Monday, November 29, 2010

A little too young for the "Little Red Hen"

Valerie dumped out her crayons, then asked me for candy.

I told her she could have one piece of candy, but she had to clean up the crayons first. She started singing the "clean up" song, which gave me hope for a minute that she might actually do it, but she didn't even open the crayon tub. She just wandered back and forth across the floor, scattering crayons in every direction, happily singing the "clean up" song.

I spent about five minutes trying to explain to her that I wanted her to actually put the crayons in the tub, and that no, she couldn't have a candy until she did it. I finally offered to help her do it, and started cleaning up the crayons myself. I kept asking her to help, reminding her that she couldn't have a candy if she didn't help, only people who helped put away crayons could have candy. I cleaned up as slowly as I could, giving her ample opportunity to help.

Then all the crayons were put away, and I was faced with a dilemma. Consistency is key, right? Follow through with promises and threats? So, I got myself a piece of candy. I told her I was having a candy because I had put the crayons away. And I ate my candy, and I didn't give her any. And she started to cry.

I don't think she understood what was going on. So instead of teaching her a valuable lesson, I just ate candy in front of her and didn't share.

I hope one of us learned something today.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

One Month Old!


Dear Dorothy,

You are one month old, now. It's hard to believe it's been a whole month. And yet, at the same time, it seems like ages ago that I was pregnant and waiting expectantly for your arrival. Time is funny like that.

When your sister was a baby, I wrote monthly letters to her. I wasn't sure whether I would find the time or energy to do the same for you, but I'll at least write this one and see where it goes. This is just the first of the many, many injustices that come with being the second-born. Believe me, I know, I'm the second-born, too. When you're seven, and going through the baby albums, and you're upset that your big sister has a whole album to herself, but there are pictures of HER in YOUR album, I'll remind you how awesome it will be to have a big sister to make you feel welcome when you start high school by putting up Wanted! posters for you for Initiation Week. (No, really, it was awesome. You'll get it when you're 14.)


I do feel like you get the short end of the stick in many ways, though. Valerie loves you and wants to hold you and kiss you and hug you all the time, but you also get poked and hit and squished and scratched a fair bit in the process. Up until right before you were born, I always sat in the back seat of the car with your sister, but you don't get that privilege, because the two of you take up too much space for me to squeeze in there with you. I held your sister practically 24/7 at your age, but I have to put you down fairly often in order to deal with her. I hardly ever give you tummy time, and I bathe you and change your diapers about half as often as I did with Valerie. Yup, second-borns really get the shaft.


Although there seem to be many upsides to being the second-born, too. Not only do you get the benefit of having an awesome older sister to be your friend and companion as you grow up, but you get the benefit of having that big sister break your parents in for you. I know a lot more about breastfeeding this time around, and as a result, I'm managing my supply better, so you are well-fed, less gassy, and get more sleep than your sister ever did. When Valerie was a newborn, pretty much all I did for months was sit around the house, but I don't have that luxury this time around because two-year-olds don't deal well with sitting around the house doing nothing. This means you get a lot more fresh air, and get to see a lot more interesting places and do more interesting things at a much younger age than she did.

I've also discovered that having to put you down can be a benefit to you, too. I remember one day, when you had been fed, burped, and changed, but were still fussing and I couldn't get you to calm down. Then I heard your sister getting into something in the kitchen, so I set you down so I could go check on her. Within seconds of being set down, you had calmed down completely, and within a minute, you were asleep. No one ever told me that a baby's cries could mean, "I'm overtired and you are overstimulating me, please put me down so I can go to sleep." Or if they did, I dismissed it as crazy-talk.


You hardly ever cry. You mostly just squeak and squirm, which eventually turns to squawking, and only turns to crying if I couldn't figure out what was wrong during stage one or two. The only two things that you seem to really cry over are being overtired and working on a poopy. Overtired, I can usually help with by swaddling you and either holding you or putting you down (it's a guessing game which). Pooping is a little more difficult. You seem to be moving towards being one of those babies that only poops once every few days. You pee plenty, and your poops look normal when they come, so I know there's nothing "wrong", but the impending poop seems to be such a struggle when it's so long coming. I never thought I would miss those first days when you effortlessly filled ten poopy diapers a day. Yeah, motherhood makes you reminisce about very strange things.


