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Ruby Valentine, school girl

Ruby started school last month. We adore her school. It’s play based and very much focused on helping the kids navigate the crazy world of relationships and their own emotions in those relationships. It’s totally in line with how we have been raising the girls and Ruby adores it.
Except now the excitement of a new thing has worn off and she is finding herself in a class where most of the kids have known each other for a couple years. She’s also one of the youngest in the class. That coupled with the fact that we have been doing birthday parties & playdates with her “old” friends every weekend or on our days off has Ruby saying “I don’t want to go to school, I just want to play with my old friends.” Every morning before school, we have the same conversation. And I have a lot of sympathy-I remember being the new kid and the youngest kid in class and it did suck. I missed my friends and the easy way we played. So I get where she’s coming from. She’s been friends with her old friends since the womb practically. And he didn’t really get a lot of say in the matter. I was friends with the moms so her friends were built in. Now she is having to choose her own friends and make new relationships. She’s an outgoing friendly kid-she will hug random kids in the checkout line at the store (yes she has) so the fact that this is a challenge for her surprises me. I see her as so strong (and head strong) and confident so when she becomes shy and unsure, I’m sort of shocked. And then reminded that she is not even four yet.
One of the moms asked me on Monday how Ruby was doing and I was honest about her new reluctance. She immediately offered to set up a play date with her daughter! The director of the school (who’s daughter was Ruby’s babysitter her first year) overheard us and encouraged me to set up play dates. Then emailed me with names of kids she has seen Ruby playing with who be a good fit personality wise. And assured me that Ruby is very active and enthusiastic at school. (She emailed me within 15 minutes of me dropping Ruby off, btw). I love our school.
Setting up play dates with new kids means that now I get to step out of MY comfort zone and make new friendships too. Which has me thinking “BUT I JUST WANNA PLAY WITH MY OlD FRIENDS!” Lol. Then I remember that my “old” friends were new friends just four short years ago.

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Our schedule shifted and I was getting more sleep so blogging took a backseat. Again.

Meh – I’m living in the moment, sue me.

But today was… ordinary. plain. nothing special.  We stayed home.  We read books. Ruby watched too much Dinosaur Train (can there be too much Buddy, Tiny, Shiny and Don?). We danced to the Dinosaur Train soundtrack. We are all about Dinosaur Train right now… I did my normal list of stuff that has to get done every day. Just a normal day.

and yet it was AWESOME.

Today started with Emme rolling over from side to back to side! Just going back and forth and loving it. Cackling and chatting and getting a good workout.  Today ended with her reaching for her bottle, taking it out of my hands and putting it in her mouth! Three times!  Earlier today she pushed her bottle away and pulled on my shirt until I finally clued in that she was doing it deliberately because she wanted to nurse.  And last but not least, she has discovered she has toes and is desperate to get at them.  So much so, that she basically folded herself in half while I was holding her, leaning so far forward, and with so much force that I actually got nervous I would drop her!  She REALLY wanted those toes!  I kept telling her they’re really stinky, but let’s be honest, they are delicious.

Meanwhile Rubytunes is just blowing my mind with her awesomeness.  She’s been a great helper – helped me put away laundry today – and listener.  When I ask her to please clean up whatever mess she’s made, she does it promptly and without any whining about 90% of the time.  There’s still the occasional pout and whine, but she’s three! It’s to be expected. But for the most part, she’s turned a corner and is so fun to be around. She’s really into “practicing” for school, doing arts and crafts,

playing games and reading.  Yesterday I built her a fort and she spent hours in there, quiet as a mouse, reading books and playing. (It was great – I got so much done!)

And we found a preschool for Ruby! Ruby’s first main babysitter’s mom runs a preschool and I thought, “well I should call her first because I have NO IDEA how to find a preschool and I can at least start there.” And basically I fell in love with it and they have an opening for the fall and we’re in and so that’s done.  Ajax and I went to an orientation meeting today so he could see it too.  Afterwards in the car, he turns to me and says “Well, can I just say something about that school?” and I thought, “oh no, he didn’t like it” but then he grinned and said “It’s perfect!  PERFECT for Duckie.” and it really is.  So lovely and play-based and very book-focused and all about helping kids develop relationships and become good people. Exactly what we’d hoped to find.  I cannot wait for August so she can start!  She’s going to love it.

So that was our day.  Ordinary, plain and just wonderful.

We've got a good thing going.

