31 July 2014

Pig Tails

What's the world record for youngest pigtail wearer? Can anyone beat 11 weeks 5 days? Anyone?

Two Under Four

This week has not been the easiest of all weeks. As I was contemplating blog post ideas this morning, I was feeling all woe is me, but then I logged onto Facebook and read a few blog posts. One person had posted a quote about how we choose our dispositions in the face of our situations, another had blogged about her family's more-than-once trip to the doctor/urgent care/er this week. At some point I had to acknowledge the fact that my life is not that bad. I can't let PPD get the best of me. And tomorrow through Sunday are going to be some really awesome days. I've got way fun things planned and I will definitely bring my camera, take lots of pictures, and give you all a play-by-play come Monday. In the meantime, photos from this week.

She'll be 12 weeks old on Saturday. 12 weeks! She can flail for things now and when she is successful in grabbing, she can bring them to her mouth. She can also roll from her back to her side. But only the right side. And she cheats to do it - she lifts her legs up, then swings them to the side and her hips follow - all momentum. But she is so gosh darn excited about it.


She's starting to enjoy being on the tummy time mat and chilling in the boppy pillow, but Abigail's "Baybee is not in Mommy's arms" radar goes off and she comes streaking in from wherever she was to love on "Baybee."


Eleanor loves her sister - she looks around when she hears her voice and she'll smile at Abigail to get her attention, but she is also (understandably) a wee bit cautious.


Abigail has grown increasingly interested in being behind the camera instead of in front of it. When I point the lens at her, she'll usually protest: "No! No! Awww done!" When I start taking pictures of something else, she gets a little panicky, "Mumma! Mumma!" until I stop, give her time to catch up to me, and let her watch the preview screen while I take pictures. I like to zoom in on something across the room and call for Matt or Belle to make an appearance.  


When they do, Abigail gets all excited, leans in to the screen, and says surprised, "Cat!"

The other day I stuck my two irritating little Krakens in their respective cribs so that I do my makeup in peace for a family party later that evening had the girls in their cribs and I could hear Abigail providing a running commentary to Eleanor. Sometimes it was just a series of babble following a noise. A car drives by: "Bye, car! Baybee, car! *unintelligible* Car! *unintelligible* Baybee!" I knew the mobile had stopped whenever I'd hear, "Oh no! Aw done, Baybee!"


In case you noticed and were wondering, I did rearrange the girls' room the other day. I didn't like having Eleanor's crib so close to the window. She doesn't sleep in there yet, but when I set her in it to put laundry away or read Abigail a book, either the sun is too bright or the breeze too chilly or whatnot. I'll only get worse once we hit winter - plus by then she'll probably be sleeping through the night and therefore in her own room. I'm going to test it out for a few days before I go through the trouble of re-arranging the wall decorations.

Abigail has become increasingly interested in imitating what I do with Eleanor on her baby dolls. So I made her her own boppy pillow.


I cannot figure out how to turn on this damn flower, but Abigail figured it out. Seriously, for her entire babyhood, Abigail never heard the singing flower because I couldn't get the configuration of switches right. I mean seriously, you wouldn't think a baby toy would be that hard.


And finally, a Throwback Thursday picture! It's an engagement shot of Matt and I back in 2007! I look like I'm 12, my goodness. Anyway, Matt's sister recently got engaged (we're all very excited - more about that later) and as she told everyone the story of how he proposed, it had us all reminiscing about our own engagements.


Ah, we were so young and innocent! Anyway, like I said, fun times this weekend and lots of pictures. Hint, some of them may involve auctioned bunnies. Which I still think is just the most hilarious thing ever.

28 July 2014

One Year

Today I drove to the doctor's office, which involves a short trip down one country road, across another, and up one final country road that runs parallel to a county fair where today they had a tractor pull. I have no idea what a tractor pull is, but if it's literally people watching tractors pull things, you can bet I will never be tempted to spend money on the entrance fees. My friends tell me that they think cities smell bad. But the country smells like shit. Literally. Horse shit, cow shit, sheep shit. They call it manure so that they sound spiffier, but it all means I can't roll my windows down unless I happened to pack a bottle of perfume in my diaper bag that morning. As I stared at the empty fields of corn and wheat at the deserted stop light on my way to the country doctor, I missed my city.