You are a very bright and happy girl. From your very first day on the outside, you were spending long stretches of time alert and looking around. You have big, bright eyes, and you love to look at people's faces. Your favorite position is being held straight out in front, slightly upright, with your back being patted whether you need to burp or not. I think the patting calms you, and this position gives you the benefit of being held while still being able to stare at the face of the one holding you. (Interestingly, this was Valerie's favorite position, too.)

You're also a big smiler. You were smiling at me the very first night in the hospital. I know they say it's just gas at that age, but I think you were really smiling. And it wasn't just a one-time thing, you've kept up the habit ever since. Your smile has gotten bigger, and as your cheeks fill out, I've started to notice that you have adorable little smile creases at the corners of your mouth. Your favorite thing to smile at is Mama. If someone else is holding you, and you start to get hungry, you will completely forget your hunger and smile widely at Mama as soon as you are in her arms. Sometimes, I'm not sure you were even hungry in the first place, but were just pretending to be hungry because you knew it would get you your Mama. Either way, that bright, beautiful smile captivates me, and melts away all the tiredness and frustration.


Not that there is too much tiredness and frustration. Not caused by you, anyhow. (Note to new moms: two-year-olds are more exhausting than newborns. Really.) You're an extremely easy baby most of the time. You let me sleep for at least one 4-5 hour stretch plus another 2-3 hour stretch most nights. It's amazing how much less insane I feel when I'm getting enough sleep.

Physically, you seem to be doing really well. I haven't brushed off my baby books, so I don't exactly recall which milestones you should be meeting right now, but I'm think you're pretty much on target, or maybe even a little ahead of the curve. You hold your head up really well, sometimes lifting it up off of my chest for minutes at a time to get a better look at my face. You've started stretching your legs out when you're being worn in a carrier, and I've already had to transition you from a newborn carry to an upright carry in the ring sling. You have discovered your hands, and you love trying to get them into your mouth. You also love exploring with your hands, and finding things to grab onto, like a finger or a fistful of Mama's hair. You're growing so fast, too. You already look so different than your newborn pictures.

Day 0:

Day 31:

I'm not sure exactly how much you weigh, but you were 8lbs4oz at birth, 7lbs11oz when we left the hospital (thanks to all that pooping you were doing), 8lbs8oz at 6 days, and 9lbs6oz at 15 days. I think it's fair to assume that you are well over 10 pounds by now (the Wii Fit just confirmed this). You're tall, too, but once again, I'm not sure how tall you are. You had outgrown all your newborn sleepers by the time you were 2 weeks old. According to the nurses' measurements, you were 20" long at birth, and 22.5" long at 15 days. (I'm pretty sure one of those measurements is not correct, though, probably the first one.)

Two weeks old, the last time you wore a newborn sleeper:

You were born with a small cleft in your lip. It's a minor cleft, and fortunately doesn't seem to have prevented you from getting a proper latch to breastfeed, as long as I keep you in the right position. I hardly notice it anymore, possibly because your lips are plumper now, or possibly because I'm just used to it now. I remember that it used to make me sad whenever I noticed it. It was hard to look at my perfect, new baby and think that there was anything imperfect about you. Now, I think it's cute, and I almost wish we didn't have to "fix" it. We took a trip to CHOP (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) last week to meet with the surgeon who will be repairing your cleft. Honestly, I think I'm still in denial about the whole thing, because I keep pretending that it's not a big deal. But you're going to have to go under general anesthesia and spend a night in the hospital when you're only three months old. That's a pretty big deal. I'm sure, when the time comes, I will be much more freaked out, but right now I have peace about it. It helps knowing that you will be in the care of one of the best children's hospitals in the country.

Thanks for a great first month, Dorothy. I love you very much, and I'm glad you're part of our family. I'm excited to see how you grow and change in the months to come!



Saturday, November 20, 2010

Oh, What a Tangled Web!

This blog post is a direct response to a Facebook post. I'm responding here for two reasons: 1. I want to say more than I can fit in a Facebook comment box, and 2. I want to include pictures.

I said:
Which is more cruel: Subjecting Valerie to a tortuous detangling session every morning or chopping off all her hair?

You chimed in with many well-reasoned responses in defense of both alternatives. Here is a little bit more background.

  • I wanted to just let her hair grow until she was old enough to make a decision for herself, but it just got too damaged to leave it alone.

