Sunday, July 31, 2011

Get pregnant > ??? > Profit!

So one thing I have to thank the kid for is that the pregnancy finally got me off my butt to start selling unused stuff we've had sitting around the house for a while. I mean a long while.

It started when we moved my office out of the room that became the nursery and into the upstairs room. My workspace was cut in half and that meant going through a lot of stuff I have to see what I could get rid of. No shock here, but I've accumulated a bunch of tech items over the years that I used less as they got replaced - for example, a microphone for my old PC that was useless when laptops started coming with them built in.

Other stuff from a long list:
  • I had not one but two old iPods (one of which I had won in a drawing). Both nice, but less useful when I switched to my iPhone in 2009.
  • We had an old fridge in the garage, the one that came with the house before we replaced it.
  • I had an old easy chair that was great during bachelor living and even in my mancave/home office days, not so useful in the baby era.
  • Old office stuff like a low-rent desk and organizer items that wouldn't fit on my new spartan desk upstairs.
  • An old CD-DVD RW drive back when I had to use an external version when my computer busted
And so forth. Some of the items were big or techy, but some were small (such as two old flip phones from 2006, I kid you not).

So anyhow I started The Great Craigslist Sale Of 2011 back in June. I'm actually pretty good at selling on CL after six years of doing this stuff. I've learned how to frame ads that make items, even old stuff like the flip phones, seem more attractive. And I've learned how to negotiate well.

The sales aren't over, but I've done well. I'm a little surprised how much I've gotten for some of this stuff given that I wouldn't pay $1 for some of it, but in a month I've brought in enough to pay for a bunch of baby items we actually need. My outside goal was to make $500 in sales, and while I'm not there yet I now think I can optimistically make it more like $800 given all the basement stuff I found. If I can get there, we might be able to pay for most of our baby startup costs.

Wave II is coming next now that the basement project is done. I found a bunch more things we can sell. I may not be able to list it all before the baby comes but it'll be a good side project.

At the same time, it's helping us get rid of things we don't need. Sure, we're adding a bunch of things to replace it in the nursery, but that's pretty understandable given that we're adding another body to the house. We've been good about not overdoing the buying and sticking to basics for the most part.

Anyhow, I'd highly recommend a Craigslist purge to anyone. You'd be surprised how much your unused junk sells for. Basic things I've learned: Always link to what the item costs new so they see what a deal it is, and always include pictures.

----

Post #46 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Baby names

We've made a long list of things we need to get done before the baby comes. Some of it is little odds-and-ends stuff, and some of it is going to take more effort. Today we went through and ticked a few things off the list. The main progress, I think, is we finally settled on the plan for naming the baby.

This should come as no shock, but I set up a tech-driven process for us. I created a shared Google document spreadsheet and we had a period of 10 weeks where we added 5 first names we liked and 2 middle name suggestions. By the time we were done last month, we had each added 50 first names to the mix.

Eight of the names we had were shared, so we had 92 names. The thing we decided was that either of us could veto any name we didn't like, no questions asked. But having 8 shared names was a good start.

We added a few and then looked at what we liked. Tonight we pretty much finished the job, sort of. We have two boys names and a couple backups, plus three girls names and a couple backups. Remember we don't know if it's a girl or a boy, so we had to do it for both.

Why not just settle? We learned a lot in classes and in reading that sometimes people change their mind after the baby is born. Sometimes it just doesn't look like the name, so people change it. I think we've got one (two at most) for each gender that would be the favorite, but I wanted to have a couple extras in store that we both agree on just in case we have second thoughts.

Or maybe we might just go with what we have and that's that. It's hard to say, but we wanted to have some flexibility.

Boys names were a lot easier for us. We agreed more and we vetoed less. Girls names were tougher, mostly because I think we disagree on the split between old-fashioned names and modern names.

Names are an interesting process. They conjure up associations. There were a couple names Amy liked that made me cringe because they reminded me of people I dislike. Amy was the same way here and there. While some names have society-wide feelings attached to them (i.e. the name Clinton), most of them are just personal experience.

We also argued a bit about squatting on a middle name already used by one of my siblings. My brother and sister have 8 kids between them and Amy liked the middle name "Hope," but that is taken by my sister's youngest daughter. She thinks duplicating a middle name from one of their cousins is OK, just not a first name. But I didn't like the idea.

So what did we choose? You'll have to wait.

----

Post #45 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Friday, July 29, 2011

Three weeks of work later ....

So this is the project I've been working on for a few weeks now:


We will have been here at our house for two full years on Wednesday. Upon moving in we moved a bunch of stuff to the basement, and as the time went on we put more and more things down there. Needless to say (and it's probably evident in the first four "before" photos), finding things down there and using them was unmanageable. I spent time digging through piles of half-unpacked boxes and tripping over things in the process. Basically I dreaded going down there to get to something.

This was a big project and I did it myself because I didn't want Amy to strain herself in the final stretch of the pregnancy. And there were a few moving parts that made this hard to balance.

First I had to Drylok the walls to seal them. Some of the basement had been done years ago, and for some reason they chose lime green. The previous owners did some more it looks like about 10 years ago, so some of the walls were white in those spots. And then there were parts that had never been done. I went all the way around the basement.

Second step was start organizing. I finished half the basement and then set up some shelves to start clearing the way I bought a bunch of medium-sized metal shelves at Home Depot and started stacking paint supplies, holiday stuff, camping gear, and so forth.

The moving part in all this is we were doing radon mitigation in our basement this week. The level was twice what was considered to be safe by federal standards and we've known about this since we bought the house. For a lot of reasons (including the fact that it required drilling a hole in the brick of our house) we wanted to get this done before the baby arrived.

Once we had the radon done, I finished the rest of the Drylok work and then set up the rest of the shelves. From there, it was a lot of time sorting through things and putting them on shelves.

When it's all said and done, we shelves all around the basement and a lot of open space on the floor. I set up a table in the middle so Amy can work on sewing and crafts. At some point we're probably going to finish that side of the basement and make an office or family room, but for now it's workable

We also have a bunch of stuff to sell on Craigslist or give away. So I have to get on that.

But I'm very relieved this is done. I didn't want the basement to be a disaster after the baby was born because I knew the inertia would keep me from getting it done. It's nice to have access to things down there again and not have it be a pain.

Now I just have to finish staining the door and we're set.

----

Post #44 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Getting closer

My wife's been having a few cramping issues that felt like contractions. We learned from last time, so she called the doctor and went in. Everything's fine, but I'm glad she was proactive about it. They don't know what it is since she is pretty well hydrated. Could be Braxton Hicks contractions, which are pretty normal.

