IX Take 2

3/4 years old and what a animated blur we have in our house. Turn your back for 10 seconds and Lucy is halfway up the stairs, all the way across the house, or in the bowl of cat food. This girl is not even walking and she can out run me. She is never content to be still unless some form of food is being served.

And all of a sudden our little bird who chirped is now the sheep who went baa baa baa baa baa baa baa all day long. “Hi Lucy,” evokes a response of “BAAAAAA”

“What did you do today Lucy?”

“Ba ba ba ba baaaaaaa”

“Can you say da-da Lucy?”

“MmM mmmm mom momomomomomomomom”

*sigh*

The constant babbling and cooing and other lingual practice now has to contend with a mouth full of 2, YES 2, teeth….. finally! Lucy has graduated to the world of semi-firm foods which can be gnawed and drooled on including blueberry muffins, pasta, barley, rice, and various snacks. No longer content to be spoon fed, Lucy tantrums occur when food is on the table and it is not in her hands on the way to her mouth.

It’s scary to think upon how fast the last 9 months have passed in our house. Once upon a time we had a 2 year old and a newborn, once upon a time we had one toddler, once upon a time we had one newborn, once upon a time we were newly weds, once upon a time we just met, once upon a now we have two amazing young girls who laugh and smile and make their parents very very happy.

And lastly a word from the wunderkind

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8 months

I really, truly try not to compare the girls as they grow. Even though a part of me always goes, “Molly had 4 teeth by now!” or “Lucy is crawling so early! Molly didn’t crawl until seven months…” I try hard to recognize each of my girls as they hit their respective milestones. I know it doesn’t matter, anyway. They are healthy, and strong, and smart, and beautiful, and we are all so very blessed.

There is a shroud that falls over my heart when I think back on Molly’s eighth month, because when Molly was eight months old something happened that seized me by the throat and pushed my esophagus slightly to the left of center, so that even now when I swallow there is a space where hope used to live. I keep saying to Lee, I can’t even remember what Molly was like at eight months. I can’t even compare. When I think back to that time, I feel that empty space and a layer of fog wells in my eyes. The event that parallelled Molly’s eight-month birthday triggered an episode of postpartum depression, but there were family members who were facing immense pain with courage and poise and grace, and acknowledging my own grief, my own “not okay-ness”, my own “something isn’t right” felt selfish and weak and needlessly dramatic. So I alternated, in that eighth month, between rocking Molly in my arms, silently crying into her hair while she slept, and leaving – traveling for work whenever I had the chance because being around was a constant reminder that I didn’t deserve her, that my luck wasn’t fair, that losing her was possible.

I try not to compare. Really, I do. But it lingers close, this shadow, this crack in the veneer, this rawness. I find myself holding my breath, awake at night, checking in – am I okay? Are the shadows that were banished by time and therapy creeping their way back in? I hope not. Molly’s eighth month was engulfed by pain, but Lucy’s eighth month is graciously different. The event that triggered my stumble down the rabbit hole has left a crack in my little glass globe of a world, but the jagged edges get a little softer each time Molly takes my hand in hers; softer yet when Lucy run-crawls towards me, panting like a puppy; softer yet when my nephew falls asleep in my arms and I hold my breath watching him because he is exactly who I’ve been waiting for.

Molly and Lucy. Different kids, for sure. Different personalities. Different experiences. Different eighth months.

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Weekend snapshot

This weekend, for the first time in almost eight months, I finally felt like Lee and I were capital-p Parenting two kids. Yesterday I took Molly to the gym and on a few errands with me while Lee took Lucy grocery shopping, then while the girls napped I put a coat of paint on our bathroom walls and Lee did a bunch of yard work; we had dinner as a family, bathed and put the girls to bed and were in bed ourselves by 10:30PM.

This morning I got up with the girls and we played upstairs while Lee slept in (in our house, 8AM counts as sleeping in). When he got up I went to the gym and ran 5 miles (notable because that’s the longest I’ve ever run, ever), while he got Lucy down for her nap; when I got home he took Molly to the zoo and when Lucy got up I took her to the playground to play in the sand. We got home at the exact same time, put both girls down for naps, and then I painted a second coat while he went for a bike ride. Then we had friends over for dinner, and managed to get the girls bathed and into bed while visiting. And now he’s writing thank-you cards and I’m writing this post. And while on the one hand as I’m writing this I’m thinking, this is just a recap of any old weekend, what’s the big deal? But then I think of the 300 little moments that made it special, that made it worth capturing for posterity, because this weekend? Lee and I killed it.

