Monthly Archives: December 2012
Today has been a long one. The baby is going through a growth spurt, and while that doesn’t sound like much if you aren’t a parent, trust me, they suck. Hard. Basically, the baby doesn’t sleep all day (and possibly all night – we’ll see) and feeds every hour on the hour. I’m listening to her cry it out right now, something that she usually doesn’t have to do anymore. She just took her 12th bottle of the day, and if she isn’t asleep within about 45 minutes, she’ll be jonesing for another. Blargh. Fatigue and frustration are my constant companions, and I’m thinking they will be for the next 25 years, give or take a bit.
The thing about babies is that everyone keeps saying it will get better, but I’d love to know when that is. As far as I can tell, once one problem vanishes, you essentially trade it for a new and possibly more difficult one. Either way, I hope this growth spurt is over in the next 24 hours, because Mama Marge is tired and ready for bed, in spite of the fact that Brett doesn’t seem to be.
But this post isn’t really to whine about the trials and tribulations of parenthood. There will be plenty more like that. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, and I’ve decided to make some resolutions. I’m setting the bar high in some areas and low in others this year. Here’s hoping that 2013 is a good one!
1. Don’t balloon out like a land whale again.
I haven’t lost all of my baby weight yet. Frankly, I don’t have time to cook. I would love to have time to cook Somersized meals, but alas, I don’t have time to shower on some days, like today. I really don’t want to get grossly overweight again. I’m sort of maintaining now, but I can feel “the creep” coming on, and I need to not become a porker again. I don’t like feeling nasty like that. So my resolution is to start making time to make healthy meals for myself. I know that I’ll feel better and have more energy to care for my daughter if I eat right.
2. Don’t get too stressed about the baby.
I admit that I’m not a patient person. I’ve never even really considered myself to be a kid person, which is odd, because I’m a teacher. I don’t have a lot of tolerance for crap. With babies, your tolerance for crap has to be through the roof. Babies are simple yet complicated creatures. Their needs are simple: food, clean clothes, a bed, a diaper, and some lovin’. As they wake up, those needs diversify, and they start to need entertainment, Orajel, tummy time… And their schedules are always changing. Just when you get them figured out, they go through a growth spurt or a developmental leap or they just change for no particular reason other than to vex you, and then you have to start all over. You learn to interpret their crying, their facial expressions, their body positions, etc. You think I’m joking, but my daughter has a distinctive hungry cry, so I always know when to feed her.
Sometimes though, you can’t figure them out and babies just want to cry. They especially cry in the evenings during “witching hours,” and that can get frustrating when it goes on from 4pm until whenever they pass out. In Brett’s case, that may not be until 12am. Sometimes I get incredibly pissed off and angry with her. Sometimes I just want her to shut up. Sometimes I just want her to be able to tell me directly what she wants. Sometimes I just want to send her to Grandma’s house, but then I remember that one set of grandparents is in England and her stand-in grandparents in my family are in the US.
I want to be as patient with her as possible. I understand that I’m going to have days where my sanity is hanging by a thread. Growth spurts, developmental leaps, the four month sleep regression… These are all craptacular times during the first year. I really just want to handle them with as much decency and aplomb as possible. And barring that, I might just step outside and sneak in a smoke…
3. Get my teaching license
This shouldn’t be too hard. I need to head up to Seoul and do some testing to accomplish this, but it shouldn’t take more than three days. After that, I’m applying for international school positions. We’d like to be able to go to Europe so that we could at least be close to the UK, but those positions are the most coveted, so I doubt I’d get one straight off. We’ll probably end up somewhere like Hong Kong, which would be okay, too. East Asia is really better, since there are jobs a-plenty and it’s far easier to save money, since the cost of living is lower. It really doesn’t get worse than Western Europe, as far as cost of living goes, unfortunately.
4. Be less jealous of others
I’m a jealous person, and I know this. It’s a terribly unflattering trait. A friend of mine just got engaged, and her fiancé got her a Tiffany’s ring. I always wanted one, and my husband never got me one. I’m still annoyed by this, and now I’m jealous of her. Of course.
A friend of mine from camp just traded in her and her husband’s old car and bought… a fucking Lexus. Okay, it’s probably leased, but whatever. They have better jobs than me, and it really bugs me.
I think these things bug me because I know, in my heart, that I should be doing better financially than I am. I could be doing a lot of things, but I’ve lingered in Korea for a long time, partly out of fear of moving on, and I’m starting to seriously resent myself for it. I need to get my head in the game and make things happen, instead of just seeing what others are doing and wishing that my life more closely resembled theirs. Nobody can make that happen for me. I need to stop being jealous and lazy and get off my duff and do something about it.