The good news is the baby is head down and getting in position (not sure which way it is facing, which matters but not as much as being head down). So the kid is cooperating for the most part, but it might be chomping at the bit to get going.

The first time we had a scare I was a little more concerned, but what a difference a few weeks makes. We're just past 35 weeks and so if the baby came a couple weeks early (week 37 is considered full term) it wouldn't be a big deal as long as there wasn't a problem with the baby that triggered early labor. So I'm feeling pretty not-scared about this if it develops into labor at this point. We have good doctors, and by and large the place is ready for the baby to come (still working on the door to your room, sorry kid).

I know the stats. Once we passed 32 weeks the odds of survival in an early birth were pretty good, so I did a big exhale. At this point we're ready whenever the kid is. I'd like this to go the full 40 just to be safe, but we'll be OK either way.

----

Post #43 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Strapped in

We did our car seat check today. Cedar Crest Hospital has a nice service where you can go and get trained on how to install and work the car seat correctly (you also can do this at your local fire station). The folks there were great, walking us through how to install the base properly and then how to make sure everything's at the correct angle before putting the seat in the base.

One thing we learned is that Amy won't be driving much with the kid in the back during the early going. There isn't much room to move the seat back with how the seat goes in the back.

Car seats can be confusing, as I learned in my research. They have the infant style that most babies have up until they get to about 30 pounds. These are more like the cradle ones you see. After that they move to a type that is for toddles, the ones that look more like a throne that sits on the seat in the back. The infant ones are rear-facing (meaning the kid is looking out the back of the car), but even early on the toddler ones are turned around.

I probably put more research effort into the car seat than most anything. We went with the Chicco KeyFit 30 because it had great safety reviews from Consumer Reports and also because it was super easy to use. Chicco products remind me a bit of Apple in the sense that they're engineered for both quality and ease of use. I tried some of the other car seats in the stores and they were a little more difficult to work.

I knew they were important before, but then we watched videos such as this in our baby classes:


Pretty scary stuff. Even the dummy in the car seat gets moved around a lot, so it's no guarantee. My mom tells me stories about the old days when nobody thought about this stuff, how she'd drive us around with us sitting in the front seat. It's no knock on her; it's what people did back then.

Now we have laws that require it. I know some don't like it and we probably could get away without requirements so long as the seat industry itself was well regulated. People are much more educated now than they used to be, hopefully.

----

Post #42 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sweat equity

We learned in our baby classes that one of the signs that the birth is near is that the woman starts "nesting," which essentially means an urge to get the house set up and ready for the baby's arrival.

If you've been reading this blog at all you probably know I've been doing it too. I'm determined to knock out the basement organization project by the first week in August and I'm also in the process of staining four newly installed doors downstairs. The door to the nursery was cracked when we bought it and beyond repair, so we had to replace it. Since there's no way we could match the stain to the others, we had to replace them all.

Anyhow, I've been doing these projects at night and on weekends after I work on research stuff by day.

Except today, that is. I needed a day to just do a bunch of physical labor and sweat some stuff off. I woke up in a bad mood after watching last night's speeches on television. Even for a person with a job who's doing everything right, it's terrifying to watch what's going on with the debt ceiling and it's hard not to feel angry at the people playing chicken with our nation's economy.

I'm trying to avoid politics on this blog, but I'm annoyed with too many people these days. Lying politicians, cynical people who ignore politics and don't vote so they can smugly tell us so later, naive idiots who vote for one issue and in turn elect assholes, and so forth. It's too easy to blame politicians and leave ourselves untouched. We're all to blame. That's all I'm saying.

OK, rant over. That's not the point of this post.

The point is that with a baby coming, it's hard not to worry. I already wonder how we'll do as parents but feel like that is something we can do with effort and some learning. How will we care for it if things really get terrible because of things other people do? How do people do these things?

The trite answer I'm getting (after tweeting last night that I think I need to apologize to our kid for making them join this screwed up society) is people manage. We've been through tougher as a society. Yeah, I know that. Thanks, Sherlock. Right to the pat answer (which, by the way, isn't always true) and ignores how terrifying the whole thing feels in the moment.

When it was just me, I always could manage if things ever got bad. Getting married ups those stakes. Adding a kid to that and all of the sudden I have to worry on behalf of three, to make sure we're provided for. No, I don't regret getting married or that we're having a child. If you think that's the point, you don't know me very well.

The point is that the stakes feel higher every day. And I needed a break to get my head in better shape.

So I went down to the basement and worked my butt off. Sorting through boxes, getting ready for the final coat of Drylok, and generally getting things set up. It felt good to use my muscles instead of my brain for an afternoon. I took a break in the afternoon to do something I haven't done in a long time — call my Congressman and tell him to give a little for crying out loud. Then I went back to work.

I got no research done today (hope the Provost isn't reading this). I don't think I would've gotten any done had I been in front of a computer anyhow. Too much on my mind.

It didn't make the whole world better, but it felt like effort and progress. That's going to be enough for now.

----

Post #41 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Monday, July 25, 2011

Doing the small things wrong

Tonight we had a little mini crisis going on. I set up the diaper pail and noticed that some of the tape that holds it together in shipping wasn't coming off well. Tried scrubbing it and it just made it more worse by adding the sponge color to the sticky stuff. No problem, just pulled out some Goo Gone to take the adhesive off and it was good as new because that stuff is really awesome for stuff like that.

My wife pointed out that maybe while I had it out I should try taking some of the tape adhesive off the windows (it's been there since the previous owners did it). I went back to the kitchen to put more Goo Gone on my paper towel, but instead of just loading it up and walking back and leaving it on the counter, I took it with me and put it on the window sill.

You probably know where this is going.

Two minutes later it was knocked over, spilling on the sill, the wall below, and the hardwood floor. I sprang into action but it was just everywhere. Some of the stuff got on the changing table, the chair, the newly painted walls. Just everywhere. I was racing to keep it from getting into the paint in hopes that I wouldn't strip that off, and I think I saved it. But I'm still washing the linens that got stained and they still have that orange smell.

This is typical of things that trip me up. My first instinct had been to leave it on the counter so I wouldn't have to deal with a spill, and soon I'm dealing with a spill. I hate when I'm right but still do the wrong thing.

Little things like that bug me. There are days I wonder how I'm going to get the big things right. My wife is patient with me and helpful, thankfully. She puts up with so much.

I'm feeling pressure today, about things I can control and things I can't. The things I can't control, basically so much of what's in the news these days, are bad enough. I feel like so much is at stake. But when I mess up things in my control, it feels like shirking duty.

I can do better. I should do better. Some days I worry my good intentions aren't enough.

