Saturday, December 17, 2011

My child likes his world to be orderly.

Me: "Gabe, what are your hands doing in your pants?" 

Gabe: "organizing."

I'm not making this up!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Potty Training, Part 2

So, Gabe was potty trained after a week of movies.  He continued to have the occasional accident or wet bed, but these dwindled slowly away.  To be on the safe side, when we took a car trip to Michigan, Gabe wore pull-ups, but as it turned out, they were unnecessary.  Gabe continued to use the toddler potty for a couple of months, but I finally got tired of cleaning it, so I encouraged him to switch to the big potty, and he did so with surprising enthusiasm.  He even insisted on not using the toddler seat or stepping stool, choosing instead to balance precariously while doing his business.  Good job Gabe!

I took this all for granted until Gabe came down with a really nasty bought of diarrhea.  To be fair, he had had diarrhea a few times previously, and on most of the occasions had done a remarkable job of getting himself to a potty in time.  But this time. . . let's just say that one of that week's library books couldn't be returned.  I had Gabe in the shower to hose him off, and he just continued to dribble uncontrollably there in the bathtub, poor guy.

I had assumed that this was just a one-off bout of unpleasantness, as most diarrhea is.  We put him back in a pull-up diaper just in case, but otherwise were promptly distracted by the loss of power, brought on by the wet snow that fell right before Halloween.  The snow fell on trees that still had their leaves, and the trees came down, leaving a third of our town in the dark.  Chris chopped firewood and we build ourselves beds in the basement in front of a roaring fire.  Gabe's tummy issues were forgotten until the middle of that cold, dark night.

I had just finished a long struggle to get Kaylee to sleep, so Chris took Gabe upstairs to get him cleaned up.  There was yelling.  And more yelling.  Finally I went up, and found what looked like a scene from the Blair Witch Project, as Chris was attempting to depoopify the freezing cold child with wipes and a flashlight.

Thank the FSM for our gas-powered heater.  A hot shower made everything better that night.  But Gabe's tummy ick turned into vomiting the next day.  For the next ten days the poor dude had an eruption from both ends every twelve hours, like clockwork.  He lost his appetite and even getting water into him was tough at times.  As a result, he was only using the potty twice a day.  It went on long enough that he developed his own illness lingo.  "Mommy, I have beans" was his way of saying he had just vomited, or was about to.  I guess the texture seemed bean-like to him.  His other goofy word was "throats".  As in, "Mommy, I have throats!"  I learned that a hand on his throat meant send in the bucket, quick.

I was so. Very. Glad. To be done with the mess and misery, that it hardly seemed like a big deal when Gabe woke up with a good appetite in a soggy bed.  He then peed his pants.  And again.  And again.  Day after day.  There were days where he woke up dry, but that was only because he had wet the bed during the night and had already been cleaned up.  The bathtub featured an ever-present pile of pee-soaked clothes.

 I would try to force Gabe to sit on the potty before outings, because I didn't want him to pee in the car.  Ironically, he never had an accident while outside of the house, with one exception.  But Gabe would under no circumstance be forced into peeing.  My efforts resulted in some of his most outstanding tantrums to date.  Chris and I both got angry at Gabe, and as a result we were all miserable, and absolutely no progress was made.

At this point I should mention one mistake we had made previously in Gabe's potty training.  My sister had mentioned that when potty training Gabe's cousin Mason, Mason had developed an impish tendency to pee on things on purpose, complete with a grin.  They trained him out of this by putting Mason in a cold shower whenever he pulled that stunt.  It worked, and it worked quickly.

There were times during Gabe's potty training when he refused to use the potty, and within five minutes had peed his pants.  So we tried the cold shower.  I think we did that twice, or maybe three times, before Gabe developed a complete terror of getting "the cold shower".  He had a couple of accidents that resulted in him proactively begging me not to be put in a cold shower.  And it was in the same awful, pleading voice that I could imagine an abused child begging a parent not to hit again.  It made me think, "oh god, what have I done?!"  I promised Gabe there would be no more cold showers, and I apologized to him profusely.

This was on my mind as our anger levels at Gabe's accidents spiked, and spiked hard.  For days, it was all I could do to tell Gabe to get himself to the bathroom and stripped without screaming.  But then I caught my breath, and took a closer look at the situation.

Gabe was using the potty for pooping.  Gabe was denying that he had to pee, and he was delaying potty visits for as long as possible.  After a few days of angry reactions from us grown-ups, he was no longer even telling us when he had peed, opting instead to continue playing or sitting on the couch in wet clothes.  Obviously, our yelling was making the problem worse.

