Today's blog entry has been brought to you today by unending patience, a constantly running washer/ dryer, the dishwasher, peanut butter and jelly, two noise machines, every Soothie for 0 - 6 that I've seen in every drug store in the Northeast, and a reluctantly messy apartment.
It's funny, noticing the difference in me from baby #1 to baby #2. I remember how enthusiastic I was back then. (Like it was oh so long ago! It feels that way though!) It's not that I'm not enthusiastic now. Don't get me wrong. Being a mama is the most wonderful thing in the world. I love my girls and I love the life I have chosen. But now my enthusiasm is a little tempered by how difficult it is just to get dressed in the morning. One thing that helps a bit while I'm on maternity leave is having far fewer deadlines and no one but myself to answer to when stuff doesn't get done. Today I lucked out and was able to put Teeny down for about half of Thora's nap, so I balanced the checkbook, got some bills paid, sent out some thank you notes, and had a cup of tea. It was heavenly.
Another way I stay sane is by being outside. The first time around we made a rule about leaving the house every day. Nowadays, leaving the house is not quite what it was, but it's still a rule. It's different because Thora loves to walk now, and by loves to walk I mean insists upon walking. It takes her about forty-five minutes to walk five blocks, which would frustrate the heck out of me if I were in a rush, but having nothing better to do than walk with her, I amble along with a sleeping Teeny in the Moby wrap. We hold hands and say hello to every tree, dog, pigeon, leaf, plane, helicopter, schoolbus, city bus and cab we see (and that is a LOT of hellos). We press every button and wave to every passerby. There is no point in trying to stuff her back in the stroller since that means an automatic meltdown. Anyway, I have nowhere in the world I would rather be than with her as she skips along happily, and this way we both get tired out. Here she is when we went to the bank in all of her mismatched rain gear today (the stroller lasted about three minutes):
And here she is harassing the cow and the chicken at the Farm Sanctuary Walk for Farm Animals we attended last weekend. She was so in love with them. "Cow? Cow? Cow?" she said. "Nen? Nen?" I was by myself with them both and terrified to let her out of the stroller in a crowd like that but I was more terrified of the meltdown she'd have if I made her stay in it. So I trusted her. She was fine. She was fixated.
Seriously, though, I feel like I've aged a lifetime since Thora was born. I have the grey hairs to prove it (and you can see them, since I haven't had time to dye my hair since July.) Someone told me this morning that one plus one equals a lot more than two. That's so true! Nowadays we are focusing not only on the children but on ourselves. This is an absolute necessity. I don't mean we are taking the time for spa treatments or fancy dinners. Hardly. I am months overdue for a haircut and my nails look like they grew on a construction worker's hands. I mean littler things, like being able to close the door when one of us goes to the bathroom or takes a shower, or to have the time to fold and put away the laundry before the cats decide to use it as a litter box and it has to be washed again. Using the dishwasher instead of spending a half hour doing dishes. Having my mom or Johnny's mom take Thora to the park for an hour so we can sweep the floor or make the bed or take a nap. Ordering something online instead of going to buy it in person. Telling Thora I am "going to work" in the bedroom and kissing her goodbye and having a luxurious hour to write emails, nurse Teeny without having to pinky Thora too, or whatever I want. Being okay with leftovers or PBJ for dinner when we are too tired to cook and clean up. (A cute side note: "peanut butter and jelly" is too long for Thora to say, so she just calls them "and jelly." Makes me laugh every time!) And most of all, understanding, as a friend pointed out to me, that getting one thing accomplished per day is a feat worthy of celebration. We have to take care to be kind to ourselves and to each other in these small ways, otherwise we end up snapping at each other over stupid things, disagreeing over how we handle situations with Thora, or just being generally cranky and tired. This was much easier to do when there was just one, but with two, the time we have to be alone or to be a couple has basically vanished, so whatever we can preserve, we are prioritizing.
