Familiar Complexity

Complex things can be subjective or objective. Complexity itself describes a state of something’s existence, so in a way it seems always measurable, always definable. But when you get to know something more intimately, when it has become a part of your everyday life, understanding makes it less complex.

A huge grocery store, when first experienced, is overwhelming. Aisles stacked high with different versions of the same items, bright colours and bizarre images on boxed products in some places and inedible ingredients waiting to be cooked in others only add to the confusion. It can be too much choice, too many unknown elements, too many options, and the overwhelming complexity can make a person want to flee towards the familiar.

That feeling of wanting to run away can be a hard one to fight. It’s easy to stay within our comfort zone. It’s easy to avoid trying something unfamiliar. Most of us seem to harbour an underlying fear of doing things wrong, and most of us find comfort in the familiar. It’s harder to make a mistake when you’ve done something a hundred times before.

The reward we get from taking a risk, even a tiny one, can be great. Trying something new and failing seems like a frightening outcome, but familiarity can be worse. Not because we shouldn’t take comfort in the things we know and love, but because we don’t know what we’re missing when we don’t spend time exploring complexities.

The more time I’ve spent learning the complexities of a grocery store and the foods and ingredients found within, the better I’ve become at cooking, and the more amazing food I’ve discovered that I enjoy. My love of flavour is enriched by this complexity. And the more I explore this complexity the easier it becomes to understand it without feeling overwhelmed.

I’m not actually talking about grocery stores, though.

I take Lyra shopping sometimes. I like to spend time talking about her thoughts and listening to her ideas. As she gets older, the complex flavours of her personality are showing themselves.

Her complexity is fascinating and beautiful and unfamiliar. Sometimes I get overwhelmed. It would be easier to back away and treat her like a superficial being – like a child – when I’m feeling that way.

Instead I try my best to understand her by exploring her complexity. My life is enriched by her, both objectively and subjectively. I look forward to learning more.

Suddenly, change

Pandra has been put through a lot in the last week. She’s handling it all really well, though. My kids are resilient, and for that I am thankful.

Pandra on a tricycle
Pandra is growing up fast…

I started to cut back on nursing her late last week, on the advice of the oncologist. It only makes sense to wean her now, rather than right before chemo starts, so that it’s not an issue for her. Really doing anything to make life less complicated when that happens is a good plan.

But weaning has been hard for me this time around. Lyra nursed until she was almost two and a half years old, and then I flew away to Las Vegas for an extended weekend. When I got back and she asked to nurse, I told her that the milk was all gone, and she said “oh,” and never asked for it again. We were both pretty much ready to stop at that point.

I expected to nurse Pandra for longer than this. It’s been a bit of a blow to me that I’m not, even though I know there is no harm in stopping now. I’m not nursing her at this point because I have to; I’m doing it because I want to, and because she wants to.

Today was the first day I haven’t nursed her at all. Yesterday, she nursed once in the morning. The day before, she nursed once in the evening after work. On the weekend it was maybe twice each day. She hasn’t given up asking yet, although she’s stopped having epic meltdowns when I tell her no. Small steps.

The worst for me is when she walks around the house, making me follow her from room to room, assertively pointing in each room at a chair or bed where, in the past, we have nursed. She’s so disappointed when I say no that I want desperately to give in, just this once maybe. But I don’t. And she doesn’t nurse at all overnight any more. But there’s more to that side of things…

Sharing bedrooms is the best!

I had given up nursing Pan at night two months ago, but when she got sick, I went back to it. It helped her sleep. When she was better, though, she wanted to nurse all night still, so I had to cut that back. She was very rageful about this, and we didn’t sleep for a week or two.

Last weekend I decided, on a whim, to move her bed into Lyra’s room as an experiment. Adam thought I was crazy and that it could never work. I mostly agreed with him, but I needed to try anyway. So that night, we put the girls to bed at the same time, in the same room. Bedtime was mildly chaotic, but we managed.

Lyra was fantastic about having Pandra in her room. When I told her that Pan might cry for a bit, Lyra said “Oh, that’s okay mom. I’ll tell her it’s okay.” When I mentioned that Pan might wake up in the middle of the night and yell, Lyra replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll just go back to sleep when she’s done.” All this from a girl who looks for any excuse to stay awake all night.

And then, when Pandra did wake up in the middle of the first night, Lyra didn’t. When she woke up the second time it was closer to 5:30 in the morning, so I took Pan into the living room to cuddle, and Lyra followed. Pan fell back asleep in her bed, and Lyra and I went to sleep in the office. We all slept until 9am.