What had caused this?  When he had diarrhea, Gabe would go for as long as 12 hours without needing to pee.  When I finally would coax him into sitting on the potty to try to pee, this sometimes triggered his diarrhea cramps to start.  Bad ones, too - he would be in tears.  Almost invariably, cramps or no cramps, his diarrhea would then lead to a bout of "beans".  Effectively, my son had been punished for going to the bathroom with pain and vomiting!  No wonder he didn't want to use the toilet.  I regret that it took me to weeks to put the puzzle pieces together.

As soon as I saw the big picture, I realized I needed to remove the anger and offer some positive incentive for Gabe to use the toilet.  Easy!  "Gabe, when you go pee in the potty, you can have a cookie."  No pressure, he could use the potty when he wanted to.  I stocked up on some really small cookies, and Gabe caught right on.

Well, there was one negative pressure that I continued to apply.  I told Gabe that if he peed himself while watching television, the TV would go off.  This was because there was a sub-plot of Gabe becoming so riveted by cartoons that he wouldn't leave to do anything.  This included massive, evening-wrecking tantrums when it came time for dinner.

We've had, what, four days now without an accident?  Thank the FSM!  There were a few days where Gabe demanded cookies inappropriately, or had accidents despite the cookies.  But now we have moved on to new territory: Gabe will make an impromptu potty trip not because he has to pee, but because he wants his sugary fix.  But we know can work away fro that gradually.  We have used treats as incentive for good behavior before; just like when training a puppy, you start using praise in place of the treat more and more often, until the behavior is automatic.

I'm so glad to have my happy child back to the way that he was.  He was stressed during those post-illness weeks, and nothing breaks my heart like a child suffering from stress.  I was stressed, and how is a stressed and angry parent supposed to help a stressed child?  I had to fix my attitude in order to fix Gabe's derailed toilet habits.

We do still have to work on the television habits, however.  Cartoons have become all-consuming to the little guy.  He asks to watch "movies" first thing in the morning, and at every conceivable opportunity.  I try to keep his screen time minimized, but when I'm home alone with him and I have to get Kaylee down for a nap, crap, the television sure helps.  Then it's a battle to get the idiot box turned off again, and when Chris comes home Gabe goes to him begging for more. . .

There's always something to teach them, isn't there?  Anyway, stay tuned for part three, in which I document the ups and downs of Kaylee's infant potty training.  Cheers!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Potty Training, Part 1

I've been meaning to write about potty training Gabe and Kaylee for the benefit of my friends who have potty training in their future.  Okay, at long last, here it is.  Part one: how we went about potty training Gabe, our three-year-old.

We started potty training for real right around Gabe's third birthday.  Prior to that, we had occasionally encouraged Gabe to sit on the toddler potty, or on the big potty using a toddler seat.  We even had successes.  But Gabe just wasn't really interested yet, and we didn't want to pressure him.

Right around his third birthday, Gabe started habitually peeing on the bathmat after taking a shower.  Holy cow, I thought, he's doing it on purpose.  He's ready.

So we picked up some pull-up diapers, and encouraged Gabe to sit on the potty.  The results were mixed.  We changed a lot of poopy pull-ups.

Then serendipity!  We were picking up diapers at the store and Gabe spied underwear.  Underwear with Cars-the-movie characters!  Wow, did he ever want those undies!  So we took home a pack and that was it for the daytime diapers.

Soggy pants ensued.  I proceeded for a short while on the guess that wet pants would be good encouragement to Gabe to pay attention and get himself to the potty when he felt the urge.  It did work, some of the time.  I learned that wet pants were no problem - just change them, and do a lot of laundry.  I learned that in most cases, underwear are a reasonable containment unit for poop, should accidents happen.  I also learned not to strip poopy undies off of a child anywhere but the bathtub.  Also, a shower on a hose is an invaluable tool.  If you have potty training in your future, get one!  You don't even need to have a plumber install it.

This all happened too quickly to look into training pants.  Anyway, shortly after underwear became the "in" thing, I declared it Movie Week at Casa Clay.  Gabe got to watch non-stop movies with the toddler potty right there in the room with him, so that he could RUN to it when he needed to go.

We did have the added complication of daycare twice a week, and a bout of some minor illness, but if I remember correctly, it was Gabe being home sick one day that lead to Movie Week.  And then I think I was just so focused on the potty training that I forgot to take him to daycare the second time that week.