With Thora, I was enthusiastic in a sort of neophyte and dramatic way, kind of like I was when I was a tween who just could not wait to be more grown up. Before I even got my feet wet, I thought I knew it all. I read every book, researched every method, and I hoarded every single thing anyone wanted to pass on (or that I couldn't pass up in a store) in case I might need it for Thora at some point. And that was before she was even here! I needed to be an expert before she was out of the womb. All my friends with kids said "you'll figure it out as you go" and I said I know, I know. They said, "babies don't really need that much" and I said I know, I know. They said, "they will outgrow everything before you can really use it so don't buy tons of clothes and other stuff" and I said I know, I know. But still I collected stuff and watched for sales at BabyGap and wherever else and carried on about my preferred "school" of parenting and had baby stuff coming out the wazoo. (Preparing for Freyja, I even found things in Thora's closet with price tags still on them!) And I bought into all that Mommy & Me stuff, hook, line and sinker.
I can't say I regret the choices I made, as all that junk and information did help ease me into motherhood and learn about all the different options out there for babies and for baby stuff. Thanks to all I did and saw and read, over time I have become confident about what I use with my kids, how I interact with my kids and with other parents. But I do sometimes wonder if Freyja is so easy because she has fewer choices (i.e., one bouncy seat instead of three) and fewer opportunities to be coddled in the same ways Thora was. Also we really don't need All. That. Crap. in the house. (But I still like BabyGap. Cute stuff like this retro zipper dress and these glow-in-the-dark skeleton-bones-made-of-bat-print PJs really are so hard to resist!)
I am not the master of the top five (or ten) list like my friend, coworker, and fellow blogger Brenna (check her out here). But I'll take a stab here to list five things I absolutely had to have the first time that I don't use at all now.
1) The Boppy. I had three of them with Thora - one for the bedroom, one for the living room, and one spare for when another was in the laundry! I had a half dozen covers too. I gave them all away but one. I kept it just in case I change my mind at some point, but even that one is stuffed in the closet. I don't have the patience or the time to make an event out of feedings like I did with Thora. Sit down to nurse? Ha. I wish. Much less sit down with a giant half-donut stuffed around me so that Johnny has to fetch me anything I need or want. Since mastering the side-lying nursing position for nighttime and naps, I have little need for the Boppy. And during the day I mostly nurse Teeny holding her in one arm walking around the apartment. If I do sit, my arm or my knee work fine to help prop her up.
2) Newborn "classes." I admit it, those lunch hours at Gymboree were more for me than for Thora. I didn't make any friends at the weekday classes on the Upper East Side - did I really think I would? - but they helped me feel like I wasn't the only one experiencing everything I was experiencing. And no one there laughed at me for taking a zillion pictures, weeping at every new song, or being competitive (Your baby claps already? But she's eleven days younger than mine... why doesn't mine clap? What's wrong with my baby that she doesn't clap yet?!) That said, I have definitely outgrown them and their ridiculous "anything-for-my-baby" price tags. We blow bubbles, play with textures, sing songs and have tummy time here at home for free. (I am, however, in the market for a toddler art class that doesn't cost upwards of five hundred dollars. Suggestions in NYC anyone?)
3) Baby music. This one we figured out when Thora was an infant, actually. During my first pregnancy I downloaded and copied every Rockabye Baby CD I could find and I even made Thora an entire 4GB playlist of baby-friendly tunes on an old iPod I dedicated just to her. We listened to them nonstop in the last weeks of the pregnancy, weeping and laughing. But after she was born, we used it twice. Maybe. (And I gave away all the CDs except for one I actually do like a lot: the Cure one that my good friend M gave me as a baby shower gift.) I have learned that it's much more fun to listen to music you like when you have an infant. And now Thora dances to the Ramones, to the Cure, to whatever we're playing, or just nods her head to the music while she's doing other things, like the cool kids I wanted to be like always did.
(I hope the video here is rotated by the time you see it. If not, tilt your head. It's worth it.)
