What March Looked Like

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Does this picture sum up how Pearl feels about her baby sister?

Actually, Pearl is a great big sister and is often (not always) eager to help. She likes to get me diapers and blankets and choose clothes for Rose. She likes to bring Rose toys when Rose fusses and will gleefully tell me when she is being gentle with her little sister. Rose has some of her biggest smiles when she sees her big sister. Other times (sometimes in the same day or hour) are not so sweet and there have been whacks and scratches but I truly love watching these two interact.

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Lots of outdoor time. Lots of time in the “forest” at the end of our street. Lots of bike riding. The beginning of days on the beach. Exploring, climbing, rain or sun.

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The beginning of days in the backyard. Blanket spread in the grass for Rose (just as I did for Pearl at this age) while Pearl runs around. I bought that plant guide in an effort to answer Pearl’s endless questions about what is that and why is it there as we explore our world together.

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Wild St. Patrick’s Day.

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Painting and crafting and drawing. Always a hit as we wait out these rainy spring days.

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And a trip to Whistler at the beginning of spring break. Just a few days away but it was great to get out of town and have some fun together. We went sledding, had an afternoon at the pool and visited some family.

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Check out my post about our last visit to Whistler in 2016 to see pictures of baby Pearl in front of this same mirror! (We also went in 2013.)

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This is Pearl “reading” to Rose. She can completely recite “Big Dog, Little Dog” now and is pretty proud of herself. Rose is impressed.

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Christmas 2017

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Happy New Year!

Back in October, or November, I intended to share a little about how our family is adjusting to life with two little ones. But I never seemed to have the time or energy to sit down and write a post…so that probably tells you what you need to know about life with a two-year-old and a newborn. As we finish out the holiday here, I’m feeling a little more settled into life. Sleep-deprived, yes. Not looking forward to Peter going back to work, yes. But also knowing that the hard days are just days and they end and the good days are so, so good.

Christmas this year was particularly lovely. For the first time, Pearl was really able to look forward to the season and to be excited. We had to hide things and speak in code and wrap gifts after she went to bed and I loved every minute of it. At the beginning of the month I put together a little Advent calendar for her and I and hung it on our picture wall in the dining room, as seen above. Every day there was a little tag to turn over with an activity to do together. Sometimes it was opening a new book, sometimes it was making cookies, sometimes it was sending a Christmas card. It was a fun way to open the season together.

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Pearl loves being in the kitchen with me right now so we did a lot of baking together in December. This is a picture of her helping me roll dough for cinnamon buns.

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We hunted in the woods near our house for pine branches and pine cones to decorate our house.

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Rose showed very little interest in the Christmas preparations but has continued to be a super mellow and happy baby, content to sit in her little chair while Big Sister and I bake, or to nap on the couch while we play on the floor next to her. Rose is smiling and laughing now and I love it so much.

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Their sister relationship is sometimes so lovely I can’t believe it – when Pearl asks to hold Rose or kisses her good night. Most of the time though the best case scenario is that Pearl ignores Rose. We are taking it day by day, working through jealousy and frustration and all the big emotions that come with being not-quite-three-years-old.

We also continued one of my favourite traditions: The Great Christmas Tree Hunt. We drove into the forest nearby and cut down a Christmas tree. Pearl had vague memories of previous trees in our home and was thrilled to decorate again. Our tree had a cluster of lovingly placed ornaments on the lowest branches.

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We were able to keep it simple this year while still seeing both sides of our families. We were very grateful that everybody travelled to us for Christmas. We spent Christmas Day with Peter’s family and mind came up after New Year’s Day. Being able to spend time together without schlepping a newborn into the city was a real gift.

We tried to keep things simple for our girls too. Rose’s interests are few – her stocking was filled with soothers and washcloths. Pearl was very excited about presents but her excitement covers all manner of things so we could have wrapped almost anything and put it under the tree and she would have been happy. One afternoon I took her to the toy store and let her pick out a present for Rose. That turned out to be the noisiest toy in our house now and Rose is more scared of it than anything else but maybe in a couple more months she’ll enjoy those singing frogs. (Rose picked out a present for Pearl too, with my help.)

