Friday, May 29, 2009

Happy First Birthday, Haley!

Haley enjoying her birthday party. Just family--I've said we're not the birthday hoopla type. At this age, they don't even know what's going on. The party consisted of a barbecue on the back porch, swimming in the infinitesimal pool (older girls only--Haley watched this time), cupcakes and gifts. Fun enough for all of us.

Ruby had the job of adding sprinkles to the cupcakes.

Haley looks on with anticipation (or just contentedness).

We decided to celebrate Haley's birthday on the 18th, the night before Sandy left. Even though we weren't doing anything special, I knew if we didn't do it while Sandy was here, I wouldn't have the energy to do it at all. Thanks for all your help, Sandy!

Haley hangs out in the back yard while we get ready for cake.

Haley jabbers on the lawn while Ruby and Claire do some playing and tidying up (this cracked me up--especially Claire's swimsuit. Can't really see it very well on this size video. A good thing, probably).

These present pictures are supposed to be last, but I'm tired of fighting with Blogger. I cannot get pictures to move nowadays (at least not without significant effort).

As is usual for this age, Haley was more into the paper than the presents. But Ruby and Claire made up for that with their excitement over the gifts.

She may not know what's going on, but she's mesmerized, even so!

Going for the flame.

Haley's first cupcake (I think--can't remember those things with the third child). She has had sweets before, though. (In fact, yesterday, I let her suck on a few lollipops she'd found while crawling around in our candy cupboard--wrappers and all--just so I could finish dinner without extra difficulty. Never would have happened with one-year-old Ruby. Pretty sad when I allow things like that just so my life is easier. Maybe someday my decisions will not be based so much on convenience.)

Enjoying her first cupcake.(?) I believe this picture says, "Yum, Mommy!"

She wasn't the only one excited about chocolate!

Laughed so hard I cried on this one. Two things to notice: the rather large chunk of cupcake Ruby carries around for the first minute of the video. (It is significant for the rest of the video.) Also, it took me watching three times (all of which I was laughing hysterically) before I noticed that Claire was pushing Ruby repeatedly at the end. Wow. She knows when her parents are distracted and not paying attention! Cracking down on that kind of thing this week, though. She won't get away with it every time. We will see to that.

The (Real) Birthday Girl

Haley lays on the cheesiness on her actual birthday.

"What's Ruby doing out there, Daddy?" (Okay, so maybe just "Da-Da.")

That it was rainy that day was a stroll down memory lane, as it had been rainy the day she was born, only more so this year. I would have really loved more of that kind of weather while I was in labor. Rain is so soothing to me--at least living here in New Mexico, where it is not common. (This is not our house. It is the house across the street. I was too lazy to walk out in the rain.)

(Again, supposed to be the last picture.) "This is getting boring, Mom."

I was a bad Mommy and took my evening off on Haley's birthday. (Casey's trying to give me one every week--we just started the week before her birthday.) Felt kinda guilty, but then I remembered that I had left Claire on her first birthday, too, and had gone to a wedding. Perhaps I should make it a tradition. Only for the first birthday, though.

Since I'd be gone when Haley actually turned one (at 4:24 p.m.), I asked Casey to try to get a picture of her by the clock then. (I know. Totally cheesy. Really. But I've done it with the other girls on their birthdays, so I needed to keep it up, right?) Well, Case forgot (he was trying to get dinner for them and didn't get any pictures whatsoever). I forgive him . . . but maybe I should have stayed home that night.

Or perhaps I should chuck the picture-by-the-clock tradition. If we have more children, what if one of them is born at 2 a.m.? Am I going to wake them up and drag them to a clock so I can take a picture? Perhaps it is time to say goodbye to this weirdness.

"Should I show my teeth, Mom? Even though it reminds y0u of Laurence Fishburne?"

A few things about our one-year-old: She is 18 lb, 9 oz and 29 inches long. She eats like a champ (often 2-3 cups of pureed food at a sitting--seriously, she may be thin, but she can pack it away, like her sisters before her--as well as nursing 2-3 times a day). She cruises around everywhere and is just now starting to stand without support for more than a few seconds at a time. My guess is, it will be another month or two before she's walking. Her development seems to be more cognitive than physical for the last month or so. She is very thoughtful looking when she plays (wish I knew what was going on in there) and tries to figure things out (how to put a lid on a cup, how to put a toy in a box, what happens when she drops something/throws something/pushes a button, etc.).