----

Post #40 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Getting through a heat wave

In case you hadn't heard, it was sort of hot this past weekend. The mother of all heatwaves, at least in terms of the past month. Three days of triple digits and our poor air conditioner was working over time.

I try to keep the house cool for my wife as she's going through the final weeks of the pregnancy. We went out to dinner on Thursday night and the hostess was asking how she's handling being pregnant in the third trimester during a hot and humid summer. She said she's doing fine and it's true - she's a trooper.

Discomfort is there at times, of course, but for the most part it comes and goes. This weekend was a bit different. She had trouble sleeping upstairs because our low ceilings trap the heat more, so she had to take it to the guest room downstairs. It's also limited her ability to go outside while it was so unbearable outdoors.

I was doing my usual since our mini-scare with the dehydration: making sure she wasn't overdoing it and being a Nazi about making sure she's drinking water. I'm a pain in the ass, but I figure it's for a good cause.

Thankfully it is cooling off, and I'm grateful that we have central air here as my wife goes through the final trimester. I know there are a lot of pregnant moms here in the Lehigh Valley and elsewhere that are getting by with less than that. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for them.

----

Post #39 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Saturday, July 23, 2011

All growed up

I don't know if being a professor is like being a parent. I'm a professor now and sometimes it feels that way (I don't always mean this in a positive way, sadly), but I haven't had to be an actual parent to this point so I don't know if they compare.

In five years of teaching I've had a few students compare me to a parental figure in their life. It's an honor to be thought of that way for sure. Ideally you become a teacher because you care about the whole person, not just that part of the brain that is supposed to house the narrow bits of information you bring to the classroom.

But compliment that it is, to be thought of as a father figure also scares me a bit. I was never trained to be that and don't really know what I'm doing in that role. Grad school helped me acquire knowledge, and we sat around talking about fancypants things like "pedagogy" when it came to classroom stuff (pedagogy is your teaching approach - yes, we make everything harder than it needs to be in academia). So the first time a student compared me to a father figure I was honored and terrified at the same time - I have no playbook for the latter role. To be honest I'm not even sure where that part of me that students see comes from. Aren't professors supposed to care about their students? Isn't what they call fatherly just a case of me trying to be a decent human being?

The other side of that, naturally, is that if a student thinks of you as a dad then there is a backstory there that sucks. Sometimes it's worse than others, but it's usually not good. Too often the collateral damage is in their confidence level.

Professors approach their role in many ways. Some see professional detachment, a type of cool objectivity akin to being a doctor, as the way to go. Others think authority and hierarchy help set rules and discipline. I know my approach isn't standard. Brad King has said his role is to be so hard on his students that they hate him. I just can't do it that way.

I think of myself as a guide, a learned friend who knows some things about things and is there to help. In this model, students are responsible for walking the road to learning; I've said many times I can't make a student care or try, but when they do it's my goal to make sure they get everything they can out of the journey. Don't misinterpret the word "friend" .... I'm not begging to be liked and sometimes I am pretty hard on them. I'm often hardest on the ones that I think have the most potential.

But here's the thing: I feel a measure of pride in watching my students go out and conquer something. I'm not sure if it's pride per se. I've never liked to say I'm proud of someone because to me that implies you're taking some credit for their accomplishments, and that feels weird. But it's something like that pride thing. It feels, dare I say, like watching your kids succeed.

I'm proud of all our #LUBlogTribe folks who've stuck with this. Proud of our students who are finding jobs and sticking to it even when they get rejections, knowing that opportunity is coming soon. And I'm proud of our own Michael Ojo, who tonight took a huge step in his quest to play professional basketball. I watch my students go out and pursue their dreams, fight for what they want in life, and not give up. To the degree that I can help or advise, I do it. But the inspiration comes from inside of them

In other words I'm the guide, making sure the bus stays moving in the right direction. Call it being a dad or just giving a damn as a professor, but it is one of the best roles I've been privileged to play in life.

----

Post #38 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Friday, July 22, 2011

Silver linings

Today was a really terrible day if you're a person who consumes a bit of news.

It started with the news in Oslo, where a bombing killed several people, and that was followed up by the even worse news that 80 people at youth camp had been gunned down in a mass shooting that was connected to the first event. I watched the clips and absorbed the news as it came in. It feels like a world gone mad.

The second blow came at the end of the day today with news that the House GOP leader had pulled out of talks with President Obama on the debt ceiling. We are headed for a fiscal calamity because one party can't seem to bend at all. Something probably will get done, but I sat in front of the TV getting angrier and angrier at people who vote these uncompromising jerks into office. I think of how much life is going to change in a month for us here and how I have another life to care for, but the whole system is on the brink so millionaires can depreciate their private jets over a couple extra years.

But despite it all, you sometimes have to see hope where you can find it. I saw it today in the story that the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, which has discriminated against gays who want to serve our country, has been certified for repeal. By the 20th of September, it will be history.

The reason I mention that here is that as I was absorbing this news, I realized that it's likely our baby will be born by that September date. They will be born into this country never living under the shameful history of DADT. There are other injustices in the world, no doubt, and I hope our child grows up with clear eyes and an empathetic heart, but for just one day when the news was terrible it's nice to have a moment like this.

The world can be a tough and terrible place. As I watched things roll on today you start to doubt yourself, doubt the decision you made when you somehow thought bringing a kid into the world wouldn't constitute an act of cruelty. In my worst of moments, it feels like I should be apologizing right away, for the world they're inheriting the staggering ignorance of their fellow humans who keep enabling it.

But those are moments, I hope. And the way to refresh is to see the good as well. Sometimes we fight for so long and so hard trying to make it better that it's hard to stop and appreciate something genuinely great. So that's what I'm doing today.

----

Post #37 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Professor of the year

So I've settled on a plan for the week the baby is born. The students in my Media & Society class this fall are going to love it.

Basically, they're getting a week off.

I've juggled the semester schedule in the syllabus to have a floating week off sometime in the month of September. It'll be put on the week of the 15th, but really it will just move back or forward depending on when my wife goes into labor. Two class periods off for free.

The bad news is I'll have another assignment of some sort during that week. But it can be done during their spare time.

My class has 65 students. I've been doing this long enough to know two of them will complain because of what they're paying in tuition and the others will be thrilled.

But it's actually coming out of exam time. In the past I've done two exams and a final, but I'm moving to a midterm-final setup this time. So the days saved are partially made up by the missing exam.

I've spent some of this week reworking my lectures so they're are ready. I'm determined to not let the life change affect the quality of my teaching. Of course I'm learning to redefine quality and such for this new age, but I do want to make sure I'm giving proper attention to making the classroom experience quality.

