Friday, March 27, 2009

3 Months

Head Control

This past week Violet passed the 3-month mark.  She has been here with us a whole quarter of a year, over a dozen weeks.

Violet sees the great big world

She is such an amazing, beautiful baby.  She is so happy so much of the time and hardly ever fusses, so obviously having emerged from the unsettled chaos of newborn life into the plump contentment of babyhood.  Sometimes I just want to rub my face on her sweet soft cheeks or her squishy rotund belly.  Sometimes I do.

Sweet baby

She still loves her changing table, perhaps most of any other place in the house.  When she was going through her (blessedly short) phase of evening crying jags, that was sometimes the one place we could put her that would placate her.  Unfortunately it's not somewhere you can leave a baby unattended, but it does mean that she never screams during diaper changes, which is nice.  Our best guess about this spot's charm is that it is right below these black frames and the high contrast appeals to her baby brain.

Violet Looks Around

She smiles now-- real smiles, huge open-mouthed smiles full of joy and glee at the fact that we're interacting with her.  It's as if she's discovering that she's a human being, and yes, all these other creatures around here who carry her and feed her and talk to her are human beings too!  Sometimes she smiles when we coo and talk and sing to her, when we're working so hard to elicit that smile.  Sometimes, though, she smiles when I'm busy and my eyes just brush over hers on the way to something else, like she's the one who is going to work hard to get me to smile.

It works.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring & Flowers & Whatnot


Spring has definitely come to Texas and last week my parents took Grace, Violet, and me to visit the Dallas Arboretum.  It was really beautiful, as it has been every time I've visited, and we had a good time.


We wandered around taking lots of pictures.  The place was packed because it was spring break for most of the schools in the area, but not unpleasantly so.  Violet slept most of the time tucked away in the sling but woke up once we found a spot to stop and relax and eat our snack.  Our snack spot was near a hill and Grace ran up and down the big hill, then decided that rolling down would be more fun.

Two Girls Relaxing on the Blanket

One of my favorite things about the advent of warm weather is the emergence of the arms and feet and wrists of both my daughters.  There is so much to enjoy in the beautiful bodies of little children-- Grace's beautiful skin and lanky legs, Violet's chubby thighs and plump arms.  And for pure delight, it's hard to beat barefoot baby feet in the grass.

Barefoot Baby Feet

We live really close to the Arboretum and I sometimes toy with the idea of buying a membership because it's such a nice place to go and walk around and hang out. It's probably not such a good idea for me though, because the days are already getting a little too warm for me to enjoy being outside. I don't see myself voluntarily choosing to be outside for any length of time in the coming months, unless a swimming pool is involved.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Craftier Post Than Usual

This is spring break for Grace from the academic rigor that is 2-day-a-week preschool so we have been verrrrrrry slow to get moving this Monday. My younger daughter slept the latest of everyone, actually. Left to her own devices, Violet will sleep well past 9am, at least since the time change. Grace has not quite adjusted to the time change either, come to think of it, and has been sleeping pretty late herself lately. You should have seen me getting us ready for church yesterday morning-- a whole week after the time change and I still barely made it to the late service on time.

Rob returns from all his conference travel tomorrow and I will be very happy to have him back. I will admit that it has been nice to stretch out in the now-spacious queen bed (especially since there is a darling baby in it with me), but the extra space is weak compensation indeed for his absence. There were times during Grace's cosleeping when we contemplated a king bed and I have a sneaking suspicion that such thoughts will occur to us again. Anyway, tomorrow our family will be made whole again and perhaps we will also return to cooking dinner from scratch and more structure to our days and whatnot. I am really glad that Rob doesn't travel much for his job normally.

Grace has been waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom lately. She's potty-trained during the day but still in a diaper at night. Though often dry in the morning, she still sometimes isn't and I'm not in a big rush to, you know, change sheets in the middle of the night so I haven't pushed the night-time panty-wearing. Most nights during Rob's absence she has woken up calling out for me to take her the bathroom, leaving me to wonder if Rob normally does this every night and I have not noticed. It's a good sign for her ultimate bathroom habit maturity, I know, but since she is still months away from using the toilet by herself this means I have to get up, which in the middle of the night strikes me as mostly not a good sign. It reminds me of just about a year ago when Grace started sleeping through the whole night and I started getting less sleep. Good, and yet somehow bad...

