Useful Tuesdays: A Plan (& Patience)

I must start this post by saying there will probably be no useful information presented. I just wanted to talk about all this stuff and it seemed like I could get away with it today…

So summer is pretty much over. I officially start work this Thursday. I went to school today and got about five hours in. I still have a lot to do, especially considering I know longer have time to prep built into my schedule.

I’ve spent all of August getting us ready for our new childcare situations. For those who don’t know we have a patchwork quilt of Isa-care happening this year. My FIL is watching Isa on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9am to 1pm. Mi.Vida is bringing Isa over on the Muni train and I will be picking her up after work.

My MIL and FIL have jumped into this childcare situation with both feet and plenty of enthusiasm. They’ve totally transformed their daughter’s bedroom into a playroom, where Isa will have access to more toys than she does at home. They’ve also already purchased a high chair, a $200+ stroller and many other supplies. It was all I could do to keep them from purchasing a whole new set of cloth diapers (which we SO don’t need).

On Tuesdays I will be bringing Isa to a friend’s house near where I work. That means I have to have her ready to get in the car by 6:45am. Tuesdays are also staff meeting days and I have to go to those at 3pm so I will be picking Isa up from my friend’s and bringing her back to school so my mom can either play with her there or bring her back to her house. Tuesdays are going to be long and rough.

I am working part time this year. I have four classes and finish teaching at lunch. I am doing 4/5 of the work in 2/3 of the time. The way it works is I loose my prep period (when I’m supposed to get work done like grading papers, making copies and planning) and my lunch along with the actual class I’m not teaching. I will be commuting back to the city when I’m supposed to be eating.

Both of our childcare providers are watching Isa free of charge, which is the only reason I can afford to be part time. I don’t want either of them to be spending any money on her care (though the ILs will most certainly be doing plenty of that, as they already have); that means I’ve had to purchase (used, of course) an booster with tray, a car seat and a travel crib for my friend’s house. I’ve also gotten her a sippy cup, an extra binki and blankie, Infant Ibuprofen, a bottle and other things that she absolutely must have around the house lest I forget them when I pack Isa. Needless to say, it’s a lot.

I’ve also been trying to get things ready at home so the transition will be easier on all of us. I’ve been making baby food like crazy so I will have quick, healthy options for Isa when I’m too tired to cook for her. So far I’ve made two kinds of lentils and chicken and rice. Tonight I’m making pasta stars with veggies and tomorrow Mi.Vida is making a vegetable risotto. I’ve also stripped the cloth diapers and done a ton of other laundry. Tomorrow I’m running some errands. Wednesday I’m getting the oil changed in our car.

I had hoped to have my bedroom all cleaned out and ready to go before work started but the reality is it’s not going to happen. While I’m disappointed that I didn’t get it done this summer I’m confident I will finish that project, and the other three rooms that await the Great Clutter Catharsis. By April of next year this apartment will be a different place.

I have to admit, I’m both incredibly excited to have the opportunity to spend more time with Isa this year, and incredibly nervous that after working five hours straight in the morning and then picking up Isa to spend another five hours straight with her, I will be a tired wreck by the end of the day. Of course I was a tired wreck when I was working full time too, and I only got to see her for a couple hours a day. I’m sure this will be better, I just need to figure out what I’m doing and hit my stride.

And that is going to take a lot more planning and patience.

Wordless Wednesdays: Gracias Tía

As many of you know we have been so lucky to have Isa’s aunt (Mi.Vida’s sister) watching Isa this year. Every day, twice a day, she updated a blog with photos, videos and stories of Isa’s adventures. Not only did this keep us connected to our daughter, we will forever have a detailed account of Isa’s first year. For the past six months I’ve gone to work knowing that my daughter is in the most capable, caring (Spanish speaking!) hands. Did I mention she just earned her Masters in Early Childhood Development?! IsaNene and TíaMolly obviously have a wonderful, loving relationship and we don’t know what we’ll do when TíaMolly moves to Guatemala in two weeks.

Thank you Tía Molly! We love you!