I'll also be making use of tech. The new Google Plus feature that lets you do Hangouts will be good for this, as I'll be working from home more often. But I plan on holding office hours on Hangout a couple days a week so students can ask questions and such. This will give me a chance to try out some new technology and hopefully streamline what I am trying to do with students.

----

Post #36 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

TV or not TV?

My wife and I have talked about this one a bit and I've found I don't have a solid opinion on it. When do we introduce television to the kid?

My initial response is "as late as possible" because I know that witholding it isn't practical. I don't want our child to grow up fearing particular forms of media, but rather to learn how to consume with an active and discerning mind. That will take time and maybe it will take a little bit of guidance.

I know the research on this is mixed. I've always thought of television as a social form of entertainment (to my wife's chagrin, as she has to listen to my Mystery Science Theather 3000 style of running commentary while we watch). I also know that TV is what keeps a lot of parents sane because they can throw in a DVD and have a quiet kid for a while.

And at the same time, television as an idea is changing. You can ban a TV, but what about watching video on iPad or on the computer? What makes them different?

So how young is too young, in your mind? My completely off-the-cuff answer: feels like age 3 even if it's totally unrealistic to think we'll last that long.

----

Post #35 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tough choices are the other side of flexibility

Before the baby is born I have one more trip in me. I'd prefer to not face the choice, but it's one of those things were I feel like I need to go.

Amy will finish week 37 right about the time I have to do a conference in St. Louis. Technically I don't have to go, but as with most things it's never that easy. I had a teaching panel accepted, was put on another panel to talk about research, and I had a research paper accepted.

Those are things that matter to folks like me, who are on tenure track. For those of you who don't know much about my world, my first six years are spent chasing tenure. I have to prove that I'm worth keeping around as a teacher and a researcher, among other things. I'm doing fine on teaching. Research is a tougher nut to crack in some ways. Publishing is part of it, but there also is an external review process where folks outside Lehigh judge your packet as a whole.

That means networking which, by the way, I suck at. It's a long story, but I am not the type to bound up to someone at an academic conference and introduce myself.

"HI I'M JEREMY AND THIS IS MY KLOUT SCORE" and so forth ....

Anyhow, these networking moments are big for me. Now it's true that one weekend of networking doesn't compare to the baby's birth, but we have a lot riding on me getting tenure here. It's sort of the cornerstone of our plan here. So I have a job to do, not just for my wife but on behalf of our baby.

If the baby were due that week, it's an easy choice. But in this case the due date is a few weeks away while I'm gone. The prospect of the kid coming early has been big reason for pause. It could happen. It probably won't but it could.

I've been uneasy about this choice. Fortunately it's going to be a bit easier, as we've confirmed that my mother-in-law will be here to spend some time before the baby is born. It's good to know my wife will have some help right there if she needs it. In the meantime I've mapped out a contingency plan should I need to get home quickly. I know what my flight options are. I have an escape route. Cost will not be a factor.

The good thing is I've told by folks in my department that I don't need to go. They've been good to me; the pressure is mostly internal. I've gotten a few wince-looks from folks who know I am going. They don't get my choice. I'll grant them the ability to judge, but they have to see that things about academic life that are family friendly also force tough choices. I have more flexibility to make my own schedule and spend time with our child, something that's harder for a parent with a rigid schedule. I have more financial flexibility. I can work from home. These are all good things, but with that comes the occasional hard choice.

There's no way I'm going to whine about a few hard choices when I know what a blessing the academic schedule can be for me in terms of family life. People don't see that a few moments of bad come with a lot of good. I don't begrudge them for not seeing it or for judging accordingly. But there's a bigger picture here, and I'll gladly do what I need to do in these few moments in order to get the overall benefit.

----

Post #34 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Monday, July 18, 2011

What raising a child means

I've been thinking a lot the past few months about what it means to raise a child. There's the feeding, burping, changing and other stuff, of course, but there are other things too. What are my hopes for my child, and in turn how do I help shepherd them along in that process?

That starts with what kind of home we have.

Our kid is going to be lucky because both parents will be firm believers in education and all that entails: diversity, open-mindedness, reason, curiosity, and a brain that seeks to constantly know more (among other things). I can't help but hope that I can help raise a kid who really values learning and all the great things that come from having an active mind. My wife takes a similar view of the world and I believe this is going to rub off on our child.

But it's more than teaching. We have to model it too in the home. What I'm really talking about is environments.

I grew up in a super conservative home. My dad is a minister who spent a lot of my youth packing in the diet of Rush Limbaugh. Both of my parents are conservative as are both of my siblings (to varying degrees, of course). What I grew up in was a household that was pretty closed to other ways of seeing the world. My dad often parroted talk radio phrases that disparaged liberals, probably without thinking about what it means in the context of family.

Fast forward to the college years and beyond for me. I changed a lot. I went through a lot of bad things from about my senior year onward and began to see the conservative version of the faith I was raised in much more critically. I came to detest the power plays that happened in congregations and lack of compassion for those who suffer from being different. Not all Christians are like this and I never walked away from my faith, but it went a different direction than those I grew up with. Now I see things like my former youth minister making jokes about killing the President and it just breaks my heart. I am so far away from that circle of people and I don't feel bad about missing it.

What happened, then, is by default as I changed I grew up more isolated. Liberals were the enemy. I was not a liberal, and don't describe myself as one now (I technically use the term "leaky libertarian"), but even moderates were leftists to those who grew up with my background. After years of hearing how people who think differently were destroying America, suddenly I was one of those people. How was I to square all that with daily interaction with my family?

Well, for a while I just buried it. I learned to be ashamed of how I'd changed rather than own it. And so there was peace, because I decided not to be me. This is not unfamiliar to many people; it's how we get along in society.

Things changed when I hit grad school. I've often described the process of a PhD as rewiring the process of thinking. It doesn't change what you believe per se so much as how you analyze the world around you. And as I became rewired, I realized that being something other than I am was no longer an option.

All those things came to head. I was a "liberal journalist" which led to the easy shorthand of "oh you're just a liberal" every time I disagreed with some discussion. I was open about voting for Obama in 2008 (after years of bouncing back and forth between parties on my votes) and it was interpreted as an act of turning away from how I was raised.

It was just a shorthand way of understanding the world, applied to me. My way of seeing the world has always been more complex than that, and there is nothing more disconcerting than realizing you're seen as something you're not.

What has resulted from this process has been uneasy peace and outright tension at times. I get the "I don't think those horrible things about you" line now, which is meant well. I don't doubt my family's love for me or mine for them, but I can't say it's been an easy process squaring that reality with what I was fed growing up.