Adam and I were amazed that Pan had only woken up twice. And that Lyra hadn’t been upset by any of it, and was perfectly happy to share her room with Pan again the next night.

And that’s how it’s been since Saturday night. It’s Wednesday night now, and last night was the first night ever that Pandra has slept a whole night through. We realize that it might be a fluke, and she will probably still have wake-ups, but the fact that it happened at all has been a shock to our systems. It took Lyra until she was three and a half years old to sleep through the night.

Little girl in a dress
Lyra, the young lady

Not that we felt rested or caught up on sleep yet. That will take a bit longer. But I’m so glad that my children adapt well to change, and that I pushed through the challenge of having Pandra weaned and sleeping well and in a separate room from me before chemotherapy starts. I don’t know how I’m going to react to it yet; but I do know that I will be better off with my own space.

And to top it all off, Lyra, who has so easily taken to sharing her sleeping space, lost her first baby tooth yesterday. She’s not a baby anymore. She hasn’t been a baby in a very long time, but now she’s losing teeth and going to school. Everything, absolutely everything, feels like it’s changed in the last couple of months. I don’t feel bad about this; I like change. But it’s been a challenge learning how to handle it all.

My girls are both lovely, and adaptable, and clever. They’ll have no problem dealing with whatever changes get thrown at us in the near future; of this I am confident. We’ll all be okay.

The summer of transitions and change

Autumn starts officially in a few days. There’s a lot going on in my life right now, and I feel like there’s been a lot going on since June. This has been a summer full of change.

Pandra turned one on June 17th. I started to write about it, and ran out of time in between living my life and taking care of two children. This was all I managed to write before it became an abandoned document:

A year and a day have passed since I went into labour with you, Pandra. I was excited, anxious, and not quite ready for you to arrive, but arrive you did at 9pm on Father’s Day, and we were ultimately happy to greet you to this world.

In the last year you’ve grown and changed so much, and shown me just how different two little girls from the same parents, living in the same family dynamics, can really be. You’re brave and bold and willing to try new things — from climbing to random food opportunities — without a second thought. You move so fast sometimes I have to run to chase you down. You’re constantly taking in the world, ready to react to anything, ready to say “Hi!” to anyone who looks at you, and if they don’t notice you respond by saying “Hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi! Hiiiiiiiiiiii!” until they do.

Your infectious smile still makes your eyes crinkle up, and you’re in the pointing-at-everything phase, which is more fun than I can explain. Apparently, in your eyes, everything is both new and amusing at the same time. Exploring how things fit into other things is one of your favourite pastimes; I can watch you play on the floor, moving from toy to toy, trying to stuff blocks into anything, then taking them back out over and over and over again, and you’ll do it happily for a half hour straight sometimes. Your focus and determination is impressive. I find blocks inside many things where they probably shouldn’t be — like in shoes, behind the ps3, in kitchen cabinets, and scores of other places I just haven’t had time to look into yet I’m sure.

Going round and round and round in a circle game
Going round and round in a circle game

And now, at fifteen months, she’s even more interesting. She’s obsessed with shoes, and she enjoys carrying around stuffed animals. She loves food, and she loves making noise, and she has replaced the constant hi’s with nonstop “daddy! Daddy! Daaaaa…dy!” Just today, she said her own version of Lyra (Yie-ya!). She loves books and being outside and sitting in the grass and eating and so much more.

We took a vacation – a long weekend excursion, really – to Seattle, where we went to fun touristy things and took in a Barenaked Ladies / Ben Folds Five show. It was my last fun weekend before returning to work, and it was a lovely getaway without being too far from home.

Lyra is growing up

And then, on July 9th, Lyra turned five. And I wanted to write something for her, but I didn’t have the focus or the energy to do it, and it never happened. We had a haphazardly planned birthday party at a local park and beach, complete with her requested Transformers scavenger hunt. There was chaos and children all around us, but somehow it all came together with the help of some wonderful friends, and the party was a success. And my little Lyra was five years old, and ready to go to Kindergarten in September.

We tried to fill her summer up with awesome, fun things like daycamp at the Vancouver Aquarium (she loved it!) and a trip to Cultus Lake Water Park (she’s now addicted to waterslides) and other exciting activities. By the end of the summer, she was completely wiped out.

And then there was my work

Somewhere in the middle of that, my maternity leave ended and I had to go back to work. Financially we were a bit messy because there was a four week gap between my last mat leave pay and my first back-at-work pay, but I planned for it and set aside cash and it worked out fine.