Now that she's a toddler, I will happily listen to "Elmo's Song" seventeen times in a row if it means she'll stop whining while we're in the car, but as an infant, Thora slept through Metallica as easily as she did Enya. And I'll be the first to admit that I do love some kids' music from back when I was little: especially Really Rosie, Free to Be You And Me, the Muppets, and some Sesame Street. I've been singing Alligators all Around and One Was Thora (adapted from One Was Johnny) to Thora since the day she was born, and nowadays I walk around singing the alphabet song, the Sesame Street Pinball Count and the Ladybug Picnic song under my breath because we sing them so much as a family. I mean, really, how cute are those ladybugs?
4) Baby bathtub. Why on earth did I bother bathing Thora every day when she was Freyja's age? I had a Fisher-Price padded plastic thingy for my knees, which I needed to kneel over the baby tub that sat inside the regular tub to hold her awkwardly with one hand while washing her every fold and crevice with the other. I did this religiously until she was able to sit up on her own. Freyja's been rinsed off maybe three times in her life: once in the sink, once in the shower with me, and once in the big bathtub with me. I may have used baby soap the third time. She's clean-ish enough.
5). Pinky. See this post here. Enough said.
Five things I DO use now that I didn't when Thora was tiny:
1) Pacifier. I still hate it but I hate it less than I hate feeling coerced into giving Thora my pinky a dozen times a day.
2) Co-sleeper and bouncy seat. This kid will learn to fall asleep by herself, dammit. Eventually. Thora is 21 months old and she still naps in our arms. She won't sleep by herself during the day. We are not making -that mistake again. Freyja does co-sleep for the most part but since I am running after Thora all the time, I need to be able to put her down for her naps somewhere that she'll be safe by herself as she gets older and more mobile and so far it's working at least sometimes. I'll take that.
3) Bucket car seat. Thora screamed bloody murder every time I put her in this thing. Freyja doesn't care one way or the other. She sleeps in it, she sits in it, whatever. Having a car helps, because she's in it a lot more than Thora ever was so I guess she's used to it. I don't ever take it with me though - it stays in the car. I will say that having the bucket in the middle of the backseat, next to the giant Marathon, gives me the willies. We got rid of the base when Thora was tiny because we didn't have a car then (and I didn't think we ever would) and I needed the closet space. So it's buckled, but it's not too secure back there. I dutifully check to make sure the little circle only shows blue, but that involves me leaning across the Marathon and shifting everything so I can see the circle. I'm convinced it moves back to yellow as soon as I move back. Plus, the bucket seat shifts when Johnny pushes the driver's seat back and it shifts again when I pull it forward. It shifts when Thora rocks it by the handle when she's bored or trying to wake up her sister. It shifts when someone tries to stuff themselves in the back next to the car seats. I am 100% sure neither car seat is installed correctly but the Marathon's user booklet may as well be written in Greek and the Graco was a hand-me-down that came without a manual and when we called the Car Seat Lady to have her come help us, she lectured us for having our under-two-toddler face forward and refused to take us on. You can't and won't convince me to turn Thora back around. That idea is less palatable than spending the day locked in a car with Cerberus. No way. So on Thora's second birthday, I'll call her back and pretend we never spoke before and get her to set us straight. Unless someone wants to help me before then?
4) My iPad. I don't think there even was such a thing as an iPad when I had Thora and now I can't imagine my life without it. When Thora was born I read to her night and day. I read kids' books, I read grownup books, I read newspaper and magazine articles, labels, even toy and furniture assembly instructions. I read English, I read French, I read German. I still believe that helped make her the precocious talker she is today but since we still read to Thora all day long, I need to veg out a little now. Just a little.
So I read Facebook status updates and emails to Freyja and while she dozes I surf the web and indulge in television via the Netflix, NBC and ABC apps. The problem I have, though, night after night, is that Teeny will have long since drifted off to sleep after nursing and there I am, wide awake, engrossed in an episode of Parenthood or Modern Family that I simply can't put down. Stupid.
