Monday, July 15, 2013

An Open Letter to My Son, Who Is Two

Dear Rhys,

You woke up early this morning.  5:45.  You must have been hungry, because you woke up demanding a cup of warm milk in pretty strident tones from your crib, which is at the foot of our bed.  "Rhee have warm milk!  Rhee have warm milk! Please!"  Your Papa oozed out of bed, rubbed your tummy and told you that he'd go and make it for you, and I lay in bed and talked to you from across the room about what he was doing, to help you be patient.  Eventually I looked at the clock.  Ugh. No. 

I was so tired.  It's easy to be tired, when I'm almost 30 weeks pregnant and had stayed up quite late the night before sorting and folding your old baby clothing, trying to get the nursery ready for your soon-to-be little brother.  Pausing often to remember you in certain garments, like the little blue cotton gown with the ribbons at the wrists and the tiny mother of pearl button closure at the back of the neck, and how your fingers would curl out of those sleeves like hermit crabs.  I can't believe we are having another baby.  I can't imagine anyone but you.  Nothing seems real yet.  The clothing, your old clothing, is folded in the drawers.  Each drawer a different age, and when I look at the little label that says "0-3 months" on the top drawer I can feel this time, this time that is just you and I, running through my fingers so quickly, and I want to close my hand on it to keep it still.   

On mornings like this morning it's hard to keep the promise I made to myself when you turned a year old, to always say "good morning Rhys!" so that a smile is the first thing you see every day.  You drank your milk and your papa helped you up into our bed for morning snuggles, which you initially did not want.  You insisted upon lying between us without touching, like a little island of tired toddler, getting your emotions under control and finishing the process of waking up.  Eventually you rolled over to me and tucked your head under my chin, one little brown arm snaking around my neck.  "Good morning, Rhys."  Sleepy smile.  I closed my hand on the moment.  Tried to keep it still.

This afternoon, you didn't really want to eat lunch so your dragon figurine Raar pretended to eat your chicken while you laughed and said "No Raar!  Say please!"  We headed up for nap, and I got you tucked in and you informed me that you had Simba (your teddy bear) and your cup of water, which I dutifully admired.  I asked you if you'd like a story or a song, and after a little thought you said "yes.  song."  I rattled off a quick list of your favorites to see which one you'd like to hear:  The Blackest Crow?  No.  Sir Eglamore?  No.  I sang you a quick snatch of "The Crane Wife" and you approved, so I switched gears and sang you "The Mariner's Revenge" while I stroked your little suntanned arm, the only part of you I could reach through the bars of your crib while sitting on the floor.  You fell asleep while I hummed the refrain, one of the few times that you've fallen asleep while I've sung to you, and I leaned my forehead against the crib, watching your fingers move a little while you dreamed.  You're so beautiful, little one.  So beautiful and so good.  And I'm so grateful that you and I have this time together, that I can sing you to sleep, watch your eyes close and know that you know I'm here watching over you.  I sat and watched you sleep and thought about how very much I love you, how hard I try to be worthy of you, and what I would do and give to keep you safe, and I cried.

It's a strange thing about our culture, the way it makes mothers feel a little guilty for loving their children so very much.  We're taught by all the other adults around us that constant closeness is debilitating, somehow - female relatives and friends started offering to "take the baby so you can get away, it will be good for you" when you, Rhys, were only a few weeks old.  The few times I left you to run to the store or spend a few hours at a wedding I felt like a wild animal desperate to get out of a trap, and BACK to you.  Then I worried that maybe there was something wrong with me.  Why didn't I want to spend time away from you?  When everyone else seemed to take it for granted that I NEEDED to get away from you?  They spoke like the person I was would drown in all the care of you, and I felt instead that you were teaching me to breathe underwater - to become a new sort of creature entirely. 

There are days when you make me so crazy I think I must be the least patient mother in the world, and I worry about what will happen when there's a new baby here to keep me up at night, to make it even harder for me to smile and say good morning at 5:45 a.m., to take some part of me away from you, to nurse and always be in the way, needing so much of me the way babies do, the way you did.  But always, always, there are moments like this afternoon, when I know that it won't matter, because we are in this together, my song and your little brown arm, and you will help me figure out how to be the best mother I can be to both of you.  I've already learned so very much.  Every day, you teach me grace, and I'm so grateful to you, my teacher.  I love you, little Squeak.