And then I was at work for about a month before I was offered a new job at a different organization – focusing on project management with a web and software development company that works primarily for non-profit organizations. There couldn’t be a better fit for me, and I would have been foolish to pass it up. And by that point I really felt like I had done as much for the David Suzuki Foundation as I could in the nearly seven years I had been there. It was time to move on.

But that transition between jobs created another pay period gap, and this one I wasn’t as prepared for. It still worked out fine in the end, but it was a challenging couple of weeks, and we’re still recovering from that on top of paying for full time child care for two children, which we hadn’t needed to do while I was on maternity leave. Plus, we had various days that our daycare was closed, that we realized was going to be hard to deal with, since we have no family leaving nearby who can help us out with the girls. Everything was a challenge, it seemed.

Life was complicated, but we were working through it. I was excited to be starting a new job, and happy with everything in my life. The challenges were nothing more than mildly irritating, most of the time.

Kindergarten is a different world

Lyra started Kindergarten at the beginning of September, with a gradual entry into full days at school. I had to learn how to pack lunches that she would eat, and how to get her and Pandra to their respective care facilities (nowhere near each other, of course) and still make my train on time to get to work. Adam’s mother visited from Ontario and helped us immensely with child care challenges for two weeks.

It was another series of transitions and upheaval, and it was not easy, but we kept working through it, because that’s what you have to do. I find it hard to believe that the beginning of September was really only a few weeks ago, and that this is only Lyra’s second week at school.

She’s loving Kindergarten. Today she told me that she has a friend, and she actually remembered her friend’s name. This is not a common thing for Lyra. Most days she doesn’t want to tell us about what she did if we ask, so I’m trying to learn the balance of showing her that I want to know about her day without pressuring her to give me a full report. She has to come to me with what she wants to talk about – there’s no getting it out of her otherwise. She’s practically a teenager already, sometimes, with the way she talks to us. “Mom, I don’t want to tell you about my day!!”

But she’s so happy going to school most days (when she isn’t having a super-tired morning) and she comes home happy. I’m just glad that school is such a good experience for her so far. I will continue to silently hope that it never turns into my school experience… but she’s much more confident a child than I ever was, so I’m hoping that helps.

And of course…

If you’re keeping track of my recent posts, you already know about the exciting journey I’m taking through the Canadian health care system. And this comes on the tail end of what is probably the biggest series of changes I’ve ever been through in my lifetime. The summer felt long, and short. It was full of sunshine and smiles and adventure and change. My family grew older, and our ties to each other grew stronger, and we’ve had a wonderful time with each other.

On September 4th, just before all of the health issues came crashing down around us, Adam and I had our eight wedding anniversary. We were too broke to celebrate it, much like we were too broke to celebrate Adam’s birthday on August 12th. I’m hoping to find a way to celebrate both of these things around October 1st, which is my birthday, but we may not be able to spend any money around then either. We’ll just keep putting it off until we can manage it. It’s just not time yet, I guess.

And so, with the end of summer and the beginning of fall, I’m hoping to see a bit less transition and a bit more settling in to routines, figuring out how we work, and working on this lymphoma thing, if that’s what it is. For now I’ll just ride the big wheel and see what’s on the other side, I guess.

Reasons given by my four-year-old when she wakes up in the middle of the night

It’s the luck of the draw. Sometimes you produce a child that sleeps. Sometimes you don’t. Our oldest is a preschooler now — and at four years old she’s almost as terrible a sleeper as she was as a wee baby. Her little sister sleeps far better at eight months than the older one ever has.

Not enough sleep at night leads to passing out on the couch for mommy. Not usually for Lyra, though.
Not enough sleep at night leads to passing out on the couch for mommy. Not usually for Lyra, though.

It’s a rare night that doesn’t find her standing beside our bed staring at us in the darkness or wandering out to the living room where we’re watching an episode of Doctor Who or playing video games; sometimes in tears, sometimes just waiting for the right moment to speak, standing and staring at us creepily. And it’s some of the things that she says that are the icing on the cake.

“Freckles fell off my bed” – she sleeps on a futon. Freckles the three-foot-long stuffed lizard toy half-slid off the futon. Apparently it was easier to get up, open the door, come in to our room, wake us up, make us retrieve Freckles and place him next to her on the bed again than it was to just reach over and pick it up herself. This has been used more than once.

“I have a bad song in my head and it makes me not sleep.” – In this case, the music from Super Mario Galaxy. Yeah, I get that. I told her to hear a Deadmau5 song instead. It only kind of worked.

“My pillow is too hot.” – Umm. What?

“I can’t find my Quetzalcoatlus” – Who can even pronounce that at 3am?