5. Be thankful for what I have
In the same vein, I need to be thankful for what I’ve got. I have a great husband who loves me and a beautiful daughter who is growing like a weed and is, by all accounts, adorable. We have plenty of savings – enough to buy a modest house outright – and we don’t have any debt hanging over our heads. Things could be much worse!
6. Don’t buy crap that I don’t need
I have a shoe problem. I will buy shoes that I honestly just don’t need. Also makeup. I really love makeup. I use it, but it’s gotten a helluva lot harder since the kid came. I care far, far less about my appearance than I used to. But I still like to shop, and I will shop until I drop. Well, I’ll shop until I drop too much money, and it doesn’t grow on trees. No more buying crap that I don’t need. We can’t really afford it with the kid, anyway.
Believe it or not, that’s about all I’ve got. Being patient with my kid and getting on with my life are the two big things right now. She’s still whining – not crying, just whining – and I’ve about had enough. I need to breathe and just let it out. She won’t be little forever, after all.
I hope everyone has a safe and fun New Year’s. How I long for the days of my infamous New Year’s party. Alas, there won’t be any party or sloppy drunkenness this year. I suspect I’ll be nursing Brett through her growth spurt. But that’s okay. There’s always next year! Happy New Year, all!
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m stuck in the apartment with the baby pretty much 24/7. I’m ready for spring and summer. I have cabin fever like you wouldn’t believe. I haven’t had adult interaction beyond my husband in literally weeks, with the exception of doctor visits, and those barely count. I spend most of the visit dodging old Korean women who want to get up in the baby’s face and sneeze. I have to make my own entertainment, and it usually has to include entertaining the baby. Here are some of the ridiculous things I do to make myself laugh while maintaining some shred of sanity, as well as some part of my pre-baby self.
1. Retelling fairy tales and inventing new morals
I read to Brett quite a lot. I’ve been reading her some of Grimm’s fairy tales. I love old fairy tales. Someone is always losing a finger, drowning while crammed into a sack, or being eaten by a hideous monster or some such. Old school fairy tales are frankly horrific – my kind of story. Anyway, I told Brett the story of Little Red Riding Hood a few days ago. Do you want to know what the real moral of that story is? Concealed carry is a right, not a privilege. I mean, Lil’ Red wouldn’t have had any problems if she’d been able to shoot her attacker on sight. Why does she need some dude with an ax to come and rescue her? Women need to be able to defend themselves, and I’ll be damned if I think the government is going to come and save me from the big, bad wolf. Don’t give up freedom for security.
2. Looking at animal cards
My husband got me a Nexus tablet for Christmas. I’ve downloaded some programs to help the baby learn. She has no clue what she’s looking at, but she likes the ones that play sounds. I have one that just has cards with different animals. It says the name of the animal and then the animal makes its call. It has everything from penguins to cats to kangaroos. I like to narrate the cards for her.
“See Brett, this is a bear. Bear fat is good for making pastries because of its low salt content.”
“This is a kangaroo. Kangaroos are to Australia what deer are to the Midwest – a nuisance to drivers and a source of food for many.”
“This misbegotten beast is a monkey. Monkeys fling feces and will rip your face off, leaving you a disfigured freak making an appearance on Oprah, and nobody wants that.”
“This cutie is a hamster. Hamsters will frequently cannibalize each other. My cousins came home from school one day to find one hamster eating the other’s brain. It’s like zombies, only without the living dead factor.”
“This is a coon. Coons are the reason that we have to get up at the buttcrack of dawn to take out the trash. If we leave it out overnight, the coons will get into it, turn it over, and leave us with a right mess in the morning. Beware of the raccoon.”
3. Singing songs
Brett has good taste in music. She likes folk music best, but she’ll settle for most anything with acoustic guitars and preferably finger-picking. She hates Annie Lenox. If we don’t read Harry Potter before bed, we’ll sing some bedtime songs. Here’s a sample playlist.
“Cocaine Blues” by Townes Van Zandt
“Tip Toe Through the Tulips” – Tiny Tim
“Cocaine Blues” by Johnny Cash
“Pancho and Lefty” by Townes
“Hello Central” by Lightning Hopkins
“Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley
Basically, if it’s a song about getting drunk, snorting coke, being addicted to codeine, two bandits in a shootout, or a weird man with a ukelele is singing it, it goes in Brett’s bedtime song playlist. My husband rolls his eyes at me, but he likes Townes, and I get the messed up bedtime songs thing honest. My mom used to sing “Rocky Raccoon” to me when I was a kid. I thought it was a song about a raccoon when I was a kid, and then I thought I’d dreamed the whole thing for years. I finally heard the song again and realized it was about a jilted lover, and the new boyfriend shoots the old one in the knee. Good old Mom. She taught me well.
