Bad Hair Day

After a recent nap. What do I do with this child's hair?


To Rowan at Four Years Old

Dear Rowan, (02-21-2009)

Happy Birthday!

Today you turn 4. I know every parent says this as their child ages a year—but it is hard to believe. I can’t believe I have a 4 year old. I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the days and hours 4 years ago while we awaited your birth.

I loved being pregnant with you. It was my first time to experience all the kicks and tumbles and changes in my body from a growing life, and I reveled in it. You have told me repeatedly that you do not want to get married or have a baby…and I have reassured you that it is your choice, that no one will make you (and quite frankly, I’d rather not have you TOO eager for pregnancy..at least not anytime soon!) You said you are scared about “giving birth” because it sounds like it would hurt—even though I have gone to great lengths to make it sound like a wonderful, positive experience. I hope that someday you change your mind…and that you get to experience the mystery of pregnancy. It would be a privilege for me to witness.

You arrived a few days after your due date…and each day for over a week I took a long walk around Craighead Forest Lake in Jonesboro, hoping to help induce labor. I remember those walks in detail…I think I suspected how my life was going to change, knew the luxury of a solo 3 mile walk would soon be just that…a luxury. But mostly I remember dreaming about you. What you would look like, who you would be. Who I would be.

My labor with you was arduous. My water broke at midnight, contractions started in earnest right away, I breathed through them at home through the night…only to find out the discouraging news at the hospital 7 hours later that I was only dilated to 1. We found out much later that you were turned the wrong way…hence the prolonged labor. When it was finally time to push, you still hadn’t turned…and you got stuck behind my pubic bone. I labored and pushed for a long time…I was very focused, never lost control or concentration….but narrowly missed a c-section…also narrowly missed giving my good friend and OB-GYN a heart attack…and finally pushed you out after 3 hours. You were still sunny-side up. This resulted in a long recovery for me…and a very unusually shaped head for you. 3 hours in the birth canal facing the wrong way…you looked like a baby manatee. The day after you were born, my friend Dana showed me a picture of you in profile from immediately after you entered the world, and I emptied my bladder on the hospital floor from laughing. I’m pleased to report that your head is now quite lovely.

You are beautiful.

Our first year with you was rough. I underestimated how much a baby changes your life. I struggled not so much with your daily care—I loved (most) of that. I struggled with a lack of independence. Your dad and I struggled to define new roles and to relate to each other as parents. I didn’t like having to think so far ahead about every little detail or plan.

4 years later, I think we’ve caught our groove :) Having added Piper to our family this year, I feel much more relaxed and able to keep things in perspective….because of you. Because I know why we endure infancy. Because I know that you turned into this totally fun, cool person to be around.

(rowan at 2 months)

You have been strong-willed from the get-go. I maintain that I’d rather have a daughter who knows what she wants than one who is too easily influenced. When you get an idea…it’s hard to persuade you out of it. You have very specific ideas about what you want to wear, what you want to play with, what you want to eat. Sometimes you are a real pain in the butt!

You gave up naps on your 2nd birthday and have never looked back. You do not stop all day…and are surprisingly pleasant to be around even as the day drags on and you should be getting weary. You are constantly moving, often talking, usually asking questions, and just tenacious as all get out.

You have a good sense of humor, laugh at daddy’s silly jokes, and have even started making up your own jokes. You remember things after being told once, and will often surprise us by using a new word or concept in the correct context almost immediately. Your memory impresses us…you will frequently reminisce about some small detail of our life in Jonesboro or in the RV.

You ask the best questions. Yesterday you asked me “how does the brain think?” And of course, you want to know “why” for everything. And you don’t miss much when adults are having a conversation around you. We are learning to be careful about what we say in your presence…not so much out of protection of you, but out of avoidance of a really long explanation and a million questions!

I love to hear what you are thinking. You put ideas together and make connections between stories and concepts. Conversations with you are fun. You’re a good thinker. It bodes well for what school will be like for you.