“I don’t want to use my pillow anymore.” – Then maybe just push it off the bed and go back to sleep? This requires an announcement?

“I have to do my pee.” – Us: You’re in the living room. Please go to the bathroom. No, don’t take off your pyjama pants in the middle of the living room… the bathroom is down the hall. Wait, that’s mommy & daddy’s bedroom… back up there. Into the bathroom you go. And done.

“I had a bad dream about tiny robots on the floor.” –  Curse you tiny robots. Curse you!

“My leg/arm/eye/stomach hurts.” – When asked to point to where it hurts, she either can’t do it or changes her mind to something else that hurts.

“Your game/video is too loud.” – Oops. We’ll turn that down.

“I’m sad.” – When asked why, she doesn’t know. Acknowledge the sad and move on.

“I lost my penguin.” – To her credit, she tried to find the penguin first; by turning on every light, dragging blankets and sheets across the room, and upending everything in sight. It was on her bed.

“My cars aren’t parked.” – Followed by a trip to the living room to park her cars, if she thinks she can get away with it.

“I’m ready to wake up. Is it time to wake up? I want to watch a video. Can I play games on the computer?” No. Just no.

“What are you guys doing?” – We’re sleeping. Or we were. Now we’re silently raging against the darkness, or crying into our pillows. We miss you, sleep.

 “I’m really, really awake, and I don’t know what to dooooo.” – For the love of all things good, please just go back to sleep. If you can’t sleep, read a book to yourself. But please let us sleep now, it’s 3am.

“I don’t have any company. You and Daddy get to sleep together, but I’m all alone.” – Heartbreaking, but you won’t fit in our crowded bed. When your sister gets older you can share your room and complain about it to her from the top bunk.

 “Daddy, you have to put the toilet seat DOWN when you’re done!” – After a bathroom break at 2 in the morning. Normally she goes back to bed right away. This time she had to come and tell us about her irritation with the toilet seat. She has a point, daddy. This could be my favourite one… who knew it started so early?

“I’m lonely.” – Actual translation: I’ve run out of plausible reasons to be awake and this is my last ditch effort to get you up. That doesn’t make you feel any better to hear it from your four-year-old daughter. When did she learn what lonely means?

I know that I’ve missed a lot of great excuses for not sleeping, but I’m generally too incoherent in the middle of the night to remember some of the amazing things she says to us when she wakes up. If we’re in bed it’s usually her dad that tucks her back in, because as soon as I move the baby magically knows that I’ve left the room and wakes up, and that’s the last thing we want in the middle of the night.

At least I know where she gets that feeling of ‘when I sleep I miss out on everything amazing that’s happening!’ I feel exactly the same way most of the time. I’ve just learned to ignore it, and have spent enough hours of the night awake, bored, and lonely to know that usually I’m not missing out on anything.

Happy new year and welcome to 2013!

Lyra dressed the family up as Butterfly Dragons for Halloween this year.
Lyra dressed the family up as Butterfly Dragons for Halloween this year.

The new year arrived for me with a terrible bout of the flu. I got sick on January first and spent the next week alternating fevers, chills, and whole-body aches. I even got Adam to stay home from work for a day to take care of the girls so I could just be sick. I should have made him take two days off, but I felt guilty so I sent him to work. Fortunately for me I have local friends who were willing to help keep Lyra entertained.

When I was finally on the mend, both Adam and Lyra caught it and were sick for days. Pandra caught a milder version of it; she only had a fever for one day instead of three, fortunately. In retrospect, she may have just been teething and had a mild cold. The rest of us suffered from all the usual flu symptoms — aches and pains, fever, nonstop chills, and a headache that didn’t go away for about a week.

Yes, the first two weeks of 2013 have been challenging. But we’re on the mend now — just working on evicting the bronchitis that followed the flu. We’re all nearly better, finally.

Although I’ve missed the standard beginning-of-the-year timing, this still seems like a great time for a family update. Welcome to the Silvers Year In Review!

Sporting the 'Vancouver Mom' uniform - babywearing rain poncho, baby, coffee.
Sporting the ‘Vancouver Mom’ uniform – babywearing rain poncho, baby, coffee.

Jenny

I’m half-way through my maternity leave and trying not to think about going back to work yet. The idea is scary, and the complicated future I’m looking at is just plain terrifying. My 1.5 hour commute is going to be awful with two kids in daycare, and then in September Lyra will be starting full-day Kindergarten, which means she’ll need after school care. I haven’t started looking for daycare options yet, but I realized this week that I must do so soon if I want to get this figured out. That means I have to think about work to some extent, because I need to know what the big picture is going to look like before I can sort out the little details. Thinking about it is overwhelming on the heels of the flu and bronchitis, so I haven’t dealt with it yet.