We’ve got a good thing going.

And holding her own bottle

holding her own bottle

Yes she's like this 95% of the time.  Really.

Yes she’s like this 95% of the time. Really.

Best toddler invention ever

Best toddler invention ever

Bathtime

Pre-school Prep

Pre-school Prep

She wakes up this way

Doubled her weight

Family bed

Dr. Kitty

We got this Backyardigans Memory game for $2 at the thrift store.  she loves it.

We got this Backyardigans Memory game for $2 at the thrift store. she loves it.

 

 

Almost 4 months!

So I was commenting today on another blog and it automatically popped up with the title of my most recent blog post… which was “Welcome Emme Mabel Valentine Le Clear”

Yeah, that was almost four months ago.

It’s not that I didn’t have stuff to write about. I did.  I had this whole post about the timelessness of life with a new born.  When Ajax was off work and we were home as a family, just the four of us, our life took on this lovely timeless quality.  I wasn’t ever really sure what day it was – it could have been a Tuesday or a Sunday and we’d just sit at the breakfast table and say “What should we do today, family?” and one of us would say “Park?” or “Museum?” or “Hike?” and then we’d decide and go off.  It was heavenly and we were incredibly blessed to be able to do that for three months.

I also had a whole slew of posts about how awesome Ruby is as a big sister.  She’s adapted incredibly well. She adores her little sister and wants to do nothing but love on her (and squish her and freak me out with all that LOVE she has to inflict on Emme all. the. time!) It helped immensely that Daddy was home for three months so she didn’t have to compete for attention – one of us was always there to play with her, read to her and give her a hug. And if we weren’t my folks or Ben’s mom was.  I hear that kiddos freak out more when their younger siblings turn 4 months, so I guess time will tell, but so far? She is a wonderful big sis.

And then there are the zillion or so posts I planned to write about Emme.  About her resilience. Her strength. Her tenacity.  Her ridiculously cute grin. About how she lights up when she sees me and I am sure that the entire world has stopped, just for a second, when I get that amazing smile.  About how her one trip to the ER for a fever scared the ever-loving crap out of me. About how she is gaining weight like a champ, and how her oxygen saturations have all been normal and if you didn’t see that scar or know her story, you’d never guess she was operating with half a heart.  About how her big sister is the light of her life and when Ruby is around, no one else in the world exists.

But I just haven’t sat down to write.  I have been telling myself I didn’t have time, but frankly? That’s total bullshit.  I usually dream feed Emme at 10:30 or 11. Ajax usually goes to bed around 9 or 9:30… that leaves me with more than enough quiet time to sit and write.  Guess when I realized this? Now.

No seriously. Just now as I wrote that last paragraph. ::head desk::

Last night we took Emme back to Kaiser for a cardiac catheterization. When I say “we” I actually mean Ajax because I was in bed all day yesterday with a stomach bug that left me so weak I could barely walk.  So last night they went off to Kaiser for an overnight and her cath was today.  I got there around 6 am and she woke up around 6:30.  She was a charmer all night and all day.  She woke up happy and, despite having not eaten since 10 last night, was happy and smiling until about 8:30 am, when she finally was done with people messing with her and not feeding her.  She fussed for a bit, fell asleep on Ajax’s shoulder a few minutes before we had to go into the OR.  (It wasn’t an operation, but they use an OR for the procedure).  She was a bit freaked out to wake up in a giant OR with bright lights and strange people and odd sounds and even more freaked out when they put a mask up to her nose and mouth (not even over, just near). That was the hardest part of the whole day, hearing her panicked cries, even as we were standing beside her and holding her hand.

The procedure went smoothly and quickly and all is fine.  Her pulmonary arteries might need some “patching” according to the cardiologist who did the cath, but we’ll know more by the end of the week when her surgeon has had a chance to review the x-rays and echo films.  We should have a definitive date for her next surgery by next week.  I’m both excited and terrified for that next step.  On one hand, I want to get it done with and let her get on to the business of being a baby, meeting milestones and growing up. On the other hand, it’s OPEN HEART SURGERY and I am a lot more attached to this little tiny wonder ball of love than I was even before she was born.  But I also know her better and I know that she is strong, determined and open to new experiences – she will go through the next surgery and all it entails with the same charm and happiness she went through this experience with.