We both managed to make time for ourselves for the first time in ages. And at the same time we both got in so much quality time with the girls, both individually and together. We were in sync. We kept checking in with each other throughout the weekend, telling each other little anecdotes, like when Lucy crawled out of the sandbox onto the cement, she didn’t like the feeling on her knees so instead of crawling she went hand to tippy-toes. Or how Molly said approximately 30,000 words while window shopping in the Village yesterday. Or when Lucy had pulled up on the screen door while Lee was grilling and was chatting to him. Or when he called me into the dining room to witness how, just like her Mama and Aunt Jodie would, Molly had divided up her M&Ms by color.

There are so many more moments. Molly coming with me to wake Lucy up this morning and knocking on her door before opening it, and the grin on Lucy’s face when she saw who had come to greet her. Lee picking Molly up to carry her up a hill and swearing that she told him “this is gonna be a bitch”. Watching both girls celebrate national ice cream day, Lucy trying ice cream for the first time (we will be cleaning ice-cream shaped handprints off our every surface of our house for months). Lucy cruising; letting go for just a second, testing her balance. Molly being tall enough to go on the rides at the zoo. Lucy laughing. Molly laughing. Lee and I laughing.

Maybe it was a boring weekend, full of tasks and errands. And maybe, also, it was the best kind of weekend, full of little moments of yes, we’ve actually got it together, we’re actually a cohesive family of four, and it feels natural and normal and really pretty fun.

Weekending. Adulting. Parenting. We’re really doing it, aren’t we?

Seven Months Old

The other day (and on my watch), Lucy pulled an iron wall sconce down onto her head. I stood there for just a second watching her because the first thought that crossed my mind was, “if I just leave her be she’s probably strong enough to pull that thing right off of herself.” And then I stepped in, moved the sconce, kissed her cheek, which was red from the piece of iron that had fallen on her, and then Lee came in and decided it was high time to hang that sconce (that had been leaning against the wall since we moved in). And then I told her to quick, smash that frame I had been nagging him to hang over her head so he would take care of that, too!

This afternoon she tried to eat a whale. I saw something in her mouth and pulled it out – one of Molly’s window stickers, all bunched up and covered in drool, and when I unrolled it there it was, a humpback. If I hadn’t caught her I believe she would have swallowed the whole animal.

There is a moment literally every single day when I lose her. I’ve just put her down in the living room for a minute so I can wash my hands or make a bottle or grab a rag because solid-food spit up is the grossest, and when I don’t hear anything I’ll step back out and – where’d she go? Sometimes she’s in the office; sometimes she’s in the front hall; sometimes she’s climbing the stairs; sometimes she’s in the fireplace; sometimes, she has made it all the way down the hallway and I hear the piano in the playroom clanging because she’s using it to pull herself up.

Seven months is blowing raspberries like a champ, squealing with joy and giving us the cutest little “ba ba bas” and “ah-mamamas”. It is eating *everything* and my constantly pulling cat hair out of her mouth. It is self-soothing to sleep and waking up cheerful. It is making funny faces at us on purpose and licking all of Molly’s toys while she’s napping. It is snuggles and kisses and slapping her hand on her high chair as if to say, MORE, MAMA! It is joy and delight and irresistibly kissable cheeks and pesky getting into everything and oh, Lucy. What a delight you are. Even when you’re constantly hurting yourself and making my head spin and you just won’t sit still. I love you so, my funny, brilliant, strong, beautiful little birdie.


  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

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Molly, lately

This morning we woke up to a little voice in the living room saying, “Dada? I need my milk (me-ilk)!” Lee and I stared at each other for probably 30 seconds in bleary-eyed confusion, trying to figure out where the voice was coming from, until it dawned on us that she had opened her door and come downstairs on her own.

Last week she ordered me to stop singing. “Stop singing, Mama!” with her lower lip sticking out and brow furrowed for full effect. I stopped for a second, chagrined…and then caught myself. Oh, no, child. This is my house. Don’t you tell me not to sing. You’re not the boss of me.

Who is this person, all of a sudden? This tiny dictator who will only eat at the table with us if we call dinner a snack, who gets into bed like a cat every night (but only after we say, Molly, can you get into bed like a…porcupine, eagle, meerkat, only to hear “No! Like a cat! Meow meow meow”), who has memorized stories and drew me a hippo in bath crayon last night and tells us about her day in exacting detail before she goes to bed?