Otherwise, I’ve started to feel a bit too ‘stay-at-home-mom’-ish, so I’m trying to find all sorts of random web projects to fill the void. I’m volunteering some web work for a local mountain bike organization, I’m working on some rewrites for a friend’s website, and I’m setting up another friend’s new website to support her creative work. None of this is really fulfilling, but at least it’s something to pass the time and keep me a little bit sharp.

What I want is a creative project, but I can’t seem to come up with one that interests or excites me. I had one idea, but it required external input that wasn’t really forthcoming, so I’m abandoning it for now. Perhaps it will be revisited someday. In the meantime, I’m wracking my brain trying to come up with a creative, interesting writing project.

I’ve also decided to take up running, because I haven’t been able to get out on my bike so much lately. I’m doing it properly with a learn-to-run clinic, and hoping I don’t hate it too much because exercise is good for me. I’ve been out once so far, and ouch. I need to get on my bike more once the season gets better. I’m weak and don’t want to ride in the wet and cold weather.

Instead of exercise and creative work, I’ve been playing with children when they’re awake and playing Civilization 5, Red Dead Redemption, and Mass Effect 3 when they’re not. Perhaps not the most fulfilling use of my time, but it’s sure a lot of fun. Oh, and Lyra makes me play Bastion sometimes so she can watch me play.

Adam shares his joy at finding a remote controlled astronaut.
Adam shares his joy at finding a remote controlled astronaut.

Adam

Adam is enjoying his no-longer-new job. He’s been there for more than a year now, and it’s keeping him interested and challenged, so he’s overall pretty happy with the state of affairs. He’s also playing various games — Super Mario Galaxy and Zelda: Twilight Princess with Lyra, and MechWarrior Online.

He’s been avidly following all the space/science news, of course, with the Mars Rover and Canadian Chris Hadfield up in the Space Station, among other things. Lyra gave him a microscope she found at Value Village for Christmas. It’s fantastic; brand new in the box from 1971 or so. He hasn’t had a chance to really use it yet, but he’s looking forward to looking at very small things with Lyra’s help… once she figures out how to properly look through it.

The more Lyra grows, the more I think he enjoys spending time with her and sharing his enthusiasm about things with her. She knows the names of all the planets and can identify them because he’s shared his astronomy love with her. They bond over things like Transformers and video games they can play together. It’s lovely to watch him share these things with her, and watch her respond so enthusiastically. The two of them have a blast together. He’s a great daddy.

I’ve been making him put Pandra to bed more often lately, too, in the hopes that she falls for it someday. It hasn’t been entirely successful yet, but I’m stubborn. Unfortunately when it comes to Pandra, daddy means playtime, not sleeptime. We’ll just have to keep working on that.

Lyra and Swoop the Quetzalcoatlus have many adventures
Lyra and Swoop the Quetzalcoatlus have many adventures

Lyra

Ah, Lyra. Four has been a fantastic year for her. She’s clever and learning how to be effectively manipulative, as clever children do. Her current obsessions include dinosaurs (there are so many of them that didn’t exist when I was a kid, and she knows them all by name), Deadmau5, collecting realistic animal toys — the toy-like ones just aren’t suitable in her eyes — and playing video games. She has her own Chrome profile and can click on appropriate bookmarks to take her to her favourite games, or to Youtube to find good live videos of Deadmau5 shows.

It’s so much fun watching her learn language. She asks what words mean all the time, and sometimes we struggle to explain them. When she asked us why New Year’s Eve was important, we couldn’t answer her. It felt like a learning experience for us… Arbitrary dates are very hard to explain, and when we tried it became even more meaningless.

One of the funniest things she does lately is tell jokes. They’re usually terrible at best, or make no sense whatsoever, but that’s what makes it so awesome. Her first joke she learned from a cartoon dog on the PBS Kids website:

“Why do cows have bells? Because their horns don’t work!”

Everyone laughs when she tells this one, so it’s become a staple in her story-telling. We’ve heard it so many times now that we’ve begged her to learn new jokes. And that’s when she makes up her own jokes that don’t make any sense:

“When cats laugh water comes out of their noses!”

Still pretty funny, but in a different way.