Kaylee's infant potty training got largely neglected that week, and by the end of it I was thoroughly sick of dealing with isolation and poop.  But after a week, Gabe was reliably sitting on the potty, and I was feeling ready to venture out.

Our first outings were to coffee shops with known, convenient restrooms.  This was followed by picnics at which I brought along the toddler potty, plus wipes and gallon-sized ziploc baggies.  This arrangement had a big yuck factor, but had a huge convenience factor.  On the down side, Gabe once ended up using the potty on a sidewalk in downtown Franklin, right in front of a memorial to the Emancipation Proclamation.  I was mortified that someone would think we were committing some sort of unsanitary commentary.

After the Week of Movies, Gabe was officially potty-trained during the day.  I was feeling so good about things that I did away with night-time diapering, and toughed it out through a few nights of soggy beds.  Very quickly, Gabe started waking up dry.

Aside from an occasional wet bed, Gabe was potty trained!  But stay tuned for the regression story. . .

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vacation with the Sullivans

I'm in Virginia for a few weeks with the kids, visiting with my parents.  Poor Chris is at home in MA all alone, but we try to Skype every day.

Kaylee is eating solid foods with a vengeance.  Yesterday was avocado, and jarred green beans; lunch today was some of the broth and tofu from my hot and sour soup.  She has gone up a diaper size and she'll be flying back home with an extra chin at this rate.

Gabe tells elaborate stories now.  Often he is shy with strangers - for the first thirty seconds.  But often he will strike up a conversation with a strange adult.  I approve of this.

"I am rated for multiple small children," says my dad, who at this moment is crouched over Kaylee, administering kisses, while Gabe climbs on his back.

Kaylee has been razzing like crazy, particularly when ready for a nap.  She has discovered her ears.  And she is talking all the time about "abba".  And grabbing things - my lukewarm coffee went over yesterday with her ninja grab.  And she just started waving!  Yesterday it looked accidental, today it looked deliberate.

This morning we took Gabe swimming at the rec center.  He clung to me skittishly as I took him in the deep area, and then he rocked the shallow end of the pool, fearlessly charging about in neck-deep water.  I couldn't convince him to dip more than his mouth in the water, but when he accidentally dunked himself, he told me about it proudly.

But the best part is watching Kaylee laugh at Gabe!  She'll get belly laughs watching him spin in circles or play with toys, or better still, when he pokes her and kisses her.  I think my encouragement is paying off: he loves her so!

The cookbook is inching along towards its final state.  I worry that it will be riddled with typos and bad advice.  But if I can clean it up sufficiently, it's going to be stellar.  This knowledge has kept me working on it night after night. 

I'm pooped; the pool sucked the energy out of me.  I'm going to limp my way through a haircut tonight, and get myself ready for visits with old friends tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday.  And Marta gets here Friday, too, with her boys!  This is going to be an exciting weekend.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

August 6. . .

On this day in August, Chris' 70's-style mustache causes both children to inexplicably fall asleep.

Gabe's Great Aunt

My aunt Kristi (Mary Sullivan, my dad's sister) stopped by for a visit in early August on her way to a convention of documentarians in Boston. I'm so proud of her for going back to school to follow her dream! We got to see some of her work while she was here, and I was impressed.

Here's Gabe, jumping into the picture.

Gabe's Bento

Here's Gabe, enjoying a bento box lunch on the day before his third birthday.

Two Months Ago. . .

. . .Kaylee was really getting into her feet!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Nom Nom Nom

Foods Kaylee tasted yesterday and today: blueberry, nectarine, carrot, green bean, and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. I am breaking all the rules. I'm not waiting two or three days between new foods. I am not starting out with cereal. I'm letting her gnaw on chunks of fruit that aren't contained in a silly little net, and I'm spooning lumpy things into her mouth. And I'm feeding her in my lap.

Blueberries and nectarines were a big hit. With the blueberries, I bit off one side of the berry and then squeezed the pulp into Kaylee's mouth. With the nectarine, I first pulverized some with a fork. But later in the day I bit off a piece and let her gnaw it while I held the skin side between my fingers. She had no trouble gumming the fruit into a consistency that she could swallow.

Baby foods in jars will be a part of her diet at some point, no doubt, but for the time being, it is both more convenient and more in touch with our caveman roots to do things this way. Most of the world does without highchairs and ultra-pureed baby food, anyway.

