The baby keeps growing, and tugging at my heartstrings

Pandra is now over two months old, and has become a lot more aware of herself and the world over the past week. You can see it when you look at her — she looks around and actually sees things, and you can attract her attention easily. She shows us when she doesn’t want to look at something or deal with something by turning her head away. Lyra hasn’t really learned how to respect that, though, and tries to forcer her to look back at her from three inches away. I’d be trying to look away too, if I were her. Lyra can be a bit imposing and boundary-crossing at times.

It’s taken me a while to fully connect with Pandra. I’ve felt the unconditional ‘this is my baby and I adore her because she’s my baby’, but I didn’t notice until the past few days that I didn’t feel fully connected to her. I don’t know if it’s something I can put into words. I felt connected because she’s my baby, but I didn’t feel connected to her as a person.

Oh, hello thereI didn’t realize this until the past week, however, when I started to have flashes of that connection — on the change table when she really looked at me, rather than looked in my direction, or nursing when she paused and stared up at me for a few seconds before unleashing a huge grin (without letting her latch go, as she takes her latch very seriously most of the time). Without those moments, and a few others like them in the past week, I might not have realized the disconnect. But they happened, and I did.

Little hands have a strong grip

Pandra has discovered her hands, and takes great pleasure in nomming on her fists. She babbles and yammers whenever she’s awake, and we have little conversations with her that bring on more of the huge grins none of us can get enough of. This morning I set her down on a blanket on the floor with Lyra lying next to her talking to her, while I did some dishes. Lyra got up to go play with some toys in her room, leaving Pandra alone on the floor, still making all sorts of chatter noises. Suddenly she started screaming as though she was in pain. I knew Lyra was in her bedroom, so I didn’t know what could possibly be wrong. I walked over to look at her, and there she lay, one hand up over her had, with her little fist buried in her full head of baby-soft hair, pulling as hard as she could. I looked at her for a moment, then laughed hysterically while I picked her up to disentangle her from her own strength. Poor girl…  she’s good at grabbing things, but hasn’t really figured out the letting go part, or the fact that she can actually hurt herself. I felt a little bad laughing at her. But only a little — it was pretty funny.

Having only Lyra as a solid frame of reference, it’s pretty much impossible not to compare what Pandra is like with Lyra at the same age. She’s a very different baby than Lyra was. For one thing, I can put her down to sleep in the other room — sometimes even when she’s still awake, but sleepy. We can barely do that with Lyra now; she hates sleep that much. I’m grateful that Pandra’s a better sleeper. She also talks a lot more. She’s growing much faster, and has already reached a higher weight at 2.5 months old than Lyra was at 6 months old. She’s already 1/3 of Lyra’s current weight! But Pandra was a bigger baby when she was born, and she wasn’t 3 weeks early, and she had absolutely no trouble learning how to nurse and latching on properly, where Lyra was too sleepy to bother trying. I remember we had to use ice cubes on Lyra’s bare skin just to keep her awake and nursing for the first month.

I wonder sometimes, like I did when Lyra was tiny, who this little person is going to be. What will she like, and what will she think is funny? Which parts of Adam’s personality will she reflect, and which ones of mine? How will things be similar to our experience with Lyra? What will be dramatically different? This is really a whole other baby, again, that we will take care of and spend the next couple of decades doing our best to turn into a basically good person; or so we hope. Who is that hiding behind that incredible, addictive little grin?


Slow cooker macaroni and cheese recipe

I’ve been planning to make some sort of slow cooker mac & cheese for a couple of weeks now, but didn’t get around to it until today. When I mentioned this on Facebook, I got numerous requests for the recipe, assuming it turned out well. All I did for the recipe was surf a bunch of different google results for ‘slow cooker macaroni and cheese’ until I had a vague idea of the ingredients needed, bought them from memory (vaguely) and hoped I could piece something together.

I went with the basic mac & cheese, rather than doing anything interesting with it, for two reasons. One, my daughter is a picky eater and I wanted to feed this to her, and two, I wanted to make sure I had a good base recipe to start from before I started doing fun things. This is your plain, ordinary, super-awesome macaroni and cheese.

In the future, I would consider adding peas, cauliflower, or other veggies that complement cheese, as well as bacon, sausage, or chicken breast pieces. I’d also happily mix up the cheeses — either different types of cheddar, or a blend of cheddar, gouda, mozzarella, and whatever other cheeses I had lying around the house. Because I usually have them lying around the house. I’m not kidding. If I wasn’t cooking for a picky four-year-old, I’d add some pepper during the cooking process too. I’d also add some sour cream or cream cheese to see how that affected the texture and flavour.

Slow cooker Mac & Cheese

Half of a 900 gram box of macaroni noodles
1 tbsp olive oil (or vegetable oil if you prefer)
1 can (370 ml) evaporated milk
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
About 4 cups of shredded cheese (I used extra old cheddar, and probably closer to 5 cups by the time I was done shredding)
1/2 cup of melted butter

Here’s how I prepared it:

Cook your macaroni noodles prior to putting them in the slow cooker. I may try cooking them in the slow cooker at some point, but I think the amount of liquid in the recipe would need to be increased.
Pour the cooked noodles into the slow cooker. Add about a tablespoon of oil. I used olive oil.
It’s a can of evaporated milk! I bought the stuff that was on sale.
Add the evaporated milk with one hand while attempting to take an in-focus photo with your SLR with the other. Or skip the photo-taking step. Your call.
Add the non-evaporated milk, again using the same one-handed technique for effective photo-taking.
Stir, stir, stir. Add the salt and stir some more.
Take a break from adding ingredients to the crock pot and attend to the cranky infant. If you don’t have a cranky infant to attend to, please feel free to borrow mine. As a secondary option, you can also attend to a bored four year old. I have one of those you can borrow too.
My mom worked at the Kraft cheese factory when I was a kid. My fondness for Cracker Barrel Extra Old Cheddar is a part of my history. This was my cheese of choice for this recipe, but for a creamier, less sharp final product you may want to go with a milder cheese.
Pour the shredded cheddar in to the mix and stir well.
Mmmm. Melted butter. Finally, pour in the melted butter and stir. I never claimed this was a low-fat recipe.
Let it all simmer in your slow cooker for 3-4 hours on low. Stir occasionally.
Serve topped with pepper and some shredded cheese to be extra classy — and enjoy.
Other people’s children approve of this recipe. Ignore the yellow light. Oh crap you’re looking at it now that I mentioned it.
My own child approves of this recipe. And she’s the picky one.

Babywearing attracts attention, and other things I’ve noticed when I’m out with my kids

The girls and I do not respond well to staying home all day. Even Pandra, as early as 3 weeks old, was crankier and complained louder if we hadn’t left the house each day.  And so, from the first week after Pandra was born, we were getting out of the house at least once a day.

Lyra, Jenny and Pandra by the river
Out walking by the river’s edge with the family – Pandra (1 week old) is sleeping in the cuddly wrap

My preference (and Pandra’s) is to use a babywearing wrap — in our case, we’re using the Cuddly Wrap by Peapod Creations. It’s the same one I used with Lyra when she was a tiny baby, and once we’re done with it I’ll give it away and switch to using an Ergo Baby that we also used with Lyra for a long time. I’d rather have my hands free than pushing the stroller up and down the hills around my house, and Pandra would rather be cuddled up against my chest than sitting in her carseat, staring up at the sky from the stroller.

I’ve discovered that by having the baby at eye level instead of waist level, people will talk to you about the baby. A lot. And if Pandra is wearing any colour other than OMGPINK then she is automatically a boy. Maybe she has masculine features? Maybe it’s the full head of brown hair? I really can’t explain it, but even if she’s in a flowery white and purple outfit they assume she’s a boy, and the neutrals (brown, yellow, green) are all automatically boy clothes to random strangers. The only outfit so far that makes her look like a girl was bright flowery fuschia combo. I generally try the subtle ‘she’s a girl’ approach with my answers, or not bother correcting them, since I’m unlikely to have a long-term relationship with them. The questions are usually as follows:

How is he sleeping?

I’ll answer with ‘Better than her sister did’ or something along those lines, which is the absolute truth. She sleeps, she wakes up, she eats. The only comparison I have is to her sister.

How old is he?

She’s [insert age here, currently 2 months old].

Wow, he really loves to sleep on mommy like that, eh?

Pandra doesn’t get mistaken for a boy in this – mainly due to the pink bows on her socks.

Yep. Always sleeps in the carrier.

Is he a good baby?

Much as I want to answer “no, she’s a complete demon, terrible baby, just awful” I know that sarcasm on the west coast is usually unrecognized in casual conversation, so I’ve learned not to be as sarcastic as I used to be. I’ll just smile and not at this one, since I’m uncertain as to what makes a baby ‘good.’ Are you a good adult? Am I a good mom? How do we answer these vague questions?

People will also ask Lyra if she’s a good sister, and if she likes being a big sister. Her standard response is to look at them for a moment and then just say “Yep,” with a disconnected tone that suggests she’s answered this question a hundred times. That seems to go over well, when people can hear her. Lyra’s a little soft-spoken.

The supermom effect

I’ve also discovered, by being out with the kids so much, that people don’t expect me to be out with them when Pandra is so young. That’s starting to fade now that she looks less like a newborn and more like a regular baby (and that’s one of those differences I can’t explain — you’ll know what I mean if you’ve spent enough time with a growing new baby).

When I would be out walking with Lyra, Pandra strapped to my chest, I got nonstop comments about how impressed people were that I had left the house.

Wow, you’re out already?? That’s amazing!

I would look at them and say something like “well I have a four year old, she can’t stay in all the time,” when really I just don’t understand why it’s such a shock to them. I can’t stay inside. It would make me go completely stir crazy. Apparently I’m the exception by being out and about every day with my newborn.

So if you want people to think you’re a supermom when you have a newborn, leave your house. It’s that easy.

The sleep question

The standard question people ask when they see a mom with a new baby is about sleep — are they sleeping well, are you getting sleep, how’s the baby sleeping? Everyone who’s had a baby knows that sleep is the hardest part of dealing with the new baby, and that the less sleep a parent gets the less functional they are. They mostly ask out of a sense of sympathy, I’m guessing. I developed my standard reply because I had to answer this question so often, and I’m guessing most new parents do the same, but I’ve become so tired of the question.

The comment I get in addition to the sleep question is how I look so good — so very well rested — for a mom of a newborn. At first I thought it was just a false compliment; something people were saying to make me feel better about myself. I’ve slowly realized that I was mistaken. Apparently I really do look well rested. I feel all right — somewhat tired, but nothing like how tired I was with Lyra during her wake-up-every-two-hours-every-night phase (the entire first year of her life, and again when she was 18 months old). So I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m getting enough sleep, and that I actually do look good for having a two month old baby. Pandra sleeps fairly well at night for her age, and I feel lucky that she’s not like Lyra in that sense.

Hooray for compliments that aren’t false, and for getting enough sleep to look reasonably well rested!