Saturday, October 2, 2010

What's It Like Having Two?

Didn't I start a post with this question, oh, say a year and half ago? Then I stopped posting for about a year. They - the ubiquitous "they" - say that actions speak louder than words. So I guess by my actions, I've answered the question.

I won't even start with trying to recapture what's happened over the last year. For a while, as I became more and more conscious of the fact that I was failing to keep up with this part of my life (oh, and, just about every other freakin' part of my life too) I held on to the idea of doing one masterful blog post to make up for all the ones I've missed. But after a while that idea became part of the problem - I'd start out thinking about how to capture all the changes since August 2009 in the lives of our two growing toddlers, and the thought exercise alone was enervating, so that sometime before I got around to putting the proverbial pen to paper, I lost steam entirely and put the whole exercise off until sometime when life felt more in control.

"Hahahaha, that's a good one" you say? If so, then you know the answer to the question in the title of this post. I've figured it out too, although the answer goes against my nature. Even though I've been beat over the head with the reality of it for the last year and a half, I'm still having a hard time with what George H.W. (#41) might have called "that acceptance thing." But, whether I can accept it or not, I have to admit it's true. Q: What's it like having two? A: Your life is no longer in control.

So there you have it. While you're chewing on the thought, enjoy some pictures from lives out of control, circa late 2009 and first half of 2010.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summer's Here?!

I looked up recently to discover it was August. Last I checked it was May, or maybe June, so this came as a bit of a surprise. And of course then it hit me -- as it does every year about this time, like some kind of seasonal alergy -- that whistful "where did the summer go?" feeling.

I can't say much for June or July. I spent most of the that time working my tail off, to be honest. But I've got higher hopes for August. And it started out well: we finally got out camping with the kids (one of our summer goals) and it was great! Jonah was so excited about the tent, and loved running around the campsite and hiking on the trails. And Hava only ate a little bit of dirt. (And, trust me, that was a major accomplishment -- this girl puts everything in her mouth right now!)

Hello from Big Basin Redwoods!

Meanwhile, so much is changing with the kids I hardly know where to begin. Lately I've been pressed by the somewhat uncomfortable feeling that Hava is growing up before I can realize it. It's like some kind of premature nostalga, perhaps bought on by having two kids. But I look at what Jonah is doing, and I realize Hava will be there in the proverbial blink of an eye, and I wonder if I'll have time to register it -- really be there and experience it -- before it passes.

One change that's been on my mind a lot lately is language. If you want it in bland clinical terms, I'm currently fascinated by "language development." But saying it that way really takes the life out of it. What gets me is the question of how our little brains get from the primitive emotions of an infant to the complex and (becoming) adult-like ideas of a toddler in such a short span of time.

Hava, at six months, has just moved past the monotone set of cries produced by young babies and discovered that she can make a wider range of sounds. Now she coos, gurgles, grunts, bleats, and occassionally shrieks like a miniature pterodactyl. It's cheerful and cute and completely age-appropriate. But it's not yet anything that would pass for adults communication.

Fast forward two years and you're to Jonah. He's still got some of the cute mispronunciations of toddler-hood: "Jamanas" for pyjamas, "alligator" for elevator, and my personal favorite the "PUS man" for the guy in the big brown truck who delivers packages. But he's recently graduated into more complex sentence structures that really drive home how much he's becoming a fully-developed little person. If left to his own devices, he will often pour forth a loosely-connected torrent or words and ideas. It's fascinating and a little befuddling. Maybe I'm just slow-witted, but it's never clear to me how I'm supposed to respond to this verbal onslaught. Typically the best I can do is repeat it back to him, like I'm the drive-thru cashier at McDonald's ("So you saw the fire truck with Woody and Robert and the lights were flashing and it was loud?" "Would you like fries with that?")

Ruth Ann swears that Jonah recently told a riddle (Ruth Ann was trying to get Jonah to say "Webster Street" and he asks this one: Q:"Where do the spiders live, mommy?" A:"On Web Street"). The ability to appreciate double meanings in language and play with words doesn't develop in full until much later in childhood, but even if the riddle was a fluke, there's obviously a heck of a lot that's happened in the last two years to get from Hava to Jonah.

Often, I try to remember how we got from there to here. At a certain level of generality, that's easy enough: I can look back at blog entries and read my snapshots of baby sounds, first words, and so on. But at another level, it's like the change of seasons. I know it's happening, and occassionally I'm struck by little signs and reminders. But there are few obvious points of demarcation, and, at its essential core, it's just a series of daily experiences.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Adventures in Co-Sleeping

Hey, guess what? Hava is a different baby than Jonah! Yes, it's obvious, I know -- but here in the eye of the storm we sometimes find it hard to recognize and really absorb that obvious fact.

