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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Yes, it's "another" girl. No, we aren't disappointed. REALLY PEOPLE?

Apparently, when you find out you're having a second child the same sex as the first child, it's a free for all for people to comment on how 'that's too bad,' and ask 'will you be trying for a third to get that [opposite sex child]?', and say 'tsk, tsk, I feel sorry for you/your husband [depending on if you are having two boys or two girls]'.  (Minor aside and biology lesson for people who bring up the "is Chris disappointed?" line: it's his sperm that are determining this, so...) I know people with two boys get the same response and they are equally frustrated.

It's a bit shameful to reflect upon, but when I was pregnant with Carys, I talked about how I had hoped she would be a boy before I found out she was a she.  I admit it, and I regret it now. I had my reasons, as shallow as they might be: I wanted any girls I had to have a big brother (something I'd ALWAYS wanted growing up), and I wanted a boy because of my history with loss.  In an oft-used analogy, I'd been on the boy train with Caleb, and that train got derailed so suddenly and unexpectedly that there were still fantasies of the life I would have had with a boy swimming in my head: the nursery I would have designed, the little plaid shirts, the post-bath faux-hawks.  I somehow felt like the spirit of the boy we'd lost would come back in the next, living boy and that I'd be able to get right back on that train and continue the journey I'd been on previously. 

Of course, life doesn't work like that, and we didn't have a boy. We had a girl. And when I found out while pregnant that we were indeed having a girl, I quickly adjusted to the idea and never looked back.  In reality, having a girl was probably the best thing that could have happened: she was a completely separate child from Caleb and not a replacement or reincarnation.  It was unfair to the baby I was carrying to expect it to be a new Caleb, and it probably would have taken a while to get over that idea had it indeed been a boy. I could never imagine Carys not being Carys: she was exactly what we needed, the exact perfect first baby for us, the best child I could ever have hoped for, boy or girl. And she's a rough-and-tumble little girl who is obsessed with golf, loves mud, dirt, dinos, zombies, farts, and motorcycles AND love babies, dresses, nail polish, and helping me cook, so (not to brag) (totally bragging) but we completely got the best of both worlds.

[Super Side Note: this is why those "#allboy and #allgirl tags all over Instagram drive me nuts, even though I know they're meant innocently. Loving to play in the dirt isn't "all boy" - it's "all toddler."  Climbing and running and jumping and being daring isn't reserved for just little boys. Dressing up or playing with a doll isn't something just little girls do - I know plenty of little boys who enjoy a good tiara now and then. I don't want Carys to ever stop enjoying the things she loves because she thinks they're for boys, and on the flip side would never want to insinuate a boy shouldn't love something typically considered girly.]

Though I thought I had a sex preference with Carys, with Baby Squish, I truly did not care. There are incredible things to be had either way. So when I found out it was a girl, I was ecstatic. I was (and am) absolutely in love with the idea of sisters, and think that the bond between two sisters can be like nothing else in the world.  My sisters are some of my best friends, and my mom has the same bond with her sisters.  And, you know, BONUS: I'd get to re-use all Carys's clothes. And damnit, she has cute clothes!  Plus, I love saying "my girls" and "the girls."  I truly could not be more excited to have welcomed our second little girl into the world. Although it'd be JUST LOVELY if the comments expressing disappointment on Chris's and sometimes my behalf would stop, since, you know, we're not disappointed. A family is not a perfect family only if it contains two parents and at least one child of each gender.

Will we ever have a third (or fourth or tenth)? I have no idea. I mean, holy cow, let me see how I do with two first. I might fall apart completely; who knows? Two might be my limit.  But if I can handle two like I picture myself handling two (please let me handle two?!?!), then I could see trying to convince Chris to go for a third. Right now he's good with two, but maybe with enough, ahem, spirited debate I could get another one out of him. But right now? Two is perfect.

If we do go for three, I cannot even begin to imagine the comments that would happen should we find out that we were having another girl.  I don't know yet if I'll have a preference, though I'm sure there would be some external pressure for a boy.  But I wouldn't be having a third child to try for a boy, I'd be having a third child to have a third child.  Novel idea, right??  If it was a girl, my first thought, I think, would be OMG THREE SISTERS HOW FUN!  There might be a twinge of disappointment in realizing that I'd never get to raise a boy and that the door would be closed on that opportunity since I sincerely doubt we'd ever have four kids.  So I would be sad at first about that, perhaps.  And that's okay, I think - it's okay to mourn the closing of any door, as long as you don't do it at the expense of the other door behind you that DID open.  It's complicated for me, I think, because I buried a son, but have never raised one.  A re-do there, with a chance to finish what I once started, would be nice.  But importantly, I understand now that it doesn't matter - your kid is going to be absolutely perfect either way and you'll love them completely. So if we decide to have a third, wayyyyyy into the future, we wouldn't be trying to have a boy; it'd be to have a third kid regardless of the sex. It's a 50/50 shot, after all.

