Monday, December 31, 2012

Year in review ...

Last year, I made two resolutions:

(1) To have a complete draft of my dissertation done by December 31, 2012


(2) To watch at least one film every month either written or directed by Billy Wilder (other than the ones I had already seen, such as Sabrina or Ninotchka).

I definitely saw both as do-able, but, as it turned out, #1 was actually almost accomplished, while I didn't even see one Billy Wilder movie. For shame, Mom-in-Progress, for shame.

So what is the state of my dissertation? I have approximately 9 chapters (yes, 9. I had some overly long chapters and my adviser made me split them and now I have 9). Out of these 9, 6 are actually in draft form and the other 3 are in varying stages, although none are complete. They probably range from 25-50% drafted. To give you an idea of what this means, last New Year's Day, I had one chapter completely drafted and then a variety of sections with bits and pieces written.

How did I actually manage to almost pull this off? First, I presented two papers - one in February and the other in April - which required me to write up at least two of my sections. Then, when returning from the second trip, I decided to cut and paste a 'mock-up' of my dissertation and found that I had approximately 110 pages written (mind you, not written well, but written). I decided to set a goal of writing 1 page a day and, shockingly, managed to mostly follow it for the next 3 months. There were bumps, such as the orientation for my online course, which pretty much ate up an entire month and then there was the last month of pregnancy (or last 6 weeks, since Rory came exactly 2 weeks after her due date) where my brain turned to mush, but I have over 170 pages written, not including tables and charts.

As for poor Billy Wilder? Maybe this year ... but probably not.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Activity #8 - Exercising with Your Baby

Z is an athlete. I think. She's not even 4 months old, but I'm pretty impressed. I may be easily impressed as I am NOT an athlete (but H is).

Z works out at her gym. Take that Giraffe!

I plan to run a half-marathon in January 2014 at Walt Disney World, though, and am starting to get myself into gear. The majority of baby weight is gone (only 2lbs left out of the 44 I gained - would you like to see the Excel spreadsheet?) and I am easing back into exercise that consists of more than walking.  I bought a copy of Just Dance 4, which can be found at this link: Ubisoft Just Dance 4 Wii 17720 (Google Affiliate Ad) as well as Just Dance: Disney Party (no affiliate ad, just my love for it). We have already started rocking out to the former - which has the extreme bonus of including Army of Lover's "Crucified" (<--- youtube clip of the awesomeness that is that song in case you don't know what you are missing) - and gifted the latter to Q for Christmas.

In a few months I hope to begin a training regimen for running, but I am taking it slow as I don't want my milk supply to drop. From everything I read, it seems like 6-9 months is plenty of training time to run a half-marathon, which means I should start around April or May 2013 and be fine.

While hanging out at home, thought, I have begun exercising with Z, who is a large almost 4 months, as my weight. She especially loves when I bench press her, though it can get a little dangerous as Z is a spitter upper and massive drooler, but those are the hazards we mothers are willing to undertake to get a proper giggle out of our munchkins.

Here are some web resources I use for inspiration for exercises to do with your baby:

YouTube Video for Exercising with Baby

12 Exercises for Moms and Babies

Babble's List of 10 Exercises for Moms and Babies

Good luck! Let me know what your favorite exercise is :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

This is NOT a sponsored post: I love pre-assembled meals!

Honestly, this is not a sponsored post. None of the companies mentioned even know that I'm writing a post.

A new year is coming upon us and I know that new years often lead to new goals, including switching jobs. Now, I'm sticking put (I will finish this dissertation!), but I thought I'd talk about a business venture that I have found to be extremely helpful, especially as a work-at-home-mom and one that I think a stay-at-home mom might be able to start as a small business while working from home.

First, I do know how to cook. I want to put that out there. I don't, however, have a very extensive repertoire. My mom started graduate school when I was about 10 or 11 and, as the oldest girl, cooking (laundry, cleaning) fell to me. (Why, yes, I do have 4 older brothers and 2 of them were living at home at the time.) My mostly-Irish family did not have very eclectic tastes and the majority of our dinners were roasts, whole chickens, ghoulash, meatloaf, and various pasta dishes. (Growing up, pasta was always called spaghetti.)  I'll admit that due to all this cooking when younger, I had an aversion to it until I hit my mid-20s, but, even then, I didn't add too many more things to my recipes. Chicken alfredo. Tacos. Yeah, that might be it.