I swear I'm not writing this to be critical of my family (whom none of you has met). Every family has its uneasy tensions and tough spots. And we all make mistakes. But things aren't the same, and I realize that a lot of this is my fault. I stopped going along to get along, and while I haven't always done this in the best way, it's easier to assign blame to the person who stepped out of turn. And so I've taken that on and realized that's the way things have to be.

The reason why I write this is because that's all in the back of my head when I think about the kind of environment I want our home to be. I want it to be a place of tolerance and, to the degree that it's possible, where our kid can ask questions and disagree, to think critically about the world around them (even take a conservative view of the world if they so choose). If the Socratic style works for teaching, surely it can work in raising a kid as well. Even if that probably will be mentally exhausting.

And I want it to be a place where faith has an important place. Maybe I can help our kid get along in this world where they struggle to integrate faith with all those other things that come in education. Because faith often is deconstructed in the world of academia, not built up. It's hard work reconciling the truths you learn about this world with the truths you come to see in the spiritual realm. It's messy and it's hard work, and you're uneasy all the time.

Lest my family think I've chosen the easy road. At times I am an alien everywhere. If you think the faith-siders have issues with my academic side, it can be just as tough in reverse. It can become a giant "What happened to you?" because you don't fit the mold that's been made for you.

It's in those moments of thinking about this that I realize that I've found the grace to reconcile my own family dealings, messy as they are. You learn to understand that you're imperfect, just as those around you are. The logical consequence of what I've lived through in my own family life need not be hatred or anger; it can be a call to forgive, move on, and try to be better - and have a bit of humility when you fall short.

Yeah, there are still consequences. There always are. But you muddle through.

But mostly I don't want my child to feel ashamed of the fact they're not the same as me. I'm fully prepared to fail at this because I'm human, no less human than anyone in my family. I do hope, though, that when I don't follow my own ideals that I can own that and help use my failings to be a better explainer (and parent).

At least that's where I'm at now. I've been thinking about this since the day we found out we are having a baby. It's scary to think that you could repeat history for the child, to recycle the same scenarios that once had me feeling small. For now it's my motivation to be better. Always better.

----

Post #33 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It's getting tougher

The final six weeks are on us in full force. My wife is feeling more aches and pains, having a harder time sleeping, and feeling warm a lot. This is pretty normal stuff, but there hasn't been a lot of pain to this point so this is fairly new for her.

The iPhone app tells me the baby is adding about a half a pound a week for the next month, so that's adding some weight. My wife also is gaining as her body prepares for what it will need to get this kid out. All of this means stretching, pulling, and reorganizing all of her internal organs. It sounds like no fun.

It's not helping that it's so warm outside. I've been venting outside air to get some of the fumes out of the basement from my painting, so the AC is escaping. I had a feeling this might happen, but it's not helping matters.

As a husband I feel like it's my job to make sure she's as comfortable as I can, and sometimes that means anticipating her needs. I didn't do a great job of that with the painting and fume venting. Generally I do OK but I still miss things; it's a good thing my wife is so forgiving.

This won't end with the birth, though. Right now I'm on the sidelines watching all of this but I've been thinking this whole time about how to be in the game a bit more when I am needed. I've made it a goal to carry as much of the load as I can in September while balancing my class schedule and grading. The first six weeks are going to be a blur for me, but I want to take as much pressure off my wife as I can while we try to get a routine down.

----

Post #32 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Preparing with projects

This weekend I'm taking a break from baby stuff to focus on a project I desperately want to finish before the baby is born.

You see, we have this basement and it's like this slowly developing nuclear explosion since we moved in two years ago. Which is convenient, of course, because it could double as a fallout shelter in an actual nuclear explosion.

But here's the deal. When we moved in, a bunch of stuff went straight to the basement because we had no idea where everything was going. Then as we started painting, we moved things out of those rooms being painted and into other rooms. It was a slow migration to the final room we painted, and all that crap finally went to the basement. Thus the explosion dealie.

Other thing on my plate has been that we needed to seal the basement walls with Drylok, a task I've been putting off for a while. And that sort of has to get done before I can set the shelves up and start putting things in the basement away instead of just sitting on the floors.

So I finally got started. First day was hellish, because I started with the area with a lot of places where you have to work around stuff. Imagine painting a wall with a hot-water heater right there, giving you about 6 inches to work. Then add a heater, washer-dryer, sink, and a whole lot of pipes and you get the picture.

But I left myself with the easier job now that this part is done. Mostly open walls with a few outlets here and there. Bad news is I am one sore burrito right now. The brushes were heavier than they are from painting because Drylok is really thick stuff, much thicker than latex paint. You feel like you're shoveling it on the wall and then troweling it on with the roller brush. Also, I can attest that it sticks to your skin much worse than regular latex paint.

But I'm glad to be starting this. I was itching to start it last weekend before my back went out, and I really want to get this project done because I know I'm far less likely to finish it once the baby is born.

I have a couple other things on that list, mostly landscaping stuff outside. I might or might not get to those, but they're smaller things I can do in a half day if only I can find that half day.

----

Post #31 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dealing with negativity

Yesterday I wrote about how I'm a realist. There is another side to this though in that being realistic about challenge isn't necessarily negative. And now excuse me while I go on a mini-rant.

Generally people are pretty cool when they find out we're having a kid. They congratulate us, ask how things are, and are mostly ... you know ... actual normal people about it. There is another group at the other end of the continuum, the folks who think they're helping by sharing every negative piece of knowledge they have about the pregnancy and what comes next after the baby is born.

It's the crowd whose reaction is nothing but the following:
  • "Enjoy sleeping while you can"
  • "My pregnancy was SO horrible" (best said if wife isn't far along for maximum stress)
  • "You have so much to learn"
  • "Why are you doing THAT?"
Etc. It's not like I'm criticizing advice because we've had a lot of great tips along the way that have helped us out. It actually does help me to hear parents stories about the good and the bad because I get the balance. I've particularly loved hearing stories from Silagh and her husband about what it was like in the early days because they speak matter-of-factly about what they went through, good and bad.

No, in the situation of the above quotes, I'm talking more in terms of tone, with folks who have nothing but negatives to say. God forbid we cast off the worry and concern that comes naturally to us and just sort of enjoy things as they are.

If we were doing this when I was 25, I could see us being naive and green, expecting everything to be a unicorn sundae. But I'm 36. I've been through some crap in my life. I get that adversity is part of the deal when it comes to living.

That's me being nice. When people tell me to stock up on sleep, I feel like responding, "Really? Babies cry a lot and don't do it on your schedule? I had no effing idea!"