  • This is not styling damage. We hardly ever do pigtails anymore, and when we did, I was super-careful taking the rubber bands out. The problem is that Valerie used to rip fistfuls of hair out. I'm not sure why, I think it was out of frustration. Or maybe she just liked how it felt. As a result, most of her adorable curls are already gone, and the ends of her hair are all split and broken.

  • Her hair grows really slowly. Other than trimming her bangs a little bit when she was about one year old, she never had a haircut until she was two, and when she did get her hair cut, it was still not-very-long, fluffy, baby hair.

  • When she had her hair cut, I asked the hairdresser to cut away as many of the split ends as possible, but keep as many of the long curls as possible. She did her best, but without giving Valerie a mullet, she couldn't get all the split ends.

  • I do use a detangling spray. Copious amounts of it. It makes the brushing merely tortuous rather than murderous. I also brush her hair out after her tubby and it is generally dry before she goes to sleep. And yet, this is what it looks like in the morning:
    Side view:

  • As you can see in the side view, the front/sides aren't really affected, so I don't need to give her an all-out "boy" cut. I was thinking maybe something like a junior version of Kate Gosselin's haircut (which, for the record, I had before she did),

    or even a Chelsea.

    Okay, maybe not a Chelsea. But it would solve the messy back problem while leaving the front AND what's left of her curls at the bottom.

As you can probably guess, I'm leaning towards cutting it. Hair grows back, and hopefully, now that she no longer rips her hair out, once we get past the split ends, it can grow back healthy. And frankly, having one less battle to fight every day when I'm already constantly fighting the, "Don't hurt/wake/squeeze/hit the baby," battle is pretty appealing. I don't think she cares about her hair one way or the other, but she definitely hates it being brushed. I'll wait until after Christmas, though, so she can at least have what's left of her curls in the pictures. After that, we'll see.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good Days and Bad Days

Last Friday was a rough day. I got to sleep at about midnight, then Dorothy woke me up at 3 a.m. Then, well, let me tell a story in Facebook status updates:

5:22 a.m. Dorothy is asleep, now I'm just killing time until Jeremy stops hitting snooze. Nothing's more fun than trying to go to sleep with an alarm going off every 9 minutes.

6:51 a.m. This grumpy Mama brought to you in a collaborative effort by all the members of her household to keep her awake at non-concurrent intervals.

7:00 a.m. As it turns out, those 45 minutes of snooze button pushing were my last chance to get any sleep last night. Sigh.

8:40 a.m. Anyone want to come hang out? Feeling overwhelmed today.

1:13 p.m. Where do I tender my resignation?

It was a pretty awful day, but what do you expect on three hours sleep? Somewhere in there, I managed to produce a blog entry in an attempt to focus on the positive, but it was only somewhat successful. In the end, a long nap (one that took almost two hours to bring about), a helpful husband (who managed to catch an earlier train home from work after getting off the phone with a sobbing wife), and dinner guests (who were gracious enough to bring dinner and to come late so I had extra time to clean) pulled me out of the fog. And Friday night, I got to sleep from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. which is double the amount of sleep I had managed the night before. Three more hours of sleep is apparently the difference between hopeless desperation and confidence that I will fumble through somehow.

Caring for a newborn is hard. I knew that from before, and I fully expected it to be hard again. But I had survived it once, so I knew that the darkest nights would be temporary, and that the sun would eventually come up in the morning. What I had "forgotten" was how hard life with a two-year-old was. Because that had crept up on me slowly, over two years, rather than being sprung on me all at once. Before Dorothy was born, I prepared myself mentally for sleepless nights and marathon nursing sessions. But I didn't prepare myself for the things I had been doing every day - the unpredictable sleep patterns, the hour-plus of laying beside Valerie trying to get her to sleep, the constant vigilance lest she get into something she shouldn't, keeping her entertained and attempting to wear her out so she would sleep, not to mention the energy involved in responding to a steady stream of requests, demands, and "Look, Mama!"s.

I had thought a lot about how I would take care of a newborn with a two-year-old around, but I had neglected to consider how I would take care of a two-year-old with a newborn around.

It seems like I talk about, think about, and blog about Valerie more than Dorothy. That's because Dorothy slipped quietly into the cracks of my life that I didn't know were there. But when she came, she brought an enormous spotlight with her and aimed it directly at her sister.