Besides "Da-Da," which she has said for many months now, sometimes referring to Casey, but most of the time referring to everything else in her life (so I don't count it as her first word), Haley started saying her first words at the beginning of May: "No, no." (in a sing-songy voice). She has since added to her repertoire, "Night, Night" ("ni, ni") last week. Yesterday, she finally got "Uh-Oh," too. It has been almost painful to hear her try to say this. She'll get caught up in so many "uhs" or too many "ohs" and it seems absolutely exhausting. We can see her trying to figure out which way she's supposed to move her lips so the other sound will come out. I hope to capture it on video, since she will still revert to this way of saying it, and it is half funny and half pity-inducing to see her struggle so much with it.

Signing has plateaued at one: "More." This sign has become the catch-all sign for anything she wishes to communicate: more, please, yes, thank you. I think she means it to be an affirmation of what we ask her: ("Would you like to get out of your bed?" "Do you want Mommy to hold you?" "Are you hungry?" "Are you finished with your Cheerios?") as well as a request for us to ask her those questions.

In relieving news, Haley is starting to resemble, once again, the Haley we once knew. In the last couple weeks, she has stopped fighting us when we put her in her car seat, a high chair or stroller, and has become. . . not less needy, but less demandingly needy. Recently, if she asks to be held (by signing "more," of course. I'm surprised you asked), I will pick her up and she will often be content with that. She will cuddle against me, or suck her thumb and look around, or sit in my lap and babble and play with her toes. The last four months or more, she did not just want to be held, but she'd yell, arch her back and be discontented with that. It made it so that I didn't really want to hold her, since she was crabby no matter what I did.

This change in her (and Claire's recent illness, which has turned her into a sweetly needy child too) has made me realize that it isn't the neediness that I find so difficult, it is the grumpy, demanding, "I wont be happy anyway" neediness that I can't stand. In fact, the sweet neediness makes me sit down, cuddle up and take it easy with them, read a book, talk about their toy, what they're doing or how they're feeling. If they only knew which way to be needy that helps Mommy do what Mommy should do anyway. . .

We think it has to do with teething, but where are the teeth she was getting? Are they still under the surface but not as painful anymore? So far, her smile consists of two big top teeth, and four tiny bottom ones.
A very welcome change has been in the fact that for the past week, Haley has consistently slept through the night (as in 10-12 hours). This has been very refreshing to not wake for a 2 a.m. feeding. About a month ago, she began sleeping through the night now and then, but only this past week has it been more than a couple nights in a row. One may wonder why it has taken so long, and the short answer is that I have not been forcing it. I noticed that the only nursing where I was absolutly certain she was getting lots of milk was the night nursing (probably because I've been resting). With a baby her size, I decided that I would rather live with a baby who still wakes for a night feeding and gets enough to eat than a baby who sleeps through the night and isn't gaining weight. I've already had one failure to thrive baby (having nothing to do with night feedings, but not having enough to eat--even though she ate more than I did as a pregnant and breastfeeding adult). Yeah, it would have been easier to just go to formula, but that isn't even a consideration for me. Maybe with the fourth or fifth child. . .

Haley still knows how to turn on the charm, and seems to know what to do when the camera comes out. A cheesy smile (overly-toothy-and-gummy and squinty complete with shrugging her shoulders) has come upon her much earlier than I remember it with the other girls. They usually started having forced smiles after two, but Haley's been doing it now for months. It's the Laurence Fishburne look to which I referred earlier. She's a funny gal, and cracks us up (and herself, too, sometimes).

At one year, I have to say that we really enjoy our little girl, and are starting to do so more and more as she grows and interacts with us, but we do not feel badly about her being a year old, or wish she were still a baby, even though it went so fast (a complete and total understatement). I will say that I found myself cuddling her and squeezing her a lot a couple weeks before she turned one, wondering where the time had gone. But we are glad she is one and growing up. We look forward to her future antics and developments. God has been so good to see us through this year. If He wills, He will faithfully see us through another.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

One Year Later, and We've All Survived!

In some cultures, it is customary to have a great celebration on the completion of a baby's first year since it is such a milestone for them to make it to that point. It seems only appropriate that our family celebrate the fact that we are all alive and well at the completion of Haley's first year. We've made it through a year with three preschoolers unscathed! God is so gracious. There were many days this past year (possibly close to half of them!) where I wondered if it would ever get better/easier/less stressful/more enjoyable. It's a little sad that when you have children so close together, the emphasis is more often on surviving than enjoying or thriving; but it is what it is, and God is good nevertheless.

For us, one of the most surprising things we've encountered this year has been how many people don't get that parenting three children three and under is taxing and affects every part of our life. Or that having three children in as many years is very different than having three children over a 6-10 year span. There have been only a few conversations I've had this past year where another mom will acknowledge this, and it is reassuring and refreshing when she does. But for the most part, when I express that, no, I don't . . . (do many errands, jam-pack activities into my week, do much of anything outside my home at all), the usual reaction I get is a perpelxed look from a mom with two little ones or three that are spread apart (a look that says, "Really? Why not?!"). Once in a while I'll have a mom interject, "but mine weren't as close as yours," or nod in understanding when I reply that I really don't make it to the mall to shop clearance sales much nowadays, or that we're not doing that thing since we already have one activity this week.

There have been several well-meaning strangers or acquaintances this past year who have readily advised me, knowing very little of the details and challenges of our situation (which sometimes changes on a minute-by-minute basis!) suggesting I do things this way or that way, since it seems to be a struggle for me to parent and things don't seem to be going very smoothly (which has to mean you're doing something wrong, right?). I have bit my tongue when a completely impractical suggestion is voiced, when I hear a trite, "you should try what so-and-so does. It works well for her" (and I have to remind myself in my head, "but so-and-so has one child"). It can get quite discouraging--even if I acknowledge the impracticality or difference in situation--to have it suggested that struggle is something we shouldn't be experiencing.

Sometimes (well, okay, most of the time) life is just hard and that's all there is to it. We have to prioritize and decide things like: is it more important to have a hopping social life or keep our sanity and a peaceful home? (Which can be a challenge no matter what we cut out). And yes, we do make it harder on ourselves by focusing on training our children, not just having them. Our hope is that the groundwork we lay in these early years will lighten the load of difficulty in later years. Would anyone ahead of me in this please speak to this hope?

Last summer, when we started getting out more after Haley was born, as we left a restaurant, a woman passing us said, "I remember when my three were that little. This is the easy part!" I found that comment severely disheartening. I did not know this woman or what her parenting philosophy was, and that would have been helpful to know in order to process her comment. Could it be that she was the type that just let her kids be and didn't train them or ask much of them until they were older, and that is when parenting became difficult? It isn't that I expect that after age four or five it will be smooth sailing, but I'd love to keep the hope that focusing on the heart and training our children in obedience will simplify and ease the difficulties in years to come. At the very least, I could have stood to hear her acknowledge that having three short ones is no small task, no matter how easy or hard it will get.

A few months ago, I was sitting in a group of four other moms when I was asked, "Didn't you say once that Claire likes to throw tantrums?" I was taken aback for three reasons: one, that it was worded that way--"Likes to." But, well, I couldn't argue. . . if she didn't like to, she wouldn't do it, so I acknowledged that yes, she does indeed like to throw tantrums. The next reason I was surprised was that in all the times that this mom had spent time with or around us (weekly for months), she had never been witness to even one of these very frequent tantrums. After a moment of silence, I proceded to ask the other moms, "Don't your kids throw tantrums?" (This was the other reason I was taken aback. I was truly surprised at their surprise that Claire threw tantrums.) The reply I got was mostly shaking of heads (as in, "no"!!!) One woman, appearing to reach waaaaay back into her memory, mentioned that her child did, once. ONCE!!!

I was floored. I'm still in shock about it. Can it be that in the five families and eleven children represented, mine are the ONLY ONES who have readily thrown tantrums at some point in their short lives? Sure, I would say that right now, we have two--sometimes three--strong-willed children, but as to them being exceptionally willful above the average child at his or her worst? I'm not sure I buy that. I have to wonder if the fact that their children didn't throw fits might have something to do with either their not requiring much of them, or not denying them anything. It is truly perplexing, and, for my own sanity, I filed that one away in the "I don't have enough information to make an assessment about this" file. It still baffles me today.

Well, I don't mean to end this post on such a negative note, but my brain is not cooperating anymore and another wonderful and challenge-filled day is fast approaching. And yes, this would be a very lame "Happy Birthday to Haley" post. I plan to do that in the next couple days, complete with pictures and updates on our precious one-year-old.

Though it may not mean much to most of my readership, I will sign off with a comment that, despite its generally depressing first impression, I found extremely reassuring this week. At Costco, I ran into a family friend who has--eleven? twelve? (I've lost count) children, who, in peering into my cart full of three short people sweetly said, "I remember having three. I remember crying a lot when I had three." Perhaps she remembered how much she needed encouragement back then and wanted to bless me that way. And I am encouraged. Especially when I think of all the other things she could have said ("just wait". . . "three is nothing". . . "three is cake". . . "try having eleven--or twelve") It made me take heart that even a mom of so many remembers the challenges of having a few little ones, and would word it that way (implying, I think, that it may not always be this hard). Dare I hope?