We were visiting a friend's family's farm the other day - the type of farm that has sheep and chickens - and as one of the girls carried Abigail through the sheep pen, offering her the opportunity to pet one, she turned to look at me. The look on my little girl's face said, "Mommy, get me the hell out of this sheep pen." And all I could think was about how much she loved the sights and sounds of Chicago. We're city girls, you and me, Baby.



The county fair where people pay to watch tractors pull stuff is the same one that marked the start of our life back in Michigan. I've been living in this rural country town just outside of the dying capital of Michigan for exactly one year now. I miss Chicago in a heart-hurting kind of way today.


25 July 2014

Guesswork

I feel like everyday my kids are holding a new right answer to all their woes and it's my job to figure out what it is. So the very day I posted that routines were the solution? - I tested my schedule for a full week before I said anything - but that very day I talked about it, suddenly it failed. Abigail was back to her terrible threes despite all the attention she was getting. So this week I tried to get back out. I booked plans for Tuesday-Thursday. Not being home seemed to help a lot, even if I was just wearing Abigail in the Ergo and doing all the physical exercise myself as we met up with a friend for ice cream.


So since my life is crazy no matter what I do, I'm trying to change me. I'm a quiet yet high-strung kind of person, but I'm striving to be calmer. Not only will the stress-reduction be good for my heart, but I think a calm mother will make for a better environment for my girls to grow up in.

My relaxation techniques include asking God for help, imaging someone who's calm when I'm stressed, and saying repetitive prayers (a Rosary, the Divine Mercy) during my afternoon prayer time. I'd love to get in some meditation, but we'll see once Eleanor is okay with being out of my arms a little bit more.

And now for your viewing...pleasure? My toddler singing "Let It Go" at the top of her lungs. "Make the neighbors cringe" is the only volume level she has when it comes to this song no matter what I do.


24 July 2014

Taboo Topic

This is NFP awareness week, my friends! I've been very open in explaining our position throughout various related past posts, but I thought I'd expand a bit during this here awareness week. But I'm gonna do it kinda quickly because my children have got it out for me today - don't let those angelic faces fool you.

This picture was taken a few weeks ago. I'm pretty sure Eleanor has grown more hair since then.

So Matt and I are real Catholics. We don't use artificial contraception; we only use NFP. I state it very harshly because the Church's position on the pill, IUDs, condoms, vasectomies, etc isn't unclear.

Matt and I follow the rules. Because we're supposed to. But the truth? I hate NFP.

Why is it that phases one and three never line up with anniversaries, birthdays, or freakin' Valentine's Day? Not fair. Why is it that I'm only in the mood during phase two - the ONE phase when you need to abstain? Not fair. Why does my body have to be so unpredictable with crazy cycles? One time I had a cycle last 72 days. 72. That was a fun summer. And after Abigail there was no breastfeeding, so there was no natural spacing.

I hate NFP, so when a friend recommend a book called The Sinner's Guide to NFP, I was pretty eager to read it. My hope was that after I read it, I'd love NFP. Instead I came to realize that I'm not alone: no one loves NFP. And that made it easier to bear.

A few things in particular really struck home:
-Virtue is not a patient person being patient. I hate NFP (Matt is not it's biggest fan either), but we do it anyway. That's obedience to God's will.

-Birth control is not all it's cracked up to be either. The media has a way of making sex, drugs, and rock n' roll look more glamorous than they really are. The author recommends typing in the name of a birth control + side effects to read up on the horror stories the other side can suffer.

-Nothing worth having is easy. Virtues aren't easy, marriage isn't easy, well-behaved children aren't easy, friendship isn't easy, saving money isn't easy, diet and exercise aren't easy; heck, taking your family on vacation isn't even easy!