But yeah. Don't feel the need to express sympathy that we have two amazing, gorgeous girls and are thrilled beyond belief with our family. We're pretty fricking happy. (Note: no one has done that on this blog, since blog readers are a sophisticated bunch, right? It's only happened in real life, to my face - which is almost worse!)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Halloween 2013 : Baby Bird DIY

(Mom fail: I didn't realize I didn't finish this post until this month. You know, almost three months later.)

This year was a tough year for Halloween - Carys had a vague concept of what it meant to dress up as a character and also had definite likes and preferences, so I wanted to incorporate something she liked into her costume. However, her likes changed daily - hourly - and because of that it was hard to come to a decision. In the weeks leading up to Halloween, she was into Toy Story, so I was trying to steer her into Jessie (or even Woody) for simplicity's sake, but she really wanted to be Buzz Lightyear.  I started researching other DIY costumes on the internet, and oh em gee were they complicated. At least the good ones, and I didn't want to half-ass it. I had started collecting ideas for Buzz, but hadn't purchased anything, when she suddenly started to pretend to be a baby bird and would ask us to build her a nest out of pillows and blankets, every day for a week straight. So I switched up the plans and decided to go with baby bird (with her blessing...kind of...since she still didn't REALLY understand what Halloween meant). SO MUCH EASIER. Of course, if I'd started more than a week in advance, it probably would have been even easier, but I'm a slacker with a capital S. Also a capital LACKER. 

I sewed the costume together, but since I just used felt it could have easily been glued together. 

I started with a basic sweatshirt that I got a couple sizes too large, because I wanted it to go down to her knees.  It was a little over $10 online (source).

I then got a couple yards of soft felt in red and pink, which were the feather colors that she'd picked out (I got a yard of each but had tons left over, so probably could have cut that down by at least half a yard).  I also got large pieces of stiff felt in red for the wing bases and yellow for the beak and feet. I picked up a bag full of red feathers for the top of the "head" as well.  All of those items (along with coordinating thread) were picked up at Hancock fabric. The felt was on sale for $3 a yard and the stiff felt sheets were $1 each, so I spent under $10 for the fabric.   We had the yellow leggings for the bird legs already.  I think the only other thing I used for the costume was elastic, which I had on hand at home. Oh, and large safety pins. 

I cut a pair of wings out of the stiff felt using the sweatshirt arms as a guide to the length. Hint: don't use the sweatshirt arms as a guide. Use your kid's arms. Otherwise, once it's all assembled, you'll have to go back and cut it all down. 

I had a pretty straightforward idea of how to do the feathers on the wings, so I thought I'd start with them and see how it went and then try to translate that idea to the rest of the costume if it worked well.  I created a "feather" template from cardboard which was about a foot long, straight on top, and feather-shaped on the bottom. I used that template to trace strips of feathers onto the soft felt. 

I sewed them in place, but you could just as easily hot glue or fabric glue it.

I alternated pink and red strips, and tried to line them up so the feathers alternated position from row to row.

I then worked on the body of the bird suit, which was by far the hardest part and which I didn't take any pictures of (funny how that works). It was a similar but more complicated process, using much longer strips of feathers, trying to hide the seams, and working around the arms and the neck. For the top row of feathers around the neckline, I cut a single piece to fit over the hood so I didn't have to worry about seams at the shoulders - so the top row of front and back feathers are all one piece and it went over the hood/neck hole and then draped over the shoulders like smock (here's what the piece looked like laid flat):
I tacked it down in a few places so it didn't fly up, using pink thread so it wouldn't be noticeable. 
The last step on the body was to cut the round "belly" piece. It took a few tries to get the size and proportions right on it, but I just pinned it to the body of the outfit, stepped back, and cut it down as needed. 
I sewed some real feathers to the top of the sweatshirt hood where it comes to a point, and sewed a yellow beak on there made from stiff felt as well. I used two layers of the stiff felt and sandwhiched the edge of the hood between them to it really stood out instead of drooping. Finally, I cut two feet shape from the yellow stiff felt and sewed yellow ribbon to the very top of it. In retrospect, I should have done something a little different for the feet because they kept sliding off the top of her shoes and falling to the side. I tried a couple pieces of double-sided sticky tape but it didn't work too well. Maybe elastic to go around the bottom of the shoes or something?
I left the wings detached from the sweatshirt for the sake of practicality, since I knew we'd be driving a few places and that I wouldn't be able to get her in her carseat with the wings attached. I sewed a strip of elastic to the bottom of each wing on the underside for her wrists to slip through, and used a large safety pin at the top, hidden under the top row of feathers, to attach it to the shoulders of the body. Once safety-pinned to the shoulders, she could let the wings hang free or slip her hands into the elastic to control the wings. 
wings attached to her wrists

wings detached at the wrist

back view

in action on Halloween night!