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This picture kind of sums up their relationship. Matching Christmas dresses on Christmas Eve, just before heading to church. I did not buy them matching dresses. I did buy them matching pyjamas to wear that night, with visions of Christmas morning and showing up at the grandparents in their adorable matching jammies. The girls had other plans; Pearl woke up Christmas morning crying that she didn’t like her pyjamas and wanted to change immediately and Rose had a blow-out before breakfast. So it was not a perfect Christmas but it was pretty darn close.

Rose’s Story

Birth stories are one of those things that most people aren’t interested in until they have their own. At least, that was my experience, so feel entirely free to skip over this if it’s your experience too!

It feels like you could hardly have two more different birthing experiences than Pearl and Rose. I shared Pearl’s story after she was born (part one and part two) but short version: Pearl was a transverse breech that went unnoticed until after my water broke and I had an unplanned caesarean section. She had been diagnosed with heart and kidney issues in utero and so spent the first day of her life in the NICU.

From early on in my pregnancy with Rose the question was “to VBAC or not to VBAC?” (VBAC = vaginal birth after caesarean). I have no regrets about how Pearl’s birth went. It was far from ideal but it was what was needed to deliver her safely. The result was a healthy, thriving baby and that is what matters. So I went into this pregnancy with the attitude that as long as we ended up with another healthy baby, I didn’t really care how it exited my body. Labour and delivery does not a mother make.

That said, when you have a baby, people want to know how long you laboured, how delivery went. New moms swap stories and I always felt like I didn’t have much to contribute. I had never been through labour. As well, recovery from the c-section had been hard and I didn’t relish going through that again, especially now with a two-year-old.

I was a good candidate for a VBAC but ultimately the decision would be left up to the wisdom of our local OBGYN (and the baby’s position, of course). I had my first appointment with him in August where he outlined his reasons for and against VBAC and suggested a date for an elective c-section. I was surprised by how disappointed I felt that he seemed to be leaning towards another c-section but we agreed to wait another month and see where baby was at.

My due date was October 8th but I was sure that baby would arrive earlier than that. I’d been having false labour and irregular contractions for weeks, something I never had with Pearl. Labour Day weekend, while Peter and Pearl camped out in our backyard, I felt the baby make a big movement I hadn’t felt before and the next day Peter commented that I was suddenly carrying lower than I had been. Contractions continued over the next weeks and by the time I saw the OBGYN again he was happy to see how low the baby was. Baby was in a great position for me to deliver and so we agreed to wait and see what happened, with the knowledge that if I hadn’t delivered by my due date they would schedule a c-section.

I felt increasingly ready for baby to arrive and so when my doctor suggested a membrane sweep at my appointment on September 29th I eagerly agreed. I made an appointment for the following week but we both felt confident that we’d be seeing each other again much sooner.

Heading out to the doctor’s office, Friday morning.

Contractions ramped up almost right away. Peter was skeptical but I was increasingly feeling like the baby would join us that weekend. Peter and Pearl and I went on a pre-bedtime walk that night and Peter timed my contractions as we strolled through the neighbourhood. They were coming close together but didn’t feel that intense so we took the long way home. Peter put Pearl to bed while I sat down on the couch and read up on signs of labour and when to head to the hospital. Contractions slowed down significantly and we went to bed.

Friday evening, out for a walk.

I woke again at 1:30 am and now my contractions were strong enough that I couldn’t fall back asleep. Moving to the couch, I timed them from 2 – 3 am and at 3am I woke Peter up. After calling into the hospital we decided it was time to go. Peter’s parents came to stay with Pearl and by 4am I was hooked up to the fetal monitor.

One last photo as a family of three!

I’ll spare you the gory details but will say that giving birth the traditional way is super painful. I know everyone says that but it is a next level pain that nothing prepares you for. While pushing (which lasted about 45 minutes) I couldn’t keep myself from yelling out, just these really deep, primal cries. Peter tells me that I wasn’t actually that loud but it felt like I was screaming my head off. I’d heard about the pain but also about the intense relief you feel when the baby actually arrives and both are true. Rose was born at 2:01pm, so all told I was in labour about twelve hours. It felt like a long time and I recall feeling frustrated at several points because it seemed like things weren’t moving as quickly as I wanted. Over and over though the nurses and doctor told me that things were progressing well and moving along.