Speaking of children relieving themselves (aren't you GLAD you read my FASCINATING BLOG?!) at 12 weeks or so Violet has grown out of our stash of small cloth diapers and has moved into mediums. If I remember correctly, Grace didn't do that until she was 4-5 months old, just another scrap of evidence to add to the mountain that Violet is indeed a bigger baby than Grace was. "Yes, Julia," you say patiently, "you've told us." Yet somehow reflecting on this fact does not cease to hold my attention... Anyway, I sold all the medium cloth diapers (which Grace wore from 5 months to 21 months) before we moved so I have been putting together a new stash of mediums. We have a few Fuzzi Bunz (which are my main go-to favorite diaper), some one-size bumGenius that Grace wore, and last week I finished sewing up a batch of pocket diapers myself!

Pocket Diapers

I put them together like a Fuzzi Bunz, with a PUL outer layer, a wicking fleece inner layer, and a microfiber terry insert. The pattern I used is based on Mama Bird's pattern, but I modified it a bit in shape. I also found this tutorial helpful and I got my fabrics from Wazoodle. This is the second set of diapers I've sewn; the first set was for when Grace outgrew her mediums and she still wears them at night.

Pocket Diapers

I'm really happy with how they turned out and they fit Violet well-- no leaks, trim under clothes, etc. I am so glad that I invested in a snap press because I really don't like diapers with Velcro; laundry is so annoying and it wears out much faster. So now we are almost set up for mediums. Since there's a recession on, I am exploring the prefold/snappi option with wool covers. I will admit that part of the reason this appeals to me is it allows to get out my knitting needles:


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Who Are the Boobies in Your Neighborhood?

How sad is it that I can't imagine this being shown on PBS today?

All joking aside, I have to say that I think this is so sweet and beautiful, with the tinkly Mr. Rogers piano music in the background.  And those little wagging goat tails?  "Feeding can be an wonderful way of expressing love."  You said it, Mr. Rogers.

Speaking of nursing, Violet and I are doing pretty well these days.  The discomfort was much more manageable this time around and I was pain-free right around 2 weeks.  Violet is doing a really good job with the breastfeeding.  Now at 11 weeks, she's not quite to the stage where she latches on practically without assistance but she has mastered nursing in the side-lying position (a real necessity, I think) and her increased head control just makes the whole thing easier.  I have diagnosed myself with a bit of overactive letdown which is less than ideal.  Some days I blame the situation on the pacifier use but it's not really possible to know; my highly unscientific anecdotal perception is that a lot of moms have more milk and faster letdown with their second baby because boobs say, "HEY!  I HAVE DONE THIS BEFORE!  I KNOW WHAT TO DO!"  Anyway, for whatever reason, she has markedly different nursing habits than Grace-- her nursing sessions are much shorter and not as peaceful and she seldom nurses for comfort or falls asleep nursing.  It's not quite the fix-it-all comfort mechanism that it was for Grace, either; Violet seems to prefer walking around in the sling when she's overwhelmed or fussy.  Breastfeeding is SO much easier than it was in those first weeks but we still haven't gotten to a really easy stage.  I'm hoping that we get there, and have even toyed with the idea of ditching the pacifiers in the hopes that she would nurse more frequently but more slowly and eat less during a single feeding.

It did eventually get super, super easy with Grace and that's when I really got comfortable nursing in public with her; it didn't seem as important to be at home in my specific spot on the couch with my specific pillow and all that.  I do nurse Violet in public some now, of course, but I still sort of mentally try to arrange my day so it's minimized because she's not super good at it yet.  At church I still go back to the "cry room" when Violet needs to eat; I have joked with Rob about going back there lest the unthinkable happen and someone catch a glimpse of my boob in the seconds between unfastening my bra and her latching on.  Seriously, do those rooms seem to anybody else like they subtly reinforce the taboo of breastfeeding?  On the other hand, the chairs are more comfortable and you can chat a little with other moms during the sermon...  (Bad Julia!)