Once H and I moved in together, we tried to blend family recipes and we happily existed on our various staples as well as take-out and eating out.  Fast forward 5 years and we have two little girls, H works full-time, I am writing a dissertation and working part-time. It gets hectic. And then, my sister-in-law suggested Dream Dinners.

Dream Dinner will assemble a meal that takes approximately 30 minutes of prep time at home. We tried it after buying a groupon and, while we felt it was pricey for what it was as well as a little bit of a drive, we did enjoy the variety and ideas for other meals it gave us. On a local yahoo board, we discovered a closer and slightly less expensive company, called The Dinner Shoppe.  After trying them, we have decided to stick with the lasagna/casserole/meals that can be cooked frozen as they require almost no prep time or forethought, which is great when I realize it is 5:30 and I haven't even thought about dinner.  Another tip is to buy the meals for 4-6 people as you either have dinner already for the next night or at least lunch! So now we have our "staples," some pre-assembled meals that are not that much more expensive than buying all the ingredients ourselves, and our crock pot (also a gift from my sister-in-law and another lifesaver). Dinners are mostly sorted in our house!

Any tips or ideas? I know that we could make more over the weekend and freeze them, but we are still trying to get it together to actually do so. We did do that after Q was born.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I can't think of a better way to say Merry Christmas than with John Denver's version of "When the River Meets the Sea" recorded over images from Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

In which I use Facebook to test a journalist's hypothesis ...

On Tuesday, I read the following article on CNN On gun control, two places to start by Anil Dash.  In it, he present two points about the debate over gun control and argues that, via discussions on social media, he has determined that most everyone can see these two points as common ground and, from there, we can achieve a productive dialogue.

I wondered - after seeing much back and forth on my facebook feed over the past week - if the contention that everyone could accept these initial premises is correct, so I decided to test it.

On Wednesday morning, I put up the two points and a link to the article. I didn't include any of my opinion, nor did I "like" or respond to any comments.  Over the next 6 hours (from when I put up the article until the last commenter), 10 people reacted.  I'll admit, the sample size was way smaller than I would have hoped, especially as I have over 500 friends, many of whom are very outspoken, but, perhaps after days of discussion, people were deliberately avoiding the topic.  Here are the results:

4 "likes" - all women, all mothers

6 commenters - 4 male and 2 female.

The 4 males, 2 with children, 2 without, all argued their viewpoints.
One female stated that she agreed with the points of consensus in the article.
One female asked one of the males for a point of clarification.

Of course, this sample is too small to extrapolate any real information, but I did find it suggestive,  These "results," if you'll indulge me, reminded me of the story of King Solomon and the baby.  The true mother was willing to give up her child to keep it safe, while the false mother was fine with cutting the baby in half if she got her share.  In this instance, the women, most mothers, were happy to find points of common ground to build from, while the man were caught up in arguing their viewpoints.

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, indeed.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Great Courses or First World Problems

I learned tonight that there is a company, which chooses some of the top professors in the world to record lectures and, then, sells these lectures. Now, I knew some schools did something similar - and often for free - and maybe it is the slick packaging, but I want many of the lectures sold by The Great Courses. No, no one paid me to say this, I have not received any copies of DVDs or CDs or digital downloads from this company and, as far as I know, I won't be. I just think it is super cool.

Here are probably the two things you need to know about me to understand why:

1. I love listening to old radio shows.  When I was little, one of my brothers received a set of audiotapes containing the story of the City of the Dead from the Adventures by Morse series. Not only did we have sleepovers listening to it (it was six hours long), but we also played it in the car during family trips to Florida.  Then, T and I had a long distance relationship for a number of years and I spent a good deal of my traveling time listening to a boxed set of Prairie Home Companion. Once I figured out iTunes, I downloaded classic radio shows, like anything with the Marx Brothers or the Great Gildersleeve or Abbott and Costello. One of my favorite holiday traditions is to listen to Stuart McLean's "Polly Andersen's Christmas at Home" from his Vinyl Cafe series and I downloaded many of his podcasts as well. I spent a good deal of time trying to get T to listen to these recordings whenever we took a long car ride together, but he wasn't as in to them, although he did appreciate the Car Talk CD I gave him after donating to a local NPR station.

"Dead men tell no tales ... especially after they've been incinerated!"

