Thursday, September 29, 2011

Back to Work! (Not that this hasn't been work....)

Well, it's arrived. My last day of my maternity leave. No, I'm not going back to work on on Friday. Rather, it's the last day Otto and I have home alone together before I go back to work on Monday. My maternity leave has felt of two parts: Monday-Thursday while Stella's at school and Tyler's at work, and Friday-Sunday when the whole family is home.

Kicking it with Otto-man

I feel bittersweet about the return to the work. In some ways, I dread finding the new new-normal. We have this routine down, with mornings getting Stella and Tyler out the door, time to nap as needed, and time to run errands and cook dinner before everyone else is home. Going back to work is definitely going to mix that up. And, of course, I'll miss being around Otto so much just as he's opening up more to the world and getting more fun.

But, to be truthful, part of me is also happy to get back to the adult Sarah. The one who can focus on a task for more than an hour at a time and gets to have a fulfilling professional life in addition to being a mom. Because I've been able to (and chosen to) exclusively breastfeed, Otto and I have been inseperable since his birth. In some ways, having some time alone beyond the one or two times I've made a 20 minute run to the grocery store will be welcome, too.

Part of the sadness probably is also due to the fact that I've enjoyed these early days with Otto more than I did the first time around. Partly because I think we're more experienced this time around. Partly Otto is probably just a bit of an easier baby. Partly because of the sunny days. And partly because we haven't had our life turned upside down. As I've mentioned before, with Stella around adding Otto to the mix hasn't given us carte blanche to mix things up. She still needs her usual routine, so it's been more a process of incorporating Otto into family life than creating a new life with kids.

And my own sadness can be tempered by the fact that I'm excited that Tyler (who will likely soon be the more frequent contributor) is going to be stay-at-home dad for the next few months. Tyler and I both took off the first three months with Stella, and he still watched her part-time when I went back to work. With Otto, he's been home some but working a contract gig the last six weeks or so, so he hasn't had nearly as much one-on-one time with him yet. And because Tyler is such a great dad, I'm excited for Otto to get to have so much time with him, too!

It's going to be an interesting week, for sure. Otto hasn't yet had a bottle, and I'm a little worried about how tired I'll get (Otto's been back to up 4+ times a night), but we'll forge ahead! Onward!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pacific Beach, 2011

Last year, we made our first family trip to Pacific Beach with our friends Alison and Rhett. We camped at the state park and spent lots of time letting Stella and their dog Bisou run around in the sand. This year, Alison asked if we wanted to join them again, this time renting a house instead of camping since we both had little ones. (Fun fact, Alison had her son Oliver two days before Otto was born!) So, with a house rented, a good weather forecast, and our car packed to the gills, we set off on our first family overnight trip since Otto came on the scene.

Me and Otto hanging with Alison and Ollie!

We stayed in a little house a few blocks off the beach called the Salty Dog, and I think we'd all agree it was a little...salty. Clean and adequate for sure, but I don't think there was one 90-degree angle in the entire place. But it was a fine home for four adults, one toddler, two babies and one dog for two nights.

View down Pacific Beach--we were happy to get some sun, but we also love the more typical moody Washington coast

And we got there to beautiful sunny weather. The only downside? Infants and sun don't really mix since they can't have any sunscreen at this point. And, despite the sun, there was a fierce wind blowing when we made our first attempt to the beach. Shortly after we got to the beach, Otto decided to get hungry. Seeing as there wasn't any way to shield him from the elements while he ate, I walked the thankfully short walk back with a screaming baby while Stella and Tyler had some fun playing.

The next day was more of the same--sunny but windy. We went down for another visit after breakfast and had better luck. Stella, remembering Mexico perhaps, insisted on wearing her swimsuit--and only her swimsuit--out, but fortunately agreed to add on the layers we'd insisted on bringing along and had a good time building sand castles. Well, she quickly tired of the sand castle building and then ran around Tyler's castle fortress and added decorations she found in the sand.

Otto, geared up for the elements, including a sun hat and fleece blankie. this time he stayed blissfully asleep so I could have some time by the coast!

Stella, starting to build sand castles until she decided it was more fun to....

decorate ones built by...

Tyler, sand castle fortress builder extraordinaire

Queen (or probably princess) of the castles! Notice the swimming suit under the more weather appropriate clothes....

Later that day, we decided to try one of Alison and Rhett's tricks--driving onto a part of the beach further north from where we were staying so we could enjoy the view without all of the elements. And we were excited to have a chance to put the new car to use--four wheel drive and a nice big back we could sit in. Unfortunately, when we got there a sweet but abandoned dog wanted to make friends. Though he was friendly, he scared Stella who then refused to play or sit in the trunk. And the dog's sad situation made the rest of us depressed. So we hung out, briefly, with a little bit of kite flying before heading back to the house.

The new Subaru on the beach

Not exactly how we thought we'd spend that beach trip...

At least someone got to enjoy himself...