Another thing that I think is indicative of this taboo are those nursing covers.  What is up with those?  Yes, the fabrics are cute (always a good thing in my book) but they seem to be just one more thing that communicates the message that nursing is weird and needs to be hidden.  I am not a fan.  On the other hand, I do think that anything that helps more women breastfeed and breastfeed longer is a good thing, so if those covers do that, then maybe I am a fan at some level?  I don't know...  I am a very modest person with pretty high standards for how much skin I show, what my clothes communicate about who I am, etc. but I do not at all think it is immodest to feed my baby in front of other people.  Everyone's favorite hippie moms over at Mothering magazine have this project where they have collected images of mothers nursing in various public settings in order to help other mothers feel comfortable nursing in public.  It's a Powerpoint file, which is kind of annoying, but it's still a really lovely collection of images.  Christine at welcome to my brain also has a weekly feature of breastfeeding pictures that she puts out there in the effort to normalize breastfeeding.  This post particularly makes the situation clear.  Our culture has somehow been trained to be uncomfortable with something that should be normal, and it has negative effects on our babies (who are breastfed at really terrible rates in the U.S.) and on mothers.  I have some half-constructed theory rattling around in my head that this taboo is linked to sexual objectification of women and a failure in our society to recognize women as multi-faceted whole people.  Whatever the cause, you really feel the taboo when you are in the stage of life of nursing a baby and it's just PLAIN WRONG.  So here I go, doing my part to normalize breastfeeding, talking openly about it and you know, bringing Mr. Rogers into the picture.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Things That Have Happened While Rob Is Away

By this time tomorrow Rob will be home, albeit only for a few days, and thank goodness for that.  We've been coping reasonably well but will all be very glad to see him.  In the meantime, here is what has happened.
  • I went to a park playdate with some girlfriends and their toddlers.  One of them was then kind enough to invite us all over for dinner, which was lovely.  Our evening turned sour once we got in the car to go home, though.  Violet screamed the whole way home; I tried stopping to nurse her but once she was done and back in the car seat, she screamed her desperate 2-month-old wail the whole rest of the way home.  Once home, Violet was OK but then Grace started to lose it.  During the bathtime/bedtime routine it escalated into the worst tantrum she's had in over a year.  She was like a little wild animal, running and sobbing and unable to get the least tiny handle on her emotions.  She was tired from no nap and the park, and I'm sure Rob not being there contributed.  I was honestly unsure about what to do because it was going on for so long and was by this time so far past her bedtime.  She was starting to come down in intensity when Rob called on the phone, and he managed to calm her by reciting Goodnight, Moon from memory and saying prayers with her.  That's some serious parenting skills, right?  De-escalating the tantrum from halfway across the country?
  • A lizard has died in our bedroom.  It has turned warm here and the lizards are starting to come out to eat bugs and lead their summer lizard lives, but this little one somehow made it into our house and then proceeded to die.  At least, I assume so-- I haven't prodded it but it hasn't moved in 2 days.  Lizards themselves don't bother me at all (in fact, I wrote a long-winded comment on my friend Kristy's blog last summer trying to persuade her they were nice creatures), but I am VERY squeamish about dead things and I can't decide what to do about it.  Wait another day for Rob to come home and dispose of him?  Vacuum him?
  • I gave Grace her first haircut.  Calling it a "haircut" is a slight exaggeration, really.  I've been thinking that her hair could use some evening out because the sides were much longer than the back.  Sort of a reverse mullet, or maybe like that Victoria Beckham haircut that everyone is getting.  Anyway, we were at my parents' Friday night, having dinner and playing.  We gave Grace a bath at their house and put her in her pajamas before driving home and in the process of talking about her hair, we somehow decided to go ahead and do it right then.  I snipped a bit off either side, trying to get it the same length as the back, and her curls bounced up after I trimmed then, full of sweet little-girl charm.  Then Violet proceeded to scream almost the entire drive home from my parents'.  Sigh...
  • Grace had her first trip to Chuck E. Cheese's this morning for a birthday party for a little girl in her class.  It seemed on the whole bewildering, overstimulating, and slightly terrifying to her.  I can see why; the place was full of flashing lights and blaring electronic noise and crazy children.  We lead pretty low-key (lame?) lives where the most stimulation she normally gets is her time at preschool; this was in a whole different league.  The animatronic mouse elicited a teary, "I don't like it" from her and she ended up closing her eyes and putting her head down.  She held herself together through the cake and didn't actually break down until we got into the car when, of course, she wailed that she wanted to go back to the party to exchange the blue worm toy she got for "the green thing", even though she picked out the blue worm with her tickets.  Ah, Chuck E. Cheese-- a source of children's breakdowns for decades now...

