Friday, August 31, 2012

Six Months, and So Spectacular!

Abby's six-month photo shoot was more successful than most, so I got a lot of pictures out of it that I was rather pleased with.  I dressed her up in her pretty princess dress that she received from Nana in her Easter basket.  These were my favorite of the bunch.

There weren't too many big events in the month of May.  I enjoyed my first Mother's Day with my baby in my arms (rather than just blossoming in my belly), though I remember very little of it.  I'm not sure if I even managed to get out of the house that day.  But I know that it was filled with happiness, and the love of my beautiful new family.

And there were random, fun moments to be had throughout the month.  These included: 

Pre-bathtime snuggles.

And, yes- I do have something in my teeth.  But Abby looks too darned cute not to use this picture, anyway.

Trying new foods. 

I can't remember if this was the first time she tasted peas- it looks as though perhaps it was- but despite the impression these photos give, it ended up being one of her favorite foods for a long while.

We also tried carrots, and- if I remember correctly- green beans, as well.  Somewhere, in some lonely pile, stacked in some forgotten corner, I have a list of all of her first foods and when she tried them.  It will be an interesting read, when and if it finally turns up.

Bonding with lovies at naptime.

And visits from far-away family.

Also, though not pictured (we took a video instead, which is trapped on my dead laptop), Abby received her first sippy-cup midway through the month.

Sadly, she also caught her first little gastrointestinal bug at the very end of the month, which resulted in a blow-out that covered her entire front, and her entire back.  I felt like the worst mommy in the world that morning, because she'd cried out on the monitor about an hour before I went in, and I waited to do so because she quieted down immediately.  I figured that she had just gone back to sleep, and she probably did.  But when I finally discovered her, and the mess, I was left to wonder if she'd had to lie amidst such ickiness for all of that time because of my delayed response.

She was a trouper through the whole ordeal, though.  It lasted just over 24 hours, and were it not for her frequent and messy diapers, you'd never know that she was sick.  She was charming, and happy, as ever.   Her poor daddy, on the other hand, came down with something similar around the same time, and it really took a lot out of him.

Of course, the most memorable moment of May was the appearance of those seemingly-elusive first two teeth, around the 21st.  The right-hand one (her right) showed up first, and the left-hand popped up within a couple of days of its mate.

And the runner-up for most memorable was that afternoon (on the 26th, to be exact) that my ultra-talented daughter got a hold of my keyboard, and in no time at all had managed to turn the screen sideways. This made the track-pad virtually unusable (I guess it turned sideways too, making it completely non-intuitive), so I had to enlist Tom's help over-the-phone to turn the screen back. I couldn't control the cursor well enough to pull up a Help menu and look up the process myself.

She's always been a clever one, my Abby Rose.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Breakfast With Abby

Tom, Abby, Michael, and I were enjoying breakfast together this morning when Abby and Tom had the following conversation (as a follow-up to Abby's breakthrough moment yesterday evening):

Tom: "Abby, do you love Mommy and Daddy?"

Abby: "Love Dada.  Love Mama."

{squeals of excitement from Tom and me}

"Abby, who else do you love?"

"I love Mima."

"And do you love Mei Mei?"

Nods enthusiastically.  Smiles a great big smile.  "I love Lisa.   I love Granda."

"That's so wonderful, Abby!  Who else?"

"I love T*.  I love Z*."

"Oh, Abby.  That's so sweet."

{more attempts at encouragement ensue}

"I love Nana."

"And do you love Papá?  Do you love Uncle James?"

There's that happy grin again.

But it was clear that she was "I love you'd"-out, for the moment.

She often likes to randomly say, "I miss you, I miss you too.  Ali!  Joe!"

So, as we were cleaning up, I asked her about Ali and Joe.  I said, "Do they miss you?"

Abby looked up from the table and said, "I miss you, too!"

* T and Z are two of Abby's friends (the ones she had seen the most recently) from her playgroup.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sleeping Beauty

In a valiant effort to give me some time to rest before lunch, Tom took Abby and Michael on a long walk, around the neighborhood, in the double stroller.  Unfortunately, Abby nodded off at some point during their travels.  This made for a cranky lunchtime, and a nap-averse toddler.