I’ve made her get into the new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic show because of my own love of My Little Pony. Fortunately for both of us the show is AWESOME, and provides some fantastic female role models and realistic situations in a magical pony setting. She enjoys it and has a bunch of the toys. Sometimes we play ponies together and I’m reminded of the times I spent fabricating a My Little Pony world with depth, drama, and endless storytelling opportunities. I still have those ponies in storage. I’m anxious to share them with her and her sister.

She’s grown so much taller in the last six months that people comment on it regularly. She’s now 43″ – close to four feet tall — and still the same weight that she’s been for almost two years, but stretching out and growing up.

Four is a great age. It’s once again the best age she’s ever been. She’s becoming such an interesting little girl.

Kitchen sink bathtime!
Kitchen sink bathtime!

Pandra

At six months old, Pandra is still developing her own personality. It seems like she’s going to be more active than Lyra, but I can’t be sure. She has an infectious grin that hints at mischief and always reaches her eyes. She’s comfortable being passed around to whomever wants to take her. Her favourite person in the world is still Mommy, but her big sister Lyra is definitely right up there and always makes her laugh. And she loves playing with her Dad, of course.

She’s on the verge of crawling now, and can hold herself sitting upright for a long time. She only topples over now if she’s reaching for something and forgets to keep herself up. As for crawling, she can get around by dragging her body across the ground, but she’s also up on her hands and knees rocking back and forth all the time — it’s only a matter of time before she gets it figured out.

As of this past week, Pandra has four teeth — two on the top and two on the bottom. Her newfound top teeth help her make the most irritating grinding sound in the world. I try not to let it bug me, but it makes me crazy when she clacks them together and grinds them against each other. Even thinking about it makes me shudder. But I can’t really blame her – a week and a half ago, there were no top teeth there. It’s all new!

She’s also just starting to copy things. Just today I noticed she was trying to wave back when someone waved at her. She understands when I make the sign for milk (and say milk) — I know because she gets crazy excited and tries to attack my shirt with her face until I make milk available to her once I’ve said it. She might even be signing it herself soon.

Pandra still looks like her sister did at the same age, but she’s got her own features too. She’s so much bigger than Lyra was — she even fits appropriately-sized baby clothing! Her cheeks, while still huge and ridiculously cute, aren’t quite as crazy as Lyra’s were at the same age. There is no question that these kids are related, though. Some photos make it impossible to tell which is which.

It feels like this time in Pandra’s life is going by so much quicker than it did with Lyra. Maybe it’s because I’m busier, keeping two kids happy and healthy instead of just one. Time is going faster. If I think about it too much I feel melancholic. But I love having this year off to spend with her and her sister.

2013

And so that’s the family as of the beginning of 2013. This year is going to be a lovely one. We have plans to travel back east for a family visitation. We’re hoping to get some camping in with the girls, and do some little weekend road trips to random destinations. We’re getting a puppy in the springtime. There will be adventures!

I don’t know exactly what’s in store for us this year, but we’re a happy little family unit and whatever we do together will be fun. Even if it’s just staying home and playing video games with each other.

To Pandra at four months old

My dear Pandra, you are four months old. You have made herself quite at home and I’m starting to forget what things were like before you arrived, when it was just me, your dad, and your big sister Lyra. At four months you’ve really started to show your personality. You may look almost identical to Lyra at the same age, but you are definitely not the same as she was. And you’ll have to forgive me for this, but Lyra is the only small girl I’ve learned this much about, so it’s hard not to compare you to her. I promise I’ll try to keep it to a minimum as you get older.

Physically, you’re a lot bigger than Lyra was — you’re already over 14 lbs. Lyra had barely broken ten pounds by the time she was six months old. You’re a lot more active, too. You roll over and hold your head up higher than Lyra did at this age, and you love tummy time while she generally hated it and wanted out after a minute or less. You’ll happily hang out on the floor, rolling over and back, kicking merrily at the air, and grabbing at whatever’s nearby. Lyra didn’t want us to put her down — she was in tears and assumed the tigers were coming for her the moment she left our arms, generally.

Four months old today

Sweet Pandra, you’ve been a lot easier a baby than Lyra was at the same age. Or you mostly have. That tiger-panic I mentioned about your sister? You don’t get that. Yes, you cry, but it’s just crying. And you sleep. You. Sleep. To this day, Lyra has issues with sleep. She was three years old before she slept through the night. Even the newborn version of sleeping through the night — five hours or more — was so rare before she was three that it felt like heaven when it happened.

But you, my lovely little sleeping baby, you have been such a wonderful, normal, sleeping baby, that I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot. You’re up maybe three times a night, sometimes only two, and you nurse and go back to sleep in minutes. You let me put you down when you’re awake, and drift off to sleep on your own. It’s a whole new world of baby sleepytime that we’ve never experienced, and I want to thank you for it.