She is a tasmanian devil made up of stubborn emotion, bargaining for everything, and stickers. She is simultaneous giggle fits and screaming tantrums. She is twirling around in the backyard with her dad, screaming “again” as he chases her around in circles, throwing her head back and laughing in a display of joy I wish I could bottle. She is whining and learning knock knock jokes. She is working on identifying emotions and when I ask, “Molly, are you feeling mad? Are you feeling sad?” she says, “No, I’m just crying!” and “Molly, are you feeling happy?” she responds, “No, I’m Molly!” as if she knows just how synonymous she is with happiness.

She is a girl who tucks her animals into bed with their own sheets, pillows, and blankets, helps her dad cook dinner, and willfully ignores us at least 40% of the time. Her hair is always a mop, always in her eyes, no matter how many barrettes I use to clip it back. She loves the bath but hates to be wet and washing her hair was full of shrieking dramatics until Lee, in a moment of sheer brilliance, drew a star in bath crayon on the ceiling and told her to look up at the star so that water wouldn’t get in her eyes. She subsists on milk, hummus, applesauce, peas, and jumping on her trampoline. She insists on just one more book every night and when she’s really upset will say “I just need my dada!” before flinging herself into his arms.

My Molly. My 2 1/4 year old. My whirling dervish of emotion, hilarity, and love. She remains the love of my life and the most special, beautiful, strong, brilliant girl I’ve ever met.


            

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Six months 

“You just fell in love with her again, didn’t you?” Lee asked me when he caught me staring at Lucy with an uncontrollable grin on my face. He was right. I just can’t resist her. She’s magnetic!

How is life with our little birdie at six months? Near perfect, notwithstanding the bone-crushing exhaustion, the nail-biting, and the emotional drain that comes along with a baby who seems to thrive on as little sleep as possible while crawling (!), cutting her first tooth (!!) and pulling up on furniture (!!!) Lucy fully figured out hands-and-knees crawling a few weeks ago and since then has been working on perfecting her technique (and speeding up!). You would think all of this movement would tire her out, and she does fall asleep at night like a champ – it’s just that after a few weeks of blissful really sleeping through the night, she started either waking up around 4AM for a brief feeding again, or sleeping til about 5:45AM and deciding she’s up for the day. I’ve been trying to move the whole family’s sleep schedule a bit earlier to accommodate Lucy’s early rising, with mixed results (see timestamp on this post). And honestly, I’d almost rather the middle of the night waking than being up so early in the morning!

This month we took a special trip to meet Lucy and Molly’s new cousin, Elliott! We saw many of our extended family in Denver and got to participate in Elliott’s beautiful naming ceremony. Lucy is so good natured that even a weekend at high altitude, sleeping (and not sleeping) in unfamiliar places, and the chaos of travel (and delayed travel) didn’t stop her from being the most delightful, sweet, snuggly, happy little girl.

Other changes this month include more solid food (sweet potatoes, apples, mango, apricot, veggie sticks, cheerios, mixed veggies, etc)., some delightful squawks and squeals, some “ah-goo!” “lalala” and “mmm!” and the beginnings (we hope) of a tooth! We can see little ridges in her gums, and though her pediatrician said her first tooth may still be a few weeks out, we’re hoping it pops sooner rather than later.

And Lee was right, when he caught me looking at her. It’s true – I do fall in love with her over and over and over again.

Some snaps from this month:

Story time with Nana

Story time with Nana

Happy (teething) baby

Happy (teething) baby

Playing with Grandnana

Playing with Grandnana

Cousins! (and Lee)

Cousins! (and Lee)

All smiles

All smiles

Carrots!

Carrots!

Baby alligator

Baby alligator

Six months!

Six months!

Napping on Mama

Napping on Mama

Pulling up to standing!

Pulling up to standing!

My sweet girl

My sweet girl

Deep thoughts

Deep thoughts

Air travel isn't so bad with this one

Air travel isn’t so bad with this one

My Love

My Love

She does sleep once in awhile

She does sleep once in awhile

Four generations

Four generations!