Working Mama Mondays: Part-time

I got the go ahead today to send in my paper work for part time next year. My principal seemed quite confident when he let me know. Right now I have two Spanish classes and two ELD classes lined up for next year. Of course someone told me that something in the schedule might change making one of the ELD classes impossible (a detail that my principal didn’t mention). At the very end he mumbled that the Spanish and ELD classes should be what I get, which of course leaves open the possibility of me getting saddled with some class I’ve never taught before like 8th grade English (which would be a disaster).

I know I should be shouting from the roof tops right now. I know there are many women who would die for this opportunity.

And I am happy, I really am. This is the best possible scenario for my family. I’m very grateful that it will work out.

Of course, I’m also anxious. I’m scared the schedule will get turned around and I’ll end up teaching classes I’m not well versed in. I’m worried I’ll be unprepared without of my prep period to make copies, grade papers and plan lesson. I’m terrified I’m going to lose my full time tenure and be stuck teaching .8 forever. I’m worried I’ll feel isolated and alone not seeing my colleagues at lunch or after school. Lunch time isn’t even scheduled into my day!

I just realized I never even explained what our plan is for next year.

At my school we teach five classes in six periods. The extra period is our “prep” period, when we prepare for all the classes we teach. I’ve always had my prep period before lunch, usually during 1st or 2nd period. Each of our classes counts as .2 (or 20%) of our pay. If you choose to teach 4 classes you earn .8 (80%) of your salary (and benefits). While you are only losing one class, you can actually shave two periods off your day if your “prep” is after lunch, which is the schedule they’ve been trying to make for me. So next year I teach four classes before lunch and then can go home to pick up Isa by 1pm (I have a 30-40 minute commute).

My father-in-law has graciously agreed to take Isa from 9am to 1pm four times a week and a friend of mine (whose children are all in high school or college) will be taking her one day a week. Both are doing this free of charge. The 20% of my salary and benefits that I’ll be losing is about $15K, which is the least amount of money we would be paying on childcare in the ten months of my school year. Plus, we actually save money because not getting paid $15K (and therefor not paying taxes on it) saves more money than paying taxes on it and then spending $15K on childcare. All in all it makes great financial sense.

We are so lucky to have family and friends willing to make this possible for us. And I’m so grateful to have more time with Isa (though she will probably be napping during that time, or so I’ve been told).

I should be bouncing off the walls, but instead I’m a little terrified. I’ve never worked part time and I worry about all the work I’ll have to take home and the early hours I’ll have to log before school to make it work. I’ll probably need to leave the house at 6:30am most days to get everything done before my classes start. It’s going to be difficult indeed.

But this is definitely what’s best for our family and I am very happy that is seems to be working out.

I guess I better call the district office and request the paper work…

Working Mama Mondays: Back at it

Today was one of those days where I was TOTALLY unprepared for work and spent each class mentally check listing what I needed for the next class. Twice I had to run during the passing period to make copies. Needless to say at the end of the day I’d done none of the grading I should have and had not written a word of a blog post.

Yesterday was supposed to be my Weekend Resolution Round-Up but I’ve decided to change it up a bit. My new plan is to do one Weekend Resolution Round up at the end of each month and see how I faired focusing on just two of my goals throughout the month. This month’s goals will be “lights out by 10:30pm” and “work on my book” (i.e. finish four lessons in my Illustrator book). Wish me luck!

The hunt for child care for Isa gets bleaker and bleaker. I makes me too depressed to even write about it. I laugh to think that before I worried I’d be conflicted by options when now it seems we don’t have any at all. How can there be no infant child care opportunities in this city besides a nanny?! Because everyone here who has kids is well-off enough to either have a nanny or stay home themselves. I find it infuriating that urban family living is all but impossible in this country. There is no room for the middle class in our big cities. How can that be? Why do they want to push us out into the burbs? I just don’t understand it.

On a happier note, I valiantly warded off the Sunday-evening blues last night. I am finally learning how to live each day for itself and not as a stepping stone to a preferable day or week or month in the future. I have to admit, it’s a much more fulfilling way to walk through life and I intend to continue the practice.

Last night Mi.Vida and I made Isa a super yummy meal of cauliflower, carrots, tomato and cheese with basil. It’s definitely the first thing we’ve made her that I wanted to eat too. She’s never had dairy before though, so we’ll see how her tummy fairs. Tonight I have more plans to use our CSA box veggies in another baby meal with spinach and peas.