That might sound weird, but part of her strength really comes from her wonder at the world around her.  She’s so interested in new things, new people, new places that she seems to just let herself have the experience of them without a lot of drama or upset. Of course, part of that is just being a baby, but it’s also just who she is.

So that’s what’s been up. And now that I’m back writing here, I have to say – it’s nice to be back.

She’s here!

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Just for some context, here’s Ruby’s birth story.  The pregnancies and births couldn’t have been more different and yet in each one, there was profound love, grace and power.

So last Thursday, the 17th, I had my NST(non-stress test) appointment and then was supposed to have an OB checkup.  Ajax took Thursday off because he just had a feeling he’d need to.  At my last few NST appointments (I was going in twice weekly to check Emme’s heart rate), my own blood pressure had been high, particularly for me. I’m usually 116/75 or so, but in the last weeks of my pregnancy it was up to 145/85… And last Thursday it was 160/85. The nurse sent us straight to the perinatologist who recommended we be induced that afternoon.
Cue us rushing home and packing our bags in a frenzy! Luckily my mom was able to pick Ben’s mom up at the airport and my Pops came to hang out with Ruby.We got all packed and sat down to say goodbye to Ruby… which is when I discovered she had a fever of 100.5.  Oh my mama heart didn’t deal with that well at all.  One baby sick, another one needing to come out and be healed.  Leaving was hard.  Our big girl, our sweet little Duckie was staring at us out the window, no big grins or giggles like we usually get.  Just big wide eyes.
sigh.
We ran to Vons for snacks, which was oddly akin to a pre-Burning Man Reno run. We had the best intentions of getting “good” food, but came with PopTarts and pretzels… Then zip off to Kaiser for our 1 pm appointment.
The first doctor came in to check me around 2 and I wasn’t really dilated at all. Or effaced, meaning the cervix wasn’t thinning out at all.  And Emme wasn’t at zero station, meaning she still needed to get her head down a bit.  They warned us that inducing from basically nothing could take 24-48 hours.  Oy.  Then they started the induction. First they inserted a Foley balloon into my cervix and inflated it to 3.5 or cm.  Then they tugged at it to put pressure on the cervix. And yes, that was as lovely as you’d imagine it would be.  That was around 3:30 and they again warned us it would take up to 12 hours for it to pop out.  But the basic idea was to get my cervix thinned out and open to at least 4 cm before starting pitocin.  So we hung out and waited.
Our amazing doula Sada Simran came in and chatted with us, helped us navigate all the hospital jargon and equipment. By about 8 or so it was evident we’d need to hunker down and get some sleep so she went home and Ajax and I tried to sleep.  And we actually did doze, but surprise – the Foley balloon popped out at 9:30 – six hours earlier than expected! I took that as a good sign.  The contractions definitely picked up after that, though they weren’t regular…
The docs came in to check me around 11 and started pitocin then – the lowest dose possible.  I love Kaiser for this reason – they are very conservative in their use of interventions.  The pitocin pretty much kicked in right away and the contractions got very regular – every 2 minutes I had a 30 second contraction.  I was so grateful for how short the contractions were because I could really wrap my head around doing something for 30 seconds.  My yoga practice, particularly the keep-up exercises we do in prenatal yoga, really helped with this.
Over the course of the night I dozed and occasionally the contractions would kick up a notch and wake me up.  With each one I pictured Emme and I in the ocean and I’d say to her “here comes another wave, just ride the wave with me” and I’d breathe through it.  From about midnight to 5 I was half-awake and doing that.  Ajax was mostly asleep and I really was enjoying the experience of labor.  Really.  It was magical and quiet and reflective.
Then my water broke and things got real.  :D Just like with Ruby, I was laying on my side and felt this giant POP.  It woke me up but I wasn’t sure that’s what it was until the nurse checked me and hello GUSH of water!  That was around 5:30 or 6.  Ajax called Sada Simran to come back.  The contractions definitely got harder then, but still at that same pace: every two minutes for 30 seconds.  I can do anything for 30 seconds.  Anyone can.  Try it.
Once we got to this stage of labor, though, I needed to go deeper than just riding waves in the ocean.  I was vocalizing in this deep low voice, moving the energy down down down around Emme, helping her to get down lower.  I could feel, and the docs confirmed, she was still a bit high up, so I used each contraction to help her release any fears and move down, down, down into the birth canal.
By the time Sada Simran got back (around 7?), I was deep in this other world.  I was able to doze between contractions but each contraction got more intense and I was incredibly aware when my 2 minute break was up and had to psych myself up to go deep inside, into faith, rather up and out to fear.  I told myself that it whatever sensation came, it was just a sensation – it was up to me to ascribe to it a name. If I chose “pain” it would be painful. If I chose “love” it would be powerful. I chose love.
There is a video of a home birthing midwife in Mexico that I’ve seen probably 25 times, thanks to my job at Golden Bridge.  The mom, deep in labor, described each contraction as “love bursting through” and as I moved into that last stage of labor, that phrase was all I could think or say, when I could talk.  Emme Mabel Valentine, my universally lovable love, was bursting through.
With Ruby’s birth, the pushing had been the hardest part.  I was terrified and sure I’d not done enough walking/yoga/perineal massage to get her out.  Which then turned into being terrified I’d be the worst mother ever, that I’d screwed up before she’d even been born.  I went so deeply to that place of fear and worry and self-doubt that I paused my labor.  And my midwife literally smacked me on the ass and yelled “Get out of your head!” LOL.
With Emme, I knew I could do it.  Even though I’d barely walked, hadn’t made it to yoga in a month and did zero perineal massage.  I knew that I couldn’t afford to think like that, and that I could push her out.  Because I knew that I was connected to Emme and to the experience we were having together in a way that I didn’t with Ruby.  I could literally feel her head enter the birth canal, feel her shoulders pressing through, feel her feet leave my uterus.  It was magic.  It was hard.  When she crowned I was sure I had to poop and the was yelling at the doc to let me poop.  Then she had my shift my hips and I yelled “That’s not poop, that’s a HEAD!!!!” Oh birth… so glamourous.
I pushed her out in 5 or 6 sets of 3 hard pushes each.  The ring of fire is no joke people.  I didn’t feel it with Ruby because Sada Simran poured half a bottle of olive oil on my perineum and my midwife was expert at helping me not tear.  This time I tore. I didn’t care.  I felt Emme’s head and it gave me the motivation to get her the rest of the way out.
She came out with a gush and a rush, purply-pink, slimy and squalling, as newborns should.  I grabbed her, kissed her vernix-y head, told her I loved her and was proud of her and then let her go.
Hardest thing ever to get her go to the NICU staff, but they kept her in the room until my placenta was delivered so I could watch her as they cleaned her off, measured her and suctioned out her nose and mouth.  Then she and Ajax went to NICU and I recovered as best as possible.
Emme’s birth was by far the most powerful experience of my life.  As was Ruby’s. Both so different.
Both girls, already so different and yet both the loves of my life.