We haven't had to resume NFP since I read the book, but when we do, I'm going to spend less time in self-pity because I'm sorta rocking this one aspect of faithfulness to God.

21 July 2014

Routines: Ressurecting the Rule of Life

I'm super excited to report good news. I've sliced Abigail's bad behavior by about 85%. Seriously: I discovered the secret. Routine.

I know what you're thinking. Jacqueline, you brag all the time about how AMAZING routines are, how much they improve your life. WHY the hell don't you just shut up and stay on one? Except you probably skipped the swearing part because you have more manners than I do.
I don't know why, my friends, I don't know.

Back in law school, a friend recommend a book about routine that I finally read while we were in Chicago. I loved it an instantly created and implemented a schedule in our lives and saw great improvement in my frustration levels and ability to keep the house clean without sacrificing Chica time. But when I got pregnant and then had a miscarriage, I fell off the schedule and then sorta forgot about it. Fast forward to last week. Eleanor never wanted to be put down, I felt like I couldn't even get dinner made, Abigail was constantly on a tear, always angry, I was always stressed. Every single day was a bad day and I was calling Matt every few hours to vent. Last Monday I finally decided that I couldn't live one more day like that. I remembered the book, went into survival mode (yes, crackers for lunch; yes, Blues Clues on a sunny afternoon; yes, stuff so thick on the living room floor that you can't walk across it (we have a small living room, it doesn't take much to get to that point)) - whatever it took to crank out a schedule. I polished it up over naptime and as soon as Abigail woke up: Routine. By the time Matt got home from work a few hours later, we were all calm and happy. He probably thought he walked into the wrong house.


Why The Schedule Helps...

-Me get more done - It stops me from wasting time. I am the stay at home mom of two kids in a 1000 sqft apartment. 24 hours is enough time. Scheduling out my time means less is spent wastefully. I also work harder because I know I'm guaranteed a few breaks that day.

-Keep my stress levels low - There is time for everything everyday, so when I can't get something done today, I know there will be time for it tomorrow. For example, if Eleanor is being super clingy and I can't get bread made today, I know that tomorrow will bring with it another chore hour and I'll get the bread made then.

-Abigail's bad behavior - It turns out a good chunk of her acting up was simply to get attention. With the schedule, she gets guaranteed Mommy time. She knows its coming, so she happily plays independently when I need to feed Eleanor or do some dishes. Plus, Abigail really, really likes helping and the schedule let's her know what's happening next, so she can anticipate it. For example, when it's time to go outside for PT/exercise time, she runs over to Eleanor's carseat, unbuckles it, pushes the shade back, etc. It makes her feel very needed to help out in these little ways. (The carseat snaps into the stroller).

-Keep me from getting angry when Abigail does act up - She's still a toddler, so she still does have her moments. Like last week when it took us 35 minutes to walk 300 years. I. Kid. You. Not. She wanted me to carry her, but the point of PT/exercise time is to burn some energy. She didn't take well to being refused. We had a complete a hysterical, tear-filled meltdown about every six feet. But I never once lost my temper. Why? Because I'd planned to spend this time outside with Abigail. Okay, so we were spending it screaming on the sidewalk instead of walking, but still, I was outside with Abigail.

Why Most Rebuttals are Wrong...

-My life is too unpredictable to have a schedule - Then you change your schedule. There are three times per day that Eleanor will tolerate not being in my arms, so I planned my three most important baby-free activities for those slots. When she switches it up, I'll switch up my schedule. On a day-to-day basis, you can move things around the schedule as needed. When Abigail is really rambunctious, I swap morning chore time and outdoor time. The schedule is suppose to make life easier, so as soon as it does the opposite, change the schedule.

-I like being spontaneous - So write it into your schedule. Seriously. Your routine can be as specific or vague as you want. For example, I just have PT/exercise written on mine. I can go to the library, the nearby splash pad, the soccer field, or just for a walk. Or schedule no schedule on a certain day of the week. Make every Friday a "fly by the seat of your pants" kind of day. I bet your regular routine will enhance you enjoyment of spontaneity because it will be a bigger contrast. Like how chocolate tastes more amazing when you've been abstaining from it for a week. Or 40 days.