Not too surprisingly, between the babies and Stella, we spent a fair amount of time just hanging out in the Salty Dog. Here you can see the fate for newborns of this day and age:

Baby in one arm, iPad keeping the hands busy....

On our last day, we struck beach "gold": it was cloudy but warm and surprisingly calm. We made one last trek down enjoying the moodier Washington coast before it was time to head back to Seattle.

Last visit to the beach, at least for this year! (Otto slept through the whole thing.)

coming back from feeling the icy cold Pacific on my feet. Stella still found it "too loud."

Before we left, we thought it would be great to get a family portrait since we don't often have an easy way to have all of us in the picture at one time. Sadly, the kids didn't seem to be in the mood to cooperate:

Two crying kids, two worn out parents...not quite the portrait we had in mind...

But we did make up for it a bit at the beach:

Family self-portrait. No tears!

Fortunately, Otto was a great traveller, even though he's often a pretty fussy car passenger. And Stella kept up her enthusiasm for being in a "new house" as she calls any hotel or rental, and enjoyed having other adults to pepper with questions. (queue Stella ad nauseum: "Alison, what are you doing?" Lucky for us, Alison and found this cute rather than annoying.) And it was surprisingly calm and easy considering we had two babies about six weeks old in one house!

Already looking forward to next year's trip!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2 Months Stats and Ruminations

Otto's already two-months old!

Otto at two months!

And he's growing like a weed! At his two month well-baby appointment, our doctor confirmed what's pretty much obvious to everyone--Otto is a healthy, strapping young boy. He's already 24.75" long (96th percentile) and 14 lbs 9 oz (also 96th percentile), which, while a workout for us, is apparently a little light for his length.

He's already nearly outgrown his Moses basket....

And here you can really tell he's already about half Stella's weight...

People always say he looks very "boy"--I don't know if that's partially due to his size, but he is sturdier looking and broader-chested than Stella was at this age.

Smiley boy!

It's interesting being mother to a boy. Being a feminist, I was really cognizant with Stella about not "over" gendering her or only introducing girly things. She's got blocks and toy cars, and we purposely often got gender neutral colored things (pacifiers, dishes, etc.) even after she was born. I didn't think there was any need for her to be a super girly infant, and I didn't care if sometimes people assumed she was a boy. (And I still find myself being annoyed about little girls being left out of certain baby themes. Why can't little girls also be "rockstars" and have cute guitar-themed PJs?) But there are such stronger norms about boys not being girly. For example, we were trying to introduce the pacifier using some leftover from Stella's newborn days. He seemed to like one best that happened to be girly (a pink heart on the end of it), and we found ourselves discussing how we felt about using it in public or getting something less feminine. It's also interesting how it plays out in the way we talk about/to Otto. He's "little man" versus Stella's "baby girl" and "flirts" when he's smiling. There are probably myriad other tiny ways we telegraph certain expectations about being a boy that are so deeply ingrained in our subconscious that we're not even fully aware of them. It's something I'll be interested in continuing to ponder and examine.

And Otto's just different from Stella, too, in temperment and certain preferences. On the happy side, he seems to be moving towards being a better sleeper than Stella. For the past week or so, he's only woken up once or twice a night, which I hope he keeps up as my return to work is fast approaching which will mean far fewer opportunities to nap and play catch up! And he hasn't taken to a pacifier (which we find a mixed blessing given Stella just gave hers up) but instead seems to want to suck on his fist. He's more content to sit quietly (Stella was constantly in motion), but, like her, he wants to be sitting up or facing out.

Working on finding his thumb/fist

Being held, upright of course, by daddy

It's also been interesting to adjust to being a mother of two instead of just one. I've heard people worry that the second baby gets the short end of the stick. In some ways, I suppose it's true. But I almost feel like I'm a better mother of two than one. With Stella, I sometimes just felt like I had a hard time balancing spending quality time with her and feeling like there were other things I needed to do with my time. With Otto, that's just a fact of life. And because we've been through it before and don't intend on doing the baby thing again, the sweet things are that much sweeter and the less sweet times seem less bad. This time we really do know that it will all be short-lived.

Our two babies! (Of course, Stella needed her time in the photo, too....)

And it's cute to see the two of them starting to develop a relationship. Sure, a lot of times Otto's just along for the ride that is life with Stella, but he's also fascinated by her and will get to experience a lot more as a baby. And I think Stella will love it when he's a little older and more interactive. Yesterday, she was playing peekaboo with him and trying to give him toys to play with.

Along for the ride

Looking up to big sis!

I've got another week and a half of maternity leave. So while things feel like they're well in hand now and we're getting a good handle on this family of four thing, we're all about to have a new adjustment as I go back to work and Tyler starts his paternity leave with the growing, amazing Otto!

Friday, September 2, 2011

2 and 3/4s

When Stella turned two, she enjoyed having cupcakes and seeing friends (if she also found it a little overwhelming when suddenly everyone was singing and looking at her). About three months later, she got really interested in my birthdays--a bit unfortunate since her birthday was then a *long* ways away. So we've been talking about how far off her birthday is for awhile now (after Mommy, before Daddy) and it occurred to me that while we still tell people she's 2 1/2, she's getting closer and closer to being a three-year-old. So while Otto's been going spotty and smiley and cooing, this is what Stella's been up to.

