You are getting better and better at sitting up on your own. You like to sit and play with your toys. We do have to keep an eye on you though, because every once and a while without warning, you get tired and fall on over.

You were sleeping terribly at the beginning of the month, but in the last couple of weeks you've been sleeping 11 or 12 hours straight through! Unfortunately I've been having insomnia, so I haven't been able to enjoy the benefits of your improved sleeping. Just as well I suppose. For the last 2 nights you were up in the night again, so I'm afraid your streak of good sleeping might be over! We'll see.

Even though things were going well at nighttime, it was pretty tough during the day. You completely stopped napping, but it wasn't because you weren't tired. I don't know why. It was always difficult, but I used to be able to get you to nap through an extended routine of rocking, swaying, and patting your back. I always wondered what would happen if that system fell apart. This month I found out: there was a lot of crying (from both of us). You fall asleep just fine, but the instant I try to lay you down in bed your eyes pop open and you begin to holler. The only way you can get some rest is if I just sit there and hold you until you wake up refreshed. Or if I take you out in the stroller. If I do that though, I've got to drape a blanket over the front of it so you can't see out too well. Then you're out like a light. If I don't do that, you are too busy looking around to fall asleep.

Speaking of going out and about in the stroller-- thank goodness for spring. If only we lived in a place where it was spring all year round. Spring has saved us all. Just about every day (unless it is raining) we go out for walks. More and more I've been taking you running with me too (courtesy of Aimee and Brett's jogging stroller!). It's been great. It makes me wonder how we ever got through the long winter, being all cooped up inside.

Your dad also got a bike trailer for you and took you on a bike ride. I was a little scared about that, but you had a good time!

The boysWill's excited for his first bike ride

With the warmer weather, we've finally stopped swaddling you. I'd been kind of worried about how that would go, since sleeping has always been a bit of a challenge. I'd kept thinking that you needed to be swaddled in order to sleep, because whenever I'd tried to lay you down unswaddled, you'd wake right up again. Well on one of these first warm nights, you woke up crying around 11pm, and when I went in to see you, you were hot and sweating. I unswaddled you and held you for a minute, and you went back to sleep. I lay you down in your bed and you stayed sleeping. You woke up just once more that night, which wasn't too bad all things considered. Since then, I haven't swaddled you again, and it's been working pretty well! Now that you're unswaddled and more free to move around, you've taken to sleeping on your left side. The other morning when you woke, you were at a 180 degree angle to the position I'd lain you down in. I still don't know how you managed that.

The other big thing is that you are getting teeth! On April 8th, your bottom gums looked bumpy, and on April 9th, I could see the tiniest bit of two bottom teeth just starting to poke through. When you grabbed my finger to chew on it, they felt sharp! You have also tested them out by biting my chin and shoulder. So far they haven't grown up anymore over the gumline. It is ironic that your teeth came through just as you were on the best behavior of your life. Ever since you were born, you've behaved liked you were teething, but when your teeth actually came through, you were fine. I don't know how this teething thing works, though; maybe the worst is yet to come.

Nom nom nom
Mama got her hair cut this month too!

You've been doing really well with eating solid foods. It's hard to believe 2 months ago I could barely get you to eat a pea sized amount of anything once a day. Now I feed you a variety of foods at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Usually you have homemade rice cereal with fruit (banana or pear) for breakfast, carrot and zucchini for lunch, and avocado with another fruit for dinner. So far in the past 2 months you've eaten: avocado, bananas, rice cereal (store bought and homemade), sweet potato, pears, squash, millet, sweet peas (store bought), carrot, zucchini, plums, and apple. I think next we'll do green beans.

Other things you are doing include removing your own clothes (don't you hate pants?). You grab your feet and pull off your socks so that you can stick your toes in your mouth. You remove your diaper cover. You've also reached the stage wherein you cry if I don't let you have something you want. You try to grab the mail out of my hands and cry when I hold it out of your reach. You grab your spoon and chew on it when I'm trying to feed you. When I wrestle the spoon away from you to load it up with whatever you're eating, you throw your head back and cry.

William, I've written this letter typing one-handed while you were sleeping in the crook of my arm. Because you won't sleep in your bed, but you were very tired. I know that someday you will be 13 and aloof, and I won't get to hold you anymore, so I'm just holding you close to me now, while I can.

William, I love you more and more each day.


I love my new toy

Friday, April 9, 2010

Toothless wonder (and some thoughts on sleeping)

Will has behaved like he was teething since the moment he was born. What with all the crying and the crying and the nursing constantly and the needing to be held and did I mention the crying and the nursing? Other mothers would see his behavior or listen to me describe it and assure me that he must be teething. And yet. He remained a toothless wonder.

Those days are about to end. Yesterday I noticed that his gums looked kind of bumpy on the bottom. This morning they were more bumpy and I could see little white ridges just barely poking through the gumline. This afternoon when he grabbed my finger, put it in his mouth, and gave it a good chomp, I felt teeth! Sure enough, both of the bottom incisors are coming in at once.

This is so ironic. The last week has been just about the best week we've ever had-- he certainly wasn't behaving like a teething baby.