4. Reading articles and books about Austrian economics
Babies don’t care about economics. Most people don’t care about it, actually. I do. I really love reading books about Austrian economics. It’s fascinating. And I’ll be damned if I’ll have a Keynesian in this house.
5. Making videos for the folks at home
I haven’t seen my family in almost three years. I miss them a lot, obviously, and nobody has seen the baby in person yet. My grandma is constantly on about how much she wants to hold her and see her. My solution is to make topical videos featuring the baby. I sit and yak about whatever I feel like blathering on about, and the baby sits there and looks cute. Sometimes she screams or whacks me or falls asleep, but nobody seems to care much because she looks cute while she’s doing it. I post these videos on Facebook, where I suspect I’ve been blocked from various news feeds for posting copious amounts of baby videos and pictures.
6. Reading the gossips
Because God forbid my daughter grow up not knowing about Brangelina, Victoria Beckham’s inability to smile, Michael Fassbender’s amazingness, or Lindsay Lohan’s crack antics.
7. Watching “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy on repeat
Don’t ask me why this is going on. I didn’t even like The Lord of the Rings for years and years. Perhaps now I’ve realized the value of instilling in my daughter a natural wariness of short men with hairy feet, ugly jewelry, old men who wear bathrobes, and Elijah Wood’s eyes. She also needs to understand the awesomeness of Ian MacKellan and, to a slightly lesser extent, Viggo Mortenson. Finally, I wanted her to make sure that she understands her elfish parentage. My daughter has a wonky ear that, I kid you not, looks a bit like an elf ear. I am convinced that she is part elf and therefore has magical powers. Okay, not really, but it’s fun to say, and that ear is adorable. It will be less adorable when she grows up, but she’s stuck with it, so she may as well learn to have fun with it.
I’m sure there are other stupid things we do together, but this list alone is usually enough to populate a couple of days with silliness. In retaliation for subjecting her to my weirdness, she spits up on her clean clothes that I’ve just put on her, poops on me in the middle of the night while I’m changing her diaper, refuses to sleep in the evenings, and screams for food almost constantly from about 6pm until whenever she goes to bed for the last time – usually around midnight or after. I know she thinks that listening to me croon along with Ani DiFranco is torture, but she’ll understand someday when she has kids of her own who threaten to whisk away her sanity on a daily basis. Anyway, she’ll thank me one of these days when she has decent taste in music, an appreciation for real literature (none of this Twilight garbage), a thorough understanding of the business cycle, and the many, many reasons why exotic pets are always a bad idea.
It almost never snows in Masan. Seoul and Gangwando get plenty of snow in the winter, but something about Changwon’s position generally prevents us from getting the big snow dumps that plague the northern areas of Korea. On Thursday night, we got about seven inches of snow. We woke up Friday morning to find our little world blanketed in heavy, wet snow. School was canceled, my husband’s academy called off (though unfortunately with the promise of Saturday classes next week to make up), and we were basically trapped indoors. Snow day!
You all know that I hate winter, and just because I’m almost always trapped inside with the baby now doesn’t change that. I hate snow. I hate the feeling of movement being hindered by cold, white powder. I’m from the Midwest though and no stranger to hard winters. I will never forget the great blizzard of ’06 back when I was at Mizzou. We got 15 inches of snow in one night, there was lightning in the sky, and university classes were all called the next day. I was at my friend Kendra’s house getting messed up before finals week, and we had a dandy time. We didn’t even notice the snow until it was too late for me leave, so we bundled up and cozied in for the night. It was nice until the next day when it wasn’t.
The thing about us Midwesterners is that we’re pretty used to snow, ice, and wind. We know that we need to buy rock salt sometime before December, make sure the shovel is in good working order, and have our winter boots spit-shined and ready to see some action. Even during the mildest winters, we’re likely to have at least one major storm sometime between December and March. Townships have the plows on standby, and pretty much everywhere has a stockpile of rock salt to use to get the roads passable as fast as possible.
I don’t know if this is a problem specific to our area of Korea or what, but these people have no friggin’ clue how to handle snow. Nobody has a shovel because it never snows, which is fair enough. They have never heard of rock salt though, and I actually ventured out yesterday to find our apartment managers had hooked up a hose to the fire hydrant and were pouring ice-cold water onto wet snow just before sundown. It was NOT melting the snow as they’d hoped but rather turning it into a solid sheet of ice. I told them in Korean that they needed to invest in some salt and stop with this water baloney, but they just looked at me like I had three heads. As usual. Predictably, the parking lot was like a hockey rink except in the places where someone had actually cleared away the snow instead of freezing it to the concrete.