When I realized that all the foods in the next stage of our baby/toddler cook book require teeth, I bought Annabel Karmel’s Top 100 Baby Purees. The recipes are much more involved than the few purees in my other book which will be good as Isa gets older but still can’t really chew. With these meals she can expand her palate without the chompers needed for next-step baby food. The reality is, even if she had the requisite teeth, I can’t imagine she’d want whole chunks of anything in her mouth. She is a very particular little lady. After cooking tonight’s meal we’ll once again have a nice little stock pile in our freezer. As I continue making Isa baby food I’m recognizing more and more how much work it is. Still, the amount we save and the fact that the food I make her is fresh, makes it worth it for me. We’ll see how I feel in a few months. I’m definitely eager for our baby food exchange to start in March!

I guess that is it for this working mama. I have way too much grading to do so I better get doing it.

Stumbling Financially

Well my week off is over. I’m trying hard not to dwell on returning to work Monday morning. I’m also trying hard not to start the countdown to my Spring break in late April. I was actually doing a really good job of living in the day this month and it helped this break come faster and allowed me to enjoy it without lamenting how fast it was coming to an end. Usually I feel intense depression at the end of weeks off because the anticipation for them is so great that their brevity ultimately disappoints. I didn’t do that this time and I’m proud. We’ll see if I can last the six week (I couldn’t help but count it out) before my next week with my daughter without counting down.

The in-home child care place was NOT what we were looking for. It was incredibly depressing, in fact. Mi.Vida said he almost had a panic attack when we walked in. It would have been a great deal though, at only $900 a month, but I know now that the “clearance” option is not what I will be choosing for my daughter.

I’ve started looking into other in-home child care opportunities. Two have already said they do not have space for an infant this fall. Our situation is restrictive because we only have one car and I take it to work very early in the morning. So an in-home child care would either have to be open by 7am so that I could drop my daughter off with the car on my way out of the city or it has to be on a light rail/bus line so that Mi.Vida could get her there on public transport and then get himself to work without it taking two hours. I’m currently calling Spanish speaking places exclusively, but I have my list of English-only in-home care places to fall back on. I still hope to find something. It seems there should be possibilities that cost (and are worth) more than $900 somewhere in the city. Of course, finding one with space for an infant is probably going to be difficult.

On the nanny front, we already know of a woman who has been recommended by my SIL and the woman who runs the City College Child Observation class that I used to go to. She has been working part time for a family of three for many years. Her daughter is just starting Kindergarten so she wants to start working full time and would love to work on the school year schedule (get the school breaks off). She seems like she would be a great fit for us, but she’s (a relative deal at) $16/hour. That is over $2,500 a month for what rounds out to 9 months. In case you are crappy at mental math (like me) that is almost $23,000 for the school year. That is more than I paid for my graduate degree.

Some people have mentioned nanny shares but I’m a little hesitant about that, mostly because I just don’t see our apartment being a good fit for a nanny share. We don’t really have plans to baby-proof it to the nines, which we’d have to do (and would be pretty much impossible). Also, it’s so small, I can’t imagine where we’d put a Pack n’Play for the other baby to sleep in. Finally, I just get nervous about the liability of having another child in my house half of the year. Plus, we’d have to find someone willing to share on our strange, school-year-driven schedule. It just causes me anxiety. And the reality is, nanny shares cost about $12/hour so we wouldn’t be saving ourselves that much anyway (about $630 a month), which has us spending $18,000 all told. Good gracious these are insane sums for ONE year of child care. And it’s not including the summer or four weeks of vacation during the year!

Needles to say, Mi.Vida and I have had some difficult conversations about money. Money sucks.

I read recently somewhere that ours is the first generation that will not be as financially well off as their parents (and the generation that is currently in school is the first to have less education than their parents). I know that for me that is definitely the case. My parents were quite financially comfortable, definitely upper middle class (Mi.Vida says upper upper middle class). My dad made six figures. My mom was a teacher and made the “spending money” I suppose. They didn’t start out with anything but a job overseas, all expenses paid, allowed them to pay off their debt and start paying off their mortgage while my dad’s company paid their rent in Hong Kong. Of course that kind of thing never happens anymore. Anyway, we went on fun vacations all over the world, I was given a (used) car when I turned 16. And when I crashed it 36 hours after I got my license I was given another (used) car (I did have to wait five months). My parents paid for my undergraduate education, completely. Despite many different bouts with unemployment my parents were always well off.