Friday, April 19, 2013

Hey Internet:

(with apologies to william carlos william)

This is just to say 

 I have gotten 
knocked up 
again, like before 
Holy cow, 

What was 
I thinking, Rhys 
Has only 
Just started 

Forgive me. 
Babies are delicious, 
so sweet, 
and they grow. 

(Thank god.) 

Baby #2 - due September 26th!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Rhys' Baptism


Long time, no talk.

It'd be a pain in the tush to repeat it all here so I'm just going to give y'all the link to Rhys' travelogue, wherein he describes his trip to Norway, during which he gets baptized, tours a fjord, (sort of), sees a pig and sleeps through a great many important and historical museums.

Note, as of right now, it is not finished yet.  Work in progress.  We're up to Tuesday/Wednesday of the second week, and we left on Saturday. know.  Stay tuned.

Kiss kiss,


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rhys' First Birthday Party

Rhys turned one, and we threw him a Viking themed pool party!  And the day went off, with a few minor snafus, remarkably well.

For one thing, the weather was super-cooperative.  Hot, of course, but when you're having a pool party that's probably not a terrible thing.

For another, lots of lovely people were able to come, and that ALWAYS helps make a party special.

And, if I do say so myself, the viking gear was off the hook.

First up, the invitations.  They were designed by the talented Laila, of TwoTinyLoves on Etsy.  She created PDF files for the invitations, address labels, a birthday banner, etc etc.  She sent me the PDFs, and I printed out everything and put it all together.  Was a wee bit of work, but since what I wanted I couldn't find anywhere it was totally worth it!

(address redacted to protect the not-entirely-innocent)

Then there was the crudites platter.  Or, more accurately, the crudites longship.

Don't even try to pretend you're not impressed by that.  Because you know you are.  And yes okay fine it's a spanish galleon that has had viking stripes painted on its sails and Norwegian flags added to the rigging.  But we can all pretend that strangely anachronistic vikings seized a galleon as spoils!

The important thing is, it was full of delightful nibbles.

And before you heap lauds upon me, be told:  I didn't make this.  Sandy insisted that we have the party catered because there was no way that he wanted to spend the whole of his son's first birthday grilling and he figured I was already nearly prostrate with exhaustion just putting together the invitations and assembling the goodie-bags (more on those later).  And there were like, 30 or 40 people coming.  So.  The caterer made the crudites galleon.  (And if anyone would like their contact information you may find it on their website.)  

Pity the waiters who had to trot around in the heat in white button-down shirts and black slacks!

(Note:  goodie-bags visible to far left as small mountain of cellophane)

They did an awesome job though - first passing around hors d'eovres while the crudites ship sailed on the nibbles table, then putting out a small mountain of barbequed offerings, and finally bringing out dessert.  Sandy was indeed wise - there's no way I could have done what these folks did.  

Cookies, brownies, cakes, fruit - AND passed cupcakes and ice cream cones!  
What's a birthday boy to do?

And since the wonderful folks from Etal were handling my guests' tummies, I was able to spend the whole of Rhys' birthday hanging with him in the pool.  Which was awesome.

As you can probably see, Rhys had a wonderful time.  Pool parties are total genius too if you've got a wide age-range of attendees - since it's a very free-form activity.

A few photos from the beginning of the party:

Little Timmy arrived from next door in a big wagon.  Rhys was enthralled.

Hanging out with his Great Aunt Maureen...(and obviously coveting her iced tea).

Kids in the little fountain.

Rhys playing in his little itsy-bitsy pool with his buddy Max.

Rhys' soon-to-be Godfather, Mark...

And Godmother, Harley...

Harley putting her shades on the birthday boy...(crudites ship sailing to left).

And now let us move on to the most important aspect of any 1 year old's birthday party.  CAKE.

Sandy said he had to smear his name for good luck, or something.  Rhys had zero problem doing this, and was indeed already in action before Sandy had finished even suggesting it.

Quality control.  Very important.

Alas, when it came time to actually eat the cake, Rhys was less interested in doing so.  Mostly he just wanted to check out the whole plate concept.  Food really being less interesting than the fact that it comes served on tiny frisbees. 

So we switched to ice cream.

And cookies.