Friday, September 9, 2011

More Catching Up

Kaylee is now chanting "Ah-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba!" She loves her own toes; I think she would love them even more in some of Crackerbarrel's gravy. I don't remember Gabe putting his toes in his mouth like she does. Kaylee also sucks her thumb, which Gabe never did. Chris worries about the future state of Kaylee's teeth; I just love that it calms her down. I'm sure she won't be one of the few who don't give it up naturally. Chris was once one of those, and I think the experience traumatized him.

Gabe and Kaylee and I just got back from out weekly picnic at Franklin's farmer's market on the town common. No wonder I'm tired - we were there almost four hours! We met up with Molly and Amy and their kids at the gazebo for a picnic, and then spent a long while chatting with Anne Marie, who runs a booth at the market that doubles the money of anyone shopping there with food stamps.

. . .

I had to put down this post and take care of things for a bit. Kaylee helped me fold some laundry. She griiiined and laughed at mommy vanishing and reappearing behind sheets and towels. And she continued with the ah-ba-bas. They morphed into va-va-vas, and then concluded with ma-ma-ma! Mommy's favorite!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Catching Up

We have been letting Kaylee taste ice cream, mashed potato, soup, whatever is at hand; and while up in Michigan she tried mashed banana. But today at lunch she was throwing a fit for my food, so she got spoonfuls of Southern gravy at Crackerbarrel. She devoured it, much to the amusement of the waitresses. She didn't like the grits.

For dinner, I had to dive into the cupboard for a container of something green, because nothing on my plate could easily be reduced to mush, and she was practically dancing for food.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I should get in the habit of jotting down a few things before bed, even if I'm a zombie and incapable of getting photos edited and long posts written.

Kaylee's smiles are absolutely magic right now. Big toothless grins! Big toothless grins for Mommy! Mommy leaves the room , Kaylee cries. Mommy comes back, Kaylee grins!

And of course, big grins for Daddy. And for Gabe! He loves to give her kisses. She looks at him adoringly as he grabs her arm and pulls her across the floor to his big slobbery kiss. Gabe is once again putting his mouth all over people to display affection. He is just like a sucker-fish sometimes. "Gabe, please don't lick my foot, it's dirty." I still get jumpy when his mouth gets too close to my butt, but he hasn't actually bit me there in a few months.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Third Birthday!

Ah, time gets away from me with two children! So many times I have wanted to sit down and record what has been going on. Instead, I have been spending my limited free time writing a cookbook for the Franklin Food Pantry, and hunting American chestnut trees. Sorry kids - when you wonder why there are so few photos of you at this stage in your life, this is why.

We just wrapped up Gabe's third birthday party! It was just our regular Sunday Dinner gathering, plus some party deco and party food. Jen made chocolate ice cream. Molly made cupcakes. Gabe blew out candles and enthusiastically opened Cars-themed and Thomas-the-Train-themed gifts.

The decorations were based on the same themes. Paper plates, napkins, a "happy birthday" banner - all of this themed disposable junk that I normally hate, well, it saved my butt this time. I had failed to arrange any sort of fancy shindig at a farm or moon bounce place. God, if I ever have to write and mail invitations - shoot me now! But a couple of dollars worth of streamers and stickers goes a long way with the three-years-and-under crowd. Fifty cents of balloons is a whole afternoon of fun. And that cheap plastic wiffle bat is going to be a hit for days.

The official gift was a strider bike: a tot-sized bike with no pedals. It's in Gabe's favorite color of course: "lello". Earlier in the week we took it with us for a picnic at the town's gazebo. He rode it for about two hours there.

Grandma Nana just had hip surgery, which prevented her from getting out shopping for the gift she wanted to send. So, earlier this week Gabe and Kaylee and I had an outing to Ikea to fetch Grandma's gift. This is one of the best toy kitchen's I've seen anywhere, as it is made of all the same materials and hardware as Ikea's regular furniture. (Except, alas, for the handles and sink parts, which are plastic.) Gabe even helped assemble it.

The pots and pans and mini baking set are particularly nice touches, because they can all actually be cooked with. So far we have cooked an egg together in the mini frying pan, and a ton of cookies with the cookie cutters, baking pan, and the adorable red-handled rolling pin that is a tiny replica of my antique one.

At the party tonight Kaylee had a screaming fit, which lead to an investigation of her mouth. Sure enough, the bottom left tooth is getting ready to erupt. Four months old, and already teething! I am not yet ready to lose her adorable toothless grin!