The Hardest Part of the Routine...

It takes discipline to stick with it. There is no threat of a boss standing over you at 4:00pm to say, "Hey, this is story time. Get to it." Sometimes I am really, really sick of reading We're Going on a Bear Hunt and I just want hide in the living room and stay on Facebook. It takes discipline to force yourself to sit on the floor and read that *@&$(@*$ book again.


My routine is very specific because I like it that way. In practice, it's a bit looser, but basically everything happens at about those times.

My Favorite (Two) Part(s) of the Routine...

- It saves the day. On Friday I decided to rebel against the schedule and have a lazy day, but by lunch time, we were all a mess. Friday was looking like the previous week when every day made me want to quit my life. So I jumped back in. I checked the clock, I checked the schedule, and I ran with it. By the time Matt got home from work, life was going smoothly again.

- I can make sure my girls are living enriching lives. Each person has their own column, so I can easily see what my kids' lives are like. Abigail's day involves independent play, helping with chores, outdoor time, a nap, story time, OT/art time, Daddy time, and prayer time. That sounds like a great day for a three-year-old. For Eleanor, it helps me figure out what I'm going to be doing with her at various times of the day, so I'm more likely to actually get that shower.

And on a TOTALLY different note, my favorite picture of last week:





18 July 2014

Q and As

I feel the need to blog, but I'm sure you're all sick of me droning on and on about my life with a toddler and a newborn (Eleanor has already spit up twice on me today - it's 9:53am. She must know I actually took the time to shower this morning). Life has been really, really good this week, but not very exciting, so I'm answering link up questions without actually linking up. Because I hate link ups. These are next Sunday's questions coming to you today because I'm ahead of the trend. Here's the blog where you can find these things.

1. What’s something you've won and how did you win it?
Matt and I won the Knights of Columbus Family of the Year award at our church this year (the year runs from June to June). They presented it to us on the day of Eleanor's Baptism, so all our family was present, but we didn't tell anyone it was coming and they were all shocked and amazed and happy for us. The Knights had a campaign to raise money to buy an ultrasound machine for a pregnancy center that is opening up in our community, and I designed all the marketing materials for it. That plus Matt is very active in the Knights and jumped right into the organization as soon as we moved in.

2. Do you save old greeting cards and letters, or throw them all away? Why?
They almost all get tossed. They take up space, and how often do you really go back through your old greeting cards? I do have a shoe box full of love letters from my dating days with Matt (we're old fashioned like that), I have a few cards that the girls have given me, I kept a few baby shower cards that went in the girls' baby books, and I keep cards that my grandmother has given to my girls.

3. When you’re at home, do you wear shoes, socks, slippers, or go barefoot?
Barefoot. Almost always. I'm always too warm and I have found that taking my socks off cools me down faster. Abigail always goes barefoot because she has a thing about textures and her feet. Eleanor goes barefoot because she kicks her socks off. And Matt is always in slippers and/or socks because he's always cold.

4. Who’s the most famous person you have ever met?
Yo-Yo Ma. I worked at an upscale hotel for a while and checked him in upon arrival. He comes across as very humble and pleasant to be around - friendly, polite, and has a sense of humor.

5. What has been your best work of art?
Oh geeze, what do you mean by art? I mean, I could get really new-agey here and call my children my greatest work of art. Are my crocheted blankets art? Is writing art? Do you mean the best picture I ever painted as a kid? Since I'm answering the question, I'm going to interpret it to mean that writing counts and go with a short story I wrote in high school (for a college class) about a boy who drowned trying to save his dog. It isn't the best thing I've ever written to date, but I think it was really good considering my age and skillset at the time.