For the first month after you were born it wasn’t quite as easy — you had yelling sessions that would go on for at least an hour or two, between 1:00 and 4:00 in the morning. We gave it a name: Yelling Hour. It graduated into something else when you got even louder or inconsolable: Pandramonium, as named by our friend Steve. Oh how clever we were.

I watched a lot of the summer Olympics in London to pass the time in the middle of the night, while you were up and yelling. It was so much like the times I spent up in the middle of the night with Lyra watching the summer Olympics in Beijing when she was a newborn. I will probably forever have a soft spot for the summer Olympics because of the two of you.

You’re still the calm little baby that had the steady heartbeat throughout labour. You take everything in with huge blue eyes, and it takes a lot to upset you. You let us know quickly and effectively when you are upset, however. It’s possible that you’ve damaged my eardrums on more than one occasion, and you’ve definitely set the bar for high-pitched scream against which I will compare all other screams. It’s both loud and high, and it rattles my brains enough to have given me more than one headache. Fortunately you give us a warning (usually) before you launch the full-on sonic attack — the epic sadface, or various levels of fussing and complaining that escalate if we don’t respond.

And the chatter! You like to chatter. It feels like you’re constantly making some sort of sound, endless baby sounds as you explore what it’s all about. Will you be a non-stop talker in the tradition of the Silver family? Lyra has her talkative moments, but she’s also content to sit in silence and keep her thoughts to herself — nowhere near as much of a chatterbox as you seem to be. I have to wonder if I’m destined to sit at the dinner table listening to you and your dad talk over each other, much like his family seems to do. We’ll have to wait and see.

Your eyes are bright and you’re endlessly curious already. You charm people, and I receive endless compliments on how cute you are, how quiet you are, how aware you are of what’s going on around you. I remember receiving similar comments about Lyra, and I feel blessed to have another bright, curious, and beautiful little girl.

I can see a fiery spirit in you already. You’re quick to laugh and quick to anger. You’re an active baby — you kick, you roll over, and you’re constantly flailing. You love being tossed around, and I think you’re a lot more physical than your big sister. But still, you watch and consider everything so closely, and you adore your big sister — you light up every time you see her and she can make you laugh when no one else can. She loves you just as much, and seems anxious to spend as much time with you as she can. She’s already looking forward to getting bunk beds, and playing with you for real, and she loves to show you everything that you’ve never seen before, which is everything. She’s excited by the prospect of growing up with you, and it’s amazing to watch how much she loves you.

Of course, we all do — your sister, your daddy, and your mommy are all so happy to have you in our lives, and we can’t wait to share the world with you. There will be so many adventures!

Mommy guilt and daughters

A friend once explained to me that having two kids was like being married to two people at once — you feel as strongly for one as you do the other, and it can be just as complicated.

I’m starting to understand what he meant.

The love part I already felt, of course. Before I had two kids I honestly wondered how I could care as much for the second as I did for the first, but I did. It just happened that way. The complicated part wasn’t as obvious. But now that I’ve been home with both Lyra and Pandra for the last three months or so, it’s become more clear.

I don’t think Lyra likes me much right now.

Lyra and her dinosaur
Lyra can play with her toys happily by herself…

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still her mommy. She still needs and wants me around. But if there’s someone else around who can help her with things, do fun stuff with her, read her stories, or anything like that, she’s choosing them over me.

I can’t blame her for it. Nearly every moment of time I’ve spent with her over the past three months has included Pandra. I can’t play toys on the floor with her because I’m nursing Pandra. I can’t run around the field with her because I have Pandra in the wrap and can’t run with her. I can’t give her my complete, undivided attention for very long because Pandra interferes. And Lyra has never complained about Pandra, or shown herself to be particularly jealous.

What has changed is her relationship with me. She tunes me out more, as expected I guess, since I’m now the authority of her daily life. She gets mad at me and refuses to tell me things. She shows her preference to spend time with other people. I’d be tired of hanging out with me too, considering all the time we spend together now.

On the other side of things, my relationship with her has changed too. I have to be more than I was before, since I’m her daily source of entertainment, education, or whatever other activities she may need. I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m not very good at that part. I don’t enjoy coming up with or carrying out age-appropriate activities. I’m not creative in the right ways to be very good at it, and what’s more, I don’t have fun doing it. So I’ve taught her how to play some computer games, and I try to do things like bake with her (she’s only interested in the eating part, really)… things that I enjoy too. I take her to playgrounds and she runs loose and plays with other kids. I take care of her — she gets the things she needs. But I’m not a teacher, I’m not a daycare, and I’m not a kid who can play at her level. When I do push myself to do things like this, I don’t have much fun, and I’m sure Lyra can tell.