Ah well. Happy birthday Gabe! It has only been three years, but it feels as if you have been a part of my life forever. I love you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Skyping the Grandparents

Mom and Kids

Opa and Kaylee

More photos from Bill and Helen's May visit. Kaylee and Opa had fun on the historic Magic Blue Quilt with One Red Square. This quilt was a gift from my uncle's wife Yvonna to my mother, when I was a child or perhaps before I was born. As a kid, I built tents out of it. Our Sunday Dinner friends have let their wee ones romp on this quilt. This past weekend it came with us to a picnic on Scusset beach.


Helen is SO Photogenic!

This photo of Chris' step mom brings me such joy! This was taken in late May, before Kaylee was really smiling much. If Kaylee could have smiled at the time, Helen would have inspired great big grins!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pee Pride

In the afternoon today I let Gabe wear a pair of his precious Thomas the Train underwear. As usual, there was a soggy ending to the story. Bedtime rolled around. Gabe was standing on his stepping stool washing his hands in the kitchen, when I told him it was time to go to the potty and pee. But the power of suggestion was too strong: Gabe wet himself right there on the stool. He apologetically announced, "I'm peeing."

But fantastic progress had already been made. After an hour of wearing the undies, I realized it was high time for Gabe to have a pee break. But Kaylee was starting her fussy-wiggles, so I had to high-tail it to the nursery for a visit to her potty box. It turned out she was more interested in nursing than in immediately peeing, so I was stuck there in the rocking chair while Gabe wandered freely, a pee-bomb waiting to happen.

"Gabe," I said, "it's time to use the potty. Come take off your shorts."

Well, heck, he listened to me. I heard him fumbling in the bathroom, and then into the nursery he stumbles, beaming, to demonstrate that he has his undies own around his ankles. "Okay," I said, "now go sit on the potty."

More bathroom fumbling ensues. There are suspicious thumps. "I'm all wet," he says. But not with pee. It turns out he has attempted to sit on the grown-up potty, has somehow dipped the back of his shirt in it. How, exactly, he managed to extract himself from the toilet is anybody's guess. I stripped him of his wet shirt, while still juggling a nursing baby whose bare butt is jammed into a tupperware box. "Try the little potty," I said.

Voila! "I did it!" Gabe proclaimed. And voila! Kaylee peed too. Only I was so distracted by Gabe's antics that the potty box isn't positioned correctly, and I got baptized.

Gabe got himself back into his undies and shorts with only minimal assistance, and had I been a little sooner with my reminder, he might have made it dry to bedtime as well. But as if he didn't want to leave the day on a soggy note, he surprised me again. Kaylee needed one last visit to the potty box during the bedtime rituals. Gabe was happily diapered, but he took one look at Kaylee's bare bum, and asked if he could go pee on the potty, too, and gets himself naked and on the potty and did his business in a flash.

And this time, I caught Kaylee's pee in the box.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Of course, I'm way behind on documenting where the kid are at. Gabe is forging ahead boldly into preschool territory, amazing me every day with his profound little steps into personhood. But this post is about Kaylee. At two and a half months, she feels like she has been in my life forever, and yet also seems to be rocketing through the infant stages so fast that I fear I will blink and miss them.

Today she laughed for the first time. Kaylee had just endured Gabe's end-of-day meltdown, in which he first screamed that he didn't want to be in the shower, and then screamed that he didn't want the shower to end. Chris applied some zen and calmed him down; Kaylee looked on with a giant grin, and then said "tee-hee!"

Kaylee just beams at us now, great big toothless, lovely grins. As with Gabe, the ceiling fans have been her first crush. She wakes up at dawn beneath our bedroom fan and proceeds to have an hour-long wiggle-flirt session with the whirling blades.

I had been taking Kaylee directly to bed with me at night around 8, when she was ready for sleep. But of course this prevented me from having any grown-up time with Chris, so I switched to putting her in the crib for the first part of the night. She surprised me by being entirely okay with this arrangement, so much so that on many nights she accepted my good night kiss and went to sleep without any fuss whatsoever. But then she went and slept through the night! I woke up at 4 A.M. that first night with this terrible feeling of not being ready yet, and broke all the rules by waking her up so that she could come back to bed with me.

Okay, so that was silly of me, and I haven't done it since.

