Thursday, June 30, 2011

Asha at 8 months

Asha turned 8 months old on the 24th of June. She has grown and changed so much. Everyone tells you that babies grow fast but it remains a mere clich̩ till you witness it Рthen it is simply astonishing.

Motor Skills:
Asha certainly focuses on her motor skills. She started crawling at 6 months and 3 weeks and now zips around the room. She can sit up no matter what position you put her in. She loves holding her own bottle and will snatch it from you. In the past two days, she has been pulling up on the furniture and can easily get to her knees. If she is holding on to a hard surface like a table, she can pull herself up and stand. Every morning, when she wakes up, she is standing up in her crib when I come in to rescue her. She has also perfected the pincer grip and can hold a ball in each hand and bang them together.

Verbal Skills and Comprehension:
Asha’s verbal skills have exploded in the past couple of weeks. She made a lot of sounds and loud noises but, till a couple of weeks ago, all her sounds were vowel sounds – aaaaas and oooooos!!! Then about 10 days ago, she started saying “mamamama”. She was obsessed with it for about 3 days. Now it has tapered off and she only says it when she is very very frustrated. Of course!!!! Now she seems to be obsessed with “bababa”. I am so happy that she is starting consonant sounds though – I tend to be obsessive about milestones and she is supposed to say them by 9 months.

She understands a few words: “Daddy”, “Where’s Daddy”?, “Milk”, “Up”. She does have stranger anxiety. She does not cry a lot with strangers but just watches them wide-eyed without a smile. She must be developing separation anxiety because she does not stay in a room by herself for one second without screaming and crying.

Still not a good sleeper but much better than before. In the past month, she has gone from sleeping for a 3-hour stretch to a 6-7 hour stretch. She sleeps from 9:30pm-4/4:30am, gets up, feeds, gets her diaper changed and then sleeps again till 6/6:30am. Nothing like the 12-hour nights which most kids seem capable of at this age but I will take it!!!! This change is relatively recent (only been about a week), so I hope I am not jinxing anything. Her naps are unpredictable. Mostly, she takes a 30-minute catnap in the morning and then a 60-90 minute nap in the afternoon. I used to be able to put her back to sleep if she got up in less than an hour but now that she can sit up and even stand in her crib that is impossible to do.

Her new favorite toy – crumpled up newspaper. She likes to take them and tear them into tiny pieces. This, in spite of the many toys she has. However, her most favorite toy is anything she is not allowed to have – cell phone, tv remote, laptop, even my kindle. We even popped out the batteries from one of our remotes and gave it to her. She likes it but always tries to snatch the one I am holding. She also loves family pictures being pointed out to her. As we go up and down stairs, I point out pictures to her – Mommy, Daddy, Giggs – and she always laughs or smiles. She likes her jumperoo too but really only wants to pull up and stand rather than play. She never plays by herself. Currently, she likes the VTech table since she can stand at it.

I hate preparing her food (it is so bland and mushy) but love watching her response. She is a picky eater and will not try anything new unless she has something she likes mixed in. So far, we have tried bananas, apples, peaches, apricots, squash, zucchini, peas, avocados, butternut squash, carrots etc – to name just a few. She eats anything with bananas or squash and zucchini mixed in. Peas were a disaster. She will not eat anything with the faintest pea taste. Chicken was OK – she is not extremely fond of it but does not dislike it. I am hoping that once she starts turkey, she will sleep better at night. She loves to hear me belt out the words of any song from “The Sound of Music” while she eats (what I do cannot be termed singing). That and “Old McDonald Had a Farm” always gets her to open her mouth. I make dog, cat, horse, chicken sounds and she loves it.

Asha seems a very determined little person. No matter how many times she falls over (often without a tear), she will pull herself up. No matter how many times you refuse her, she will try to grab your phone. Generally she is happy and smiley in the morning but gets crankier as the day wears on. She is always happy after her 30-minute morning nap but very cranky after her long afternoon one. She loves car rides and has never behaved badly in a restaurant (then again, we did not take her to her first restaurant till she was almost 5 months old). As long as she has something to play with or chew on, she can stay at the mall or go shopping for 4 hours if needed. It has been so much fun watching her develop a personality. I cannot wait to see what turns it takes (though I am sure I should dread some potential traits).