The kids all went batshit, of course. A big snow like this is probably a once-in-a-childhood experience for most of them. Snowballs were crashing into our windows all day because the kids have nowhere to go to throw snowballs that doesn’t have windows. Being me, I poked my head out the window and threatened them with death if they broke a window in this cold weather. That didn’t stop them because the night demons are the top dogs in our neighborhood, and if they’ll lock their own mother out of the house, well, what are the chances that they’ll listen to the cranky bitch downstairs?
It’s raining tonight, which seems to be melting some of the snow. I’m hoping it doesn’t cause it to freeze once the rain stops, but it probably will. We’re hoping it doesn’t so that we can get out tomorrow, though. My husband has New Year’s Eve and Day off, and it’s not much good having a long weekend if you can’t do anything with it. Our apartment is painfully small, and we both get cabin fever after awhile, although I’m at a far more advanced stage than he is, since the baby and I are stuck in all day, most every day. It’s just too cold to take her for walks right now, and I don’t want to take her shopping, since everyone is sick, coughing, and likely to get up in her face since she’s adorable. I’m not being conceited when I say that; Koreans got nuts over our kid. She has big, blue eyes, and they’re in awe. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.
Frankly, I’m counting the days until spring. There are 86 days, in case you were curious. That’s 12 weeks and two days. March 20th is the first day of spring, and it can’t come fast enough. I’m ready to be able to get out of the house, ready to plop the baby into her stroller and go to the park for a walk, ready to see sunlight until later than 4:30pm, and ready to be able to step outside without a jacket. I’m also ready to not have to bundle the baby in five layers of clothing. She hates winter clothing because she runs hot like her dad, and she flat-out refuses to wear a hat on her head, even when it’s well below freezing. She will scream, grab the hat, and fling it away from her. I know when I’m beaten, so I’ve given up on hats. You have to pick your battles with kids.
So we had a snow day. I could have done without it, although it did make it seem more like home. I guess that’s something, although I would have welcomed other remembrances of home with more open arms – real Christmas trees, for example, would have been much nicer. Christmas carols not “Jingle Bells” or “Rudolph.” Anything but snow, really. But we’re digging our way out, and by New Year’s, I’m sure it will be gone, leaving us somewhat defrosted and ready to start 2013. For my part, I’ll mostly be focused on the fact that we’re two days closer to spring.
I got an email a week or two ago from my friend, Ashley. Her son had just thrown his Candyland game (lovesit!) across the room. Her remark? “I swear kids come out brain damaged.” I swear she’s right.
Brett has been going through a double whammy the last week or so. Her six week growth spurt hit last week, and anyone familiar with children’s growth spurts will pretty much tell you that they’re a nightmare. The kid eats more, sleeps more, maybe doesn’t sleep more, gets off of his/her schedule, and generally acts like a horse’s ass. Then, of course, there are the so-called “wonder weeks.” These are mental developmental spurts that happen at predictable times. Sometimes they coincide with growth spurts. They are calculated from baby’s due date rather than actual birthday, and this has had the unfortunate effect of Brett dealing with a wonder week and a growth spurt at exactly the same time. I’ve dubbed her “the nightmare before Christmas.”
Prior to last week, Brett was being a reasonably good baby. She was going down to sleep with little trouble. She was sleeping through the night (6 hours or more!), which is super exciting for a baby her age. She wasn’t fussing much at nap time, and we had had good luck with sleep training. I actually had time to watch The Lord of the Rings and old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was in hog heaven.
As of right now, I’m in parental hell. That cute, bubbly baby who would literally wake up smiling at me has vanished. She has been replaced by an inconsolable night demon who has made it her mission to prevent anyone in the house, including herself, from ever sleeping again. Her naps have become almost nonexistent, and when she has them, she wakes around 4pm and doesn’t sleep again until 12am or after. She spends that time intermittently screaming, staring at me, cluster feeding (devil practice), or cat-napping on my chest. Basically, we rinse and repeat until she finally passes out from sheer exhaustion sometime in the wee hours of the morning.
I haven’t wanted to go back to sleep training because of the growth spurt. It’s best not to do those sorts of things when they’re having a big change in their lives. Well, I’m back to sleep training this morning. My husband and I nearly lost our minds yesterday, and we can’t take it anymore. Maybe sleep training during this cycle is rude, but so is she. Going from a seven hour sleep-through to barely making four hours is nonsense. Nonsense.