What else? Well, I've started experimenting with a variation on the ancient and universal human method of dealing with baby elimination; i.e. "pottying" the baby instead of wasting resources in the form of a diaper. I am officially committed to doing nothing; I am not aiming to have a diaper-free infant or a halved diaper bill or anything as grand. For me, that would be a recipe for failure. I am merely asking, "can I get her to pee in a box once or twice today, to keep one more diaper out of the landfill?" The answer, so far, is hell yes! I will have to write more about this in another post, assuming that the experiment continues to go so well.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


At random while watching Chris play a baseball game, Gabe said: "Daddy, the green car makes bad decisions. He needs to make good decisions and be nice to his friends. He needs to put on his listening ears so he can make good decisions."

At random in the car, perhaps inspired by the movie "Cars", Gabe declared "Cars don't dance." On another occasion he stated that "cars don't have mouths." Later, it was "fire trucks don't dance."

Gabe was making his careful way down a climbing structure when an older boy jostled him. Gabe blurted out, with a glare: "Oh you have got to be kidding me!"

Chris pointed out a butterfly in the brand new community gardens. Gabe asked: "What's he doing in the community garden?" A teacher happened to be listening in, and her jaw dropped. (I'm so proud!)

My friend Nicole went up to the coffee shop counter to make a purchase, leaving Gabe and I with her toddler. Gabe asked, "did the baby come out of her tummy?"

"I'm peeing!" Gabe announces while watering the bath mat. He then examines the moist patch and says "I make a letter!"

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Kaylee and Walt

Kaylee is full of smiles now! Here she is at our last Sunday Dinner, sharing smiles with Walt.

Oh look, the little vampire has decided to feed!

Gabe versus Tick

For those who don't read our garden blog, here is Gabe checking out a wood tick on the screen door.

After the photo-shoot, I armed Gabe with a rock and taught him the fine art of tick-squashing.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gabe's First Boff

Gabe tried boffing at Jack's first birthday party.

Alas, I'm too sleepy to think of a proper larp joke.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Easter Bunny

Gabe was our diaper bunny this Easter.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bath time!

Don't let that concerned look fool you; Kaylee loved her first bath. Bathing her is so much fun!

I think with Gabe we were too paranoid about cooking the baby. He hated baths because he was cold.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dear Kaylee

I have to apologize: if you are looking back through this blog, and I hope you are, than no doubt you are noticing that your big brother has more photographs, more minute-by-minute updates than you do. Please understand that documenting the first child more is a common phenomenon for parents; we all swear that we won't do it, and then it just happens. And now that I am the mother of two, I can finally shed some light on the subject.

We don't love your brother more. The two of you are equal in our hearts, so let there never be a doubt in your mind over that. And while we are quite busy becoming adjusted to the rigors of having two young offspring, we can't honestly say that we are so up to our eyeballs in living from day-to-day as to excuse us from taking more photos.

You have, in fact, been a remarkably easy baby compared to Gabe. Not that Gabe was all that different from you; poor Gabe just had the misfortune of being our learning experience. With him we fumbled, we made so many mistakes, and we worried ourselves sleepless as every new parent does. With him, our lives made the shocking transition from carefree grown-up children, to actual grown-ups. The weight of the responsibility was crushing at times, and as a byproduct, we went a little batty, determined to document the astounding thing that had happened to our lives in the form of that tiny little boy.

But with you, we are free from such insanity! You are a beautiful baby, doing beautiful baby things, and your father and I are relaxed and confident enough to enjoy the journey without obsessing over it. Your crying doesn't perplex us - I can tell if it's a change that you need, or if you are hungry or tired. You don't cry without reason. Dirty diapers aren't the tragedies that Gabe's were, back in the beginning. And we aren't sleep deprived.

Hallelujah, we aren't sleep deprived! And what a difference it makes. Kaylee, we didn't plan on doing anything different this time around, but almost on that first night we had you home from the hospital, your dad suggested that we try letting you sleep in the bed with us. It's not the safest thing to do with a newborn, but it means I don't have to be awake for an hour every two or three. I get to go back to sleep while you nurse, and you don't need me there by your crib, desperately trying to get you back to sleep when I can barely stand up. Once so far, you even woke me up by nursing. How very independent of you!

I couldn't safely do this if pregnancy hadn't trained me to hold very, very still while I sleep. And I have a fail-safe mechanism built in: if I were ever to roll onto you, I would immediately wake up, because my breasts are tender, thanks to them being milk spigots. Poor Gabe tried to crawl across my chest this morning, and got quite a yelp out of me!