There are a lot of examples of this principle I'd like to tell you about, but the one that's been on my mind for about three weeks now -- which tells you something about how often I'm able to get around to posting -- is our whole experience around sleeping.

As you may recall from our postings from a year and a half ago, sleep was not Jonah's strong suit. If you were to ask us what most worried us about baby #2, the answer in two words would have been "sleep deprivation." So when Hava was born, we decided we'd try to do a few things around sleep differently. One of them -- which I'll blame largely on Ruth Ann's subscription to "Mothering" magazine, your #1 source for organic hemp baby products and homespun advice on how to be a better earth mother (or father) -- was to have a go at co-sleeping.

For disciples of Dr. Sears and "Mothering" magazine, co-sleeping is more or less the only way to go. And there are, in fact, a lot of reasons that co-sleeping makes good sense. It's a natural approach in the animal world, and it's an approach that's worked well for human beings for a long time, and still works well for many now. Yes, you have to pay some attention to safety issues. But, on paper anyway, it seems to offer a chance for a much-improved sleep experience for everyone: Baby sleeps better when she can smell and sense mom and dad nearby. Mom and dad sleep better when they don't have to stagger across the room (or house) at 2 a.m. to comfort crying baby.

On the other hand, we may not be the best candidates for co-sleeping. There is, I'm told, a species of couples who like to sleep cuddled in each other's arms, sharing warmth and space. We, on the other hand, are people who like our space. Cuddling before bedtime is swell -- we like it as much as the next pair -- but when it comes time to sleep, it's all about "roll over and give me some space." We'd sleep in a California king, if it weren't for the fact our bedroom itself is about the size of a California king. I could continue, but I'm guessing you probably get the picture by now.

Our natural handicaps aside, co-sleeping actually did turn out to work pretty well for us during the first few weeks. Then the natural order of things started to re-assert itself. Ruth Ann is apparently a much lighter sleeper around babies -- she wakes with the slightest noise from the baby. And, in case you don't know, sleeping babies are plumb noisy. Whatever the phrase "sleeping like a baby" is supposed to refer to, it doesn't refer to the fact that they're quiet sleepers. Hava squawks and rustles her way through the night, and not infrequently she has pleasant little grunting spells to boot. Hava doesn't necessarily wake during all this noise (and, much to Ruth Ann's annoyance, neither do I). But Ruth Ann would lie awake at night, accumulating resentment toward her noisy daughter and snoring husband. And most of the time she'd end up nursing Hava to quiet her back down, which meant both Hava and Ruth Ann would have their sleep cycles interrupted.

We tried a variety of steps: moving Hava to a bassinet next to the bed, switching sides of the bed, moving the bassinet farther away, etc. Eventually, in a fit of desperation, Ruth Ann resorted to sleeping on the couch in the living room. Yes, un-huh, we do get that it's ironic. But we all slept better then -- Ruth Ann woke less, and woke Hava less. And, wonder of wonders, after a week or two of separated sleep, Hava began sleeping through the night!

We've now had nearly two weeks of fairly consistent sleeping through the night. Hava is in a bassinet. Ruth Ann has returned to the bedroom. Jonah, in the room across the hall, is probably waking more than Hava at this point. But given our experiences with baby #1, we can scarcely believe that we're getting as much sleep as we are.

It seems like there should be a moral to this story, but I'm not exactly sure what it is. Clearly what we did was not what Dr. Sears and the editors of "Mothering" magazine had in mind when they talked about co-sleeping. But it was done with love and good intentions, and it worked for us. And I guess you could say that's what this parenting thing is all about: love, good intentions and figuring out what works for your family. In any event, it was the best we could do -- and, for Hava and Jonah's sake, hopefully our best is good enough.

Anyway, enough with the words, we know what you came for. Here's the latest:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hava at Three Months

Yup, we're there already! In fact, as I write, we're already one day past the three month mark. It came up quickly, and as I've been reminded by irate family members, I haven't done very well at keeping readers up to date on things with little Hava -- sorry!