Mi.Vida’s parents were less secure financially, but definitely middle class (Mi.Vida says upper middle class). They made it in San Francisco with only his dad working for most of their childhood. His mom sometimes worked part time at a pre-school. They were able to buy a condo because he was a city employee and they won a lottery for the opportunity. His dad worked for the city for 35 years, gradually earning himself an impressive salary and an insane pension. They helped pay for Mi.Vida to go to college but they had to take out loans and so did he.

I didn’t realize until I had kids that I expected to be in a similar relationship, one where the man made the “money” and my job was helpful but not essential to the family’s financial stability. Of course, that is not the case, and I’m struggling with the fact that my meager teacher’s salary contributes more (just barely) to our household income.

I realize that we will not be able to give our children the life that we had. We will probably never buy a house, which means they will not have that asset when we’re gone. I will not get to show my children the world. I will not be buying my kids cars (which, if we live in SF, they won’t need anyway). I know that my kids will not have the things that I had, and that is fine. I don’t feel I needed those things to be happy, they are not what I look back on when I think of how fortunate I was. I’m content giving my children a loving mother and father in a close relationship, a good (but probably free) education and a safe home.

I also want some financial security. I want to be able to rent an apartment that fits our family’s needs, both in location and size. I want to at least help my children pay for their undergraduate degrees. If they really want to go to a reasonably priced summer camp, I’d love to give them that experience. I know I will struggle with not providing my children the life that I had, but I think I can do it and still be content. I would hope that I can.

Figuring all of this out is hard. We cannot draw so much from our parents’ stories as they are not relevant to our situation. In the short time since they had children things have changed. It’s even more important that families have two earners than it was back then. Instead we have to look for guidance from friends who are trying to build their families, but as lawyers or employees in the private sector, none of them make the kind of money we do. So we’re just kind of left to figure it out for ourselves. And I suppose we’ll do that.

I just don’t want us to wake up ten years from now and realize we don’t have the things we want and that if we’d done things differently we might have been able to have them. I just want us to have a plan.

Right now the plan is to sit down and figure out the plan at the end of this school year. I guess it’s a start.

Confessional Fridays: Triple Threat

I have been planning this week to talk about how Isa measures up to other babies and the guidelines set forth in books. Then I was going to write about how I’m struggling to decide between nanny care and in-home day care and how it feels like I’m putting a price tag on what’s best for my baby. And then I walked into my bedroom.

So I decided to tackle all three in a special Triple Threat Confessional Friday. Woot! Whoot!

1. Measuring Up

I know it’s silly to take stock in the baby books that tell you what your baby should be doing and when, but I have to admit, it’s a little disheartening to glance at chapter eight of The New Dad’s Guide and see, “now that you’re baby is crawling all over the place..”. or some such declarative sentence about you baby’s current abilities, when your baby does not yet have those abilities. Especially when you look towards other babies for reassurance that it’s normal for your baby not to be doing these things and all the other babies are doing them too.

Isa is almost nine months and she is not crawling. Not anywhere. She can lift her tummy off the ground and sometimes she even bends her knees but that is as close as she comes to the often inquired about “crawling.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told people that she is almost 9 months old and they’ve responded with, “oh, she must be crawling all over the place.” Um, not really.

And I know nine months old is not late to not be crawling. I know she could be eleven months old and not be crawling and no medical professional would be alarmed (at least I don’t think they would be). But its amazing how EVERYONE expects my little girl to be crawling and the fact that she’s not yet is starting to annoy me. At least it’s starting to annoy me that I have to keep telling people that she’s not.

When people hear that she is not yet mobile they ask, encouragingly, “well how many teeth does she have.” The answer to that, of course, is none. I have a toothless, stationary nine month old people. Oh the shame.

And of course it seems ridiculous to write that but I do feel a little, well, different. Eight months is the top end of the “normal” time that babies get their first tooth. Of course some babies don’t get their first tooth until they are one, but those are the outliers, only mentioned to assuage a concerned parent. At least it feels that way sometimes.