6. What’s your strongest sense?
My sense of hearing. My vision has been awful for about 18 years (I first got glasses when I was nine), so I've gotten really good at navigating life by depending on my ears. Noteworthy cases: I could tell the difference between ambulance, police, and fire truck sirens in Chicago, I can tell which direction Matt is facing by the way his voice sounds, and back when we had two cats, I could tell which cat was walking across the room by the way their feet sounded hitting the carpet. For me, going blind would be much easier than going deaf or mute.

Well that's it for questions! This weekend, I plan to venture out for my first real alone time since Eleanor's birth! My laptop and I will be hitting up a coffee shop for some creative writing time. I've got a few bottles of pumped milk in the fridge just waiting for Eleanor. I'm so stoked!

16 July 2014

Now We Stay Home

Two weeks ago, the solution to all my problems was: Get outside! Visit friends! Have playdates! Just leave the apartment! This week, getting out is stressful and complicates all my problems. Right now the solution is: Stay home! Follow a routine! Give Abigail so much attention that she doesn't even want to misbehave!

Kids fly through stages so fast it gives me whiplash.

So anyway, we're staying home a lot more lately. Right now it's Mommy computer time, Abigail independent play time. If it doesn't rain, we might attempt walking up to the library during physical therapy/exercise time. 2.2 miles (round trip) is a long way to walk with two under three and a one-seater stroller. (The double stroller I was borrowing did not work out and I returned it. Does two under three mean one is three-years-old? Or does it literally mean that they both are under the age of three?)

I need to commit some time to sitting down and organizing the photos on my computer. My current system is not working. I'm also saving up my money to buy a new camera. The one I have now is 6-7 years old and never did well in low lighting. It seems to have given up even trying to focus on the foreground anymore. Ah, old age. Is 6-7 old for a camera? Not sure.

That mobile is always so captivating.

We have discovered Dr. Seuss.

We have a friend who makes my babies quilts. It makes my heart happy to have handmade quilts.

The other day I returned to the dining room to discover this scene. That's my now-ruined chapstick on the floor, my planner open, and my daughter scribbling all over October. Do you want to know the first thing I thought? Wow, she even put the cap on the back of the pen! That takes mad fine motor skills! Raising Abigail has changed my perspective in life.

She's totally in the: Super-cute chubs, I'll sometimes nap alone, I smile whenever I see you stage of life. When pretty much the worst thing she does is cry when I put her down to take a shower. This stage makes me want to have about 10 more kids.

We keep the cat food, water, and liter pan behind this baby gate. Belle will not jump over the baby gate. Never. Instead she actually squeezes between the bars. It's quite disturbing to watch. I'll film it for you sometime. But she'll jump up on top of the damn fridge.

Baby's first selfie



14 July 2014

Different Currency

It took me months and months and months of discussion, thought, visits, worry, prayers, stress, and anxiety before I finally came to the conclusion that special ed preschool this fall is what would help Abigail the most. (Read it real time: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V) But as all moms know, there can sometimes be two layers of decision-making and once you determine what's best for the child, you have to get yourself there emotionally. So even though I knew that preschool is really more like 3 hours a day (4 days/week) of therapy, and I knew that Abigail would thrive there, and I knew that the teacher's experience will be able to help Abigail very quickly in ways it would take me months to figure out, I was still wondering if it was the right decision. Part of me kept arguing that I'm her mother and no one could help her better than I could.

All it took to get me ready for preschool emotionally was the terrible threes.

My gosh. This child has got oppositional issues that I am not equipped to handle. Two weeks ago we met with a child behavioral psychologist (Abigail gets free evaluations everyone so many years) and she noted that Abigail scored "abnormally high" in the repetitive oppositional behavior category. And of course all that is normal for a kid with Down syndrome. But it actually made me feel a little better to hear that! I was thinking I was becoming a terrible parent.

The second issue I'm stoked to have help resolving is the issue of her running. Running is more commonly found in kids with Autism, but I know of a few people in the Ds community who struggle with runners. Its when your child runs full-speed away from you. In an instant. And has no concept of danger. My only saving grace is that Abigail is not a very fast runner.