Because I was a VBAC patient, I was kept on the fetal monitor for most of my labour, with a few breaks in order to walk up and down the hall. Baby’s heartbeat dropped a few times during contractions early on and then later as well so there were some nervous moments. Position seemed to make a difference so I stayed on my side a lot (which was the position in which I most felt the need to push later on) and the OBGYN hung around the hospital all day, despite not being on duty, just in case he needed to spring into action. My doctor and the nurses who cared for us were so available, helpful, and encouraging and I’m so thankful for the amazing care we received.

I had worried that I wouldn’t know when to push but what everyone says is true – you know. It’s a pretty undeniable urge and when I started to feel it I wasn’t yet fully dilated. Fortunately, my doctor quickly decided I was close enough and let me push. Almost immediately, everything stopped. I didn’t feel the urge anymore and my contractions moved further apart. They hooked me up to the IV and moved positions and things quickly started up again. This was definitely the most painful part but things were happening so fast, contraction following contraction, that I didn’t really have time to think or focus on anything other than pushing and getting the baby out. At one point, someone asked if I wanted to feel the baby’s head and I don’t think I even replied. I remember thinking, “I will when this is done.”

And then, the pain diminishes and you are suddenly holding the world’s newest person. “Let Karissa see,” said one of the nurses as they passed me my baby. I got to hold her right away, skin-to-skin, something that I missed out on with Pearl.

For all its unflattering qualities, I love this picture. Me, completely exhausted and euphoric. Rose, covered in vernix and so brand new.

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While checking her heartbeat, one of the nurses noticed that Rose was working hard to intake air so they took her over to the warming station in the room. She had cried a little upon coming out but her lungs were full of mucus. The doctor spent a few minutes suctioning out her lungs and she was on a respirator for a little while. It felt like longer as I watched but she was soon crying again and back in my arms. She nursed right away (something that took much longer with Pearl, likely because we were apart for most of her first 24 hours) and Peter and I just got to enjoy our new little love.

Peter and Rose

Pearl came to meet her baby sister later that evening – she was more interested in the dinner that had just been brought to me but was excited to introduce Baby Rose to her grandparents. Rose and I stayed the night in the hospital while Peter went home with Pearl and we were discharged Sunday afternoon.

Recovery this time around has been so much easier than after a caesarean. While giving birth is hard on your body no matter what, this time around it feels like my body went through something hard but something that it was made to do. This time around I’m able to go for walks, carry my newborn in a carrier, and get in and out of bed or a chair easily.

I’m thankful for each of my girls and how they entered the world. It’s been an interesting experience, having two such different birth stories and I feel very grateful for living in a place where I have medical care and options available to me and my family.

We are continuing to get used to life with two little ones but it’s been pretty straightforward so far. Peter had a week off work, which was wonderful, and I’m taking the days on my own with the girls easy as I figure out what parenting looks like now. Rose has been a great eater and sleeper and that also makes life much easier. Now I just need to figure out how to shower with both of them around!

Pearl at 13 Months

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Mischievous. Inquisitive. Observant.

Pearl at 13 months is full of energy, laughs frequently, and always wants to explores. When strangers stop to say hello or wave at her, she stares back, unsmilingly (she reserves her waves for her favourite people or when the person’s not looking). But she’ll squeal gleefully at a dog or cat and will do her best to pet and hug any dog she can. Oh yeah, she gives hugs now and it’s  one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to me.

She loves to stand up on our kitchen counter and watch the boys next door play hockey in the cul-de-sac. Again, when they wave at her, she just stares at them in return so I end up waving a lot at these little boys.

She has yet to say any words but she understands a lot. She definitely knows when she’s doing something she’s not supposed to because she gets a particular little grin on her face and then takes off running. (As much as a thirteen-month-old can run.) She’ll bark if she hears a dog or a bird and will bark at dogs and cats (including pictures). She can also moo and meow and growl.