Overall, it turned out well (though a little large on her, whoops!) and she enjoyed her time as a baby bird. It wasn't as mind-boggling-ly cute as the Oompa Loompa from last year - though it was WAY harder to make - but since I was like 34 weeks pregnant with the energy of a worm at the time I was making it, I'm overall happy with it. And she liked it a lot, and that's really the most important part. My sweet baby bird. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Becoming Sisters

Seeing these two girls become sisters has been one of the most incredible events of my life.  Even more incredible than each of their individual births, maybe.  Having a second child didn't seem real until the two of them were in the same room together for the first time - until then, it was a strange sense of deja vu - but once it happened, it was like seeing my world settle into place.

Her first glance of baby sister.

Prior to Em's birth, we tried to help Carys prepare for this life-changing event as much as we could. We bought several big sister and baby books (Hello, Baby and What a Baby Needs and I'm a Big Sister if you're looking for recommendations), which she read with us over and over. We told her that there was a baby sister growing in my tummy, and that the baby would grow and grow and when she got bigger she'd come out.  We went to a sibling class at the hospital, which she was technically about six months too young for (as the class was for age 3+), but she did wonderfully - even participating by raising her hand and shouting out answers by the end.  I think at that point, she had a vague idea of what was going to happen, but I don't think she really got it.  Shortly before Em's birth, though, Carys accidentally saw a birth video on my phone (!!!!!). I had been watching one on YouTube and when she went to play something else on YouTube that video queued up and started playing. I was horrified and worried she'd be completely traumatized, but she shocked me by loving it and wanted to watch more.  I somewhat censored what she watched so she didn't see anything too graphic, but seeing those videos seemed to clarify the situation for her - that a baby would ACTUALLY be coming out at the end of this growing process, and she talked about it in much different and more concrete terms than she did prior to seeing the videos.

Come baby day, we took Carys to daycare in the morning, and told her that after school, she'd be able to come see mommy at the doctor's and that the baby would be out of my tummy and she'd be able to hold it. She seemed very excited, telling all of her teachers and school friends that the baby was coming. Her teacher asked us to send a picture of the baby after she was born, and said they'd hang it up and show Carys and make a huge deal about how she was a big sister now (and they did, and it made such a huge difference!).

I even dressed her in a shirt that morning that said, "I love my sis." All out, right? It's the little things in life. Of course, her visitor badge covered up half of it, but oh well.

In the evening, my sister Jenna picked Carys up from daycare to bring her up to the hospital. She was very excited to see us, but upon entering the mostly* strange room (*she'd seen it in the hospital tour so it wasn't completely new) and seeing me in the hospital bed hooked up to wires and IVs and looking a hot mess, she got a little bit shy and clung to her daddy, burying her head in his shoulder. He let her hang back, then slowly brought her over to me to say hi. She wanted to go to me and have me hold her, but was so uncertain it broke my heart a little and I very much had a "what have we done to her???" moment.

I tried not to force it and to let her discover the baby on her own terms in her own time, but to help it along, we had a sibling gift for her that we presented as being "from" baby sister - a Merida doll, from the movie "Brave" (all her other dolls are 'baby' dolls, so I was hoping that a 'big kid' doll would be something special and different).  She opened the bag and squealed with excitement, and told baby sister "gank oo!!!" (She will still tell people that "Mare-da" is from baby sister.) We also got her two additional small toys, Lightning McQueen and Mater cars, that sister "gave" her two other days, just to keep the excitement about everything fresh.

She was still really uncertain, so we encouraged her to go play with my friend's little boy Chase and to explore the room. The two kids played hide-and-seek, and the levity of the games helped her relax and feel so much more comfortable. 

After an hour or so of playing and getting used to the surroundings, Carys was ready to spend more time with me and with Emmeline, and was much more confident about it.  This time, she initiated climbing into the hospital bed to check the baby out more closely.