She actually didn't really fight me going down (partly because I've mastered some awesome redirection tricks to salvage even the rockiest placement in the crib), but then she spent the next hour-and-a-half not actually sleeping.  Thankfully, she kept herself perfectly entertained during all of that time, so I didn't have to intervene in any way, but the end result was that her regularly scheduled 1-ish-o-clock nap time was pushed all the way to 3:00, when the baby monitor finally went quiet.

She usually only naps for 90 minutes, though she will occasionally push past two hours.  I'm not generally inclined to wake her when this happens- I figure that if she's sleeping that long, it's because she needs it.  However, with a start time of 3:00, the end-time of a two-hour siesta was pushing close to five-o-clock.  Naps past that hour spell trouble for bedtime. 

So, I tiptoed upstairs, figuring that she'd be so close to waking that the opening of the bedroom door would prompt her to sit up and look around.  But when I entered the room, I could see that she was out.  I really hated to wake her, but it had to be done. 

Before I reached down to touch her back, however, it occurred to me that I get so few opportunities to photograph her sleeping, since there's always the risk of waking her in the process. 

It was a little too dark to forgo the flash, but for some reason, the pictures were coming out completely overexposed, initially.  Since it took a few tries to get the settings right, I was only just getting going when the constant flashing roused my pretty lady from sleep. 

This was the ill-planned shot that woke her up (you really can't see her through the crib-bars, anyway).

The creature stirs!

But she woke up smiling and happy, so I call that a success all-around.

And here's my big moment of the day:

Abby, in the midst of rough-housing with her brother, grabbed his ankles, looked up at me, and said, quite enthusiastically, "Love Michael!"  Attempting to capitalize on this, I eagerly prompted, "And do you love Mommy and Daddy, too?"  A devilish smile was all that I could get out of her.

That's just how she rolls.  But she surely loves her little brother.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Michael and Mei Mei

My sister joined the Army right after graduating high school, so between the years spent away at college, the ones that followed spent deployed in various places, and the last couple- in which she's planted herself in a couple of different states before finding her way back here- she's spent a long time away from "home."

I really cherish having her around again, not least because I get so many opportunities to see her interact with my children.  And I certainly can't complain about having an extra set of hands around every once in awhile, and access to a baby-sitter, that I know and trust implicitly, who is available for the very rare occasions that Tom and I have both spent any amount of time away from the kids.

Perhaps the loveliest thing to have borne witness to in all this time, however, is the unique relationship that she has formed with Michael.  I don't know what it is about her, but she has a special talent for making him light up in sheer joyfulness and laughter, simply by entering a room.  He regularly responds to her in ways that I rarely see him repeat with anyone else.

She spent the afternoon with us a few days ago, and I was able to capture an intimate moment between the two of them.

Until he took notice of me, and my camera.

"Hi, mom!"

I must admit to the occasional twinge of jealousy, but it can't compete with the elation that I feel in seeing my little boy so happy.  And my little sister, too.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Daughter, the Genius?

A long-time favorite of Abby's for pre-bedtime story time is Goodnight, Moon.  Lately, she's been particularly fascinated with the cow that jumps over the moon.  So I wasn't too surprised when, during her bath this evening, she randomly exclaimed. "The cow jumping over the moon!"  (Her enunciation is not particularly clear, but I have learned over time that this is what she's trying to say when she makes a particular combination of sounds, which include a pretty discernible "cow" and "moon" among them.)

But then she followed that up with, "...and three little bears, sitting in chairs."  (See above for clarification of the amount of translation required, on my part, for each phrase).

Playing along now, I prompted, "...and two little kittens!" 

To which she responded, "...and a pair of mittens."

Simultaneously, then, we said, "... and a little toy house, " to which she enthusiastically added, "... and a young mouse!"

As I sat, flabbergasted, she continued.

"...and a comb, and a brush, and a bowl full of mush."  (Though I could really only make out "bowl full of mush," that's the line that she was going for.)