You won’t wear jeans, you really don’t like having anything in your hair (what should I do about your hair? You are a bit of a wild child in the hair department), you have very specific requirements for shoes, you hate clothing that requires any level of layering, and just in general are very fussy about clothing and what goes on your body. We actually bought seamless socks for you this year because socks had become such a problem.

You notice the smallest changes in your environment. Smells are intense for you. Change isn’t easy. You cling to routines with tenacity: we have sung the same 3 songs (Angels We Have Heard on High, Jingle Bells, and the made-up Rowan Joy song) at bedtime (in the same order) for nearly two years…and recently added the same book (used to do a different one each night) to the nightly routine (I’m a Big Sister!) You will not budge if I suggest a different song or book.

You had been dreaming and talking about having a princess birthday party since you turned 3…and I eventually compromised with you and planned a “Princess and the Pea” party for your 4th birthday. Yesterday, all your friends arrived…dressed as princesses, princes, and a few peas. That morning, you tried on each of your dress-up princess dresses….and none of them felt right. One was too itchy, the other had sleeves that were ¾ length and you didn’t like the way it felt, the other had off-the-shoulder sleeves that wouldn’t stay in place. So you were the birthday girl at her princess party, dressed in normal clothes.

The irony of the message of “Princess and the Pea” was not lost on me! (only a princess is sensitive enough to feel a pea under 20 mattresses!)

You are a sensitive person, indeed…and I’m learning to understand you, because I am not so sensitive to my environment. You’ve helped me to understand your dad better, actually….before you came along, I never fully acknowledged the real sensitivities he has…and in turn, he constantly helps me to be more tolerant of your sensitivities. When I think back to your infancy, I wonder if some of your general discomfort had to do with your sensitive spirit. Did your clothes feel funny, was your diaper too tight, was your immature digestive system just too much to handle?

I’m enjoying seeing the positive aspects of raising a highly sensitive daughter. You are aware of your world and the people around you in a way many others are not. You make keen observations, feel things fully, and help me to stop and notice.

You love puzzles, love to read, love letters and words, love art, love moving your body (you recently mastered the hula hoop and jump rope), love baking with your Nana. You play really well by yourself…you make up games, songs, and use your imagination.

(rowan at 4 months)

You didn’t want to turn 4. Most kids I know are eager to hit their next birthday…you were apprehensive. This morning you told daddy that you were still 3…because you didn’t “feel” different. You were expecting to feel fundamentally different when you advanced an age…and were a bit distraught to wake up and feel the same. A few days before your birthday, you broke down in tears at bedtime about growing up. “I don’t want to grow up!” you exclaimed, huge tears pooling in your eyes, “I want to stay 3 forever!” I implored you about why…and one reason you gave is that you never want to live away from me. I told you that you could live with me as long as you want (knowing full well that by the teenage years, you’ll be eager to be on your own!) At least for now, I think that the idea of staying with me forever satisfied and comforted you.

Oh, to have you with me forever! Sweet child, the thought comforted me, too.
I love you, Rowan, and always will.


The best part

So today is my 32nd birthday. I like birthdays. I'm cool with getting older.

Today, the mark of a good day was this: Joe made me scrambled eggs, I took a long morning shower, we ate lunch at Yesterdog, my mom watched the girls for a few hours so I could go get a coffee, run an errand, do a few things at the house sans children. Many dear friends and family called and loved on me. Joe brought me really funky flowers. My mom made lasagna for dinner. We drank a bit of wine. Watched LOST.

But the best part was clear. A card from Rowan. Her idea. Her words. Her sounding it all out with Grandma before I came home. Her concern that the "M" in mom on the inside wasn't perfect.

Translation: Happy Birthday, you are the bestest mom in the world, Rowan XXXOOO. My favorite part is her version of bestest...in her mind, it sounded out to "bastis." In case you wondered if she still had some southern influence.

I'm proud of my not-quite-4 year old (it's her turn for a birthday on Saturday...she was due to be born on my birthday!), surely, and her growing grasp of language and words...my mom said that the only thing she helped her with was reminding her what sound "th" made.