Pearl loves carrying around baskets (or ice cream buckets because we’re classy like that) and putting things into them. Easter came at a great developmental time for her!

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Her walking gets faster all the time – not quite running but she goes at full, tiny speed. Her new thing now is climbing. As she gets taller this gets easier (and harder for us to keep things out of her reach). We are working on teaching her caution but not fear. Actually, a little bit of fear might be nice; there are a lot of tumbles.

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She also likes to collect things, like pine cones. She gathered these pine cones together at the park, placed them at the bottom of the slide and then climbed up to sit beside them. (Also: Peter gives me a hard time occasionally because I dress Pearl in a lot of neutrals and, since she also doesn’t have much hair, people often think she’s a boy. But on the very day, pictured above, wearing a floral romper, someone still thought she was a boy.)

More recently, Pearl’s been enjoying books even more, which obviously warms my heart. She doesn’t yet have the patience to sit still for longer than a very short story, but she loves pulling her books off the shelf and looking through the pictures. She’s interested in any magazine that comes to the house – basically anything with pictures.

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Pearl has five teeth now -her most recent popping up just last week. She eats pretty much what we eat. Loves bread, cheese, peanut butter, and cucumbers. Holds her own when we go out for sushi. Wants to eat whatever I have on my plate. Loves smoothies and so that has become my trick for sneaking more fruits and veggies into her diet.

She naps like a champ these days. Still two naps a day and I’ll be sad when she gives that up but happy too, to have more of our day freed up, especially as the weather gets nicer. Her nighttime sleep is generally really good, barring vacations and teething.

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Family shot on top of Mt. Daniel on Easter Monday

Pearl loves being outside and so I’m looking forward to a summer of adventures – hiking, playing at the park, time at the beach, maybe even some camping. I feel so lucky to spend my days with her.

This Time Last Year…

One year ago today Peter and I were walking (very slowly) around Kerrisdale while I tried to figure out if my contractions were real or false labour (they were false). I can remember sitting in an armchair in a second-hand shop, wondering if the store would charge me if my water broke.

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Last February, in Stanley Park, at 39 weeks.

We’re currently eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new baby in our extended family and I’m realizing how impatient I was, especially considering I never made it to 40 weeks!

As cliche as it sounds, I can hardly believe that a year has gone by. That a year ago at this time, our baby was an unknown entity, squirming and hiccuping inside of me. When I think of how much Pearl has changed and grown and learned in a year, it blows my mind. Mostly because that’s what we all experienced in our first year of life and that’s pretty amazing.

Pearl - two days old

Pearl – two days old

This year has been full of fun, challenge, tears (of happiness, of frustration, of exhaustion, of pure crazy hormonal moments), less sleep than I thought possible and more sleep than I thought likely.

Parenthood has been both the easiest and the most demanding job I’ve ever had. Demanding because you are always on. I’m her mom. No matter what I’m doing, no matter where I am, some part of my brain is dwelling on her. I always have to be prepared for Pearl to need me, day or night. Already, in a year, those needs are getting less intense. The wakeful nights are fewer and shorter. Her happy times playing and exploring around the house are longer. But always, I’m ready to go to her when she needs me.

Our first weekend at home.

Our first weekend at home.

But it’s easy too. Because it’s a joyful job. Because it’s the funniest, most relaxed, most interesting job I’ve ever had. It’s a job I’m thrilled to do. It’s a job that comes so much more easily and naturally than I expected. I often marvel at the instinct that makes me long to hold her when she cries and fusses, that thinks her pouty face is absolutely adorable, even when I have never felt that way about any one else’s baby.

That face!

That face!

I haven’t read a lot of parenting books and I try to avoid googling too much baby stuff. I have learned that every baby is different and I have learned to trust that Peter and I know how to care for our girl. Honestly, she’s been pretty easy.