And speaking of Gabe, let me tell you the other reason why we have been slacking on photographing you: because Chris and I have been putting our focus on making sure that your brother doesn't feel traumatized by the experience of suddenly no longer being an only child. For the first time in his life, Mom can't run over to help whenever he needs it. Mom has to say "I'm busy taking care of your sister", over and over, from sunup to sundown. Gabe has to be turned away sometimes when he needs extra comforting - and it breaks our hearts. He is not yet three, and it is painfully difficult for him when he wants snuggles from Mommy and Mommy has to say no. We want to be sure, absolutely sure, that this does not fester into resentment for you.

It is far more important to us that you have a good relationship with your brother than it is that you have a bunch of silly photographs.

I hope you understand.

And I will try to take more photos! Starting now. . . though, as it happens, the prime photo opportunity at this moment happens to be your brother, who fell asleep watching the Polar Express, his favorite movie, again. . .

I hope this gives you giggles!

Monday, April 4, 2011

More Photos from Kaylee's Birthday

Welcome to the family, Kaylee Nancy Clay! She joined us on Thursday, March 31, 2011. I guess she was unwilling to wait for April Fool's day, or my sister's birthday on April 5 (I tried to keep her in, Marta!), or even her due date, the 9th.

Seven pounds, eleven ounces of genuine baby!

There, cleaned (but still needing her hair washed) and tagged.

This photo makes her look like she lost a fight on the way out! But we couldn't have hoped for a healthier baby. She is a perfect, perky little thing.

I was having a little trouble getting Kaylee to latch on that first day, so we had some naked snuggle time. Sure enough, when she was ready to nurse, her signals were unmistakable. Nursing has been a piece of cake ever since.

Here she is on Saturday, dressed for the ride home.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Kaylee Clay Has Arrived!

I had two main worries about the delivery of baby number two. The first worry was for Gabe. How was he going to tolerate being dumped rudely with friends? And to then have that followed up with a tiny yelling thing that takes most of Mommy and Daddy’s attention away from him? The poor guy was about to have his world turned upside down. So we started by telling him about the baby in Mommy’s belly, and telling him about what a good big brother he was going to be. Then, last weekend, I took him for a play date at Jen and Woody’s place, to make sure he would get along with Sara, which he did and wouldn’t be scared by the dog, which he wasn‘t.

My worries were further brushed away when days later, he asked to go back to Baby Sara’s house. “When the baby comes out of Mommy’s belly, then you can go back.” Gabe responded by walking over to my giant belly and addressing it: “come out baby!”

My other worry was that I wouldn’t make it in time to the hospital in time for antibiotics before the baby arrived. I’m a strep B carrier, which means if I didn’t get treatment, at delivery the baby would have a one in 200 chance of being infected with something quite deadly. I don’t like those odds, and I’ve known too many women who just barely made it to the hospital with their second child. The first delivery is the leisurely one; sitcom themes with babies born in cabs are based on second pregnancies.

So at work, when the Braxton-Hicks contractions started coming every 20 minutes, I started setting up my escape. Just to be cautious. Of course, it had to happen on the one day on which Chris had stayed home. And my just-in-case waterproof sheet and towel were in the other car, blast it. I asked Jen to give me a lift home early, and scurried to finish up a few last documents, and apologized to a couple of my coworkers for possibly missing my goodbye lunch on Thursday.

I still wasn’t sure it was the real deal by dinner. We walked down the street to pick up Gabe’s favorite: ravioli. Then Chris had Raid Night on Wow while I got Gabe to bed - a typical Wednesday. But by the time Gabe was asleep the contractions were getting uncomfortable - like the cramps you get before a case of the runs. But still eight minutes apart. It could take all night to hit the five minutes that signal Time To Go.

So I climbed into bed. . . And watched the clock. And got progressively more uncomfortable. There was no sleep to be had. Damn. And then the contractions doubled. Whoops! Every four minutes, like clockwork. Chris came up from his raid around midnight. “Perfect timing,” I said. For the second time that day, Jen rescued us, this time by coming to stay with Gabe. And off we went!

Those contractions were fast and furious, and all of us, the nurse included, breathed a sigh of relief when the antibiotics were all safely in my system. Then I was able to relax, and enjoy the experience. . .