Some folks are just negative that way. I don't believe in living in a fantasy world, but I do think that you shape your reality in part by how you approach the world and I try to stay cautiously optimistic. And again, I've lived a bit in life. We knew the first month after the birth was going to be rough.

But not everyone is doing it just because they're negative. Some genuinely believe they're helping, as if we need to be warned of every little negative up front so we go in eyes open. Thing is, if we need to be cut down to size, stories aren't going to do it. I've seen couples get married with completely unrealistic expectations and no amount of warning will deter them. It. Will. Be. Awesome. No matter what. Until it isn't. But the thing is, people will do what they will do.

In our case, we've done our best to educate ourselves. We've probably missed a lot of stuff. But it's not for lack of trying, and we've learned about some things that we need to prepare for in terms of challenges and negatives that come with raising an infant. So after all of that, it's nice to hear parents actually say things they love about raising their kids.

So I'm not telling the nattering nabobs of negativism to stuff it. It's just that you're not helping. And truthfully, I stopped listening to you a while ago. It might be a shutoff mechanism, but I can take only so much negative thinking before the pregnancy goes from being a reason for joy to one that makes me a flaming ball of stress.

But I have learned one lesson from you, and that's how to behave when we meet couples in our shoes. Congratulate them. Experience the joy with them. Offer whatever help they need. We're doing this because it's meaningful, right?

----

Post #30 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Just a short post

We passed into Week 34 today. I've said this before but I think it's worth reiterating that every day that marches on without incident in this pregnancy is a blessing.

Seven months ago we were shocked at the news that we were expecting, in large part because we got a late start to this in terms of age. The risk factors go up once you clear the 35-year barrier. So while I've been enjoying watching our baby grow, there's always cautious parts of my brain trying to keep everything in perspective.

Every day we travel on this path is a gift. I've been told by a few folks that I speak the language of someone who is worried all the time, and I don't mean to sound that way. I'm a realist, mindful that we've been incredibly lucky so far and that life throws you curveballs.

But seven weeks to go. Very exciting.

----

Post #29 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

No concert for you!



So here's the deal, kid. In early 2010, basically a year before you were formed in the atom smasher known as my wife's uterus, I bought tickets to U2's July 2010 show in Philadelphia. Actually I also got tickets to see them in Oakland so I could go with my brother, but that didn't pan out.

Actually, neither show did. Bono went and hurt his back and the North American tour was put off for a year. The plan had always been to go with my wife, but then you came along and let's just say she wasn't jumping at the chance to start her 34th week of pregnancy at a rock concert in Philadelphia. That concert is happening tomorrow and I'll be attending instead with a friend.

I know. Bono? U2? Who are these people?

You'll learn. Your dad has sort of a mancrush on this Irish quartet, one that goes back to high school days. True story, snuck out to see the Zoo TV show in Oakland back in days when I was supposed to not be old enough to do stuff like that. For many reasons, including the fact I did a bad, bad thing, that remains one of the best concerts I've ever seen.

Tomorrow will be my 10th U2 show. I have something of a problem. The picture above was taken at the last one I attended, Boston 2009 on the first leg of the U2 360 tour. That's me about 20 feet from one of the moving ramps that connect the main stage to the outer circle. At one point the bridge moved to the point where Adam Clayton played bass for "Sunday Bloody Sunday" right above my head.

Anyhow, all this to say that you've heard some of their music in utero. You'll hear a lot more of it as you grow up. The Joshua Tree remains one of the finest albums ever made. If you ever want to understand the kinds of things that shaped your dad when he was growing up, just throw that thing on repeat.

U2 was an It band in an era that produced a lot of them. The world was different then, revolving around a music production process that tended to build bigger acts. You sort of married these supergroups for life. It's not like that anymore, really, or at least to the degree it once was. Maybe it'll get back to that by the time you're sneaking out of the house to catch a show, maybe it won't.

The great thing about U2 shows over the years is they line up some amazing supporting acts in their prime. I've seen Public Enemy, Rage Against The Machine, Oasis, No Doubt, Snow Patrol, and now Interpol among others all because they got 45 minutes to start the show. I'm still trying to bury the P.J. Harvey memories, but that's beside the point.

I hope you like these guys. I do listen to other music, but I play U2 a lot. They make music for all kinds of moods. I hear songs like "Kite," "Out Of Control" and "Original Of The Species" and think of you.

It would have been fun to have you there, in my wife's belly, rocking out like the rest of us. I hope they're still touring when you're old enough to hit a show with me.

Also, sorry in advance to my wife for the "atom smasher" image.

----

Post #28 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Just a fun picture today

My wife had a baby shower at work yesterday, which brought together people in her department. Many good things all around, including:
  • She brought home cake
  • We got balloons. Saving the helium for a special occasion.
  • Someone bit on the iPhone-like toy I put on the registry. I lights up and beeps. This is going to be the best thing ever. And really, you'd expect a kid of mine to have a toy like that.
  • She brought home cake
  • By all accounts it was a fun time for her to relax and enjoy things. She isn't a fan of being the center of attention, but she deserves it.
  • Did I mention she brought home cake?

The nursery is starting to fill up with the things we need to be ready and some things that will just be fun. Still need to get the curtain rods up before I can post pictures, but there are a lot of clothes hanging in the closet.

We're getting closer every day! Just finished the 33rd week today, so seven more weeks to go until the due date.

----

Post #27 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Monday, July 11, 2011

False alarms

So last night was interesting. Around evening time my wife started having intermittent abdominal cramps. They didn't last long, but they were regular enough that we wondered whether they were contractions.

Bear in mind we're not quite at 33 weeks. The magic number is 37; anything less than that and the baby is considered a preemie. The survival rate past 32 weeks is well over 90%, which is good news, but that doesn't mean it's complication-free.

We called the doctor, who suggested fluids and rest and to call back if she was having trouble sleeping. Turns out that did the trick; while she isn't feeling quite herself, it's better than having something like contractions.

False labor, cramping, and Braxton Hicks contractions are pretty common in the weeks before going full term. Even in the moment, we both knew that and figured it was nothing big, but it was hard not to worry. Earlier in the day we'd gone for a walk and she was going a bit slower. I cut the walk short but only after observing for too long; I should have trusted my instincts. And this is the kinds of things I spent the evening kicking myself over as I waited to see how things progressed.

So it turned out OK. If we hadn't been proactive, it might have gone another way, or it might have ended up fine. But lesson learned, and I'll try to do better next time. My instincts are to not be a pusher. Our marriage isn't the kind where I'm issuing the orders and so it's harder for me to take the lead when I see subtle things in the way Amy is walking or breathing that tell me she's pushing herself too hard.