Mostly, my heart just skips a beat because I'm crazy about this child. And I love being her mom.


Sleeping Like a Baby

It's hard to know what's normal with a newborn. I have taken care of many newborns...been around a lot of nieces, nephews, and friends' babies. But it's not the same as spending 24 hours a day with a baby (especially the night part)...you just see snippets, can never really get a feel for how much sleeping and crying they ACTUALLY do. So I'm not sure what's normal, but I have pondered writing down every 5 minutes of my day and night with exactly what I'm doing and what Piper is doing...and posting that, hoping to compare notes with other moms of newborns.

It's hard to write honestly for a blog, but also take into consideration the varied experiences and filters of potential readers. We have a healthy child...what a blessing. I know people who are struggling to get pregnant, who may never get pregnant. I know people who have children with disabilities or other special needs that far outweigh any challenge that a healthy newborn brings. I know people who have buried their babies. It's hard for me not to think of all of these people when I start to write something that sounds like a complaint. And yet, there ARE real frustrations and challenges with having a newborn, even if they are perfectly healthy. I want to write from a place of real truth and candor about where we are at...but sometimes I'm paralyzed with concern for coming off as ungrateful.

I am not ungrateful. Just tired.

We've had some really calm, nice times with Piper. She can be really smiley, and can zone out for several minutes just looking at the ceiling or someone moving their hand. She is cooing, and gives these huge smiles, tongue out, when someone earnestly talks to her and looks in her eyes. And during the day, she'll usually take at least one nap (provided we don't try to move her to the car) that lasts 2 or even 3 hours. So that's a huge break. She loves to have her diaper changed (loves the nakedness, just like her big sister)...and oftentimes, the solution to her crying is to just lay her down and take her clothes off. Then she can be very calm, smiley, and content. These moments are precious.

These moments do not happen in the car, ever. Occasionally she's fallen asleep or stayed asleep when I've transferred her to the car, but this is the exception. If she's awake in the car, she's crying. Usually it's crying escalating to screaming escalating to full-body thrashing. I've had to train Rowan to force herself to laugh when Piper really gets going in the car...otherwise we'd all be crying. Rowan is doing a good job. I'm trying. It makes us really consider whether a trip to ANYWHERE is worth it.

And she's sleeping like a baby...if sleeping like a baby means waking every few hours, plus having several hours at some point in the middle of the night when she's grunting, waking every 5 or 10 minutes (although she is trying to sleep), and generally so uncomfortable that we don't sleep. Where did we ever get the phrase "slept like a baby?"

There was one night last week that felt like hope: she fell asleep on my chest around 12:45 AM, I was able to get comfortable in bed, and she slept until 6:15 AM. So we'll get there eventually. I won't be awake from 1:00-5:00 AM trying to keep my 5 year old calm. I have to always use the 5 year rule...."in five years"...and then I feel more sane.

For now, we're trying to figure out why she's having these spells of grunting...right in the middle of the night, usually somewhere around 3 or 4 and lasting until morning. she seems to be sleeping through most of the grunting, but will also wake/cry out frequently in the midst of it. I'm keeping track of everything I eat and at what time...and we have found no correlations. We've tried every sleep position and situation possible...in the bassinet on her back, on her side, even desperately tried her belly. In the car seat next to the bed (which has worked the best), in bed with us, actually on our body, or next to us...nestled in the middle of the boppy, in the crook of the couch. She's been wrapped like a burrito, left in a diaper to be skin-to-skin, left out to flail, left to cry (not for very long yet...I just don't see the purpose or justice in letting a newborn cry (without comforting!) for very long. Plus our babies just seem to get ramped up after 5 or 10 minutes of being left to cry...and then take SO long to calm back down. We'll eventually just let her cry for longer and longer periods...but not in these first months.)