And then it was time for folks to grab their goodie-bags and head home.  Here are a few of Rhys' cousins making their selections.

And here they are below modeling!

Sandy found viking helmets online...and also this website here.  I lost my tiny mind, I was so excited.  I ordered everything they had in stock in terms of tiny plush morning stars, swords and double bladed battle axes.  That rattle.  Note - the girls there both selected morning stars.  Do not mess with those girls.

Anyway - wanted to share Rhys' Viking Themed birthday party with y'all.  Hope you enjoyed it as much as he did!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Year and Change

And you can take that "change" however you like - it's been almost 14 months since Rhys cannonballed into the still pool of my life, and I'm just beginning to grudgingly accept that the waves will never really flatten out again.

I don't want you all to think that I wasn't expecting motherhood to change my life.  Because of course I was.  I told Sandy frequently before we got pregnant that having children would change EVERYTHING.  And I meant it.  But I really had no idea what I was talking about.

This blog post goes out to all the parents of toddlers who DON'T SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT.  *gasp*

In America, I feel there's this prevailing notion - and maybe it is part and parcel of the whole feminism "I can have it all" embuggerance - but there's this idea that one should not, MUST NOT, let children take away one's autonomy.  Which seems insane when written down baldly like that.  But it's true - there's this idea floating around out there in the American Id that says, "sure, have kids...but don't let them change your sense of freedom/hobbies/friends/deliciously witty bar repartee."  Don't be that person on Facebook who never posts anything but statuses and pictures about their kids.  Don't be the friend who fails to call at least once a week to check in now that you've got kids.  Don't let the little bugger interfere with the normal and orderly established progression of your days.   And I feel like it is from this idea that concepts like Cry It Out are born - a new mother thinks to herself: "surely it isn't right for my 6 month old to be waking three or four times a night!  I have to fix it so that I can get back to 'normal'."

And for some babies, this totally works.  Some babies are just born being polite, quiet, happy babies who can easily be tucked into car seats or strollers and wheeled around their parents' life making as few demands as possible. Cozy babies. "Easy" babies. 

And then there's Rhys.  Rhys who still doesn't sleep more than 2-3 hours at a stretch before waking and crying for reassurance that there is someone in the world who still loves him.  Rhys who refused to be put into a car seat or stroller pretty much at all for the first 5 months of his life without continuously screaming bloody murder.   Rhys who made it necessary for me to rate various baby-wearing devices, front carriers, back carriers, slings and wraps, based upon how easily one could go to the bathroom while wearing them and the baby - (for the record, the Maya Sling wins hands down provided you remember to throw the spare tail of fabric over your shoulder before sitting down).   Rhys who insisted that every moment of every day and night for his first 6 months must be spent within touching distance of Sandy or I.  Rhys who has no problem playing independently now for quite a fair bit of time, and in theory would thus enable me to get things done, if his idea of "playing independently" wasn't everyone else's idea of "a spirited attempt at self-destruction via as many new and interesting suicidal experiments as possible."   I could go on.  Rhys.

The older he gets, and the more obvious it has become that he will never naturally suddenly become an "easy" baby, the more advice I've been given regarding ways to get him to conform to the standards of "good baby."  People ask "does he sleep through the night?" like it's a touchstone by which his worth may be judged.  And when they find out that he most definitely does NOT sleep through the night, they're full of good-intentioned advice about how I can "make" him sleep through the night.  Weaning him from the breast and crying it out are the two most popular.  Don't get me wrong.  Really, really, don't get me wrong.  I would give one of my smaller toes to help Rhys sleep through the night.  I'd suffer any amount of personal indignity and pain to enjoy 8 hours of solid sleep a night again.  But I'm not willing to make RHYS suffer pain to accomplish the same.  I can't let my baby cry alone in a dark room in the middle of the night, wondering why no one is coming.  Not yet.  Maybe not ever.

That decision, to me, represents the essential sea change that has come over my life.  Or, more accurately, our life.  It's Rhys' and mine together.  Because it is not just about me, any longer.  And I'm sure between the two of us, we will make lots of mistakes.  Hopefully we will both learn and grow from them.  But I'm still not at the point where I believe that not crying it out is one of them.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Nursing Strike

Since an anonymous commenter requested it - here's a brief run down on Rhys' 2 months + of nursing strike. 