So let me tell you a little about the girl: She's got a personality, that's for sure. And good news (from the parent/exhaustion angle, anyway) is that it's a remarkably calm personality. She "an old soul" as a friend recently remarked -- happy to stare into people's faces and serenely observe the world. She does get fussy, and sometimes even cries. She's just a baby, after all. But, to paraphrase Lloyd Bensten in his moment of political immortality: "We've been through crying babies. We know crying babies. Hava, you're no crying baby." And the funny thing with Hava's crying is that all that baby calming stuff we read about over and over again in desperation in early 2007, it actually works! It's so easy, you just cradle her on her side or tummy, bounce her gently, shush in her ear, and she calms down - for real! Go figure.

At three months, she's also become smiley and social. She's quick to look for a nearby face and try to interact in the best way she knows how: by sharing a great big toothless grin. That approach works wonders -- at least if you're a little baby it does -- charming relatives, strangers, and even exhausted parents.

And that exhaustion thing, which I've now mentioned twice now, highlights the other prominent fact of the Hava experience so far. As is often noted, having two is definitely more than twice the work, at least early on. But what I find more notable how the exhaustion factor illuminates the way a relationship with a child develops over time. There may be those who in fact have boundless love for their child from the moment of birth; and certainly there are those who, looking through the golden haze of memory, are sure that's how it was for them and their baby. (For the record, if you ask me this question in ten years, I'm sure I'll be in the latter category.) But for me, the relationship is definitely one that takes time to grow and unfold. And with baby number two, there is less of that sense of wonder at the miracle of life to temper the "lather, rinse, repeat" of daily existence with a newborn + toddler.

Somewhere along the way I fell madly in love with my son, such that the most trivial details of his daily existence ("He finished the 12 piece puzzle -- what a genius!") are endlessly fascinating. I know that will happen with Hava as well. But some days it's hard to see through to that point, stuck as I am in the no-man's-land between the euphoria of the first few weeks and the two-way relationship I know will eventually arrive. The good news, at least, is that we've been through this before. I don't remember it of course -- case in point, I've largely blotted out the memories of Jonah's endless crying, to the point where friends look at me like I'm deranged when I innocently ask "did he really cry that much?" -- but my dear wife has a better memory. And so when I was crying in my drink last night about how things feel at the moment, she reminded me: "you said the exact same thing about Jonah around this time." That -- which I'm sure is true, even if I can't remember it -- bodes very well with how things will unfold with Hava. I'm looking forward to it!

The pictures are a little dated already, but hopefully the placate the masses for the moment. Enjoy!


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I'm Twittering!

I have this set of pictures of Hava that I've been meaning to put up for two weeks now, but somehow I haven't managed to find the time to write a good post to accompany them. So in the meantime, I'm going to let you in on my recent little experiment with Twitter.

Let me start by saying that I'm not sure I really get Twitter. It's interesting as a social phenomena -- who are all these people who have the free time to Twitter? and why do they bother? -- but I'm not sure I really see the point. Be that as it may, my friend Dave explained the whole Twitter thing to me a little while back and I decided I'd it a try.

They tell me that part of parenting -- and part of life -- is appreciating the beauty in everyday life. So my theory was that by committing myself to Twitter at a respectable rate (which for me is about five times a week -- and surely a lot less than your typical text-message-junkie teenager), I'd force myself to pay attention to those moments of everyday beauty. And then I'd capture their essence with pithy little haiku of 140 characters or less. And through my artistry -- volia! -- I'd learn to become more at peace with the world and transform myself into a better person to boot.

That was the theory, anyway. In practice, I haven't found peace or become a better person, and in fact I've generally found my Twitter habit difficult to keep up. Part of the problem may be that I currently have exactly one follower -- that being someone named SueWong@MakeUMoney who showed up unannounced and uninvited a few weeks back -- which is a situation I fund both pathetic and creepy at the same time. (I should also point out that this means I'm only 1,499,999 or so followers behind Ashton Kutcher, which is pathetic (for different reasons) and also pretty darn funny at the same time.)

So at Ruth Ann's urging, I'm coming out of the closet with my Twitter habit. If for some reason you'd you can't get enough of Jonah and Hava, or if you think you'd like to get bite-sized updates about the mundane details of our life delivered to your iphone, or if you're just curious about this Twitter thing you keep hearing about but aren't ready to swim in the deep water with the Ashton Kutcher followers -- then by all means sign up and keep SueWong@MakeUMoney company. You can find us under the name ToddlerJonah.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Michelle, Pete and the Birth of Imagination

We first met Michelle and Pete a few short hours after Hava’s baby naming ceremony. They were with us at the ceremony as well, although at that time they were just two nameless stuffed animals in one of Farla’s inimitable centerpieces. The main character in the centerpiece was one of those lifelike baby dolls, one that laughed somewhat ominously when you pressed its belly. (I should add, since we’re on the topic of imagination, that the way my imagination works, those lifelike dolls are creepy – for whatever reason, all I can think of is “Chucky,” if you know what I mean.)