"...and a quiet old lady who was whispering, 'hush." (Again, all that really came through was "lady...whispering hush.")

But, still...

I thought, at first, that perhaps she was remembering the phrases pretty well, but in pieces.  Not so.  Story time followed her bath, and I read that section of the book to her.  And it went. just. like. that.

And then we moved on to some nursery rhymes.  We read them from a special book, pre-recorded by her Great-Aunt Chris, so all I have to do is turn the page while the book reads, and Abby looks on.  She clumsily recited the first two rhymes along with the recordings, the way that I often find myself stumbling along with prayers in church that I mostly know, but can't repeat unless I'm currently listening to them.  So she was getting most every word, just sometimes with a delay.

Tom reports that she's started doing this to songs that she hears on the radio while riding in the car.

Also, she's memorized the first verse (the only one that she and I know) and chorus of A Bushel and Peck, and sings it to herself frequently.

I know that I must sound horribly like I'm bragging, but really, I'm just in awe of her.  I suppose we're really just talking about simple memorization and repetition here, but she's only 21 months old.  What amazing things might she be capable of in the near, and far, futures?  I'm excited, and a little afraid, to find out.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Season of Reflux

I was reminded today, while looking through pictures of similar-age babies posted by Facebook friends of mine, that I should be introducing Michael to a sippy-cup.  And suddenly, I wondered just where the time went.  I know the answer to that, actually, but feel no less bewildered for it.  It's all been sucked up into the all-consuming Season of Reflux in which my family has been living for the past half-year.  Looking back now, I could almost make a bad joke of it, even prepare a silly meme (that only Tom and I would understand), using that classic picture of Sean Bean from Game of Thrones that always begins with the phrase, "Brace Yourself."  If only we had known, when Michael was first born... Reflux is Coming.

And what a trying season it was.  Full of tears, pain, discomfort, frustration, helplessness, vomit, and a tragic lack of sleep.  A lack of sleep so profound that just weeks after finally starting to pull beyond it, I am fruitlessly losing my grasp of any permanent sense of what I have just gone through.  Only ghosts of memories remain; abstract echoes of desperation and despair.  Which is as it should be- I am ready to leave all of that behind.  Though, I thank God for this blog, in all of the ways that it has helped me to preserve the memory of the good experiences that we managed to have in the midst of our trial, and all of the ways in which both of our children have managed to grow and achieve amazing things throughout it all.

However, I am realizing that much was lost, as well.  So much of my presence, and attention.  So much of my ability to interact, and be involved.  And while I grieve for these losses, I must necessarily move on from them as well.

It's so easy for me to focus on the negative, to get depressed over the fact that we're nearly seven-and-a-half months in and still not on any kind of solid food introduction schedule.  That Michael is still struggling to master the process itself.  That he's only had the opportunity to try four fruits and vegetables, one of which (peas) we may need to avoid for awhile, one of which (avocado) I couldn't get him to eat, and two of which (apples and pears) I didn't even make myself.

Tom and I were so good with Abby, taking the time to prep and freeze meals for her, establishing mealtimes, altering the size of bottles to balance out the increase in solid foods.  Steadily moving forward.  And doing so with great joy and excitement.

With Michael, I'm still trying to reattain a sense of normalcy, and I can't quite focus enough to start changing things up, just yet.  Not that I'm not making changes all of the time, really, which I suppose is a large part of my problem.  We're still not set in a bottle-feeding schedule, let alone a solid-feeding one.  We're still working on finding a formula that will suit him.  He's happy enough with the taste of the soy, but it's backing him up terribly, so Tom and I have decided that we've got to find another solution.  We're trying to switch him over to a dairy-based formula instead.  It's not going too terribly, but formula changes of any sort can cause all sorts of issues with babies, and Michael's been suffering his share of discomfort lately.  I pray that it passes soon, and we get back to improving upon his sleeping, rather than regressing further, as we did last night.

And in the meantime, there are milestones to coax him towards.  Like introducing water.  In sippy-cups!  Such an exciting prospect where Abby was concerned, and it's causing me great axiety now. How ever will I fit it all in?  How ever will I keep track of all of the things that I'm supposed to be doing?