It all started when we flew to Colorado for a friend's wedding when Rhys was 3 months old.  That morning, Rhys had several pretty extreme bowel movements.  I was grateful, at the time, thinking it meant we wouldn't have to deal with changing poopy diapers in an airport or on the plane.  Wrong.

Rhys was rocking some serious dire-rear.  The whole trip.  In point of fact, he rocked some nasty dire-rear for upwards of two months.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  He nursed just fine on the plane.  But as soon as we landed in Denver he refused to eat.  I tried everything.  EVERYTHING.  I broke out the girls in the middle of a rent-a-car joint at the airport with no nursing cover because I was so desperate to get him to eat.  No dice.  Over the course of several days it became obvious - dude would only nurse while sleeping.  If he even caught sight of my breasts while awake, he would start screaming like he was being murdered.  It was awful.  And bizarre.  And I was losing it because here we were at 8,000 feet, and he was surely going to get dehydrated.  I groped his fontanelle obsessively.  It was ridiculous.

A very long story short, I became accustomed to feeding him non-stop through every nap and sleep cycle, (at times literally using breast massage and compression to squeeze milk into him while he slept).  I brought him to his doctor three times for the problem, plus the dire rear, and every time they told me it was "probably just a stage" and "he's not losing weight, so we're not concerned."  I tried to tell them that the only reason he wasn't losing weight was because I was basically force-feeding him while he slept, but they pooh-pooh'd me.  I suggested that maybe the Zantac he was on for reflux was no longer efficacious, and that we should try switching him to a different dose or medicine.  The doctor said, "well that was always an iffy diagnosis."  And, because I am a total sucker for authority figures and very bad at being the squeaky wheel, I didn't push the issue. 

Two months of this and all of a sudden he started to lose weight.  And then, I kid you not, the doctor actually said to me "he's lost some weight here...why do you think that is?"  I have never, in my entire life, wanted to punch someone more.  And I grew up with Sean as a younger brother.  So that's saying something.  (Sorry Sean, but you've seen the family vacation videos.  You know you were obnoxious as hell.)

Anyway after that visit they referred me to a GI doctor who switched him from Zantac to Prevacid. 

And within two days Rhys' diarrhea had cleared up and he was nursing again during the day, wide awake.  So.  From now on I follow my gut no matter what.  Because obviously pediatricians are asshats.  Or at least, mine are.

But moving on.  That was certainly the worst nursing strike he's had, but he's had little, weird ones here and there - especially regarding sides.  Sometimes he doesn't want to nurse on one side or the other.  And this probably has to do with teething, or something along those lines...but with a little ingenuity you can work through this.

Step 1. Relax.  You will do no good if you're freaking out, and your nerves might interfere with your let down.  Chill.  It's going to be okay.

Step 2.  Try some new nursing positions.  Just like in any relationship, stuff can get stale if you're always doing the same old thing day in and day out.  When Rhys would refuse a specific side, I'd try side-lying nursing, and flip him upside down.  (So his feet were up by my head).  That way, he was basically in the same position he would be in if he were nursing on the side he WASN'T refusing.  This very frequently worked.

Step 3.  Take a bath and take the pressure off.  Lots of naked, skin to skin, one on one time often helps. 

Step 4.  Try walking around and nursing.

Step 5.  If it seems like your Squeak is mostly just distracted by everything that's going on around him and that's interfering with the nursing, try nursing in the closest thing you can find to a sensory deprivation chamber.  Rhys is still the King of distraction, so now even though he no longer fears the boob, we still have to nurse in his room, with the lights out the shades drawn the doors closed and NO ONE ELSE IN THERE.  Otherwise he plays Psycho-Gopher, bobbing off the boob and turning to look at whatever just made that sound/moved/or dared to breathe in the same room as him.

These are just a few of the things I've done with Rhys.  For a really comprehensive list of notions, check out, or the La Leche League.  I also highly recommend the book "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding."  It's got an agenda, and it pushes it pretty hardcore, but it got me through a whole host of issues while the Squeak and I figured out the whole breastfeeding thing.

And Rhys and I are still going strong, at almost 13 months, so that's saying something!

Anonymous - If you're having any trouble breastfeeding, please feel free to email me!  I'm not a lactation consultant but I'd be happy to listen.