Apparently if a mother makes a lot of milk and has a forceful let-down (I have both), it can lead to gassiness and fussiness because the baby ends up swallowing so much air to keep up with the flow of milk. I have already naturally done the things to correct this: only nursing her on one side at a feeding, frequent burping, catching some of the first milk in a burp cloth until it tames down. Plus, she doesn't have long spells of gas and discomfort during the day...it's just at night.

So if anyone has any advice, we'd welcome it. I feel pretty educated on most things baby, but I'd also love to have an "aha" moment that leads to better sleep for all.

And in the end, we may just have to endure for awhile.

One request: please do not suggest giving this child baby cereal to calm her tummy. Not gonna do that. Breast-feeding is a fragile endeavor. It's beautiful, and I love it, but it is also a lot of work and responsibility. A breast-feeding mom needs encouragement, not the nagging sense that her milk isn't sufficient. I'm done with questioning whether my milk is enough, or is causing some horrible reaction (I am willing to eliminate foods from my diet, and already have). Supplementing breast milk seems to be a popular idea to ease fussiness and get a baby to sleep longer at night---if you're interested to know why giving cereal (or other solids) is not the best idea at such a young age, here's why you shouldn't.

Our days have been good, albeit loud, thanks in no small part to Rowan's flexibility and sweetness when it comes to Piper and Piper's fussiness. I also seem to have a bigger dose of patience than I remember having when Rowan was a baby. Maybe because I know how it all turns out in the end...with Rowan, I probably had this nagging sense somewhere deep down that I would be walking, swaying, and shushing for the rest of my life. Now I know that I get this cool little person at the end of it.

So there is a lot of crying...a lot of attempts at comforting...a lot of times of not knowing what the heck is wrong. A lot of me telling Rowan that she has to wait a minute. Again, thank goodness for her sweetness! Oh, and for PBS.

In non-baby news, our house is coming right along...it's beautiful! We are eager to move in...and while Joe has said he is no longer giving time estimates, it seems like the upstairs is within weeks of being completed. I can't wait to post some photos---soon, I promise! I want to wait until it's all cleaned up and finished. We're looking forward to setting up our own home again--it's been awhile.

To see a few more pics of the girls, click here.


The M word

When we moved back to MI from CA, we left the veggie oil Mercedes in CA to sell (and finally sold it in early December!) So we have just had the truck...and it wasn't working for us to share one vehicle. For awhile we short-term leased a car from my uncle who owns a car dealership...but once Piper came along, getting 2 kids and car seats in and out of a 4 door was getting old.

Since we were dating I knew that "Mini-Van" was practically a swear word to Joe. It has always represented something bigger than just a family vehicle. He hasn't been able to say exactly what it represents, but I suspect it has something to do with a mini-van not being very macho, or with admitting that your life cannot be managed with any other, cooler car. He always felt like getting a mini-van would be like admitting that you'd given up. He literally has a hard time saying the words "mini-van" and often just refers to it as the "m" word.

I'm with our friend Joel who maintains that getting a mini-van is admitting the ultimate in practicality. I mean, what vehicle uses space as efficiently, is as easy to get car seats in and out of, and still gets okay gas mileage? Okay, maybe a Honda Pilot or some other cool cross-over...but what vehicle for under $5,000 can do all these things? A mini-van can seat-belt at least 7 people, has a roof rack, decent storage room in the back, 2 easy to use sliding doors...and right now you can get a perfectly decent one for well under five grand.

So I finally convinced Joe. He says that his pride is less important than my happiness. What a guy. And we are now the happy (or not so happy) owners of a 2000 Nissan Quest. We got a great deal on it. I'm feeling a bit like a soccer mom, but I'm thrilled. Can't remember ever being so excited about a vehicle, actually. I assured Joe that we do not have to own this vehicle forever...it's just to get us through these years with small children.

Joe called our insurance company to get the mini-van added, and when he told the guy that we needed to add a Nissan Quest, the guy said "oh, I'm sorry man." Just what Joe needed to hear, right? Don't fuel his mini-van snobbery!

Mini-Van drivers unite!