Hmmm, there's been a lot of crying lately, hasn't there?  Shockingly I haven't been joining in yet; let's try to keep it that way.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Instead of transitions between topics, today we shall have bullet points

  • I have had a cold, a miserable conglomeration of low-level discomforts that absorbed all my energy and thoughts.  At its worst, my teeth ached from the sinus pressure and I felt so feverish I could not eat my dinner and had to take a cold shower instead.  It is passing now and as I return to good health, I am reflecting that one claim to fame that blogging will have is that it has motivated more words written about the common cold than any other cultural phenomenon in the history of civilization.  That, and more photos of onions being chopped when everyone does cooking/recipe blogs.
  • Violet had her 2-month check-up last week and it turns out she is a HUGE GIANT BABY.  Well, at least compared to Grace at that age.  She weighed 12 lbs 10 oz, over 2 lbs more than Grace did at 2 months.  Yay, Violet!  She also got her first big round of immunizations, which was no fun at all.  It started with the oral rotavirus vaccination which made her choke and splutter in desperate, confused fury ("what is this?! this is not delicious warm breastmilk!") and moved on to 4 shots in her tender chubby thighs.  It was pretty bad, actually, and she was much harder to comfort than Grace ever was.  Poor little creature...
  • Speaking of Violet, she takes a pacifier, unlike her older sister.  We waited a few weeks to try the pacifier with Grace like the breastfeeding experts tell you to and she was never accepting of it.  With Violet, she and I were by ourselves in the hospital on our second night and she wanted to nurse like CRAZY, for hours and hours on end (well, that's what it seemed like in my exhausted state), as she worked on bringing my milk supply in; I ended up calling the nurse for a pacifier so I could go to the bathroom without her screaming.  And there you have it-- a baby who takes a pacifier.  Some days I am glad that she does, and some days I am not glad and regret that I ever gave it to her, mostly because I suspect it has made nursing somewhat harder.  Overall, I can't decide if the balance is positive or negative.  Be that as it may, I now have to keep track of the darned things, at least until I gather the gumption to wean her from them.  Pacifiers seem to waft in and out of existence in puzzling places around the house and often seem to disappear entirely, or to be all in one room together when I am at the other end of the house.  I am a pretty firm believer in conservation of mass and know that they must be SOMEWHERE but I am often at a loss as to where exactly that is.  Maybe they are quantum tunneling in and out of our universe.
  • Today Rob is leaving for a research conference in Georgia related to the grant he got (this is the grant that pays for his fellowship research and then a couple years of faculty time after that). After being gone for 4 days, he returns home for 3 and then jaunts off to ANOTHER conference in DC, this one for 5 days for his medical specialty.   As you may suspect, I have some trepidation about these trips and being on my own with the two wee ones for the first time.  The days can stretch out very long when there is no one coming home at the end of the day to chat with, to hold the baby for a little while, to entertain the 3-year-old for a bit.  Times like these remind me that raising children really is a two-person job and all the people out there who are doing it on their own have undertaken no small thing.  I shall reflect on how fortunate I am to have the partner that I do and try to keep Grace's TV time from spiraling out of control.