November 26, 2013

Livvy, 1 Year Old.

five days old

Her eyes began gray. Over the past year the brown has crept in--as though tea leaves were steeping slowly but surely in the twin cups of her eyes. Now only the outer rim of her irises are gray. Those cocoa eyes are crowned by furrowed brows, and there's one deep dimple to punctuate her pouty lips, which remind me of an upside-down heart. Her mouth rests in a natural frown. It's a frown that cries out to be kissed, to be reversed. And I do, and it does.

Along with those gray eyes Livvy's birthmark has faded this past year. I haven't written about it here, but she was born with a large Mongolian spot on her bottom and on up her back. When we first saw it, Nekos and I were alarmed and pressed the buzzer on our hospital bed to ask for a nurse. It was blue-purple, and we worried she'd been bruised during birth. Some people told us she'd have her Mongolian spot forever; others said it would fade dramatically over her first year of life. And it has, along with most other reminders of her newbornness.

A year ago today, Livvy was placed into my arms for the first time. This was the most heavenly feeling I've ever had the pleasure of feeling. Matched only by having Tessa placed into my arms two years and eight months earlier. My long wait was over, and my littlest girl was healthy and stunning. She seemed as relieved to be in my arms as I was to have her there.

I've spent the past 365 days getting to know her, and she is fabulous. I work from home, and she's been here with me every day. I know her best, and maybe she knows me best, too. She's a little feisty, a lot sweet, sly and silly, and very loving. An easy, laid-back baby--not fussy, no problems with teething, no problems with separation anxiety. (Some notable problems, however, with sleeping through the night, but since this is her birthday entry we can talk about that another time.)

Livvy has completed this family. We don't deserve her, but we are so blessed to call this brown-eyed girl ours.

p.s. At the exact moment Livvy was born, this song was playing on the iPod dock Nekos had playing in the delivery room. Look at where we are / Remember where we started out / Never gonna be without each other's love again ...

November 24, 2013

Livvy's First Birthday Party.

Yesterday we had the honor of throwing Livvy her first birthday party. (She turns one this Tuesday.) Especially because she can tend to be an afterthought (being the little sister and all), I loved that she got to be the belle of the Barnes ball yesterday. Livvy doesn't have any friends of her own (yet) so Tessa, Nekos, and I shared our friends with her and invited them over for banana cake (made from this recipe, which turned out divine) and sliders. Beer and juice boxes. My sweet mama came--she is the person who makes Livvy smile the most, which she did so much of yesterday. Nekos played records and the kids played in the sandbox outside. It was crisp and cold but bright and sunny--the first sun we'd seen in a couple of days, and it was so welcomed. Livvy took more steps than I'd seen her take yet--about 10--at her party. I'll be back later this week to write more about our first year with Livvy and as a family of four. For now, it's taken me altogether too long to write this paragraph because I have two little girls vying for a spot on my lap. p.s. Here was Tessa's first birthday party

November 21, 2013

10 Thoughts on a Year of Breastfeeding.

I breastfed my first baby for five weeks. They were five of the worst weeks of my life. When it was over, I was inconsolable. I spent the next year or more feeling like a failure. More so than I have about anything else in my life. Even though I knew rationally that it was totally, completely fine that I couldn't make the whole booby-milky-mommy-nom-noms thing work, I couldn't feel that. All I felt was so sad, so defensive, so regretful. There were times when I looked at baby Tessa, with that satin pile of curls and those eyes that simply devoured me, and cried and said, "Oh, baby, I'm so, so sorry. Mommy is so, so sorry." It was so silly. I know that now. And I even knew that then. I knew that it was insane to beat myself up about it. But I beat myself to a pulp. And I made up my mind that I was gonna friggin' breastfeed my second baby come hell or high water. It has been said that I only had a second baby so I could breastfeed him or her. That's not entirely untrue. Before I had my second daughter, Livvy, I informed more than a few people that I wanted, and deserved, a "do over" with nursing. I got that chance a year ago this week. Here are some of my thoughts/notes on nursing my second daughter for a year:

1) The research. When I was pregnant with Livvy, I read far less about fetal development and childbirth and concentrated instead on studying up on mammary glands. I read Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Breastfeeding from cover to cover, poring over the textbook-style photos of naked boobs with babes attached to them in various positions. I read lots about my first baby's condition--tongue-tied-ness--and about my own postpartum condition--postpartum anxiety. I got prepared. If breastfeeding and postpartum anxiety are the perfect storm, I spent all nine months stocking my storm shelter. I also read and admired books that rhapsodized about breastfeeding in a relaxed, not fanatical way. Like Great With Child by Beth Ann Fennelly, who I recall writing about how a braid of her milk sluiced into her daughter's rosebud mouth. Something like that. Something that made breastfeeding sound just as poetic and possible as it could be. These books were so important for me.

2) The chats. At last, I lightened up about the whole breastfeeding thing. I had lots of conversations with girlfriends--mothers or not--who confessed that they didn't, in fact, think that breastfeeding was the bee's knees. They variously thought it was weird, perplexing, overwhelming, and overly difficult, even impossible; these were perspectives and opinions I needed to hear after drowning myself in the misery of online forums, where everyone knows that breast is best and formula is arsenic and you couldn't possibly love your baby if you put her to sleep by tucking a plastic nipple between her lips.

3) The tenacity. I kept at it. In the beginning, when there were scabs on my nipples. And in the middle, when I was breastfeeding in a car, in a coffee shop, in a bathroom, in a bar, at a festival, at a funeral, on a plane, while I was peeing, while I was eating, in the middle of the night, before dawn, every hour on the hour. And when Livvy was nine months old and I went to San Francisco for four days without her, I pumped for four days. And it totally sucked. And it was humiliating. But I wasn't ready to be done. And I'm so glad I stuck it out. Even though I will never forget pumping in a handicap stall at the Phoenix airport, and I will never forget my best friend watching me pump--the slurp-slurp sound, the grotesque mechanics of it--and proclaiming it so weird. One of the things that struck me the hardest about "failing" at breastfeeding with my first child is that there was no second chance. Once the well had run dry, it was all over. I was so used to being able to have a second go at things, to go away for a bit, have a good night's sleep, return and make amends, and get started anew with something. The second time around I knew full well that when the milk was gone it was gone for good so I had better be sure I was ready to let it go when I did.

4) The veterans. I found it invaluable to have a few girlfriends, seasoned at breastfeeding, who I could call, email, or pull aside and ask assorted questions. Things like, "So.... should I still not be having my period?" "Should the baby really be this distracted during a feeding?" Every baby is different, as is every nursing relationship. But comparing and sympathizing with real women was important for me.

5) The being there. From around four or five months old, Livvy has been an incredibly distracted and squirmy eater, which is why I started supplementing with formula around then. The only time she is insanely into nursing is when she's deliriously tired. Which means that our best nursing sessions happen before nap times and bed times and in the middle of the night. These are the times--in the inky darkness, with just the tick-tock of the clock and the creak of the rocking chair, that I can really relax and drink up the fleeting pleasure that is nursing my beautiful baby girl.

6) The sensuality. I fear I will never feel as feminine as I have while nursing my daughter. My body right now is still a mess. It's wobbly and messy and luscious and voluptuous and squishy and there are three silvery vertical stretch marks on my lower tummy--and I wore exercise shorts and a tee-shirt on a canoeing trip this summer because I was too embarrassed to put on a swimsuit--but I have loved this body this year. It's been generous and benevolent, and I am grateful for it. (Maybe especially now that bikini season is over.)