Let me be clear that I don’t think there is anything wrong with my daughter. I don’t even think she’s a “late bloomer” or whatever some people sometimes say. I think she’s doing things at her own pace and I’m fine with it. But I guess my confession is that I’m working through the pressure I do feel from others about what she should be doing and when. I wish I could just leave their expectations at the door but sometimes I struggle.

I do not want to be the kind of mom who is constantly comparing her child to other children. I am not that kind of mom. But it seems to be a very common occurrence and it’s hard not to get sucked into the “when did you child first do/get this” game. Do us mom’s really not have anything else to talk about?!

I think the next time someone asks me how many teeth Isa has I’ll answer, you know, I never thought to look. How about you count for yourself! And then I’ll get her to open her mouth real wide, after which she’ll probably spit all over their inquiring face.

2. The Invisible Price Tag

We’re figuring out day care for my daughter next year. We seem to have two possible options; (1) a personal nanny that costs about $2,500 and comes to our house to be with Isa one-on-one and (2) an in-home day care situation in which Isa is around other infants and toddlers and costs about $1,500. These are two very different day care situations with two very distinct price tags. Obviously the one-on-one care situation is ideal; she will be attended to by someone who has no other responsibilities and who will feed her the homemade food we make and read her the books we’ve bought. There is a reason this option costs significantly more than the other option. It is decidedly better.

And yet I balk at the price tag. Do I not think my daughter is worth an extra $1,000 a month? I know it’s more complicated that that, but it’s hard not to feel like there is a price tag on my daughter’s well being and I’m willing to take the clearance option. Does that make me a bad mother?

$10,000 is a lot of money. I feel like there are better things we could spend that on in Isa’s future. I feel like that money could go towards our savings so I could stay home with Isa and number two when we (hopefully) welcome him or her into the world. But is that just me being selfish? Is that me taking care away from my daughter now so I don’t have to work later? I’m not sure.

Other, more “experienced” moms (read: older, from my mother’s generation) recommend the nanny option. My in-laws are even willing to help us pay for it (I’m not sure what the monetary value of that “help” is yet). Do they all know something that I don’t know? I’m still not sure.

Today we go to see the first in-home child care option I’ve researched. Obviously if we hate the place it will no longer be language is enough to tip the scales in favor of a nanny situation (we can’t seem to find Spanish in-home care options). That will be another topic for another post.

Bur right now, I must confess, I don’t want to spend the extra cash on my baby girl. And I feel horrible about it.

3. Caution. Tred Carefully.

I’ve talked so much about my room and it’s constant state of disarray. I don’t need to talk about it more, not when this post is spilling over the 1,000 word count. But that is okay because is picture is worth a thousand words. And all I want to confess to you is that, despite the fact that I’ve been home all this week, my room looks like this right now…




..and it’s looked like this for over a month.

So called liquid gold (and the lengths we go for it)

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Happy Halloween!

I did absolutely nothing to celebrate Halloween this year so I guess that is all I’ll be doing to celebrate it here. I did take Isa to get her photo taken in her peacock costume and I will post that as soon as I can buy a digital copy of it.

I realized that I since my thrush episode(s) I have not written much about breastfeeding on my blog. I think that is because breastfeeding is no longer an all-consuming part of my life. We’ve finally fallen into a routine (every three hours) that works for us and while I’m a little concerned that Isa is not getting enough to eat in the six (really it’s 5.5 because the last feeding is so close to the penultimate feeding that she can’t be getting 5 ounces) daily feedings, I’m trying not to let PTSD from the lactation consultant get to me and am assuming that my baby girl, who seems happy and looks healthy, is doing fine.

So for right now our breastfeeding situation is working pretty well and I have to say, now that she isn’t eating every other hour, my nipples hardly even hurt anymore. But, sadly, I return to work in four weeks and because I plan on continuing to breastfeed my daughter while at work (at least for a little while), I need to get a stock pile ready before my return.

For this reason, and because my daughter sleeps for ten hours straight now, I’ve started to pump nightly, before bed. Let me just say, I don’t love pumping. It’s a lot of work before, during and after, and the ritual adds about 30 minutes to my bedtime routine. That is 30 minutes I’d rather spend doing pretty much anything else besides pumping.