Stella at the beach, looking so happy and carefree!

As she has been for awhile, Stella continues to be very independent. She picks out her own clothes and dresses herself and has strong opinions about what to wear. And lately that only includes dresses and skirts, sometimes in exciting color and pattern combinations.

Red and white polka dot dress, striped tights and blue plaid shoes? Yes, please!

the glasses are upside down, but at least the shoes are on the right feet!

Shirt, skirt and mommy's shoes were the choice this day

She's also discovered the little girl drug called Disney Princesses, which might have some relation to the wearing of skirts and dresses. Now she wants long hair "like a princess." Since seeing "Tangled," it's also long hair to the floor that goes "around and around and around." (We've tried explaining that this will make her least favorite part of bathtime--combing her hair--that much harder to no avail.) I don't think her first haircut will be coming anytime soon!

A new favorite dress with the appropriate accessories--nametag beads turned necklace and bracelets, and, of course, long hair

She's also full of songs--songs she's learned from school (Mary had a little lamb, baa baa black/green/pink/etc. sheep, skinamarinky dinky dink, etc.) and, increasingly, those she makes up to fit the occasion at hand. (Hello, Tyler genes!)

She's also expressing more of her creativity and doing make believe--I'm the princess, and she's the queen (again with the princesses!), creating elaborate picnics for all of us in the living room, and setting up her tent for all of us to sleep in, with blankets and stuffed animals for each of us, including Otto!

Picnic for me and Stella

Then she created picnics for Tyler and Otto, too, recognizing that Otto doesn't really need much food yet (in the foreground)

She's also more interested in what's going on around her. A regular refrain to Tyler and I is, "What are you talking about?"

And, excitingly, she is now soothie (aka pacifier) free! We'd been a bit reluctant to make the break, given the arrival of Otto, but it was definitely time. While on our weekend away at Pacific Beach (more on that soon!), she'd bitten a big hole in her soothie and had to go without for a day and night. And this was getting to be a regular occurrence, and a further sign that she was too old for them. We gave her the last one, as promised, when we returned home and told her to be careful with it if she wanted it for any length of time. I think that she must have been ready to give it up, because the next day she gave it to me and told me to throw it away and that was that. The first night was the hardest as far as crying up and waking up in the middle of the night. The second day she cried a bit at nap and bedtime, but it was better than I expected in that she didn't ask for it umpteen times throughout the day. But by the third day it was over, and I think she also felt really pround of herself.

No more pictures like this--woo-hoo!!

Stella continues to do really well as an older sister. She's gotten less jealous than she was at first and has really incorporated Otto into her little world. When he cries, she'll try and help with blankets or his own soothie (even thought he's not so interested).

Another blessing for Stella being independent--she's adjusted well to the new scene of a slightly distracted Mommy

We'll have another milestone in a few days--she's moving up at her Montessori child care from the toddler room to preschool proper. This will mean a new teacher, a new room, and new kids. We're excited for her, but I feel like I'm getting a peek at how I'll feel when she starts kindergarten. Is there more I should be doing to prepare her? Will she handle the transition OK? Is she really ready?

So that's our daughter! Still the loving, somewhat sensitive, cautious, happy, independent, well-behaved girl who's been in our lives for almost three years! Especially in comparison to Otto, she seems so grown up, yet it occurred to me for all the time and energy that have gone into these years, she probably won't remember any of it!

Beachcombing find for our little girl!

Baby Acne and Baby Smiles and Baby Sounds (updated)

I have not remembered the exact timing of all of Stella's developmental milestones (thank goodness for the blog version of the traditional baby book!), but one I did remember for Otto was that baby acne would likely hit right around four weeks. And why was this less than pleasant baby phase so memorable? Well, Stella's birthday is November 25th, which meant that she was one month at Christmas. Of course, we still thought she was very cute, but she was sporting a teenage complexion and a middle-aged man do for all the holiday photos:

Her head is covered up, but here's Stella out in the snow around 4 weeks old

So I knew with Otto to be prepared. And it did come. Maybe with slightly less vengeance than with his sister, but he's been spotty for a few weeks.

Otto seems to be taking all this baby acne in stride

And really it's no big deal. It will go away and we'll stop having to warn people meeting him for the first time that he's not as his most dapper. Plus, now we get real, honest-to-goodness smiles!

Luckily caught one of Otto's smiles on camera!

In addition to the smiles, we're getting more alertness and facial expressions, like this one which seems to convey, "What the heck are my parents subjecting me to now?!"

Yesterday while trying to crank this out during a quiet moment, I also forgot about the new sounds and noises Otto is making! More than expressions, we're now getting "goo"s and other cute little sounds as he interacts with us.

Now we're hitting the six week growth spurt, eating marathon. Can't believe only one more month before I go back to work!