Tomorrow Pearl will be one. She loves to walk, particularly while carrying a stuffed toy or a blanket. She is learning to climb. She loves animals and can make a moo, a woof, and a growling sound. She loves to make people laugh even though she doesn’t usually know why she’s being funny. Her favourite foods are bread and cheese but she also loves cucumber and avocado. She loves looking at pictures of babies but is less enthused when confronted with a real life baby. She can give hugs now but you never know when they’re going to be followed by a swift tug of your hair or the feeling of four tiny but sharp teeth on your neck.

She is shy of strangers and new places and still gets excited when her dad comes home in the evening. She loves making noise – whether that’s her version of “singing”, banging a spoon against the oven door, or pressing the keys of the piano. She dances along to music and she loves to splash in the tub. She has a smile for me every time I go in to her room to get her out of her crib and she snuggles in to my arms every night as she gets ready for bed. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for our Pearl.

Pearl and I - our first picture

Pearl and I – our first picture

(Pearl’s birth story – part one and part two)

Some Regular January Life

We’re almost halfway through January and beginning to settle into our new normal. Pearl is officially walking, going greater distances every day. I don’t know when the toddler stage starts but it feels like we’re there. Complete with childproofing kit. I know I keep saying it but this is the most fun stage yet. Yes, she’s into everything and she’s developing strong opinions about a lot of things but she’s more fun than ever. She’s using sounds to communicate and she loves to play games. I feel fortunate to have such a good-natured little girl.

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Winter baby! Pulling off hats and shoes is a fun game these days. Which means we’ve lost one hat in a parking lot somewhere so far and had to make a quick shopping trip for a warm winter hat while we were in Vancouver.

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We need warm clothes because it snowed last week! You can’t tell in this picture but here’s Pearl and I bundled up for a walk in the snow. It lasted approximately eight hours. As it started coming down last Tuesday morning, I tucked Pearl under my coat and hurried outside to stand in the driveway to watch it come down. We were both in our pyjamas as our new next door neighbour waved at us. It kept coming down so we went for a brief walk later in the afternoon. And then it was gone before night because it’s the west coast.

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And two from our forest walk on the weekend.

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Pearl loves being outside.

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She also loves spaghetti. And bath time. The two seem to go together.

Happy New Year (with an emphasis on the Happy)

2016. Whoa.

After Peter and I came home from celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Day with family, we spent an evening over a bottle of wine, talking about what 2016 might look like for us. Neither of us are big on resolutions but we set some goals (somehow that feels different from resolutions but maybe that’s just me?). We talked about what changes might come this year and what our day-to-day life might look like. 2015 held some big stuff for us and so as we enter a new year (and the new decade of our thirties!) we agreed that we are happy and thankful for our current lives. We don’t foresee any major life changes in 2016 and we are both totally okay with that. We don’t plan on moving, we are hoping to make a couple of small trips but no big vacations. No major purchases (do tires for our car count?). We have so much. We love each other. We love our little girl. We are blessed to live in our own home in a community we love.

Pearl will continue to grow and we will continue to learn how to parent her. I can hardly believe she’ll be one so soon! Peter will likely be doing some more schooling on top of his current full-time work. I’m transitioning back into working a little bit. (I might share more about that – it’s new and I’m still sorting out my feelings.)

Our goals for 2016 are small. Making time for each other. Spending more time reading the Bible (together and separately), praying, Bible study. Figuring out ways to serve our community. Taking care of ourselves physically. We’ll keep figuring out what each of these will look like. I want to be better at starting my day in Scripture. I want to keep reading lots (though I suspect I won’t read as many books in 2016 as I did in 2015 and that’s okay). I want to spend lots of time outdoors with Pearl. I want to snack more healthily (says I, as I chow down on a bag of Mini Eggs!) I want to kiss my husband every day and sniff the top of my baby’s head and read good books and get enough sleep and let go of unnecessary worry.

Weekend Travels

My birthday present to Peter this year was tickets to Hey Rosetta! in Vancouver and so this past weekend, we headed over to the Big City.

There was a time when going to an event in the city was an easy occasion. Throw a change of clothes in a bag, pull up to the ferry terminal ten minutes before sailing to walk on, walk off on the other side to get on the bus and, boom, you’re in Vancouver. Wander around downtown, see a band play, eat food. Don’t worry about the time. You can sleep late Saturday morning.