2. You might be saying, but, Mom in Progress, you are getting your doctorate - don't you think you need to step aside from academia in your free time? To which I say, "Radio Show!" except as a lecture about the year 1066. Now, these lectures could go one of three ways: (1) they are awesome and I love listening to them, (2) horribly boring, waste of money, (3) they are bad and I love mocking them.  Before moving and before children, my friends and I held "Medieval Movie Nights," where we would watch a, you guessed it, movie about the Middle Ages and we would mock it.  About a month before Q was born, my friends and I gathered to poke fun at the History Channel's miniseries about "The Dark Ages."  Ultimately, I feel like the odds are in my favor that owning these lectures would prove a positive experience.

The only trouble would be the cost (still in graduate school and CDs of lectures, no matter how entertaining, aren't really in the budget) and the fact that we don't take too many long car rides and, when we do, I'm now going to be up against T and Q. I assume, for the time being, that Z would roll with it. Maybe, when I start exercising (ha!), I can download them to my iPod?

Until then, a friend clued me in on the great (and free!) podcasts "Stuff You Missed in History Class." I listened to two today as the girls napped and I finished up holiday cards.

Anything you're really hankering for?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Research Trips When Traveling with Your Family, Part I

I have now been on four research trips when traveling with a child:

1. International trip for 14 days with a 7 month old Q, my husband and my dad.

2. International trip for 7 days with a 15 months old Q and my dad.

3. Trip across the country for 7 days with a 19 months old Q and my dad.

4. International trip for 7 days with a 2.5 year old Q, my husband and my dad. I was also 6 months pregnant.

Why bring your family at all? Well, if you are like us, then your children are exceedingly attached to their mom, possibly breastfeeding forever, and your husband would have to take time off from work when you were away anyway, so why not make it a family trip. One of the two times my husband didn't come, we were also staying with my brother and sister-in-law, so it was a research/visiting family trip.

So what have I learned? If you can afford it, pay someone to be your childcare. (Broken record, much?) Secondly, make sure you have clear boundaries and guidelines about what is expected of those caring for your children and what you hope to accomplish by this trip. Third(ly), have realistic expectations. Let me explain:

It is lovely of your family to want to help and I am exceedingly lucky that I have this option. My father very much loves traveling with us, spending time with his granddaughters, and doing historical stuff. However, at all times I am aware of the fact that he is doing us a favor. (This is not his fault - he never spoke this way or indicated that he felt this way - I just felt guilty. Ah, Catholic guilt.) If he wants to check something out/see something, I feel badly saying "no." (Or I did, but I'll cover that in my post about attending conferences with your children.)  My husband has a habit of repeatedly asking when I'll be done for the day. I would always tell him the time that the archives closed, but, after the 4th or 5th questioning, my guilt would increase (possibly all in my head) and I would either leave to meet up at lunch or leave early. Now, I always saw everything I needed to see, but I felt stressed and rushed doing so. I did the same when my dad and I were solo in a foreign city in winter. I would leave early, because I felt bad that he was stuck in a hotel room all day with my toddler.

Q, 15 months, entertains herself in a hotel room while I archive it up

Beyond that, I have discovered that my family manages to get sick when traveling. During one trip, the night we arrived my daughter came down with a 103 fever and, as I found at the next day at an urgent care clinic, her first and only ever ear infection. Of course, this meant that I stayed home with her that day, because, sad baby. Her illness was nothing compared to the time we flew to Europe for me to give a paper and do some research. My husband, who had the sniffles on the flight over, declared himself freezing that night, bundled himself up, and, as I realized at 2am courtesy of our daughter's thermometer, which I never travel without as the one time I did it was a disaster, had a 105 degree temperature. Yes, 105. What adult gets a 105? Luckily, I had already given my paper (landed in the morning and gave the paper that afternoon) and his fever broke within a few hours as I gave him lots of advil and forced him to take off the many layers he was wearing, but it did cause some problems with attending the second day of the conference as well as the research I planned to carry out over the rest of the trip.

To return to what I have learned, here's how I think it would have gone better if I could have paid for childcare: I wouldn't have felt guilty about not leaving the archives until closing because I was paying the person to watch my children. I could have explained what I expected them to do with my child and gone about my business.