I don't know.  I know that I must keep plugging forward and doing the best that I can.  And I hope that Michael and I don't fall too far behind in the process.

In the meantime, I am full of awe, wonder, and an infinite sense of gratitude for finally being able to enjoy the beautiful person that was once nearly hidden under so much suffering.  My mellow little dude.

It breaks my heart that any of us had to endure this.  Him, most of all.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Not Easier, Just Different

Sometimes I feel like I am swinging on an out-of-control pendulum, back and forth between various extremes of common parenting challenges.  In the beginning, I have a baby, and her every need must be met, but slowly and surely she gains independence, masters movement, crawling, cruising, walking, jumping, dancing.  Then another baby is added to the mix.  I have one who hardly needs carrying, and the other who always does.  My eldest begins to communicate, and it's oh-so-exciting!  But the barriers that still remain become painfully clear.  And my little one is still so terribly needy, as my elder prepares for new and different challenges with which to present me.  Finally- baby steps with the baby.  He learns to sit up.  He begins (just a tad) to regulate his sleeping.  He can play independently.  He can give me a few minutes to myself.  But my oldest has continued to move forward- she's defining her interests and desires, and she's learned to make herself heard.

And here I sit.  So close, so very close to managing some sleep at night.  Every night has been a little different, but a pattern is steadily emerging.  Three-to-four hours before a bottle is required.  Then, three-to-four more.  And, blessedly, often even a couple of more after that second feeding.

In the daytime, the fussiness is greatly reduced.  He is, in the playful words of Great-Aunt Marcia, my "zen baby."  He is calm, happy, focused.  That is, when his big sister isn't pushing him to the floor out of some newly discovered fascination with cause and effect.  He is napping regularly (though not always for long).  He is eating without a battle.  He is gaining (two pounds since last month- just over 19 lbs as of Friday).

I start to feel as though maybe I can breathe again.  Not those short, desperate breaths that follow a sprint or distance-run, but slow, deep, calming ones.

It is not to be.  I am entering new territory with Abigail, and I often feel completely lost in it.

At the play date that I attended on Thursday, another mother commented to me that she missed the stage that Michael is in, when you could leave the baby to sit quietly, and feel confident that he or she would not be making mischief as soon as your back was turned.  I smiled in agreement- that was a bonus of the age, after all- but internally I was thinking that I would trade her in an instant.  This was an easy reaction to feel while Abby was happily distracted amongst her playmates.  My mind was free to zero in on the fresh memories I had of Michael's daily needs, which include having to physically move him from place to place, being intricately involved in every feeding, working tirelessly to get him to go to sleep, and stay that way, and being in constant danger of getting covered in bodily fluids of all types when in close contact with him (to name a few).  No, in that moment (and in many other moments before, and probably to come), I pegged Abby as the easier child.  And I chuckled to myself, that my friend had likely forgotten all of the many ways in which Michael's age was really harder to deal with.

But the challenges of parenthood are never that simple.  I should know this by now.  I've heard, so many times before, that it doesn't really ever get easier- just different.  Oh, how true I am finding that to be.

I've come to realize that the behavioral changes I have noted in Abigail of late have been appearing too frequently to be discounted as "off-days" or flukes.  It is with a heavy heart that I have accepted that we are indeed entering a new stage in her development, and I feel wholly unready.

I've tried to cling to the hope that if we can just bridge the gap in communication, if we can just get our needs and wants across more clearly, it will all be okay.  But I'm not so sure anymore.  I read parenting stories like this one, and I have to admit to myself that communication itself is not the cure-all that I am desperately hoping for it to be.  I need to face the harsh reality that my daughter is becoming incredibly more of her own person each day, and that means agendas and thought processes that are not only separate from mine, but likely foreign to my understanding.  It means the development of a need to test boundaries, which I must be ready and willing to set and enforce.  It means learning to tap into reserves of patience that I'm not even sure that I have, and being prepared to fail, at times, to successfully do so.