5) Family. I have always been a "here, want to hold the baby?" kind of mom. I am not possessive of my kids and I definitely enjoy having my hands free when there is another available set of arms willing and able to hold them. But I didn't leave Thora alone with anyone other than Johnny or me until her first birthday and she has still never been with a babysitter. I do think Freyja is still too young to be away from me but it's becoming easier for both of us to send Thora out the door to the park with one of her grandparents or downstairs to her friends' apartment when we really need the break. I am proud of myself that I trust that she will return in one piece and without needing a lifetime of therapy.
And finally, five things that we used religiously with Thora and still do:
1) The ball. Call it a birth ball, an exercise ball, a pilates ball, whatever. It is the most valuable piece of furniture we own. Both times I labored on the ball. We burp our babies on the ball, calm them when they are fussy or gassy, and lull them to sleep. We prop up our legs when we're rocking on the glider. And we talk an awful lot about how we'll use it for exercise but that hasn't happened yet.
2) Swaddles. Oh man, the swaddle blankets have saved us time and again. I am a firm believer in the "fourth trimester." Both my kids are like little bondage freaks. They calm down visibly and fall right asleep when they are wrapped up tight. Since I can't seem to fold up a regular blanket tightly enough, we use the fleece or cotton blankets that are like little pockets you stuff the baby in and then velcro it all up around them. Worth their weight in gold, I tell you.
3) Babywearing. All the research you've read or heard about is true. Babywearing is where it's at. It's so rewarding for parent and child - and after a while you get good at multi-tasking, even nursing discreetly while the kid is in the wrap and you're walking down the street. You can do anything with a baby on your chest. We have them all: Moby, Mei Tai, Angel Pack, Storchenwiege, ring sling, and so on. They each have different uses. Right now the Angel Pack (a lot like an Ergo) and the Moby are in heaviest rotation but as she gets bigger the others will win out. Johnny even still uses the Angel Pack to wear Thora - all 30-something pounds of her!
4) Name songs. Thora had her own songs from the day she was born. We sang adaptations of songs with her name in them over and over, and because she heard them again and again, they never failed to relax her and get her to sleep. I still sing them, and she will smile and nestle in my lap and ask me to sing them again. Now we are singing songs to Freyja (most often, to the tune of My Darling Clementine, we sing: Little Teeny, little Teeny, little TEE-nee Freyja Rae, Freyja Rae is a little Teeny... you get the idea) and she loves them too. A softly sung name song and a finger lightly tracing circles on her forehead puts her right to sleep like magic. Like so (sound omitted to protect the ears of the innocent):
5) HATS. This is somewhat tongue in cheek. Thora was born in February so obviously she was bundled all the time. It's not as cold now, but I still bundle Freyja enough that I often take off her hat to "air her out" as it were. I mean, she's in three layers of Moby wrap plus her onesie plus her fleece bunting-of-the-day (a blue one that makes everyone think she's a boy, a white one that we bought and used with Thora, a brown bear one with ears and a tail that a friend passed to us, or a pink and purple heart patterned one). All that plus being smushed up against her 98.6 degree mama. And really, have we had a day yet where it dropped below 55? I don't think so. Sometimes she's sweating! So I take off her hat. And immediately I get hassled by passersby. "That baby need a hat, Momma!" or "Where that baby hat?" I hear it all - she'll get pneumonia, she'll get an ear infection, she'll die. This has become a running gag now with Johnny and me. Every time I'm out with her and he calls to check on us, he asks if she's wearing her hat. Ha. But you won't convince me. I know that when you wear your baby your own body temperature can adjust up and down to make a baby cooler or warmer, plus I keep reading about sleeping babies being more susceptible to SIDS when they are overly warm. So I cool her off by taking off her hat or by unzipping her bunting or whatever. Back off, people. She's warm.