Of course, what graduate student or even non-graduate student can afford to fly a sitter with them all over the place as well as pay them for their services? Yeah, not too many. This problem brings me back to the need for definite boundaries/guidelines. It is only now, after 3+ years of having children, that I have learned to clearly communicate what I need my family to do if they very generously offer their time. I need them to assume that I will be at the archives all day. I need them to feed my daughters and make sure they nap. I need them to understand that this is a business trip and, just as they wouldn't pull someone out of a meeting, they can't pull me out of the archives. These are very important "meetings" to my career.

Finally, I need to manage my expectations and this concept is also 3+ years in the making. It will make me sound horrible, but I had a breakdown after my husband came down with his insanely high temperature. Well, after it broke and a couple of days had passed and he criticized my driving. Did I mention, I was also 6 months pregnant with Z. I realize that I can't afford multiple nannies like Brad and Angelina and that people, especially kids, get sick and need their moms, especially if their moms have been their primary care provider since birth. Suddenly being in daddy or grandpa's care, though lovely, is a rude awakening for little babies and even toddlers.

I need to accept that when traveling with my family I may not be able to attend every panel or dinner at a conference. I may need to leave the archive at lunchtime. I will need to figure out a way to pump at the archives, so as to have some bottles ready for my daughter the next day. I need to accept that while it may feel like one step forward, two steps back, everything I do is moving me closer to my goal of finishing my degree.

In another post, I will explain how I was able to put all of this knowledge together when, my Dad,  Z and I attended a conference when she was 9 weeks old. I am also working on a Part II to this post, which focuses on how to make your research trip with children goes as smoothly as possible from a practical point of view.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

They knew they are loved

As the funerals are carried out this week, I continue, like so many of us, to feel for the families, but I also believe that those we lost knew they were loved. As a mother, I really believe that, no matter how scared or how awful, in that moment, in their core, those children carried with them every snuggle, every kiss, every one last tuck in, every head rub, every rush to their side when they cried, every booboo kissed, every book read "just one more time." I believe that they knew they were loved and treasured. I have to.

I am going to donate to one of the funds for the families of the victims, though I have not decided which one yet. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.

Tomorrow, I will probably return to regular blogging, just to give myself a break. I wish those families had the same ability to turn off the news and not have their reality forever horribly altered. I just hope that they know that even if they didn't get one last kiss or "I love you" that their children knew. One horrible, devastating moment couldn't take a lifetime of love away from them.

**Update** A friend's little sister contacted one of the Funeral Directors. After discussing the matter over with him, she set up a little fundraiser for the funeral expenses of one of the little girls. We donated to that as it reminded me of a discussion over life insurance policies in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" when Francie's mom is unable to afford the family's life insurance policies and the agent suggests that she drop the children's and just keep it for her and her husband, because Francie and Neeley would need help to bury their parents if anything happened, but, if something happened to the children, Johnny and Katie would find a way through the help of family and friends and community.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I am not a great writer

I don't have any answers or profound thoughts to help us through this, to make it better.  I had a post scheduled about exercises Z and I do together, but it seems so wrong to post it.

I hope we, as a nation, can come together and address our culture of violence, our marginalization of those that need our help, and works towards a future where what happened on Friday never happens again.

Here are two posts I found helpful:

Helping the Grieving Parents
Thinking the Unthinkable

I am a historian and it kills me that the killer's name will be more widely known than his victims. I don't want them to be a number. They say that the sum is greater than the parts, but, in this situation, they are wrong.  These women and children are so much more than how or when they died and I want us to remember them, to never forget their humanity, nor let them be regarded as faceless victims. At the very least, we can remember their names.

Charlotte Bacon, 6.
Daniel Barden, 7.
Olivia Engel, 6.
Josephine Gay, 7.
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6.
Dylan Hockley, 6.
Madeleine F. Hsu, 6.
Catherine V. Hubbard, 6.

Chase Kowalski, 7.
Jesse Lewis, 6.
James Mattioli, 6.
Grace McDonnell, 7.
Emilie Parker, 6.
Jack Pinto, 6.
Noah Pozner, 6.
Caroline Previdi, 6.
Jessica Rekos, 6.
Aveille Richman, 6.
Benjamin Wheeler, 6.
Allison N. Wyatt, 6.
Rachel Davino, 29.
Dawn Hochsprung, 47.
Anne Marie Murphy, 52.
Lauren Russeau, 30,
Mary Sherlach, 56.
Victoria Soto, 27.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thoughts and Prayers

... to those affected by this tragedy in Connecticut.

"We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being."