In any event, after the ceremony, Chucky – um, I mean the lifelike doll – said stuffed animals, and the rest of the centerpiece came home with us. And Jonah took an immediate liking to the stuffed animals, which by the way are a pink and a blue giraffe. “Who’s that?” Jonah asks Nan Rossiter, pointing to the pink giraffe. Nan was at a loss, but when Jonah asks “who’s that” he is not to be denied – he can use that phrase like a club, and will beat you into submission with it, so it’s best to come up with some kind of response. Eventually Nan comes up with “Michelle.” Why Michelle, who knows, but it stuck. And when I later asked Jonah who the blue giraffe was, he gave the only logical answer to that question: “Pete.”

And so that’s how Michelle and Pete came into our lives. Since then, they’ve become part of a growing entourage of characters whose imaginary lives sometimes intersect with Jonah’s. You’ve already met another prominent character in this entourage: baby. Baby who nurses, gets burped and needs a diaper change. The other day baby wanted to sit in the swing that Hava was in – what was that about, I wonder? – but eventually settled for sharing breakfast with Jonah in his highchair instead. There’s also Koala and Duckie, and a host of other secondary characters, all of whom occasionally show up to play a role in our days.

But these new changes go broader than just imaginary characters. I’ve often asked Jonah “what did you do today?” when I come home from work. But it’s only recently that’s he’s become proficient at answering that question. And I have to say, the answers often leave my jaw on the ground. It’s not that there’s anything particularly breathtaking about hearing that he saw a fire truck or played with Ivan. But there’s something mind-boggling about watching him give answers that remind me that he’s become a little person – a person with memories, desires, fears and fantasies that will only continue to grow in breadth and depth as the toddler years roll on. On one level, our little exchanges about the events of his day are totally mundane. But on another, I recognize them as the leading edge of a world of changes that will carry him from the corporeal world of infancy into the complex and confusing world of adulthood. It’s fascinating and bittersweet.

This morning in the kitchen, Jonah announced that he was a “baby cow.” (For whatever reason, in Jonah’s mind there are currently no other varieties of cow – these days all cows, large, small, black or white, are babies.) “I’m eating grass.” “Moo!” Around and around the kitchen he lumbered, until the french toast was finished. Then he climbed up in his chair and sat with me at the dining room table for breakfast.


As many of you recall, Michelle and Pete – Hava’s godparents, not the pink and blue giraffes – spoke beautifully at Hava’s baby naming ceremony. We finally managed to wrest the words to the poem they read out of Michelle, and wanted to post it here to share with all of you. We were touched by the poem, and are all the more touched to have such loving godparents in our daugher’s life.

Sweet little Hava,
the day before you were born
your family went to Stinson Beach
in the misty rain.
They ate brunch
& napped.
Matt cooked dinner.
Jonah learned how to jump.
Your mom looked so great that night.
I told her so.
She said "a woman gets a groundswell of energy just before she gives birth."
8 hours later contractions started.
8 hours later your parents were in labor.
8 hours later you came into the world.
We brough by chicken cacciatori & meatloaf,
pink gerbera daisies to match your skin.
Your hands looked ready for finger painting.
7 pounds of you.
Skin to skin with your mama.
Swaddled with your papa.
The full moon rose that night.
You came into the world in the space
between high tide and full moon.
A water baby for sure.
Sweet little Hava, we wondered who you were.
Sweet little Hava, we welcome you.

Since you’ve made it this far, I’m adding one bonus feature: a little video vignette of Michelle and Pete. Before you watch, you need to understand that taking videos has gotten much more difficult lately because Jonah – little narcissist that he is – insists that I turn the monitor on the videocam around so he can see himself while I film. This, unfortunately, leaves me with no way to see what I’m shooting, so I’m left to point the camera generally in the right direction and hope for the best. As you’ll see, it doesn’t always work out perfectly…

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hava's Faces

I read something recently that said newborn babies are, for lack of a better term, kind of vegetable-like. And in one way, it's true -- after all, let's be honest, they don't really do all that much. On the other hand, I know from first-hand experience (viz., Jonah) that there's a little person in there who's eventually going to start to show herself.

Maybe one way to start to get a glimpse of that little person is to look at Hava's face -- she's quite an expressive little girl. I know the cynical might point out that at this stage of things her facial expressions, like most of the rest of her movements, are largely involuntary. But involuntary or not, they are pretty darn cute!