She has some expressions which I love and which help me anticipate what she is thinking. Just when she is getting upset about something, she curls up her nose upwards and her upper lip. I call it her "Little Piggy" face. When she is excited at seeing something she has never seen before, she makes this high-pitched squealing noise almost as if breathless at the magnificence of the world. When she wants to be picked up from her crib or the floor, she lifts up her arms and gives the most adorable smile.

It has been so much fun watching her grow in the past months. Though it has gone fast, I cannot help but anticipate what will come next. Yet, I do not want to reach her one-year birthday too fast – after all, she has been so much fun since she started crawling and sleeping!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Overcoming Boredom and Stagnation

Everything can become stagnant at one point or another – relationships, work, hobbies etc. This has seemed especially true after Asha’s birth. So much energy goes into the newest family member that I seem to have no energy left for anything else. We do not have a babysitter or daycare or anything. Gregg and I are her only caregivers. We had a break when my parents were here and we get help if Gregg’s parents come to town. Otherwise, it is just us. So, we are barely making it when it comes to anything other than childcare. This has been especially the case when it comes to food. I am too tired to cook really which is a shame because it is one of the only two things in the world that relaxes me (the other is reading). When I was pregnant, Gregg got me a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country. I love those magazines – it is not simply recipes but they TEACH cooking – what works, what doesn’t, why, the science behind food etc. But they have been piling up while I cook the same old roasts, everyday Indian food or lasagna. Sometimes, we simply eat (cold) sandwiches. I did not try anything new for 8 months.

With one exception!!!! I cook all of Asha’s food myself. But truthfully, while I love watching her response to it, I HATE cooking it. It is all mush – bland, tasteless. Which I often pretend to eat in order to entice her. So I am both eagerly anticipating and actively dreading tomorrow when I plan to start chicken with her. Ground chicken with no seasonings in a puree!!! YUCK!!!!

Anyway last week, Gregg and I made a deal. Every Saturday, he would watch Asha for as long as it took me to try a new recipe. We also decided to systematically cook our way through the piles of magazines. This idea was suggested because we just watched the movie Julie and Julia. Took us 4 days to find the time but we were inspired. Undertaking all of Julia Child’s recipes is too gargantuan a task for someone as time-strapped as I am (to say nothing of the fact that some ingredients are not only expensive but very hard to find). The magazines seem more of a doable task. So this past weekend was the first experiment and the stuffed pork tenderloins were delicious!!! And very easy and relatively quick. See this link for the video on Cook’s Illustrated. Click on Grilled Stuffed Pork Tenderloin. I especially liked the porcini-sundried tomato stuffing. I cannot post the recipe online as it would be a copyright violation.

I really like this idea. It makes the rest of the humdrum boring week bearable. Slowly, I plan to work this change into every aspect of my life which feels stuck in a rut. Make one small change here and a tweak there. Make a couple of hours sacrosanct for one activity. That way, maybe I can be a little more productive. Any ideas on how to be productive with a 8-month to take care of?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Kindle

This may sound like a contradiction but I love technology while being extremely technophobic. Our household has a laptop, a netbook, a desktop, 2 blackberrys, an ipad, 3 ipods – you get the picture. I am on Facebook, Gregg on twitter. However, we both worry about the impact of technology. I worry about the lack of distinction between public and private; about the death of print media; about the inability of kids to learn without visual entertainment etc. This is why I was hesitant about getting an e-reader – they seem convenient but another step along the road to the death of print media. Plus, I do not travel a lot and so their best feature (portability) is not really an attraction. But my tech-loving, curious and very acquisitive nature overrode the technophobic part and I decided to get a Kindle. Before I could acquire one, Gregg’s parents presented me with one for my birthday/Mother’s Day. I have to say that it has been a wonderful gift. Here are the things I like best about it:

1. Cheap: I love old classics and they are sooooo cheap. I bought the collected works of all the Brontes (including Patrick) for $0.75. No way I would get that in hard copy.

2. Portability: OK, I know what I just said but as I said before, I tend to prefer classics. And works like War and Peace, A Suitable Boy, collected works of whoever are heavy. Add a diaper bag, a huge purse and a baby and car seat and it is like practicing for a weightlifting competition. The Kindle is lighter and holds hundreds of books.

