Monday, November 7, 2011

Turning the Corner

Wow, this is a crazy ride. But I love it! Freyja is just over six weeks old and I am now at that point where I can no longer remember life without her.

She looks like a baby now. No longer super scrawny, she has cheeks and thighs and is starting to look a little like Thora. She doesn't fit into newborn sized clothes anymore and is now in double digit percentages for weight, reaching the 14th percentile at last checkup. She's still pretty teeny but is catching up slowly. 

She still sleeps a lot but since she cluster-feeds, I don't worry as much about starving her anymore. In fact, I indulge happily. She sleeps five hours at a stretch at night almost every night! Often she will fall asleep at midnight, sleep until five, nurse in bed for fifteen minutes and then fall back asleep until seven. This is heavenly. Sometimes she is still asleep when Thora wakes up (anywhere between five and seven am). When that happens, I can leave her in bed while I get up with Thora for some uninterrupted mama time.

She is losing the blond hair she was born with, and what's growing in is even lighter. In addition to light blond hair, she is also growing white-blond eyebrows and eyelashes. She has very full lips like her daddy, and I think her eyes will be blue like his as well. If Thora has Johnny's coloring, Freyja is his mini-me. Seriously. I found a baby picture of him to compare to her:
How cute is he?

Personality-wise, she's showing more of herself every day. She's generally pretty quiet and doesn't complain much. She loves it when her daddy dances with her. She tolerates her sister kissing her, patting her and even sitting on her. She only protests when clumsy toddler hands accidentally smack her in the head with a book (that's happened twice now) or accidentally push her off the boob. She rarely screams or cries, waking me at night instead by huffing and puffing and squirming in her swaddle. And she always, always, always goes through three diapers in a row. Here's how: she wakes up from a three hour nap and I'll change her right away because I assume (correctly) that she is wet. Then I nurse her, which relaxes her and makes her poop, so I change her again. And while she's being changed this second time, she pees all over the changing table, the diaper, her outfit. Funny when we're home, disastrous when we're in, say, the children's section of the E. 86th Street Barnes & Noble as we were the other day where I changed her on the floor twice in a row because Thora could not be wrestled away from the store's Thomas the Tank Engine train set long enough for me to figure out how to bring everyone to the bathroom.

She smiles now and her eyes focus on her surroundings more and cross less. She's almost always appeased by a pacifier, loves to dance, snoozes for hours in the Moby wrap, and once she's out, she will sleep on the couch, in the co-sleeper, in the bouncy seat or pretty much anywhere. At night she sleeps in bed with us. Overall she is even more easy-going than her sister was, if that's possible. Like Thora, she is fussy in the evenings and seems to have trouble letting go to fall asleep for the night. But I found her weakness: She's a sucker for having her forehead stroked. It's cute to watch her get hypnotized when I do this to her. Her eyelids get heavier and heavier and her breathing slows and deepens, and in a few minutes, she's out cold.

While Freyja has been busy chunking up, Thora has been embracing life as a little girl. She's becoming a lovely human being, one I not only love so much I feel like my heart will burst, but also someone I genuinely like. I like spending time with her, reading to her, playing with her, walking with her. Everything is exciting to her. She seems to love her little life so fiercely that I hate to miss a moment of it. 

A few weeks ago, we were in Massachusetts. It was that beautiful autumn weather that makes me think of cinnamon, hot apple cider, cool crisp air and colorful leaves. We took her apple picking. This year she was big enough to actually pick apples with a little help from her daddy and her poppa. She loved it!

Also in the past six weeks she has:

-gotten her first haircut. She refused to wear the cape, wanted to sit in the police car seconds after choosing the fire truck, and was not at all entertained by the Elmo video playing, but overall it went pretty well:

-learned to ride on a buggy board and in the second seat of the stroller, both of which she loves but neither of which she tolerates for more than about five minutes before she starts chanting "Walk? walk? walk?"

-sipped hot chocolate and eaten roasted pumpkin seeds both for the first time:

-fingerpainted and painted watercolors with friends and in the process made enough hand prints to hang on the fridges of every relative she has:

-learned from her aunt to hug trees and now goes through phases in which she has to hug literally every single tree she passes:

 -fallen in love with ambulances, planes, helicopters and trains and has bionic hearing and eyesight, recognizing them from blocks away, through trees and clouds, over music, etc. We interrupted apple picking literally every two minutes to point at planes taking off from a tiny airport nearby. De plane! De plane!

 She now flat out refuses to sit in her high chair, insisting on sitting at the table in a big chair which resulted in her falling off the chair en
ough times that we invested in a tiny booster seat we could strap her into (that she doesn't hate). Because she eats at the table now and I can't bear to have her sit there all by herself, we eat dinner as a family before she goes to bed now. The concept of the family dinner is extremely important to me, and having her there with us now gets me excited about the many meals I hope we share with our girls at the table in years to come. 

She loves her books (her current favorite is Leonardo the Terrible Monster though she calls him Leonard, or rather, "Nen-ard!"), her toys (a little plastic bath toy shaped like a police car is at the top of the list for her right now because she thinks it's an ambulance) and her daddy. Look at how distracted she was from having fun on Sunday dancing to the DJ working mile 21 of the NYC marathon because her daddy wasn't right by her side:

Sometimes I get upset or angry for her when people are amused by her innocent and impassioned behavior, but she laughs with them, unfazed. She has a good sense of humor and will shrug off things that would piss off or insult her oversensitive mama. While we were outside the other day, she met one of her friends on the street and tried to hold her hand. When the other girl didn't want to, she tried to hug her, holding her arms out to her the way she does to me or her dad or a tree. This would have wounded me as a child, so I felt a little sad for Thora, who tried a few more times to love on this girl who just wasn't having it. But she didn't seem bothered. Instead she just walked alongside her friend until that girl went back to her mama and she asked me to hug a tree instead.