7) The reactions. Thankfully, I haven't had any problems with strangers deriding me for nursing in public. Probably because I didn't do a whole lot of it and never uncovered. (I made an art out of knotting swaddling blankets around my neck and nursing Livvy discreetly in East Nashville coffee shops.) When anyone did notice, I took some small pleasure in their reactions--a little squirmy and shifty, a little starry-eyed and nostalgic. It seems the sight of one nursing woman makes every other mother recall her own experience, for better or worse. I've loved hearing their stories, and I've welcomed them, especially since I've known both sides of this coin.

8) The culture. Even though I had a great experience nursing this time and am thrilled to have been able to do it, I still say that the breast-is-best people need to shut their fat mouths immediately and go find something better to do with their lives than shame and bully other moms. The Nipple Nazis, especially those in anonymous online forums, are some of the cruelest pieces of shit I have ever come into contact with. To so much as infer that a new, formula-feeding mom is doing anything less than loving her baby as best as she possibly can is almost criminal. It's hard enough to learn how to be a mother without being told from the very beginning that you're doing things all wrong.

9) The golden ticket myth. My first baby got sick a lot. During her first year of life, she had several ear infections and frighteningly high fevers and an incidence of projectile vomiting, and she became quite familiar with the pink goo known as amoxicillin. Each time she got sick, I blamed myself. My second baby has gotten sick, too. Not quite as frequently or as severely--though that may be unrelated to breastfeeding--but enough so that I feel reassured that breastfeeding isn't the magic get-out-of-all-ailments free card that I imagined it to be. Most importantly, and what's come as the biggest relief of all to me: Baby Livvy is no more bonded to me than baby Tessa was. Breast or no breast, a mother loves her baby wildly, recklessly, endlessly.

10) The awesome-or-nothing factor. The first go-round, I thought that if I couldn't do breastfeeding "right," I just shouldn't do it at all. If I couldn't exclusively breastfeed. If I couldn't completely abstain from drinking or taking Benadryl or antidepressants or whatever the case was. This time, I've been way more relaxed and forgiving, less regimented and even more imperfect. I've supplemented with formula plenty. I've given Livvy bottles brimming with non-organic cow's milk, and I've heated those mo-fos up in the microwave. I've done the best I can. And, this time at least, it feels good enough. I thank God for the sweet mercy of a second chance.

Here I am nursing Livvy on the beach in Cape Charles, Virginia last May.

November 17, 2013

Tessa Talk, 3-and-a-Half.

It's been almost a year since we made a video interview with Tessa. Here she was a couple days ago, being interviewed mostly by her dad, with a cameo by Livvy. Thanks so much to Nekos for putting together this video for us.

November 15, 2013

The Final Chapter of the Flooring Saga.

A few weeks ago I had a really big, really boring writing deadline that I needed to meet. To procrastinate from really digging in on this deadline, I decided ("decided" may not be the correct word, as what I actually did was to just "do" and not "think") to finish ripping up the rest of the upstairs carpet. Note to self, for future notice: The worst possible way to procrastinate from doing something awful and stressful is to create more awful, stressful things to do--especially things that make your home look like it's been tossed around by a tornado.

I had removed the carpet from our stairs, the hallway, and the nursery, and painted those floors. The master bedroom was the final chapter in this, the single biggest project I've taken on at our little bungalow. And it was hard work doing all the rooms I'd already done--not only the pulling out the carpet and padding and tack strips and disposing of it part but, much more tediously, being on my hands and knees for hours coaxing up nails and staples and then the sanding and the vacuuming and the scrubbing and the sanding and the vacuuming and the vacuuming. And the sanding. All this before I had the pleasure of covering up these heinous floors with creamy white paint (the painting part was just one big ahhhhh for my soul; all the rest of it was just what I had to do to get to the ahhhhh part).

Because I'd already done the rest of our upstairs floors, I knew what I was up against. Until I found linoleum on much of the floor I uncovered in the bedroom. That's when I remembered that the guy who renovated our house seven years ago had mentioned to us that our bedroom was once a kitchen, and our house once a duplex. That linoleum was a vestige of this home's past, which is baffling to us.