Ajax proposed to me.

Well, to be honest, the wig lady did the proposing and we just kind of said ‘uh huh, yep, that’s about right.’

6 years and 2 days ago I was all butterflies and nervous giggles going to pick Ajax up at the airport. At dinner that night we talked family and forever. We went back to my place, dubbed it “our place” and made out on the couch for hours.

The next day we stood on a pier in Santa Monica and watched the dolphins play and held hands and marveled at each other.

The day after that I wanted to buy a wig for an outfit I wanted to wear to the Mutaytor show that night.  The wig lady said “you get married soon?” We glanced at each other, grinned and said “yes.” She said “where you get married?” and we said “in the desert in Nevada next summer.”

And that’s what we did.

Ajax Valentine – I love you so.  6 years of marriage, kids, house and life and I love you more and more with every passing second.

Right now you’re out getting me ice cream. In a rain storm.

And if that’s not true love I don’t know what is.

Well, it appears that one thing is similar across both pregnancies… my intense need and desire for Honey Nut Cheerios in the middle of the night.  This one likes them a little earlier than Ruby, but still… here I am.

We had another big check up for Emme on Wednesday and there was LOTS of good news.  The left side of her heart is still open, despite the doctors predictions that it would have completely shut down by now. Her growth jumped from the 19th percentile to the 42nd. She’s over the weight the docs needed her to be if we have go in and get her earlier than her due date. All good things.  We visited the Labor and Delivery unit and the NICU at Kaiser and were both pleased and relieved to find smiling welcoming nurses, big open rooms and, in the NICU at least, lots of those smiling nurses were all hovering over the teeny tiny bassinets and the teeny tiny babies in them.  Pretty much all the nurses were with a baby, aside from the one giving us the tour.  I think there were actually more nurses than babies…

Which brings me to the not great – Emme will be in the NICU. For a while.