And of course the stakes are high. I wonder every day about the things I don't know, but I'm trying to add. Tonight we attended a child/infant CPR course just to fill gaps in our own knowledge. We can't cover everything, but we're doing what we can.

Yes, this is just the beginning. Yes I probably am going to have nagging worry about this kid well into their adult life. But one of the benefits of moments like these is it lets me practice how I react when the outcomes are beneficial. I'm learning a lot about how to react to worry and how to channel it into something productive. In some moments I'm fine and in others there's work to do.

----

Post #26 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pain in the back

I've got a few big projects I'm raring to get done before the baby is born, but instead of working this weekend I've been laying around on a heating pad. The chronic back pain has flared up again and it can render me useless for shortperiods of time.

Little-known fact about me: I was born with a birth defect in my back known as spondylolisthesis, which basically is a slippage of the spine. Essentially I don't have a fully continuous spinal column as there is some separation down in my lower back. I've seen the X-ray and it's something between the Grade 2 and the Grade 3 version in the right.

The condition puts a lot of pressure on my spine at times and in turn causes a great deal of pain, so I've learned to be careful. Once it was discovered on a fluke X-ray while I was in high school, I wasn't allowed to play sports that had decent amounts of contact for fear that it would make the slippage even worse - thus the end of my glorious multi-billion-dollar sports career before it even started.

If you've ever seen me walking like an old geezer around campus, now you know why - I'm probably dealing with the latest flareup. The pain at times can be excruciating and the hardest thing for me actually is to sit in meetings because it usually involves an uncomfortable chair. And some of my favorite restaurants here Do. Not. Help. I'm looking at you, Sal's.

Lately I've been getting the flareups more which may or may not be a sign it's getting worse. The doctors told me there are things that can be done to alleviate the pain but some of them are fairly risky. But with things the way they've been I've been thinking more about looking at fix options. I don't want to risk a treatment that leads to paralysis just as a baby is coming into our lives, but I don't want to be grounded when my wife is going to need me to step up around here.

For now the medicine is rest and heat, which seems to do the trick after a couple days. I've been dealing with this off and on for a few months now, though, so it may be time to see a specialist. I know one thing they'll tell me, which is that I need to lose a little bit of weight in my waist area (and they're right, it's something that is up and down for me). Part of me wonders whether I should try weight dropping and then go in, but whatever the case I probably don't want to let this continue for much longer.

----

Post #25 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Saturday, July 9, 2011

More difficulty

So far the pregnancy has been fairly stress free, and we are thankful for that. Other than some concern about a test result that turned out to be a false alarm, we haven't had much to worry about. My wife didn't get sick much in the early going and she wasn't feeling a lot of the soreness or other symptoms that come with a body that stretches to accommodate a baby.

Not to say there's no discomfort, but my wife has expressed a lot that she feels lucky that she's felt so good.

The past couple weeks have seen a little more ramping up of physical discomfort. She's definitely adding that pound per week that the doctors say comes at this time, and that has meant more back pain and other physical discomfort that makes it hard to find an easy way to sit or sleep.

Tonight we went for a walk and she was having to pause every so often. I'm learning to walk slower to let her do her own pace, which isn't natural to me because I'm tall and tend to stride with big steps. But I'm trying to be more mindful of physical discomfort she is or might be experiencing when we're doing little things.

I'm also becoming more of a dictator about her doing physical things. I'm telling her to let me carry her bag in and out of the house or to not push herself in myriad ways. It's her choice in the end, but I want to offer the counterweight just in case.

This is the best role I think I play in the pregnancy process. I'm there to make sure she's remembering snacks or water when she goes out, or being the one to make sure she's not pushing herself too hard. With less than eight weeks to go, it's about making sure we're keeping that baby in there before it's ready. And given how she is growing, that baby is raring to come out soon.

----

Post #24 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Friday, July 8, 2011

Keepin' my head down

A couple days ago I posted about kicks. Today I got to feel something a little cooler.

My wife went in for a checkup today and they told her the baby is at head-down position, which is a good thing. I wanted her to ask how they determine this and the doctor explained that they feel for soft spots on the belly vs. hard spots. And when they feel a hard spot, they sort of plot out where the hard ones are compared to the soft ones and that gives something like an outline of the body.

Anyhow, I was intrigued. So this afternoon I was laying next to her and feeling for hard or soft areas. I came on a hard spot and pressed down slightly and .... it moved. What I pressed pretty clearly was a hand or a foot, probably a foot given that it was high up on the belly. And after pushing it a way, the kid kicked back right at that spot.

We were either playing or the kid was challenging authority. I could go with either explanation; it is a Littau baby, after all.

So this is the first time I've felt something where it wasn't just general "baby moving" type stuff. We've been watching her tummy and seeing little protrusions that go up or down, but it was so cool to interact with what I'm pretty sure was a limb.

These are those moments I'll miss a lot when the baby is born. It'll be nice to actually have the baby, of course, but getting to interact with it while it's in the womb is so interesting. I like to lay there and do some tactile touching and talking. Good stuff.

----

Post #23 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Baby shopping makes no sense

Baby stuff is expensive. I mean ex-PEN-sive. I try not to be one of those dads who's only seeing the bottom line, but because I'm the one who handles the monthly bill paying I see all the hits our bank account takes as we go through.

It's weird that I went about six months being somewhat inoculated from all of this, mostly due to self-imposed ignorance. We didn't do a ton of baby shopping but I did do research and such.

The first domino fell when we went to register for baby stuff, a practice I didn't know existed until a couple people asked where we were registered. So we trotted on down to Target and BabiesRUs, took that scanner gun (easily the coolest part of the thing) and went to scanning. We scanned all the stuff I had researched and then added stuff from lists that were recommended by a couple baby books we were using. (by the way, if you register someday use BabyRegistries.com to group all of your registries in one place for people; makes it easy)

So I saw tags for the first time. Car seat, $160. Glider rocking chair, $300. Pack-and-play, $170. Crib, $200. Strollers, $150. That's not including clothes, bottles and pumps for milk, or painting the kid's room.

Still, no problem. We'd saved for this contingency and we got a few of those items from friends and such. No biggie.

Enter July 4 weekend. I got the most ZOMG AMAZING set of coupons from BabiesRUs in my email and it had a bunch of ones to save 20% on big-ticket items that we'd registered for at the store. So I quickly printed it out, greedhead that I am, and went down to the store with my wife and sister-in-law, who was visiting from out of town. Chance to save something like $200? Yes please!