Oh, how life changes.

I'm just going to put this picture here. No particular reason.

I’m just going to put this picture here. No particular reason.

Now, for such a weekend, a plan is necessary. Before I even bought the tickets, I had to check that we had family willing to hang out with our sleeping baby. If all went well, Pearl would be asleep when we left for the concert and asleep when we returned and asleep all the way through.

We had to pack carefully. Still just a simple change of clothes for me but multiple changes for Pearl (just in case). Plus blankets, sheets, her pack-and-play to sleep and nap in, toys, and diapers. Cannot forget diapers.

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“Diapers, jammies, and a bunny” – Peter, describing Pearl’s necessities.

We had timed it carefully to catch the earliest possible ferry after Peter finished work, with enough time to get to my family and get Pearl settled so that we could leave before the concert started. Predictably, the ferry was late.

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We let her drive for a while.

Despite the timing not being what we hoped for, Peter and I made it to the venue right before Yukon Blonde came on stage as the opening band and Pearl slept the entire time. Peter and I even stopped for street hot dogs on the way back.

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The next day we swapped with our babysitters. Saturday morning was French toast, cartoons, and hide-and-seek. (Pearl is not a great hide-and-seek partner.) Our girl got seriously loved on by her big cousins.

And then we packed up our copious amounts of things and came home. All in all, I call it a success.

Toy-Stealing, Dog-Petting, Beer-Drinking

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Photobombing dog.

Bella the Dog is no longer with us. (By which I mean she went back to her real home. She’s totally still alive.) Our house feels much quieter and afternoon walks are a little less chaotic. Pearl misses her furry friend though.

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Bella seemed to think that I made little beds complete with toys for her.

Life is slipping gently into its new routine. The days are quiet but full and I love each one. Pearl is everywhere and wants to be into all things. She has started trying to climb things which has meant some tumbles. She has yet to learn fear. Or consequences. Or gravity. About a week after she started crawling, she pulled herself up to stand, holding on to the edge of the couch. It’s impressive and terrifying and her new favourite thing. She tries to pull herself up on anything and everything, regardless of its sturdiness. I hover between holding on to her, trying to ensure that she doesn’t ever get hurt, and stepping back just a little to let her try new things. I love watching her learn.

Which is good because I have to watch her all the time. Her favourite things to put in her mouth are things she shouldn’t have in her mouth. And anything leather.

Some photos from life recently:

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My mom bought this for Pearl when she was just a couple of months old and I recently remembered it and pulled it out. A little barn/farmyard with a pig, a chicken, and two cows. (Pearl added the dinosaur and the octopus.) She loves the little chicken, as you can see. The barn folds up and she also loves pushing it around. She loves pushing things around right now.

Speaking of pushing around…

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This is a photo of the first time Pearl took a toy from another child. It’s hard to tell if she’s emotionally attached to her toys or if she just wanted to play with it at that moment and doesn’t understand being nice to others yet.

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I tried that classic parenting trick of letting the kid play in the container cupboard while I made dinner. Pearl was definitely excited but quickly got upset when this lid wouldn’t fit all the way in her mouth.

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I swore I would never be one of those moms who dressed in matching outfits with her daughter (and I won’t be! really!) but how cute are these baby Chucks? I’ve been a Converse fan for years now and someone gave these little pink Converse sneakers to Pearl as a gift.

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This weekend our little town had its second annual Oktoberfest, complete with beer tasting, bratwurst and German techno music. We headed down to taste test from the local breweries represented. Back in November, when we were in Powell River, Peter and I did a tour of the brewery there – Townsite. Since I was pregnant, I didn’t get to taste any of their beers at the time so I was excited to sample what they had. Peter waited with Pearl on the other side of that orange fence – being under 19, she wasn’t allowed in the beer area – and then we switched.

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Then we ate bratwurst and wished we were in Germany again.

And now it’s Monday and it’s sunny and life is good.

Oh, and a glamour shot of Bella:

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