I know the medical establishment would have me believe that breast milk is the BEST thing I can give my baby (though there is very little actual research that truly proves this) and that by NOT pumping for her at work I’m condemning her to a less successful life on pretty much all fronts. I don’t really believe that. I’m a firm proponent of the mother’s happiness = baby’s happiness philosophy and that the benefits of breastfeeding should not be held, unwaivering and untouchable, over the well-being of the mother who is giving constantly and continually of herself (her body, her time and her limited resources) to make breastfeeding possible.

Right now, pumping at night is merely annoying. I have to take out the pump (as our kitchen is too small to leave it out all day), attach the power supply and tubing, take off my shirt, put on the make-shift pumping bra (that I fashioned myself with scissors and two x’s drawn on the nipples of an old workout bra), take out all the valve pieces and put them together (which is a puzzle in and of itself), connect the valves to the pumps and press the button. Then I have to achieve let down, and if I don’t do that pretty quickly, I know it will elude me unless I stop the pump, give my nipples a chance to sensitize again, and start all over.

Next I actually do the pumping. As my nipples stretch a good inch and a half and the monotonous drone of the motor whispers to me mysteriously, insignificant amounts of milk drip slowly into two bottles, slowly, eventually pooling into 2-3 ounce quantities. In my bovine-like state, I can do little of any substance (but, some would cry, pumping is substance enough!). Sometimes I read a magazine or the latest book I’ve been carting, dog eared, around my house, but it’s difficult to concentrate when (I swear) the whir of the pump motor is communicating with me subconsciously.

Finally, when I’ve massage every last drop out of both breasts and they hang, flacid, from the weight of the full bottles, I turn off the machine and unhook the tubing only to turn it on again (ah the whirring will drive me batty), to combat the small droplets of condensation taking up shop in the plastic tubes.

While the pump sucks furtively, slowly drying the tubes, I transfer the liquid gold into disposable bags complete with date and amount scrawled in Sharpie, before depositing them carefully into the freezer. There my pumping efforts will remain until the stockpile is needed to supplement what I pump at work or is thawed in cases of emergency.

The clean-up is, of course, the worst part. I have to do any dishes in the sink and wipe it down before cleaning out all the tiny pump pieces and placing them carefully on the drying rack. If I don’t wash the pump parts that night they won’t be dry by the following session… and, as the pump instructions chide, wet pump parts are a definite no-no. Despite being bone tired and knowing Mi.Vida is waiting in bed, I have to wash all those little parts before I can turn in for the night.

As for my pumping plans at work, I’m still very much on the fence about committing to pumping. I will definitely pump until the Winter Break, which is only a three weeks commitment and will bring Isa past the 6 month mark. If I’m totally miserable after that, I’ll just ween Isa in the New Year. If it’s not so bad, I’ll keep doing it and reassess at the February Break and then at Spring Break and so on. I don’t want to have any hard and fast deadline I feel obligated to meet. I have very little time, and NO flexibility, to pump at work and doing so will keep me isolated from my friends and colleagues, which are first and foremost the reason I love my job. Going back will already be so difficult, confining myself in my room during my only breaks will make it even worse; I truly worry I will need support from my peers when I return from work and I will be unable to receive that if I’m cooped up in my classroom with only my pump to comfort me. So I’m not letting pumping at work stress me out.

The good news is with all the pumping I’m doing now, I’ll have quite a bit of breast milk stored up. And if I do decide to stop pumping at work I might be able to stretch out my stock pile to cover about a month of breastfeeding while not pumping to keep up my supply.

Of course, myriad things could happen, like I might not have time to pump and my supply will gradually decline. Or Isa might decide she loves the bottle and won’t have anything to do with the breast. If either of these things happen, I’m going to let nature take it’s course and not fight against the inevitable. I’ve been pretty lucky with breastfeeding thus far and want to end the experience happily, and not angrily, or regretfully.

Until that time, I’m trying to take in every minute I have breastfeeding my baby. I know these moments with her are limited and I want to enjoy them while I can. For the next four months I will consider every feeding to be a gift, one that I treasure and never take for granted.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – Isa met her aunt this weekend, the aunt who will be her nanny in a short month. Of course they loved each other and while it was bitter sweet to see them get along so famously, I was very happy knowing that my SIL will be with her every day while I’m away.