I completely gave up trying to get him to nap, and strangely, I think that is what did the trick. Since about the time he was 2 weeks old, he was a fairly good sleeper at night, but he's always been a terrible napper. Long about the time he was 4 months old, I listened to a podcast that featured a "sleep expert." She was saying all this stuff, about how babies should be sleeping so many hours per day and should be going to bed at 6pm and shouldn't be napping past 4:45pm because it messes up their sleep cycles, and etc, etc. Hearing that kind of made me freak out. At the time, I realized that Will was not really napping during the day, and he didn't go to bed at night until 9 or 10pm. So I really started trying to get with the program. I mandated daytime naps (which didn't always go so well), and I would get him to bed at night around 7 or 7:30pm (I never could seem to manage to get him down for the night by 6!). And things kept getting worse and worse. Instead of sleeping through the night or waking up just once (as he had been up to that point), he woke more and more frequently in the night. Moreover, the daytime napping was often very difficult. I could usually manage to get him to nap twice during the day, but often it would take 20 minutes of frustrating crying while I rocked, patted, swayed, felt like I was losing my mind what with the crying, and then the nap would sometimes not last as long as the whole rocking, patting, swaying deal.

The whole system sort of broke down about 2 weeks ago. The rocking, patting, swaying routine fell apart, and Will refused to nap at all. He would fall asleep in my arms, but as soon as I tried to lay him down in his bed, he would scream. This would go on for hours every day as I kept trying to make it work. Often times it was so frustrating that I felt like I wanted to punch my fist through a plate glass window.

The nicer weather has saved my sanity. Instead of being cooped up indoors as we were all winter, now I take him out for a walk in the stroller or go for a run with him in the baby jogger. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 miles for him to fall asleep, but usually he does, and since I'm training for a marathon anyway, it helps me get in some miles. Sometimes he gets tired and falls asleep after 4:45pm-- what the sleep experts say not to do. I feel kind of like I'm cheating or like we've taken a step back what with his sudden refusal to nap in bed, but seriously, I just can't deal with any more crying. When it's cold or rainy, I just sit there and hold him while he sleeps in my arms and think that someday, he won't want me to hold him anymore so I might as well hold him while I can.

And you know what? Things got better. I still put him to bed sometime between 7 and 8 at night, and for almost 2 weeks now, he's been sleeping more or less straight through until 6 or 7 in the morning. It's been wonderful. And I'm doing everything the sleep experts say not to do.

The other major breakthrough is that I've stopped swaddling him. For several months now, I've been stressed out about the fact that he still "needed" to be swaddled in order to sleep and terrified about what I would do when it got too warm to bundle him up so much and he was too big for it anyway. Well, one warm night this past week, he woke up crying around 10:45pm and when I went to check on him, he was sopping wet. Not from a wet diaper... from sweat. His little body was so warm. So I unswaddled him and held him for a couple minutes and he went right back to sleep. I put him down in his crib unswaddled, and he stayed asleep. I couldn't believe it. All these many long months, I have believed that he needed to be swaddled or he wouldn't sleep. Maybe he did, and he's finally outgrown it, I don't know. But for about a week now, I have been putting him to bed unswaddled, and so far so good. He sleeps on his side, which is adorable. In fact, he's been sleeping so well that I've rarely nursed him in the night these past 2 weeks. It's weird. I wonder if we're night-weaning? In a strange sort of way, I am not sure that I'm ready for it. Which is just as well. Now that I've written about how great everything has been going, I suppose that jinxes it and he'll be up every 2 hours all night long for the foreseeable future.

I'm just still amazed that in the midst of this, with things finally going better than they have for the past 8 months, he cuts 2 teeth!

All this talk of sleep has made me very sleepy, so that's all for now.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

This Urbana Life

Blogging has kind of taken a back seat lately. Time is a very precious commodity these days, and what little of it I have, I usually spend applying for jobs. I've applied for umpty zillion jobs in the past couple of months, and writing all those cover letters has been very stressful. I am terrified that I won't get any job, but perhaps even more terrified that I will. Me getting a job would most likely mean picking up and moving across the country and would certainly mean daycare for Will. Terrifying.

In the cold of the winter, I was extremely motivated to find a job elsewhere, and I applied for everything that I was even remotely qualified for, provided that it 1) was not in a Red State, and 2) was located somewhere warmer than Urbana. Now that it's spring, my motivation to leave this place is dwindling.

There are certain good things about living in Urbana. At times it's just so... I don't know the word... maybe surreal? Like the other day, I set out to go for a run with Will in the baby jogger. We were probably no more than a half mile from home when lo and behold, we ran into none other than SL, biking home from work. He wanted Will to meet his dog, so we jogged alongside him back to his house, talking about my dissertation and various jobs I'd applied for. And I thought, only in Urbana.

At any rate. There are so, so many things I should talk about, but never enough time. I need to write short entries more frequently so that I don't fall so far behind.

I'm missing my opportunity to go to bed early tonight, so I need to get going. But before I shut this down, here is one thing: I got my hair cut. My mom came down last weekend (note: she is a hairdresser) and hacked off my ponytail so that I could donate it to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program that makes wigs for cancer survivors.


Because I think I look like a Neandertal in that picture, here is another one, in which I look slightly less like a Neandertal:

Momma's new do

And finally, a gratuitously cute picture of William:

Trying to crawl