- "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder

Childcare Dreams and Why I blame 19th/early 20th Century Novels for My Unrealistic Expectations

I grew up on Lucy Maud Montgomery and her Anne of Green Gables. You know what happened to Anne after she and Gilbert got married and began to have their kids? *Spoiler Alert* They hired a housekeeper, who was always more than glad to take over the child-rearing and allow Anne the time to write.

In Dorothy L. Sayers's mystery novels, Harriet Vane seems to have an entire coterie of staff wandering about for the sole purpose of caring for her children and allowing her time to write.

I picture women in Edwardian dress - probably white linen - sitting in gardens, writing out their work, while nursemaids in wonderfully starched outfits bring their children by to say hello and, then, take them somewhere else while the mother gets her work done.

Depiction of the Mother Writing "The Railway Children" from the Movie

As a historian, I know that most women did not have this luxury. Heck, my great-grandmother was the nursemaid in the wonderfully starched outfit. And, yet, I have this dream that, maybe just for a month, I'll have this luxury as well. I do like being home with the girls and caring for them, but, wouldn't it be nice to have uninterrupted time to finish my work?

Darn you mystery novels of a by-gone era that revolved around the lives of upper class women who had the means to have this help. And looked stunning in white linen.

Edwardian Nursemaid with her Charge

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How I Got a Job Teaching Online

When Q was a baby, I applied to a bunch of online teaching positions. I didn't have any funding for the year, couldn't teach because I was home with Q (who was born at the very beginning of the semester), we were surviving on one income in NYC and I was hoping, at some point, to be able to afford childcare (do you see a theme in my writing? When you have children and have a full-time job and, yes, writing a dissertation falls under this umbrella, you need childcare). I didn't get any of the positions. I don't think I even heard back from them.

Two years later, I asked a friend of mine, who had successfully landed some online teaching positions, how she did it. Eventually, with her advice, I began to re-apply. I made an Excel spreadsheet of all the adjunct positions for which I applied and, according to it, in December 2011, I applied for 2 positions at brick-and-mortar schools (that's the lingo, now you know). I landed a part-time position teaching two classes at a local community college. It was awesome. They even mentioned me joining full-time at some point. I took a free class they offered for faculty hoping to teach in their online program. Then, they announced that they were massively in-debt and the full-time faculty had to increase their workloads and they stopped bringing in adjuncts. So, in May 2012, I applied to 10 online teaching positions, for community colleges, 4 year colleges, and for-profit colleges. Eventually, I heard back from one (yes, just one) - a for-profit - and they hired me. Well, ever since if you ignore the month long orientation I had to pass before I was officially assigned a class.

Anyway, I've decided to pass on all I have learned about applying for and working at a for-profit online program. (Be aware, however, that the for-profit education industry is shrinking due to increased regulation by the federal government, but, if you are hoping to work from home, it might be your best bet.) Here goes:

The best website to see who is looking is: but the Chronicle of Higher Ed or even a simple google search works. Here are some major for-profit schools and you can easily search their websites: American InterContinental, Southern New Hampshire, Nova Southeastern, Capella, Ashford, Walden, and Grantham. Of course, there is also the U of Phoenix, but they don't pay that well. Most of these schools have short semesters, such as 5-10 weeks and pretty much go on a rolling basis all year long. I started with one course a semester, was given two this semester (my 4th teaching for them), and you max at with three classes a semester.

I lucked out with the school that hired me because they were re-structuring their general education requirements. I *think* that a lot of the schools will be doing this to help stay relevant with all the increased regulation.

For-profits largely have a template for each class, they want us to be facilitators, not just teachers (although, as I mentioned in the post about my weekly schedule, I give one weekly lecture per class. It is archived for students unable to attend). Buzz words: asynchronous (meaning students and teachers interact via the discussion board at disparate times) and synchronous (we're all in one place at one time, ie for a video lecture).  Our biggest responsibilities are being active on the Discussion Boards by asking leading questions and making sure we get the grades in on time. Most schools have weekly assignments, which must be graded by a certain day each week. For example, every week, students must have their discussion board posts and a separate essay in by Sunday night and I need to have them graded by the following Wednesday. I do not write the syllabus, assignments, or grading percentages; they are all given to me.