Tubby time

Tubby time

Hanging with Josi

Hanging with Josi

One handed riding

One handed riding

Cutie pie

Cutie pie


  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  


  
  
  

5 Months Old!

Oh, Lucy! Last week I went back east for an unplanned trip and it was our first extended time apart. I missed you so much, my (not-so) little peanut. I even tried to wake you up for snuggles when I got home but you were not having it. And then as a result of my two-day whirlwind of air travel combined with not having slept in the past five months (ahem), I caught the flu and was so worried about passing it along to you that I was scared to nurse you or even hold you (I was a sneezy, feverish mess). Every so often your dad would bring you into our bedroom, where I had quarantined myself, and you would see me and give me your special smile, the one that starts with your eyes and slowly spreads over your face and sends light-beams of joy from your body, and I would miss you so much, even though you were right there in front of me. No more solo travel and no more sickness, okay? Being away from you is too hard.

You have this amazing posture going right now that is like half-sitting, on one side, leaning on one hand with your legs curled under you like a mermaid sunbathing on a rock. I watch you putting it all together, the hands-and-knees rocking, the shifting your weight side to side, the hips and hand movement, and I’m awed by your patience with the process. You are quiet in these moments, concentrating and determined and I can see the sparks flying. You’ll get there in no time, girl, but in the meantime I so enjoy watching you figure it out.

I have fretted about your weight gain for nothing, as it turns out – you are definitely on track to double your birth weight this month (or at least what your projected birth weight would have been…had you been born on time). And for a baby who once refused the bottle, you have done a full 180 there – nowadays you want nothing to do with nursing. One time we even had to sit in a parking lot in the middle of nowhere so that I could pump milk for you, because you refused me. REFUSED YOUR MOTHER! Shame shame, little girl. How could you. So we’re starting the process of weaning, because you clearly couldn’t care less about nursing and as much fun as it is to exclusively pump, 1) it’s not fun at all; in fact, it is the opposite of fun, and 2) at least it allows me to control the process. You’re starting to eat like a champ and are happy to sit in your highchair and practice getting food into your mouth – we’ve given you baked sweet potato, pancakes, eggplant (talk to your dad about that one), and if I’m being realistic, you’ve probably tried pizza by now. You also enjoy pureed pears, avocado, and banana (in fact today we really went crazy and combined avocado with banana).

You remain drunk in love with your big sister. I keep telling her you’re coming for her, the way you will crawl up to her and take her hand or touch her leg or wherever you can reach. You can’t get enough of her. She cracks you up. Sometimes you giggle just looking at her. And she loves you so, so much. She always wants you to have a toy and loves to shake your rattle for you. I think she’s starting to believe me when I tell her how amazing you’re getting – more and more every day.


                                    

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Love, love, here we are

A kind of light spread out…And everything changed color. And the world opened out. And a day was good to awaken to. And there were no limits to anything. And the people of the world were good and handsome. And I was not afraid anymore.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Love, love, here we are.

Pablo Neruda, Ode and Burgeonings

I am over the moon happy and proud to introduce our nephew and the girls’ new cousin, Elliott Isaac Skodol!

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Elliott, you perfect, amazing, precious, loved little boy. What a blessing you are to us all.

My heart grows.

Four months! And then some.

Oh, Lucy. Four months old and today we watched her do a full on plank! She is doing barrel rolls, tri-poding like a champ, and has started inch-worming her way all over the place. She is loving her play mat, her bouncer, and all of the toys she can pick up with both hands and get into her mouth (her pediatrician told me she was chomping yesterday to the point that she wondered if she was cutting a tooth. Let’s hold off for a bit there, little Lulus).

Our little koala baby continues to be the snuggliest girl, giving us belly laughs and blowing raspberries and continuing with her slow smiles that light up her whole face and make my heart skip a beat. She is so sweet. I wish I could bottle her sweetness, her chubby cheeks, her still-new-baby smell. Lucy has had a month of visits with family and friends, exploring new places and learning about the world around her. She is more alert, more aware, and more amazing every day.

Hanging with cousin Nina

Koala baby napping on Aunt Jodie

My beautiful girl

“Well I never!”

bright eyes, full hearts

Lucy and Mama

tripod champion

Exploring new worlds with Josi

Koala baby in a tree!

Cutie pie

Avocado face

My happy, strong, beautiful girl

Now for some real talk. Not necessarily to do with Lucy, but affecting her. I decided to go back to work this week, after originally planning to be out for six months, from November to May (remember when Lucy was going to be born early? Or even on time?). My reasons for going back earlier than I had originally anticipated are strictly financial, and that is so frustrating to me. I live in California, literally the only state in the country that offers paid maternity leave. And I work for a company generous enough to give me 4 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, and that was after my 6 weeks of short term disability. So 3 weeks vacation time + 6 weeks partially paid disability + 6 weeks of partial pay from the state + 4 weeks paid maternity leave got me to 19 weeks. Lucy turned 19 weeks on Wednesday, April 1st – the day I started working again.