We get there and discover that the "one coupon per customer" language on the coupons actually means one coupon per person per visit even if it's entirely different items. Really dumb. So we quickly see we have five items and three people. The math wasn't in our favor. So we concocted a plan where we used one, shopped a bunch, went through the line, shopped some more, went through the line again with a different cashier and prayed someone didn't notice us.

I mean, we could have not been sneaky and just used the extra ones at the Phillipsburg store, but really.

This story has a point, I swear.

The point being that BabiesRUs is sort of dumb.

You see, with each purchase they printed up some of those cool at-the-register coupons. In this case, we got one for 20% off a single baby item plus coupons for $5 off formula (the latter of which is so expensive that I may take up breastfeeding myself if it means not having to spend $25 for a can of that stuff even once). So we got a 20% off plus a formula discount for each of our five illicit purchases. Has BabiesRUs not been difficult and let us just combine it into one transaction, we would have gotten one set of register coupons.

So we get our way, and we get to do this all over again at the end of the month. It's a circle of idiotic savings, except we aren't complaining.

So, to recap, baby store tries to play hardball with coupons, we figure out workaround, they shower us with five times the extra coupons so they lose even more money. Heck of a business model they have there.

These baby stores in general have really weird policies, and not just with coupons. Between everything being about 10% more expensive just so you can go gaga over shopping in a baby store and the return policy that only Scrooge would admire, it can get over the top. Some of these stores I feel like I'm going to battle.

But we're learning to cut corners. I'm not a coupon addict, even if this post makes me look like a miserly nut case, but I hate paying more just because BabiesRUs says I should. I wish they wouldn't make me work so hard for the savings, but I do love a good deal.

And if I have to get a crowd of folks to storm the line with me for the principle of using multiple coupons, so be it. I got my army ready.

----

Post #22 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kicking up a storm

I noticed something new today. When my wife puts her hands on her belly she forms a heart with her hands. She's posing in the picture at the right, but even when she's just doing it unconsciously she strikes that pose.

It's pretty cute.

The baby has been kicking a ton lately. They told us we'd start feeling kicks in about week 22 but it took a lot longer for us to feel them because the placenta is in the front. I have to admit as it went on and we weren't feeling kicks I was a little nervous, but the checkups were OK so I tried to be patient.

About week 24 I felt my first kick. They were sparse at first, but the past two weeks the kid has been kicking like it was trying to punch a way out. At night when we're going to sleep the baby gets very active. I've gotten so I like to just sit and watch my wife's belly, knowing our baby is in there interacting with us.

Sometimes I like to put my face up against my wife's stomach and talk to the baby. Sometimes I get little kicks on the face in return. Even as I write this I'm watching parts of her stomach slowly prod outward as the baby slowly pushes a hand or foot against the womb. It's an incredible sight.

Protip, though: If your wife hasn't seen the movie Alien, best not show her the scene where the alien emerges from the astronaut's stomach while she is pregnant. Especially if you plan on referencing it later when the baby is pushing around. Trust me on this one.

----

Post #21 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Nothing I can do

I know absolutely nothing about the Casey Anthony case. Haven't followed it the whole time and basically only knew the name. It was interesting watching the frenzy unfold in my Twitter and Facebook feeds today; a lot of folks who generally don't comment much on what's in the news were pretty charged up by the verdict.

Like I said, I haven't followed, but I tweeted that I'm proud to know nothing about the case. It sounds like a horrible situation, but there literally is nothing I could do to change the outcome. Child endangerment is terrible, but Anthony's guilt or innocence has no bearing on the parent I will be. It's not like her going to jail was going to make me want to fly straight or something.

I consider these big sensational trials to be a sideshow distraction. Several of the people I saw get worked up also have expressed, at one time or another, cynicism and disengagement with politics - non-voters and not paying attention.

It's a shame. The Anthony story appears to be tragic news, sure, but so is the fact that Medicaid for poor kids is endangered because of our debt-ceiling negotiations. Why care about this kid but not the health of thousands upon thousands more? There are folks who care about both, of course, but I sure saw a lot of politically disinterested folks suddenly caring about Anthony as if it were the nadir of civilization itself. It doesn't make what happened to Anthony's child less tragic, but to me these things always come down to priorities. People sometimes get outraged by news that has no effect on us while turning a blind eye to suffering for a whole generation that gets behind due to cuts in food and health aid to poor children.

That's one example. I can think of a lot more, but the specifics aren't that important. Like the O.J. trial before it, the media covers this because it's cheap and grabs ratings. People tune in so they can tune out on the hard truths of life that actually affect them. It's a newsy version of Orwell's conception of pornosec in 1984, a media tool aimed at keeping average folks distracted and content to ignore real-world problems.

Think of the news you either didn't get or outright ignored in the Anthony feeding frenzy. The state of Minnesota is shut down because two parties can't move off dogmatic beliefs. We might default on our debt for the first time in U.S. history and what follows could well be Great Recession II. Our soldiers are still dying every day in the Middle East, fighting two wars we've largely forgotten about. These things affect all of us now, and they are much more worthy of not only our outrage but also our engagement in a political process that shapes policy.

Then there's the kid stuff. More than a million U.S. children go to bed hungry on a regular basis according to a 2010 report. It's worse outside the borders of our blessed nation. About 32% of children in developing countries are malnourished. More than 78% of malnourished children live in countries that have a food surplus.

In other words, most child hunger problems are not a matter of supply. Not of food, and certainly nor of our ability to be outraged. It's just our outrage is being directed at a single reality TV courtroom drama where we have no influence instead of the arenas where we the people do have influence. We can demand better of our leaders and keep pressing. It's a matter of priorities and dedication to keep at it rather than give up and get cynical. We get the world we want, either by active choice or passive apathy.

One brave Twitter follower challenged my pride in not caring about the Anthony verdict, saying that my impending fatherhood might make me enraged once I knew the details.

Respectfully, I couldn't disagree more. I lay awake at nights wondering what the hell kind of world we're bringing the kid into. The world can be an awful, terrible brutal place at times, but intermingled in all the pain and sorrow that we see and feel as adults is simple beauty. I believe in love. Whether Anthony is guilty or innocent doesn't change any of that, doesn't change the fact that I want to be the best dad I can be and doesn't make any of my parenting choices more or less weighty.

I've learned to pay attention to things that I can control, or to things that have an effect on me or the world as I'd like it to be. There are some highly engaged news users who followed the Anthony trial. Now I challenge them to do something with their stated passion for keeping kids safe and support policies and initiatives that do such things rather than lashing out at the Anthony verdict and moving on to some other media-spectacle outrage.

----

Post #20 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter