Saturday, September 21, 2013

Two Trees

Two trees stand in our backyard.  Soon, there will be a third.  They are very different, but equally important in my life.

The first tree, the one on the right, is a mesquite tree that--to me--represents my losses, and is home to what remained of my third loss.  We didn't plant it there--much like we didn't ask to experience loss.  It just started growing shortly after we moved into our house.  Like many natural desert plants, it's covered in spikes and it's trunk is gnarled.  I was once like that mesquite tree--as I experience loss after loss after loss, I had my own spikes.  I wasn't a happy person.  I was bitter and gnarled.  And yet the tree grew; and I somehow grew too.  I found that it grew best when I trimmed it back.  I still marvel at how the tree seems to jump skyward whenever I cut away the dead weight from the overburdened branches.  Like the tree, my burdens have also been lifted as the Gardener urged me to grow despite being in my infertile desert.  This spiky, gnarled, unplanned tree stands above our outdoor living space, shading our (artificial) lawn and providing a little relief from the hot sun in the evenings.  My daughter now plays in the shade offered by that tree, oblivious of the significance and memories that the tree brings to me.

The second tree, the one on the left, is a Desert Museum Palo Verde, planted days after Ella was born.  The tree is a perfect desert hybrid--strong enough to withstand the extreme elements all year long, but with flowers instead of spikes.  It's a beautiful shade of green (palo verde meaning "green stick") with pretty little flowers in the spring and monsoon season.  It's been nurtured and cared for (due partly to an automatic watering system), just like we have nurtured and cared for Ella.  Like the mesquite, it too grows best when it's pruned.  I gave it a good trimming yesterday--it's branches were getting so low that Ella was having a hard time riding her bike under it.  It's so thick now that when Ella played in the monsoon rain last week, she found shelter under leaves and branches of her tree.  The "Ella Tree" couldn't be any more different than the first tree.

Soon, there will be a third tree--the "Anna Tree"--on the opposite side of the patio, to the right of the first tree.  I'll say that we're late in planting it because we were waiting for my husband's parents to come down (they bought Ella's tree)--and that's partially true--but I should also be honest and own up to the fact that things just get done a little slower the second time around.  But I look forward to having my third tree for my second living child planted soon.  It will be planted where I'll be able to see it as I finish my runs, and it will be a happy reminder of all my runs during my pregnancy with Anna. 

Three different trees for three very different parts of my life, and yet all remarkably significant in their own way.  Time will tell if we have room for a fourth tree.

Today's blessing was watching Ella enjoy an open gymnastics class at a local gym.  My very-dear friend was a collegiate gymnast, and Ella has recently been fascinated by watching YouTube videos of her.  Since today is National Gymnastics Day, we took advantage of a free open gym to see if how she did--and she absolutely loved it!  I don't know if we're really ready to commit to signing her up, but at least for today, I loved seeing her confidence in her abilities to try new things and take direction from the instructors. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Big Sister

Ella was smitten with Anna from the moment she met her.  Since then, she has been a very helpful big sister.  For some reason, she's fascinated by the dirty diapers, and wants to put them in the diaper genie for me.  She also will pull out a new diaper for me at each change.  Initially, we were letting Ella give Anna a bottle each night at bedtime (typically less than an ounce of breastmilk), but the wonder of feeding her baby sister faded after a while, and Ella got a little distracted and careless.  There were some tears shed when I told her that it just wasn't working, but we found a new job opportunity for Ella, and she now helps to give Anna her Vitamin D drops at dinnertime when she takes her own vitamin. 

We did have one meltdown a couple of weeks ago on the way home from church.  We typically stop and get Starbucks for my husband, and often get Ella an ice water.  On this particular Sunday, we had an almost-full water bottle for Ella.  When she asked for a Starbucks water, we told her that she already had water.  She told us that it was empty--which it was not.  Since she had plenty of water, we explained that we were not going to waste a plastic cup or more water.  She responded with a meltdown, and then pouted and proclaimed "I don't want my baby sisters".  It was a very two-year-old-almost-three-year-old type of tantrum, and I think that Anna (who was sleeping peacefully, as she always does in the car) was just the unfortunate target.  We tried to help her redirect her disappointment away from her sister as best we could.  Before we made it home, she had to use the bathroom, so we stopped at a grocery store.  She and I talked on the way in about where her frustration was coming from, and how things were bound to be different with a new baby in the house.  I also let her pick out a special treat just for her so that she understood that she really is still an important part of our family.