3. Convenience: I bought the Bronte collection at 3am after Asha had kept me up all night and I was tired but could not sleep. I also LOVE their “Sample” feature which allows you to read the first few pages (sometimes up to 50 pages of a book) without paying. Then you can buy it if you want like it.

4. Lack of Clutter: Though I am not an adventurous reader (I tend to stick to classics), I do buy books from time to time which turn out to be less than stellar. Then they sit on my bookshelf adding to the almost 500 books Gregg and I already possess (we counted when we moved last June). Now I feel like I can experiment without cluttering up my house.

5. Other Features: Instant dictionary access is wonderful – just point at a word and click. Also love that it has two dictionaries – American and British English. I have used their “Notes” feature too but not yet tried to export to MS Word. I love the nightlight which my Kindle cover has – perfectly bright but never wakes Gregg when I read at night (not that Gregg wakes due to much – he can even sleep through a screaming baby sometimes). Love its long battery life too.

I promise that Amazon is not paying me to promote their product and I do have some things which I dislike:

1. I miss holding and touching actual books. I miss the new book smell and turning the pages physically. The Kindle is easier to read with Asha because she crumples any paper near her but books have a feel to them which cannot be reproduced.

2. I miss turning pages as I said. Ibooks actually lets you turn pages but it is a silly imitation and much more problematic when you have a 8 month-old constantly touching the screen and changing the page. However, I still sometimes reach out as if to turn the page on my Kindle and then catch myself.

3. I have promised myself that if there is anything I read on the Kindle which strikes me as a classic or even particularly good, I will buy a copy of it for the bookshelf. That way, I feel like good books get rewarded.

Having said all this, let me say that I am still against the voice-read (Text to speech) feature. The one on the Kindle is awful but I would never use it anyway. The only time it would be useful would be on long drives but I would prefer books on tape for that. Otherwise, I think it is best to avoid those features and learn to actually do the difficult job of reading for oneself. I saw these books in a toy store that reads to babies. Now, if you like these books, fine!!! Each parent is different as is each child and I am not the one to teach anyone parenting. But I refused to buy those because a) I can read to her and b) she should learn to read for herself. Use of such gadgets sometimes when the parents are busy and the baby is fussy is one thing but often it becomes a habit instead of a last recourse. I like the idea of looking at words and trying to figure them out instead of letting the spoken word wash over you and absorbing some but not all of what is said. I see students who really do not know what reading entails and it worries me that having recorded books only reinforces that lack. So the Text-to-Speech feature will probably never be used on my Kindle.

Do any of you have e-readers? Would you get one? Why or why not?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Two Babies

Posted by Picasa

Asha and Giggs when she was not yet mobile!!!

This post is probably going to make some people mad because it is a comparison between my almost 8-month old daughter and my 3-year old dog. But, first, I want to give a shout-out to Giggs who has been wonderful with Asha. When she first came home and slept in our room, he tolerated it for about 3 nights. Then he decided he had enough screaming and crying during the day and did not want his beauty sleep spoilt at night, so he started sleeping downstairs in the basement. Broke our hearts. The sly thing would come into our room and beg to get into bed with us every night. Then after we gave him his nighttime treat, he would jump off and stay away. He basically stayed away from Asha except to give her an occasional lick if she was crying or fussing. She, in turn, fell in love with him and would stop crying the second he walked into the room.

Things have gotten more complicated since. He has returned to sleeping with us once we transitioned her to her room at 11 weeks. But since Asha started crawling at 6 months, 3 weeks, she follows him everywhere. Worse, she cannot coordinate what she does, so she constantly pulls his hair, his tail, his ears!!! Now he runs away whenever he sees her. She tries to keep up but cannot and always starts crying. He has taken to hiding in his crate in our room (he has literally never slept there in his life). He still licks her but stays as far away from her hands and legs as possible.

Here are the main similarities between these two babies of mine:

1) They both scream/bark when something is not to their liking.
2) He likes her toys and she likes his – and they both put the toys in their mouths (this has led to constant chasing after them both)
3) They both root through their food and chuck it when it lacks what they like (bacon for him and bananas for her)
4) I have to hide from them when I am eating – he wants the food; she wants to hold the plate and smash it against the nearest piece of furniture.
5) Neither one listens to anything I say.