And yes, of course, I knew this on an abstract level, but the visit brought it home for me.  And while I’m thrilled that there are kind, competent people there for her 24/7, it’s not the same as ME. Or Ajax. Or our home and our bed.  I hate that.  I hate the thought of my sweet baby girl laying all alone under plexiglass wondering where the sound of her mama’s heart went.

And don’t get me started on the surgery aspect of it.  So many people are sending me that photo of the little 3-month old, happy as a clam, just out of heart surgery… do you know what I see? I see a scalpel cutting my precious newborn before I’ve even had a chance to nurse her.  I hate it.  I do.  I hate the thought of that.  Of her alone and scared.

But I love this baby.  I love that she’s a freakin’ fighter and that she kicks me awake at 2 am to have Cheerios and quiet time together.  I love that when I chant “Guru Guru Wahe Guru, Guru Ram Das Guru” even silently, she knows its hers and stretches and moves.  I love that I’m starting to sense her personality – her deep deep love and pure wonder of the world.

So I’m holding on to that.  I’m hoping that the docs and the NICU will play mantra for her, preferably me chanting it, so she can feel surrounded and enveloped and blanketed and every other synonym for completely held by my love for her.  I’m surrounding her with every kind of love I know how to give and finding that my well is deeper than I’d imagined.  I talk to her almost daily about what to expect and that I will always be there with her in spirit, even if my body isn’t next to hers.  That she will be safe. That she will be well taken care of and that she has to be brave and get strong and healthy so she can come home and let her big sister lavish her with kisses and hugs and stickers and stuffed animals.

What else can I do?

I pray. I pray a lot actually.  I pray that God will help her stay strong through birth. I pray (selfishly) that her heart will magically heal and open, even though I know that’s a pipe dream.  Mostly I pray for myself to accept what is. To accept the reality of the situation and love it and love Emme as is.  Our road will be long, at least in the beginning, so I pray that Ajax and I find the stamina, patience and compassion for each other that we will need to come through this as the incredible partners we are.  I pray that Ruby is able to move through this experience with grace and ease, feeling as loved and singularly cherished as she has her whole life thus far.  A lot of prayers.

And with that Ruby is laughing in her sleep and the much promised rain is starting.  Time to go back to bed. Or maybe get another bowl of Cheerios.

So now the dust has almost settled, and people are (hopefully) coming to their senses that our President is not a) a Socialist with some bizarre hidden agenda to take away our guns or freedoms or b) a Kenyan Muslim with some bizarre hidden agenda to turn us all into God-less heathens… Hoping that’s the case anyway.

In the last election, my mom passed on some advice her very wise Unitarian pastor had mentioned one Sunday in church – that everyone bitching and moaning and freaking out over Sarah Palin was, in the Law of Attraction, only giving Palin MORE energy.  Kind of the opposite of what that mostly liberal congregation was hoping for.  It was good advice… I tried my best to heed it in this election, but the hideous lies and outright hatefulness of the GOP did pull me in and I posted a few too many articles and whatnot on Facebook. I did. It’s true. ::hangs head:: But I also tried to balance with good articles about President Obama, the good things he’s done so far, the important effect he’s had on our country and our culture.

But here’s the thing.  The GOP and right-wing media, with all their hatred of the President, did pretty much exactly what my mom’s pastor warned against doing for Sarah Palin 4 years ago.  They didn’t really like their own guy, so rather than touting his dubious qualifications for being President or his shaky, shady, flip-floppy policies, they just railed and railed against President Obama.  So all these right-wingers have been going on and on and ON and ON about how horrible President Obama is, how evil he is, etc etc etc. Guess what the Universe is hearing? PRESIDENT OBAMA.

That’s right.  Just loads of energy heading to Obama. The Universe doesn’t hear negatives, it just sees where the energy goes and follows suit.

So thanks Fox News and crazy right-wing conspiracy-theorists* – we couldn’t have won this election without ya.

*To my many friends and family who are Republicans, please don’t think I think you’re crazy. I don’t. Most of you have legitimate points of view and concerns about the direction our country is headed and are not at all crazy. Just Conservative and that’s fine.  I’m talking about the “Obama made the hurricanes happen” kind of crazy here… Just to be clear. 

PS – Extra thanks to my very astute husband for picking up on this and pointing out that Fox, et al, probably helped a lot, in a Law of Attraction manner of speaking anyway.  :D

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