Our little chat seemed to have worked.  The following Sunday, Ella told us "I'm holding Baby Anna's hand so that she feels like she belongs", and then proceeded to fall asleep herself.  My heart skipped a beat when I opened the car door to retrieve my sleeping beauties and saw this:

Growing up with brothers, I always wanted a sister (though I wouldn't trade my brothers for the world). Yet I admit that when we found out we were having another girl, I worried that I wouldn't know how to best foster a relationship between sisters. It looks like they are figuring it out just fine on their own. I recognize their relationship won't always be as sweet as this moment, but I pray that I find ways to encourage their love and friendship to grow.

Today's blessing is having Ella's friend back from their vacation so that they can bring Ella in to school again.  Her little friend moved out to our area (about 30 minutes from town) a while back, and the mom (who has become one of my good friends) has been gracious enough to bring Ella to and from school so that I can stay home with Anna.  They went to London to visit her sister, so I was either bringing Ella in myself, or letting her stay home with me and Anna.  While it was nice, in a way, to have both girls, it is also nice to have my one-on-one bonding time with Anna again.  And--I know this sounds selfish--but because she is a such a happy baby who still sleeps a lot, I'm also blessed to have a little time to myself to get caught up on little projects around the house.  I go back to work a month from tomorrow, and I feel like I will be able to feel "ready" when the time comes.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Time Flies

Anna is one month old today.  Where did the time go?  It's funny--it feels like she has always been a part of our life.

I realize that things change daily with newborns, so perhaps I'll regret saying this a day, a week, or a month from now--but for now, Anna is a pretty happy and content baby...or perhaps we just have a better idea of what we are doing this second time around.  Ella was never a "bad" baby, and she wasn't even a "colicky" baby...but she was rather "needy", and I don't think I ever really every figured out exactly what it was that she needed.  But I did learn a lot from caring for Ella as a baby, and I've been able to unlock those distant memories to make it work well enough for Anna. 

After some initial concerns from one resident about her weight gain, I'm pleased to share that she's been gaining weight fabulously.  At her appointment last week, she was up to 8 pounds, 12 ounces, which was an average of 45 grams per day (they hope for at least 15-30, so we're doing great).  Ever since my milk came in, she was sleeping great--so well, in fact, that I was setting an alarm clock to wake her up to eat at the four hour mark.  However, I found that it was really hard for me to wake up to my alarm clock, and I admit that she went 5-6 hours a couple of nights between feedings.  But at her appointment, the doctor agreed that she was gaining weight well, and gave me permission to let her sleep longer and wake up on her own.  So now she typically nurses while I'm reading bedtime books to Ella, sleeps until around 12:30 am, wakes up on her own to nurse again, and goes back to sleep until around 4:00 am.  This is almost ideal--even for when I go back to work in a little over a month.  If she can stretch the morning feeding until closer to 5:00 am, we'll be set. 

She remains an awesome traveler.  I often find myself looking in the backseat to make sure that the carseat is indeed in the car and not in the middle of the parking lot.  She naps well during the day, but is starting to be more awake when we're are home (she seems to just "check out" and snooze if we're out and about).  She does get a little fussy in the evenings around the "witching hour"--which always seems to correspond with dinner time--but as long as I try to nurse her right before dinner, she'll usually hang out in her swing next to the table and let us eat peacefully.  She cried the first couple of times we gave her a bath, but now enjoys it.  She does have a knack for peeing and/or pooping in the middle of a diaper change--and she's already outgrowing the newborn diapers.  They said they are designed for up to 10 pounds, but they definitely won't last us that long.  We'll use up the remaining 20 or so that we have in the next couple of days, and then start the cloth diapers again. 

I do think that some of her easy-going attitude is simply that her tummy is nice and full.  With Ella, I didn't start pumping until she was about six weeks old (if I remember correctly).  She gained the appropriate weight, so I never really thought too much about it.  But when I went back to work, I worried about keeping up both my internal and external supply.  So this time, I started pumping the day I got home.  It sucks--quite literally--but I try to do it after nearly every feeding.  I've got plenty of milk saved up in the freezer (enough that my husband and I briefly considered buying a deep freezer), and Anna seems to be getting her fair share as well.  For one thing, she sometimes nurses for less than 10 minutes and is then done--whereas with Ella, she would sometimes spend 45 minutes trying to get every last drop.  Anna also spits up--A LOT--and Ella very rarely ever spit up.  But as long as she stays happy, I'm happy.

I also wonder if her happy-go-lucky personality thus far might somehow be attributed to her exposure to happy endorphins in my system from running while I was pregnant with her.  If it works that way, then I'm going to take my due credit. 

Today's blessing is that my husband is really enjoying the new Bible study group that he joined a couple of weeks ago.  My husband has been wonderfully faithful about going to church with us and saying prayers before dinner and bedtime.  But I think a certain "spiritual spark" had been missing in his own life, but is now lit.  I'm excited to see him grow in his faith.