We were at a splash pad on Saturday and while I was feeding Eleanor while Matt kept his eye on Abigail. When she bolted out the exit, Matt watched her for a second before running after her and hauling her back. He told me later that he thought she would turn around and come back in the park. But she didn't turn around, he said, shocked. She didn't even look back. She was headed full-speed toward the parking lot. But that's Abigail - she'll slip out of a hand-hold and dart away at any time at any place. The grocery store, church, walking down the sidewalk. She doesn't seem to have any concept of cars as dangerous. It's gotten so bad that I don't walk alone around our apartment complex during the day anymore. Too often I've had to leave Eleanor in the stroller alone to run after Abigail. That's not safe for anyone.

Ms. N, the amazing, talented preschool teacher was telling us on our visit back in December that they work on walking in a line. First they all walk through the halls holding a rope, then they slowly drop the rope and walk along together in a straight line. Through the bustling halls of a school. With other kids and noise and stimulation. And somehow all the kids stay focused and walk in a straight line.

I'm trying to think of a simile here, an example to help convey my shock and disbelief. It was as if I'd told you I had a seeing eye cat. Or I'd trained an elephant to clean my apartment. What?! It's not possible. I have been working with Abigail for months and months and I still can't depend on her not to bolt from our front door when I'm locking it.

Preschool is the right thing for Abigail and as much as I'm sure I'll cry when I drop her off the first day, I'm totally stoked about it. The politically correct term right now is "developmentally delayed," but it doesn't really feel like Abigail's just delayed. She's not just at level 2 while everyone else is at level 3. She's not going to hit the same milestones as everyone else a bit later. It feels more like she's playing with a different deck of cards. Like she's trying to spend złotys when everyone else is using dollars. Ain't nothing wrong with złotys, they're just not what this country is designed to use. I need The Amazing Ms. N to show me how I can structure our house to play with both złotys and dollars.


10 July 2014

Oh goodness

Last weekend a friend (really someone in the more-than-aquaintence-but-less-than-friend category) was recounting to us a conversation she had with someone and it ended with that someone looking at my friend horrified, "but you could have a child with Down syndrome!" Everyone at the table knew about Abigail, so they all chuckled, understanding that every child is blessing, but then her hubby chimed in, "Plus they're always happy babies!"


HA! If only!

Oh goodness, my friends, three is not my favorite age. Today when Matt left for work, I locked the door, turned toward Abigail, and asked, "What do you want to do today?"

"No."

Well. Good thing we got that cleared up.

To everyone who warned me, "three is worse than two!" I say, "you are so right." What a fool was I to think that my sweet little angel could never become such a pain in the ass, difficult brat challenge. It took me about two seconds to learn that she always needs a choice.
(Do you want fishy crackers?
No!
Do you want graham crackers?
No!
Would you rather have fishy crackers or graham crackers?
Fishy crackers!)

Little power tripper.

A few plans were canceled at the last minute, so we really have been spending the entire week at home. I'm itching to get back outside a few times a week, but I've gotten a ton of those small, nagging projects done. My cabinet doors no longer squeak, all our dingy whites have been bleached, my book is being sent off to its first potential publisher tomorrow.

Hold the phone!

Yup, after years of work, I will be submitting my manuscript tomorrow to its first publisher! This publisher produces exactly the type of books I wrote, they are requesting Ds memoirs right now, and they don't require an agent. It can take up to 12 weeks to hear back and I'm of course I'm not expecting to be published at the first place I try, but hey! I made it this far!

Pray for me!!

!

Since today is ThrowBackThursday, here's me two months ago:


That's right! Today's Eleanor's second month birthday! Happy two months, Eleanor!


Oh well, at least we can now affirmatively say she doesn't have Down syndrome.

First-ever pedis:


Girl ain't gonna need falsies when she grows up:


She looks around when she hears her sister's voice. Sometimes she grimaces a bit too.

Happy Friday Eve, all! Today I am grateful the hot flashes have ceased so we can turn off the a/c, open the windows, and lower our utility bills! Plus cause hot flashes suck.