Dorothy has forced us to look at our daily lack-of-routine and create order. A predictable wake-up time helps me to make sure I get enough sleep. If I want Valerie to nap early enough to go to bed on time, we have to eat lunch on time, which means we have to eat breakfast on time so we can fit in a park trip or a play date between meals. I also quickly realized that I can't spend an hour lying beside Valerie at nap time anymore, and we helped her learn how to put herself to sleep. Throw daylight savings time into the mix, and that adds up to an awful lot of life changes for a little girl. I'd be overwhelmed, too. I have to remind myself that, while I've been through this "new baby throws your whole life for a loop" thing before, she hasn't. And if she is even half as overwhelmed as I was the first time around, I'm surprised her head hasn't exploded.

All in all, most days, things are pretty good. Valerie can be clingy and she has been acting out more than usual, but she has adjusted quickly to our new schedule, she goes to sleep on her own without complaining (a feat I thought impossible a few weeks ago), and she absolutely adores her sister. It's still not easy, but we have more "pretty good" days than bad days. Some days, I even manage to wash some dishes or fold some laundry! This blog post has been in the works for about a week, though, so I'm definitely not rolling in free time. (And since I started writing it, about seven more potential blog posts have begun percolating in my head, few, if any, of which will actually get written.) But that's Dorothy's fault for actually letting me sleep at night - I blogged so much when Valerie was a baby because there was nothing else to do at 3 a.m. Speaking of which, Dorothy is asleep, now, so I better get to bed. I'm posting this without thorough proof-reading, since I just want it to be done, so I apologize if it's not completely coherent. Semi-coherent is probably a more accurate representation of the state of my post-baby brain, anyhow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Big Sister

I should have written this post a week ago. If I had, it would have said:

Everybody warned me that after you have a second baby, your first "baby" will suddenly look enormous. I had braced myself for this, so when she showed up at the hospital, I was expecting her to be huge. I was not expecting her to be so old. Suddenly, Valerie wasn't a baby, or even a toddler. She was a full-blown little girl.


And my little girl is the sweetest big sister I have ever seen. She is so gentle with Dorothy. All she wants to do is sit and hold her hand, or hold her on her lap and touch her face. She is so loving and gentle.


In fact, her transformation into a mature, responsible individual was so complete in my mind that one day, before Dorothy was even a week old, I started picking up some toys while Valerie was holding her, then I wandered off to the kitchen to do some dishes. Then I came to my senses and realized, um, Valerie is still only TWO. I can't leave her unattended with a newborn!


She really loves her baby sister. She doesn't seem to be jealous of the baby getting other peoples' attention. Rather, she is jealous of anyone else getting to hold the baby. One day, when her friend Moira was visiting, I let Moira hold Dorothy, and Valerie threw a fit. She kept trying to wedge in between them and pull the baby away from her friend. And this is where last week's post morphs into this week's post. And my angelic, perfect, little big sister becomes significantly less angelic.

Somehow, the gentle hand-holding became a squeeze, and I have had to pry her enormous two-year-old hands away from Dorothy's poor, little, squashed, red newborn hands on several occasions. Or she'll be sitting, quietly holding her sister on her lap when I notice that her head is pressed tightly against the baby's head, whose face is just starting to contort in tears. And don't even get me started on her inability to comprehend, "Don't touch the baby, she is sleeping!" (Or, if she does understand, her ability to circumvent that instruction by rocking the sleeping baby's little rocking chair violently enough to wake her, and then touch her, because hey, she's awake now!)


At first, it was mostly innocent. Trying to hug her too close, hold her hand too tight. Sometimes she gives her a toy that smacks her in the face or tries to feed her real food. But recently, she's shown more malevolent intent. In fact, she just finished a time-out for hitting her sister in the face.

I realize this is all normal sibling behavior. That doesn't make it any less frustrating. It's especially frustrating because, for two beautiful weeks, she was the model of a perfect older sibling. I think that's still in there, though. She's still a good big sister in her heart, she's just over-eager and impatient and more than a little jealous. I'm trying to make sure she gets my undivided attention for a stretch of time several times a day. Tubby time and bed time are both Valerie and Mommy or Daddy one-on-one time. But when you're used to nothing but one-on-one time, it can't be easy to make that switch. The honeymoon may be over, but the honeymoon is just the beginning of the marriage. And now, we're on to the dirty, daily task of being a family.