Granted, I am currently working part-time and from home. And I feel like I’m supposed to feel lucky. Many women in this country aren’t able to stretch out maternity leave for 19 weeks. Many women don’t have bosses who tell them “put your family first and your job second”. Many women don’t have the flexibility to work from home a few days a week, or to declare no travel until their youngest child is two, and have the full support of their work. I’m lucky to live in a state that offers paid leave; I’m super lucky to work for a company that, both financially and culturally, supports women with families. Right? Or am I just lucky in comparison to many women in this country? Lucy’s still waking up 2 or 3 times a night, I’m still nursing and pumping all the time, everyone is exhausted – and I’ve had 19 weeks. What about the women who have to go back after 12 weeks? Or 8? Or 6? I’m lucky. I know. But how come it still feels like I haven’t had enough time?

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Two Years Old

Dear Molly,

I have so many words, yet I’m having a hard time pulling them from my heart. You are two, and already a full person. No longer a cute baby but a real, live, actual person, one who commands respect and shows empathy and says sentences like “I’m helping Daddy clean the fishtank!”. There is so much of you, now. You are creative. You are so smart it blows my mind.* You are hilarious and beautiful and so so strong. You are snuggly and stubborn and I love you with every fiber of myself.

You can be so difficult. Sometimes you just don’t listen, even when I’m trying so hard to get through to you, even when I’m crouched down in front of you, quietly and calmly asking you to look at me so I can break through the wall of two-year-old angst. Sometimes I get so frustrated with you. Like when I’m trying to feed Lucy and you are screaming because you want to climb into my lap and she can’t concentrate and breaks her latch and gives me this look like, lady, I’m hungry – can’t you get the kid to give it a rest? Sometimes I want to shout, don’t you know you’re not the only person in this family? Once I even got so frustrated that I had to walk away from you, to take Lucy into our bedroom and close the door, even though you were crying for me. And it nearly broke me. I sat there with Lucy and I cried. Because I’m not patient enough. Because I need to try harder. Because you’re only two. Because you’re a full person, and I expect too much of you, and in this way I fail you. And you’re getting older, and I ache for the future and the failures that will be.

There are tendencies, now, that I pray will stick for all those future times when I fail you, when I hurt you, when I’m can’t be enough for you.

The way you run to me for comfort, even when I’m the one who’s made you mad.

The way you’ll reach out your hand when we’re walking side by side, trusting that I’ll be there to take it.

The way that when you’re sick, or scared, or sad, you need your Mama and no one else will do.

Sometimes when you can’t fall asleep at night you ask me to sing to you, and when I’m too tired to listen to you cry I will comply. You Are My Sunshine is our song but I think the third verse (Johnny Cash version, obviously) is too dark so I always change it.

I’ll always love you

And make you happy

As long as I am living

So close your eyes now

And go to sleep now

And I’ll be here when you wake. 

At your naming ceremony I told you that if you were willing to work hard enough you could have anything in this life that you want. You’re two, and before I blink there will be a time when I can’t just kiss your sad away. I was a girl. I know how it can be. But Molly, if I can do right by you, if I try really, really hard – harder than I’ve ever tried at anything in my life – maybe I can help. Maybe I can be the mama that you need me to be – even when I’m tired, even when I’m annoyed or grouchy or frustrated. If I try hard enough, maybe I’ll get what I want the most – for you to always know that you can come to me for comfort, even when you’re mad at me. For you to trust me to support you, to be there for you, to stand by you even if I’m not physically by your side. For you to believe that when you’re sick, or scared, or sad, I will always try to comfort you, to hold your hand, to reassure you that you are the bravest, smartest, strongest, most special girl I’ve ever known.

You are two.

It’s all going by so quickly.

I’m trying so hard.

I have so much to learn.

I’m so grateful, and so humbled, to be your Mama.

Happy Birthday to my banana pancake, my little ladybug, my monkey, my Molly. I’ll always love you. I’ll always try to make you happy. I’ll always be here.

Love,

Mama

*Is it normal for two year olds to be able to complete puzzles? Or speak in full sentences (like, multiple clauses)? Or dress and undress themselves? Or do funny things on purpose?

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