If you are interested in teaching online, I would cast your net wide. Once you get the job, it could still be 2 months before you see a paycheck as most schools will have you complete a 3-4 week orientation. Also, remember to talk up both your online teaching experience and your willingness to try new things. Have you taught mature students? That's a bonus as many online students are military and/or those with full-time jobs and/or families.  For-profit schools are corporations and act like such. I have a faculty manager, department manager, and mentor. How many classes I teach or if I teach is based on reviews by my faculty manager, my mentor, and my student evaluations. We have 1 departmental meeting a term and 1 with the faculty manager. I need to complete certain continuing ed criteria (for free through a company they work with) each quarter. Overall, though, it has become easier as I've worked hard on streamlining my grading rubric. 

Let me know if you have any more questions! Even if you don't have online experience, someone will let you in the door.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Activity #7 - For the Holidays

I tried to do this for both Hanukkah and Christmas, but was unable to find my mini menorah gifted me by my sister-in-law many years ago, so this year's focus was on Christmas. I hope to make it a tradition.

(I should probably put in here that, while my husband and I were both raised Catholic, we're not quite sure what we are doing with Q and Z, although we do want them to have exposure to religion and Q does go to a religious preschool and attend chapel there. Some of my favorite family debates have been over religious doctrine and I'd like to continue that with my children. Ask me sometime about when my oldest brother and I woke up my parents on Christmas Eve to get the copy of the Catechism off their bookshelf as we were debating what, exactly, is meant by the virgin birth.  According to my brother, Jesus popped out like a muffin from the oven. I said Mary experienced the pain of childbirth. Unfortunately, as is so common with our faith, the Catechism declared it to be a mystery. I guess you don't need to ask me as I just told you. Oh, and my sister, who bakes, says muffins don't always come out easily.)

Back to Activity #7 - For the Holidays

First, I went to Amazon and looked up children's bibles. I found Child's Story of the Bible by Mary A. Lathbury.  Her middle name is Artemisia and if that isn't enough to sell you on it, the book is free for the kindle. I have linked through Project Gutenberg, because it has a downloadable copy available with images. I may need to do that as I downloaded the non-image one via Amazon. This version of the bible is great and all the dialogue is from the King James's Version or, as I like to think of it, 'the Linus from The Peanuts version.' It was originally published in 1898 and, as I said, it's great. Alright, so now we had the words.

Next, I brought our nativity set, which was given to us as a wedding present, into the play room and set everything up. Well, I pretty much just put Mary in front of us and added different figures or the manger as the narrative called for them.

Q sets up the nativity while Z watches from her Boppy Chair O' Luxury

Finally, Q, Z, and I acted out the nativity. Q moved all the figures around and I pretended Z was the angel. Q declared that Z wasn't the angel, but was in fact Z. When I said we were pretending, Q then said that Z wanted to be God. I said Z was just going to be the angel.

While some of the finer points of theology might have been lost - such as who 'little Jesus's daddy' is as Q had a hard time embracing the concept - I think I can declare it a successful activity as Q insisted that we do it again. She even performed some of it for her dad and then made us act it all out again today. Unfortunately, the shepherd's hand, the one which held his staff, was broken off during clean up. I'll be super gluing that back on before next year.

Q adds some personal touches to the Nativity. Obviously, the Santa Reindeer is in the apocrypha.

Bonus: while thinking about having Q color some pictures of a menorah, I found the Online Menorah, which lights another candle each night of Hanukkah. How awesome is that?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Working from home with an Infant, Take 2

Here I am, again. A 3 month old (is that still a newborn?), a dissertation to write, and no childcare help. Is it 2009 all over again? Pretty much. (See this post for a little background on what life was like when Q was a baby.) I will say that this time is easier as I am at the end of my project, not the beginning. I had a massive burst of writing energy after returning from a research trip/conference last Spring and managed to put finger to keyboard before Z's birth and can now say I am the proud owner of 170+ pages of dissertation (not counting tables/charts/appendices/what have you).

Also, Z is a little easier to handle than Q (but that's a post for another time).