When her Aunt Ana went to take her home for the night, she insisted on climbing back into bed with me and saying goodbye to baby sister again. 

She came back to visit the other three days I was there as well, and each time she was just as excited to see sister, and to introduce her to any new visitors: "This my baby sister! Em-uh-line!" (I love the way she pronounces Emmeline - three very distinct, perfectly enunciated syllables.)

I was a little worried about how it would go once we got home: would Carys want to send Emmeline back to the hospital or think she belonged only at the hospital? Luckily, those thoughts didn't seem to cross her mind. In fact, each morning since Em's arrival, the first thing Carys has asked in the morning is either, "I have oh-gurt? [yogurt]" or "I hold baby sister?" If yogurt wins that morning, a request to hold sister follows soon after. And that request is repeated a dozen times each day.

Emmeline obviously has zero opinions about her big sister yet (or about anything that doesn't involve food) but seeing Carys develop into this nurturing soul and seeing this sisterly love grow has been incredible. She's become such a good helper and revels in doing so. If I say I'm going to find sister's paci, she jumps and and says, "No! I do it!" She loves helping change diapers, pushing her in the swing, covering her with a blanket picking out clothes, replacing the paci, even getting her latched on (placing her hand on the back of Em's head and saying, "I push her on now?"). Multiple times throughout the day, she'll come sit next to me and ask to hold Emmeline.  When Emmeline cries, she gets so concerned. I was in the bathroom the other day and heard Em start to cry, and a few seconds later it stopped. I rushed out, a little concerned about what I'd find, only to see Carys sitting in front of her, gently holding a pacifier in her mouth and stroking her cheek, saying, "It's okay, baby sister. I'm here. It's okay."

"Mommy! Baby sister crying!!!! Give her milk!"

She wants to go everywhere Emmeline goes and wants Emmeline to go with her everywhere. When Emmeline was sick, we had to take her to the doctor, and she told the receptionist, the lady in the waiting room, two nurses, and the doctor, "Baby sister is so sick!" with a big frown on her face.  When Emmy had to get some blood drawn, Carys grabbed me and started to cry that they were hurting the baby. Afterward, the nurse let Carys pick out a sticker for both of them, and she was so proud to have matching stickers.

The love isn't always reciprocated.

First bath together; Carys was crushed she couldn't take Emmeline out of the bath seat to hold her.

Carys loves showing her baby sister off to everyone: when someone arrives she grabs their hands and leads them to Emmeline and says, "That's my baby sister!" When holding her, she'll narrate what she's doing: "I holding baby sister. I kissing her hand. I touch her softly? I squeeze baby sister! I hug baby sister. I kiss her head."

Occasionally, Carys will test the boundaries: pushing the swing a little too hard, squeezing her a little too much, poking her after I said to let the baby sleep. But I don't think it has anything to do with her feelings toward baby sister, but rather has to do with simply being two. And that's what two year olds do.

Carys seems so natural in her role of big sister; thus far it's absolutely everything that I hoped for when I learned we were having another baby (and multiplied when we found out it was a girl - SISTERS!). I keep taking pictures of each and every time Carys asks to hold Emmy; it never gets old. Before Em arrived, I pictured the four of us laying in bed in the mornings and watching movies on the couch and seeing the two of them play together on the floor, and seeing that become the reality of my life is so incredibly satisfying and fulfilling. I can't wait to see them giggling together under blanket forts, playing teacher and student, whispering shared secrets in the language of little girls. Sharing ice cream while staying up late, huddled together and squealing over brain freeze. Running hand in hand around the playground. Ganging up together against Chris and I; a united front against the tyranny of parents. Growing up to be two different women, yet always having that unique bond that a shared childhood brings.

Sisters are so special; they can have a bond and friendship like no other (just speaking from my own experience here). I hope so much that these two girls are lucky enough to be best friends, no matter how opposite or alike their personalities. I understand now why my mom loves hanging out with us one-on-one, but LOVES hanging out with her children together - seeing your kids interact and love each other fills your heart like no other.

There are moments when, with two needy little ones (I can't imagine how it is with three or four or eight), you're pulled in different directions and you wonder how you'll handle both children or fulfill both their needs or keep them both happy and you want to cry with frustration, but ten seconds later your big girl comes to sit by your little girl and lays her head down softly on the little one's cheek, and the little one's tiny fingers grasp a finger of the big one's hand, and you melt. And you realize that this, this love between siblings and sisters, is truly the gift that keeps on giving.  And with any luck, you'll be blessed to witness it for the rest of your life.

And then you explode from the cheesiness.