I’m happy that she’s in preschool – for two hours, three days a week, she’s getting some of those activities in, and meeting and playing with other kids. I’m getting time alone with Pandra (and sometimes, if Pandra naps, time alone, period). But I wonder, and I’m worried. If we don’t have fun, or if I’m distracted taking care of a three month old baby, or if I’m just exhausted and frustrated and tired of trying to entertain the bottomless pit of boredom known as my Lyra, is it going to hurt us somehow?

Mommy guilt

Tonight Adam told me that Lyra confided something in him that I would hope she would be willing to tell either of us. She said she didn’t want to tell us about it at all.  I’m glad she has that strong of a relationship with her dad — I shouldn’t be upset that she told him about it and not me. I am, but not the way I thought I would be. What I’m upset about is this feeling of guilt — that I’ve somehow done something wrong in my mommy duties lately, and that I should be working harder to not get frustrated with her, and trying to get better at keeping her engaged.

Being a mom is hard. Mommy guilt is painful.

I’m afraid of somehow ruining our relationship. I think it’s a bit early for that, but I guess it’s better to keep that fear in mind and act to prevent it than it is to realize someday in the distant future that it’s already happened, and that I’m not someone she trusts or wants to be with.

And so, I’m up at one o’clock in the morning, worrying about how to fix things. And I might even be on the right track.

I need to find something special that Lyra and I can do together — just the two of us, no Pandra, no Daddy, no uncle Jordy. We need to spend time together in a way that isn’t tinged with frustration on either of our parts, and it has to be doing something that both of us enjoy. Now I just need to figure out what, and fit that into our schedule somehow.

Being a mom is way more difficult than being married. And I’ve got two girls now, plus I’m also married. It’s both fragmenting and infinitely fulfilling.

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?

 

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
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!

Don’t blink, or you’ll miss something important

Two nights ago I handed the baby to my husband and settled in to put Lyra to bed. Her bedtime routine hasn’t changed much since we started doing it — two stories, two songs, a couple of minutes just sitting with her or lying next to her before saying good night and leaving the room. Since we brought Pandra home it’s mostly been Adam doing bedtime stuff with Lyra, since the baby is often cranky right around that time of night. Lyra doesn’t mind, and because she spends so much time with me during the day I think she actually prefers it to some extent — she just loves storytime with her daddy.

But Pandra was in a reasonably good mood, so she got to hang out with her daddy while I read stories and sang songs for her big sister.

Somehow in the past month and a half I’ve completely missed out on how big a big sister she’s become.

I don’t know when she got so tall…

We sat down and read the books, then turned off the lights and I sang her two songs. There used to be a variety of songs to choose from, but these days every night she wants to hear only the same two songs: The Rainbow Connection and Inchworm. I sang them and then lay down to cuddle with her for a couple of minutes. When I sat up to leave, I asked her for a hug and she climbed into my lap. That’s when it hit me.

I don’t know when it happened, but the tiny waif of a child who fit snugly on my lap and could curl up into a ball in my arms has turned into a long-limbed, gangly, almost awkward little girl-creature. It is awesome and adorable and I love that she’s growing up, but in that moment of realization, that the last physical traces of my baby girl had disappeared in what felt like the blink of an eye, hit me all at once. I wrapped my arms around her and held her in my lap where she didn’t fit the same as she used to, and I had to struggle not to start crying in front of her. Tears were running down my cheeks in the dark, but I didn’t let her know it, because there was no way I could explain to her why her mommy was crying. Even now writing this down I’m crying… fortunately she’s fast asleep on the couch next to me, because I still can’t find the right words to tell her why I’m sad.

The thing is, I’m not really sad. I’m excited to see her grow, I love who she is now and who she’s becoming every day, and I’m infinitely proud of all sorts of things she does and says and learns. I wouldn’t turn back time to recover the baby version of her — or the toddler version of her — if given the opportunity. The tears aren’t tears of joy though… they’re as unexpected as the sudden realization that she has changed so much without my noticing until that moment. I miss the big leaps because I see all the tiny steps, so when I have a moment like that one, when I’m holding her and those emotions are hitting me like a tonne of bricks, it’s jarring. The only human way I could possibly react was to cry.

And otherwise, just reassure myself that I am paying attention, and I need to keep doing so. I don’t want to miss a thing.