This morning, she woke me up bright and early, and it was evident after her feed that she expected me to rock her into oblivion. I think she was surprised when I plopped her back in her bassinet slightly awake, kissed her on the forehead, and said, “Have a good nap, B.” I shut the door and walked away to wash the stack of bottles in the sink that had been offending me since last night. She sat and gurgled and made noise for almost 45 minutes, but she hasn’t cried yet. I don’t think she’s asleep, but I’m not going in to find out.
All of the blogs and baby websites say that six to eight weeks is the fussiest of a baby’s life. Brett is just over seven weeks old, and I’m ready to cosign that assessment. There is something called “witching hour” or “arsenic hour,” a time period that usually comes between 4pm and midnight during which the baby will go insane. For most babies, this period will last them about 2-4 hours before they give up and sleep. Brett has been going eight hours. I think her reflux has been bothering her, on top of her growth spurt, but honestly. Ten hours is insane.
The witching hour is the worst thing in the world. Babies who are literally inconsolable during this time have colic. I don’t even know what colic is, and I’m not sure that doctors do, either. It’s not gas, reflux, or any serious ailment, but it seems like everyone thinks it’s a digestive problem. Colic is defined as inconsolable crying for more than three hours a day, at least three times a week, for more than three weeks. Brett isn’t exactly inconsolable, but it’s close enough. I don’t think she actually has colic though, so that just leaves the final option, which is that she’s a jerk.
My husband and I have been discussing the possibility of giving Brett a brother or sister and when that might happen. Neither of us wants her to grow up alone, like we both did. I’m an only child, and my husband has a sister, but she’s 11 years younger, so he was effectively an only child for a long time. The last week or so has made us both reconsider the idea of having more kids. I honestly can’t imagine going through all of this again, willingly. I can’t imagine how people have big families. Hell, I can’t really imagine how the human race has survived as long as it has. “One and done” might be our motto in this house.
The thing is, I really do want Brett to have a sibling. The thing is, I’m exhausted and pissed off 90% of the time now. I can’t imagine how that would be if I had to chase around a toddler on top of caring for the screaming newborn. I think I’d just lock myself in a closet and cry. And this is a terrible thing to say, but I know why parents end up harming their kids. If a person was already unstable or a mother had PPD, I could see it. Hell, I could see it in the absence of those things. Sometimes you just reach a point and you feel like you can’t do it anymore. I love Brett dearly. Snuggling with her on my chest and nuzzling her head is one of my favorite things. But sometimes, she makes me unbelievably angry and frustrated, and I can’t believe that we chose to have a child.
I feel like these things are sort of taboo to say in our culture. When you have a new baby, everyone is always sunshine and rainbows. “Oh, the baby is adorable!” “Oh, these things will pass!” “Oh, she’s the light of your life!” They seem more than willing to gloss over the fact that I haven’t showered in five days (no exaggeration, at one point), I’m covered in dry milk spit-up, I haven’t had a meal or brushed my teeth and it’s after 1pm, and there are dust bunnies that have mated with other dust bunnies and reproduced in every corner of the house. The baby is screaming, and her poop just escaped the confines of its usual receptacle, marring a onesie that was just put on not 20 minutes before. These are the sorts of things that lead to parental break downs.
I’m lucky in that my friends are pretty damn honest about child-rearing. One of my friends sneaks outside and smokes illicit cigarettes when her husband is out-of-town (he hates smoking) and her kid is napping. I haven’t smoked on the regular in over three years, but we’re getting back to that point. I could really use a fag. My other friend has had mastitis, a horrible cold, and food poisoning all in the first three months. I have a kid with reflux, gas so bad and poops so big that it wakes her up, and a witching hour that lasts from 4pm until question marks. Motherhood is hard.
I have no easy solutions for these problems. We’re going to the doc on Monday, and I’m going to have him check on the reflux. The sleep issues I suspect are going to be ongoing, and I will have to handle them myself – preferably before I have to go back to work.
I suspect it’s going to be a lonely, stressful Christmas this year. We don’t really have enough money for gifts, as we’re trying to control the outgoings, and the baby hasn’t exactly been an angel lately. Maybe things will turn around with renewed sleep training. Maybe the developmental leaps will finally end and we’ll get some peace. Maybe I’ll just end up with a bottle of screw-top wine, sitting on the couch, glugging it straight out of the bottle while the baby cries it out and hoping that sweet oblivion overtakes her before it does me. For now, though, I think I’ll just go back to bed and hope – hope – that she’ll sleep for a bit more than an hour.