I'm already having days like the one that Jill, at Baby Rabies, described in her eloquent post.  But I can only begin to imagine the frustration that she feels, having come so very far, and still being so very far from where she wants to be.  Established communication and all.

Whatever is in store for me, I know it's going to require a lot more prayer than I've been fitting in lately.  I'll definitely need to work on that.

I will say this about Abigail, though: she's just so cool, sometimes I can't stand it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Five Months, San Antonio-Style

In the week before Abby turned six months old, my older brother Michael married his then-fiancee, Aimee.  The wedding took place in San Antonio, so Tom and I had to arrange a flight with a young baby, a daunting prospect.  We bought a new car seat in preparation (we were going to need it anyway, once Abby outgrew the infant seat) because my parents were taking the trip by car, and we wanted them to have a spare to keep with them, while keeping our current set-up in our own car for the trips to and from the airport.  We also made sure to book a direct flight (thankfully, this was an option), to keep things as simple and hassle-free as possible.  It was a little pricier, but worth it, in the end.

Abby did amazingly well on the flight up.  There was a bit of fussing, but it was highly manageable, and I nursed her on take-off and landing to help her avoid discomfort from the change in pressure.  It didn't help my own discomfort, unfortunately.

One diaper change was required on the way, and I was pleased to find that the plane had a serviceable changing station in the tiny bathroom.  Abby, however, was not at all pleased with any part of the experience.

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon, and our return-flight was scheduled for the following Sunday morning, so we didn't have a huge amount of time to sight-see.

We did, however, check out the Riverwalk on the Friday before the wedding.

Well, Tom and I did, anyway.

Saturday, April 30th, was the big day, and unfortunately, most of the great pictures of Abby were not taken by me, so I don't have them.  But here are a couple of her and me getting prettied up. (I realize that I appear t.o.p.l.e.s.s in these pictures, but I assure you that I am not-hooray for strapless bridesmaid's dresses!)

Between the Nuptial Mass and reception, Abby enjoyed her first ride in a limo with Mei Mei, Tom, me, and the bride and groom.  She did, however, sleep through half of it.

The color theme of the wedding was lavender, so at the reception the tables were draped in embroidered light purple runners.  Abby was fascinated with them.  Perhaps this was the start of her love of purple, which is currently her favorite color.

Of course, she had to see how it tasted, as well.

Later in the evening, Abby was serenaded by the wedding singer.  She was transfixed, until he stood up to move on to the next table, which I believe must have startled her, because she began to cry.  I cannot for the life of me remember what song he was singing, but I remember the whole head table getting a laugh out of the incident because her outburst timed perfectly with a line in a verse that involved the phrase "[you]...make me cry."

Because the evening ran later than her usual bedtime, Abby finished out the night asleep in her stroller.  She still managed to work in dances with the bride and groom (and me) this way.

The flight back was slightly more problematic than the flight up.  While Tom and I were ecstatic to be able to avoid the long line in security due to our "family" status (especially since we ended up running late), we had a crying episode on the plane that lasted perhaps twenty minutes.  It wasn't terrible, volume-wise, but it definitely caused me a great deal of stress until I got it under control, and earned me a couple of dirty looks.  The baby a few rows behind us had a much more impressive meltdown, which lasted a great deal longer, towards the end of the flight.

The return-flight plane was also, frustratingly, not equipped with a changing table in the bathroom.  And an in-flight diaper change was required again.  I don't remember much about the experience beyond some aural and visual flashes of deafening screams and flailing limbs.

When the plane landed, Tom, Abby, and I sat in our seats and watched most of the passengers exit before gathering our own things, so that we could leave at a leisurely pace.  As they passed by, our fellow passengers kept looking at Abby and making comments like, "She seems to be doing better now."  I was a little confused because, while I know that no one ever wants to hear a baby cry for any amount of time, I didn't think that our "hiccup" was that bad.  Finally, about five or six commenters in, a young father finally volunteered, "No, that was my daughter you heard."  And then I realized that poor Abby had been getting blamed for another baby's crying.  I was a little peeved, but thankful to that brave father for trying to set the record straight.