Unlike the first time around, however, these contractions hurt. Having solved my two big worries, I found myself unprepared for a night of pain. I was tired from being on the third week of a lingering cough, tired from having been up all day, dreading having to fight pain for even just a few hours of hard physical work, and dreading coming out of that into the Land of Perpetual Sleep Deprivation. So, I reconsidered going au natural again. It had been the right thing to do with Gabe, but perhaps it wasn’t the right thing to do this time.

Chris and I went for a walk in the hallway and we talked about the various pain-relief options, and what they would mean for recovery time and how they would effect the delivery. I decided an epidural was the best way to go, and I picked it for a goofy reason: because Chris’ dad is an anesthesiologist. He does epidurals for a living, and I looked forward to chatting with him about it after the fact.

So at three in the morning I got some relief. Having a needle stuck in my spine was surprisingly quick and painless. As my sister had described a childhood experience of getting IV fluids, it felt like the air-conditioning had been turned on; or at least that’s what it felt like down the right side of my back.

There was no dramatic cease in the painful contractions; instead, they became progressively more mild. Thank goodness! My legs got a bit tingly, more on the right than the left. The nurse propped me on my left side and pressed the “more drugs” button to get the relief over to my left side as well, and then Chris and I were able to settle down for some sleep.

Some time after sunrise the doctor woke me because it was getting to be “that time”. My water had broken during the night. Hallelujah! I had detested that part of Gabe’s delivery. I hadn’t felt a thing. My legs were sensationally absent. The most disturbing part was that my spatial awareness of my right leg was entirely gone. In other words, I was convinced that my leg was bent and my knee pointed up, but instead it was in an entirely different position. That gave me new insight into my cousin’s life. He is paralyzed from the neck down.

“Get ready to start pushing” said the doctor. I did an inventory and found the necessary muscles to be similarly absent. Hmm, I thought. This may take a while.

I should add to all of this that I hate anesthesia. Coming back to myself after having wisdom teeth out had wigged me out, back when; and the codeine daze afterward was only something I had tolerated because the pain was worse. I have no love for the post-Novocain tinglies following lesser dental work, either.

And although it was exhausting and painful, I have no regrets for having gone through natural labor with Gabe. I am an experience junkie: I love to try new things, and that fit the bill nicely. So here was a new experience, being deprived from the sensations in half of my body.

They had to prop my legs in the stirrups for me, because I couldn’t do a thing with them. Everything seemed remarkably laid-back compared with Gabe’s delivery. His heart-rate had dropped during labor, sparking a flurry of serious-looking doctorly activity in the room. He had the cord around his neck when he popped out, so I had to painfully put the brakes on pushing while the doctor got him untangled. There was myconium in the amniotic fluid, perhaps due to the same stress that made his heart-rate drop; and because there was poo in the bathwater, Gabe had to be whisked over to the sci-fi operating room baby-cleaning station before they could give him to me, to make sure there was no myconium in his lungs. This required that a pediatrician be in the room, which added to the crowd and the operating-room feel.

During Kaylee’s delivery, there weren’t more than the one doctor and two nurses in the room, along with Chris and I. Sunlight was streaming in the window. The doctor asked me to try pushing - and hey, up in the stirrups, I remembered how to do it from the previous time. “Stop pushing!” she said abruptly. They could already see hair!

The second push was rather ineffectual, because I forgot to inhale first. On the third push a head popped out! I don’t even remember pushing the fourth time. It was ridiculous. There was a whole wiggling baby, purple and new. My uterus spat out the placenta as a contemptuous afterthought, without any involvement from me. “Do you want to hold her while she’s all gooey?” someone asked. “Goo and all!” I said. Or something like that. And there she was, a surprised-looking little baby lying on me!

Kaylee liked having her hair washed, and she picked up nursing quite quickly. When she cries, it is almost always clear that she is hungry or needs a change. No mystery crying! No painful nursing quirks.

Gabe’s reaction was precious. When confronted with the little wriggling bundle of pink, he looked so serious! “She came out of Mommy’s tummy!” he said. He repeated this on the phone to his grandmother, and added, at one point, completely unprompted: “and I came out of Mommy’s tummy, too!” He is two years and nine months older than his sister, and I can see what a good big brother he is going to be. I’m so proud!

We are all at home now. My parents are visiting, and right from delivery I was feeling good. This has not been the zombie death march that Gabe’s first days and weeks were. We aren’t plagued with beginner-parent worries. We know what to do with a teeny baby. We are having fun!

Time for me to put down the computer and wake the sleeping babe. Oh wait, I hear her stirring. Perfect timing!