It turns out that linoleum is a real asshole to get off a floor. I spent an evening reading solutions online and found mention of using a hot iron and wet towel to get it off. That definitely ended up working and was how I was able to get all the linoleum up. But it took a long time, and it wasn't fun. And it didn't smell good. Think old, hot, melty, linoleum smell.

Here's a little video I made, when I first realized this iron/wet towel trick would work; repeat times a bazillion and I was finally done getting up the linoleum.

And I have kids, you guys. A baby who wants to get into everything and put everything into her mouth--staples! hot iron! screwdriver! carpet padding! possibly lead-based old paint! stinky, wet, hot linoleum! And another little girl who is really curious and wants to help and finds it really hard to resist the very strong urge to touch wet paint to see if, in fact, it is still wet.

This wasn't a project that could wait though. This is where we sleep every night. It's our little sanctuary after our big, busy, noisy days. So after I got the linoleum up, I paused for about a week to get that writing deadline knocked out, then got back to this project last week and worked over several days to finish up.

And, then, just because I am sort of crazy and because I thought the time was as good as any, I painted our bedroom walls, too. The color is "Sea Salt" by Sherwin Williams. It was two years ago that I painted our bedroom stark white, and it hadn't been sitting well with me. It was such a harsh white. When I saw "Sea Salt" on an acquaintance's walls recently, I realized it was the exact color I wanted in my bedroom. I'd seen the color bouncing around on Pinterest for a while, but seeing it in person--this dreamy, washed-out gray/green/blue--all multi-dimensional and soothing but not boring--clinched it for me.

Other than the paint, the only thing I bought new was this big jute rug (got it for $80, as was having a 65% off sale) and these new Lenda curtains from Ikea. We don't have an Ikea in Nashville, but I was able to order them online--$10 a panel, and the quality is awesome!

I finished everything up yesterday. Finally. Worked in a fever until every last thing was back in its place and every last piece of art hung up. Lit a Glade Apple Cinnamon candle and felt complete. As I was passing the bedroom on my way downstairs, I caught a glimpse of the finished space and felt all ahhhhh insideThis was hard work. No one could pay me to do this kind of thing again, but I'm so glad I did it. I'm so glad that yucky carpet is a thing of the past and these old floors get to live a new life under my family's feet. This place is looking more "me" every year. Does it look like "Nekos"? I wouldn't know. He says he doesn't care and has no input, except to say, "Good job, babe."

Nekos says I need to take the winter off from working on the house. He's right. I've been a little cray and could stand to be less busy, to invite less stress into my life with big, open, wildly flailing arms. I hope to use my beautiful new bedroom to do more relaxing this winter.

November 14, 2013

A Shared Space?

Source: Apartment Therapy
Livvy has not been sleeping through the night. This has been going on for more than a month now. Sometimes the reason is clear--her diaper has failed her, and she's cold and wet and very, very mad about it. Other times, I have not a clue why she is up and wailing her guts out. I bring that up because when this time is over, when my baby is a good, sound sleeper again, and perhaps at the same time that we move her to a big girl bed, we also want to move her into a room with her older sister. Tessa loves this idea. I'm sure they won't always love it, and when they're pre-teens (!!?!) we'll be happy to separate them again, but in the meantime we'd like to get everyone on one floor of the house, and we'd like to reclaim our guest bedroom. (And--obviously--I am always looking for new rooms/spaces to decorate.)

Source: LayBabyLay

I write this little post not just as an icebreaker--as I've been away from my blog for quite a while now--and not just for an excuse to put up some of my favorite shared space inspiration photos, but because I want to ask your advice about shared rooms. Are they better on paper? Will my little girls wake each other up every time one has to potty or upset one another when one shouts "mommy!" frantically in the middle of the night? Of course, I have visions of them whispering and giggling together, of shared bedtime stories and, sometimes, shared beds. But: Would we be crazy to put them in the same room?