I do wish I had more time for Giggs though. He is our first kid and used to 100% of our attention. Now he is lucky if he gets 25%. He hardly gets any lap time. I am hoping this will change when Asha gets more independent – he has been so good with her, he should get some reward.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

More pictures of Asha

Enjoying some pool time on a very hot summer day - June 9th, 2011

Posted by Picasa

Asha Pictures

Asha and I when she was about 4.5 months

Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 13, 2011

Recapping 20 Months....

Is that even possible? But so much has happened during that time that I will try:

Sept. 2009: dissertation defense
Dec. 2009: Trip to India (lasted 3 fabulous weeks)
Feb. 2010: Found out we were pregnant (complications already started)
April 2010: Complications seem to be dissipating
May 2010: Trip to London with Gregg and his parents (took the heart monitor along)
June 2010: Closed on a house in Lititz, PA (spent the rest of the month moving which is very difficult when you are 24 weeks pregnant)
August 2010: Trip to Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota to attend Rob's wedding and see Mount Rushmore (including 3 days in a car driving 15 hours/day at 33 weeks pregnant)
August 2010: Back to work full-time (and work till the day before Asha arrives)
Sept. 2010: Finally start the nursery and register
Oct. 24, 2010: Asha arrives - little to no sleep since
Dec. 2010: Trip to CT to see Gregg's parents with a 2-month old (Asha meets Santa)
Jan. 2011: Back to work full-time with a whole new prep for a new class
Feb. 2011: Asha's first stay at a hotel for her Uncle Aaron's wedding (the wedding was lovely, the hotel stay for Asha was a total disaster)
Feb. 2011: My parents arrive
April 2011: My parents leave
June 2011: Finally start sleep training Asha out of desperation - still a work in progress

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Asha Alexandra Lindskog was born on Oct. 24th, 2010. In the last eight months, I have learnt many lessons. But everyone tells you the lessons that kids teach you and I will do so at some other time. For now I want to focus on the two habits that Asha is teaching me to unlearn.

1. MULTI-TASKING: I have always been a multi-tasker. I do two things at the same time all the time. Literally. I read email while watching TV. I watched TV while I wrote my dissertation. I cook while I read. I am simply incapable of doing one thing at a time. Yet, Asha demands complete attention. When she is crying or playing or anything, there is absolutely nothing else I can do. She requires complete attention at all times. Even at eight months, she rarely likes to play by herself. She also started crawling around 6 months and 3 weeks. We are yet to babyproof, so I have to watch her to make sure that she is not getting into anything she shouldn’t. Suffice it to say that I have to battle my instincts to multi-task. I sit there with her while she is screaming or crying or playing or crawling or eating and make lists in my mind of all the things I should be doing right now. This is what my mind looks like:

Will she sleep soon? I should take Giggs out. But the kitchen is a mess too. I cannot do anything till she sleeps. Poor Giggs needs someone to play with him. When can I make the bed? What about downloading her pictures off the camera? How about that report which I have to finish reading by tonight? What should I make for dinner? But I cannot do all this unless she sleeps for an hour at least. Will she? I should start by washing her bottles…

2. LACK OF CONTROL: This stems from the first point. I am a control freak. I like to know what I am doing, when etc. I used to make a to-do list every day and check it off as and when they get done. No matter what list I make now, it simply does not get done. It is not an easy lesson to learn but I am trying to adjust to it. You would think that a long and difficult pregnancy would have taught me about lack of control!! But clearly not enough. Lack of control does not sit well with me. Going back to school has helped a little but I have entirely stopped staying at school to work. I am only there for classes, meetings and office hours and come home as soon as I can. Then I wait till she goes to sleep at 9pm to prep, grade, read reports, write, do the bills etc. Days and nights lack all routine. Some nights she sleeps from 9pm-6am with only one 30-minute wake-up in the middle. Other nights she is up by 4am or gets up 2-3 times at night and refuses to go back to bed. I am usually up by 3am waiting for her to wake up. This lack of sleep makes for terribly unproductive days. But by 9pm, I am wired, because I still have a lot to do.
Asha makes me feel unproductive sometimes (which is weird because she is my biggest, most tangible, most ever-present production).

These have been my hardest battles in adjusting to life with a baby. Just starting blogging again is one of the ways in which I hope to assert a tiny bit more control. We will see how successful this is.