Z helps me edit a chapter

I continue, however, to bite off more than I can chew.  Like many other families, it is difficult to live off of one income, especially when you add in costs for Q's preschool and the fact that I have used up all my graduate funding, so now we need to pay a one credit fee per semester.  Neither of these costs are excessive, but I definitely feel like a drain. I was extremely fortunate to land an online teaching gig, but this means that my limited time (besides caring for Z full time and Q when she isn't in school - which thanks to viruses going around is most of the time) is now further taken up with teaching and grading, not dissertating.  My dad is going to come to help for a few weeks and I dream of getting a baby-sitter  starting in the Spring for 1-2 days a week, but then I'm sad that at least 1 day would be devoted to grading. I tell myself that I'll wake up at 6am every morning and get in an hour of work, but can't seem to get it together.  I spend a good deal of time dreaming about childcare.  By the way, Z is refusing the bottle, like Q did, so I can't go far even when I get help.

To be constructive for a moment (and see if anyone has suggestions), this is how I have scheduled my week.  It mostly revolves around the schedule for the university at which I teach because each week is a unit and students have weekly assignments which must be submitted by Sunday nights and, as per my job requirements, graded by each Wednesday - so within 72 hours - as well as give a one hour lecture each week for the two classes I teach. (I also respond daily to posts on the discussion board and try to ask each student a question or offer a comment. That rarely takes more than 30 minutes a day, however. I am required to also hold two office hours during class, but I try to be available to students at all times, so this doesn't usually take up too much time, though I am always logged in just in case. I check email daily and always respond in under 24 hrs.)

Monday - grade students' discussion board posts during nap times and give a one hour lecture via the internet during the evening.
Tuesday - grade students' personal essays during nap times and give a one hour lecture via the internet during the evening. (I have been known to finish grading at 4am after Rory wakes up for an early morning meal.)
Wednesday - dissertation work during nap time (in an ideal world)
Thursday - dissertation work during nap time (in an ideal world)
Friday - dissertation work during nap time (in an ideal world)
Saturday - hit the library for 1-2 hrs (no more, because, as mentioned, Z refuses the bottle) to get some books/check some references (in an ideal world)
Sunday - start grading discussion board posts in the late afternoon to get a jumpstart on the marathon grading for the next two days

In this way, I manage to limit my teaching to 2 or so days a week for the most part. Now I just need to motivate myself to accomplish my goals for the dissertation.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How Q Potty Trained Herself

I realize that my last post about potty training makes it seem like it was a breeze getting Q out of diapers. Ha! So not true. The experience reinforced a lot about what we have come to expect about life with Q: she does something when she is ready, not when we are. Examples: sleeps in her crib or goes to bed by herself or weans (she's now in a Big Girl bed by the way).

This is how it went down and it covers almost an 11 month period -

Q sorta, sometimes used the potty. Q did not like us suggesting it. Q began to fight it. We moved. We gave up on potty training. We decided that we would be traveling for 2 weeks and we would wait until we got back. We got back. Q refused refused refused. We offer sticker charts, prizes, m&m's, picking out her own big girl underwear, the fact that you need to be in underwear to take ballet. Q asks for a suitcase if she uses the potty. We agree. She uses the potty, is given the suitcase, reverts to accidents. Suitcase is take away. Q doesn't care. By this point, I am extremely pregnant with Z. I am informed either get Q trained before the baby comes as otherwise it will never happen OR even if I train her now, she'll regress after the baby is born and it won't matter. Lovely.

I choose to do nothing. As I tell some friends, I'm taking a laid-back (or half-assed) attitude towards potty training. Q is almost 3. She knows where the potty is. She has the basic idea.  Then, one day, a month before her 3rd birthday, Q asks to wear underwear. She begins to use the potty. There are some slip ups, but, by and large, Q is fully out of diapers ... and has her suitcase back.

Q's Suitcase

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A lot can change in a year ...

I'm going to try and get back on the blogging horse, but as for now, here's a snippet of my morning:

<Scene: the playroom, earlier today. Q, who is home from school with a stomach virus, is playing Memory. I am grading on the couch.>

Q: Mom, can I get Reindeer?
Me: No, Q, he is in my room and Z is napping in there.

<Scene: 20 minutes later, the kitchen. I am eating my lunch. Q walks in.>

Q: Mom, Z is awake.
Me: Thanks, Q ... <look up and see Q holding Reindeer> ... Q, did you go and get Reindeer and wake up Z?
Q: Yes.

Z (10 weeks old) snuggles her PawPaw

Yup, we have a new addition to the family: 3 month old baby girl, Z. Q is a big girl and attending preschool. I'm also teaching online and still, of course, writing the dissertation, though there does seem to be an end in sight (true, one over a year away, but in sight).

Q (3 years old) breaks it down at a children's museum