She also (usually) allows herself to be distracted from things that catch her eye. This is good because it means I can get her out of a store full of toys without buying her anything. We put everything back and say goodbye each thing. 

She likes to sing the alphabet song and can count now to ten with questionable yet unmistakable pronunciation (wun... dooo... bree... vorr... byse... zith... memen... ayyy... nine... ten!). 

We have set up a little sweatshop for card-making. She is obsessed with her Crayola "marmers" and loves to draw. If I put a folded up piece of construction paper in front of her and tell her to draw a helicopter or a cat or whatever, she will grab a marker and scribble away happily. What's funny - and fascinating - is that I can show her the same scribble later, which honestly looks to me like every other scribble, and she will remember that it is a helicopter or a cat. How does she do that?

People love her handmade cards and she loves to make them. I'm happy because she's happy and busy, and we work on her colors and numbers while we draw. The markers are washable so I don't care how much of a mess she makes. I, the least imaginative or artistically inclined person I know, get to draw ordinary objects and watch my daughter marvel over them, and she gets to develop her imagination and hand-eye coordination and have me marvel over her. Win all around! Also, I may have missed my calling as an artist, huh? (Not really.)

These days, when we aren't drawing or coloring, we are outside a lot. We love this weather. Also, I am trying to move as much as I can to shed my baby mush. But with Thora insisting on walking everywhere but getting sidetracked by needing to point out every plane or helicopter like it's the first one she's ever seen, hugging every single tree she passes, dragging an umbrella even when it isn't raining, and greeting every dog, pigeon and squirrel, it takes us a long time to get anywhere. That's okay though. What could be more important? I get a kick out of her enthusiasm for such tiny things. She is fascinated by absolutely everything and soaks it all up like a sponge. She loves her world and I love her, so who cares if it takes forty-five minutes to go five blocks?

She is imitating absolutely everything we say now. She may or may not have been heard saying "Oh dit!" after one of us yelled something fairly similar in frustration. (Yikes!) Some choice new vocabulary includes dog poop (I taught her that to keep her out of it when she's hugging trees) and boogers, which is unfortunately accompanied by a finger up her nose (I did not teach her that). She tells us now when she's done a "big poop" and is fascinated by everyone else's poop too, telling us in a singsongy voice that Mama does big poops, Daddy does big poops, Freyja does, Nana does... it's very descriptive! 

Now that the fog is lifting, I'll come out and say that the first few weeks of Freyja's life were hard for Thora. The one thing she struggles with more than any other is sharing. I know it's normal for a kid her age to be unable to share. In fact I have read that it's developmentally impossible. However, it's hard to see her wrestle toys away from other kids or burst into tears when someone wants to touch something of hers. I saw this on Facebook and thought it was so funny and true:

Jokes aside, it's really distressing for me to see how difficult sharing anything seems to be for her at the moment. When Freyja came along, it wasn't the baby herself that was hard for her to accept. She just couldn't bear to share me. When I nursed Freyja, she wanted to be in my arms too. When I held Freyja, lay down with Freyja, hugged Johnny or did anything other than give Thora my undivided attention, it seemed like her world could end. There was nothing Johnny could do to console her. She only wanted me, and she would cling to me as if she thought I might disappear any second. I felt trapped, like I would never have a moment to myself or to share with anyone other than Thora ever again. But slowly this is changing. This week I realized I am now able to nurse Freyja while Thora colors or reads a book and hardly seems to notice. We are making progress!

So I think we've turned a corner. Still, we have a ways to go before life is what I'd call completely smooth. Last week, Johnny and I talked for a long time about doing things to take care of ourselves. We'd been getting edgy and snappy from being overwhelmed, and we agreed that we needed to be nicer to each other and to ourselves. We discussed ways to make that happen when we are feeling stressed to lighten the load a bit. So one morning when I was up with Freyja from 5 am and Thora woke up at 5:30, I offered to get up with her and let Johnny sleep in. Once Freyja was asleep again, Thora and I cuddled. We went to the potty, we brushed teeth, we washed hands. We had juice and Cheerios. We read The Scariest Thing in the Castle. We watched an Elmo video. And by 8 I was stir crazy. Still in pajamas, I threw shoes on Thora and me, loaded up the stroller and put Freyja in the Moby. We all headed outside. I had never gotten them both out by myself at that point so I was very nervous, but willing to try. I knew better than to try to accomplish much, so when Thora wanted to walk, I let her. I pushed Freyja in the stroller and Thora ran up and down Lenox Avenue for the better part of a mile, charming all the morning commuters and (luckily) wearing herself out. The three of us were out for more than two hours and we did better than just survive the morning. We had fun! We walked, we went to the playground, we visited the ambulances outside Harlem Hospital, we hugged trees and waved to sleepy commuters. Freyja woke up crying twice but we got her back to sleep. Thora got very tired and started to melt down, but we shuffled everyone around so she could ride too. We had a minor hiccup in a crowded Chase bank with a long line for the ATMs when Thora decided she was next to push all the ATM buttons even though there were a lot of cranky people ahead of us, but even that we managed. I felt confident enough afterwards to take them out by myself again, and best of all, when we got home the floors had been mopped and the apartment had been cleaned by my wonderful and gratefully rested husband. One good turn deserved another and it was the start of us doing and feeling better as parents of two. We can do this!

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