And thus ended our first cross-country adventure with a baby.  A success, overall, but not something I'll have the courage, or energy, (or, most importantly, perhaps, the money) to do in the immediate future.  Especially since we now have two.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When Abby Joined In

I'm feeling short of words again tonight, but luckily, I have more pictures still to share from Michael's "Month" shoot.

My mother and sister worked valiantly throughout the initial photo-taking, both to help me amuse Michael, and to keep Abby away from the staging area.  Of course, once we were ready to invite her into the scene, she absolutely did not want to be there.  I was finally able to coax her over with the wooden block-and-box set that Michael may be seen attempting to use as a teething toy.

And here are the best of the pictures that I got.

I was going to insert a joke here about how Abby looks like a future masseuse, but that would be a bit misleading.  It was at this point that I removed Michael's sticker for her to play with, and the above picture is actually of her trying to place it on his back.

She then decided that his head would be a more interesting spot.

If that picture looks familiar, it's because I actually did post it once before- a couple of days ago.  I'm definitely in need of a creativity transfusion.  {sigh}

But at least I still know how to spell definitely.  My spell-checker, apparently, does not.  Still staring at a glaring yellow highlight on my first use of the word, though not on the second.  Go figure.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Of Guys, Dolls, and Very Big Hats

I'm seriously slumping tonight.  Feeling totally devoid of ideas about what to write, I've spent the last two hours reading other blogs instead (partly hoping for inspiration, partly to waste time, and partly because I rarely get the chance to do so, uninterrupted), and otherwise wasting time on the Internet.

It's not that nothing at all has been going on, exactly.  I've been faced with the usual challenges, the kids have been performing at their usual level of cute.  Well, Abby's had some real mood swing issues to make up for the cuteness, for her part.  But today was better, so I'm crossing my fingers that she was perhaps just feeling a bit "off" in the last week or so, rather than beginning some new, horrible phase.

Beyond her insane combativeness and tendencies towards the oversensitive of late, she's really made some great strides in language development.  I regularly hear full sentences now, the most oft-repeated (since the baseball game) being "Day hit da boll."  Translation: They hit the ball.

Also, both kids have a newfound musical favorite.  Of all things, "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."  That's two for Guys and Dolls- Aunt Ali long ago introduced Abby to "A Bushel and a Peck," to Abby's great delight.  I first began to sing it for them a couple of nights ago, when Abby was performing her rendition of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."  She started off saying "row," and changed it to "rock."  Amused, I countered with the first song that came to mind, about rocking, and boats.

While I was mildly surprised to see that Abby liked it (she may love music, but she does not love all music equally, and, having very specific favorites and preferences, is reluctant to give new things a chance), I was astounded at Michael's reaction.  His face lit up, his mouth wide and dimples flashing, his eyes glistened with silent laughter.  And I get that same reaction every. single. time.

A great feeling, that.

And to make up for my total lack of direction tonight, I'm gonna throw out a move I'm learning, to perfection, nowadays.


I give you: Cute Little Toddler in a Very Big Hat.

And bid you Good Night.  Goodness knows, I should have been in bed long ago.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Finally, the "Month" Pics

I finally got a chance to sort through and edit Michael's seven-month pictures.  Here are the favorites:

Mei Mei took the last two.  I like the effect of the sheet, but next time I'll have to somehow figure out how to get it less wrinkled, and I'll definitely need to hang it better.  Because I didn't cover an adequate amount of area behind Michael, I had to do all sorts of strange cropping in the editing stage.  That was also partly due to the fact that Michael kept grabbing up the sheet and knocking the props aside, and they often looked odd in the frame, just laying about to his right and left.  Additionally, I'll need to be sure to try this earlier in the day next time, when there is natural light available.  It was much harder to get the lighting right (and ultimately, I'm not entirely happy with it) relying on the Speedlight, combined with the ambient artificial illumination.

Because I didn't trust myself to make the right decisions given the lighting scenario, I didn't even bother with manual settings this time, and had the camera on auto.  I did set the ISO myself, though, to 800.