07 July 2014

Home Days

We've been playing hard this past holiday weekend. After a long six and a half weeks of working hard since paternity leave ended, we were excited to embrace the fun. Ice cream runs, long family strolls, board game nights with friends way past adult bedtimes. The diaper bag stuffed with extra diapers, sunscreen, a few changes of clothes. You never know what life might bring come a long weekend: a trip to the splash pad, family picnics; it's best to keep a pair of flip flops in the car at all times. Spending a few days out makes a few days at home more enjoyable. Laundry, dishes, proper naps at proper times. And Abigail has been excited to play with her own toys all morning. This week won't be as adventure-packed as last week, we've got a few extra days to spend at home, catching our breath in preparation for more fun next weekend.

The enraptured stare of a toddler watching Taylor Swift videos on YouTube (I desperately needed a few more minutes to finish up meal planning and making a grocery list while Sister took a rare nap alone):

Moon eyes

Bed hog

I'm gonna have to write a post about how crazy fast typically developing babies get big. I'm enjoying the adorable baby leg chubs and how proud much more she'd rather practice standing (bearing weight on her legs) verses spending time on her tummy.


She always gives the mobile the most suspicious of stares

Have a happy Monday, everyone. Today I'm grateful that God has answered my prayers to alleviate my PPD symptoms, for today at least.

02 July 2014

Two Different Girls

The first difference I notice between my two girls was their hands. Their hands and their feet.

It’s a weird thing to notice, I know, but it’s true.

Eleanor’s hands and feet look like mine, just littler. Like God was holding the “shift” key when He was making baby-sized hands.

Abigail’s hands and feet are wider, her fingers and toes shorter. When she was born, I didn’t know they weren’t normal. There are lots of special looks that babies’ have, like the recessed chins, the chubby cheeks, the barely-there eyelashes. They’re baby characteristics that are eventually traded in for more defining, person-specific characteristics. I thought Abigail’s appendages would mature, just like the rest of her little baby self. It turns out it’s a Down syndrome-thing. Like her little moon eyes when she smiles.



Abigail on the left and Eleanor on the right. Ignore how much better of a job the nurse did of capturing Abigail's than I did of getting Eleanor's. Notice how much taller and thinner the hands are? How much thinner the fingers? Notice how high the arch in the foot? How high the little toe dots are from the foot?



My girls are different. But while everyone’s kids are different from one another, the world considers the ways in which Abigail is different from Eleanor to mean she’s inferior. There is a wildly popular song out right now called “All of Me” and the chores says, “’Cause all of me/loves all of you/…/All your perfect imperfections.” That’s how I feel about it. I love Abigail’s cute feet and moon eyes. I love the way she says, “trwe” to mean “three” and how we communicate in our own little sign language that no one else gets, modified by the limits of her fine motor skills. Her little things the world declares imperfections – they are the quirks that make her who she is. And I love them because I love her.

It’s hard to explain the differences. In part because the way Abigail does things is my normal. I didn’t realize how passive she was as a baby until Eleanor. All the doctors and therapists were and are so amazed at how amazingly Abigail progresses, how strong she is, how great she is at problem solving. I don’t fully realize how all their disclaimers, for a kid with Down syndrome, truly impact the statement. Abigail is very strong for a kid with Down syndrome. But now I am realizing now how large the gap between her and typical still is. I can already tell, at less than two months old, how much more…typical…Eleanor is. Even the way she coos is different than the way Abigail cooed. Eleanor sounds like my friends’ babies, moves like my friends’ babies. It’s like an adult, but with the limitations of a baby’s size and coordination. Abigail does everything a little different. And I’m realizing day by day that she’ll probably always do things a bit different. Just like her little moon eyes, she’s probably not going to outgrow her passive, withdrawn, yet somehow flirty, nature.

The older Eleanor gets – she’s 7.5 weeks – the more I notice that holding her is like holding other people’s kids when I only had Abigail. She’s strong – she bears weight on her legs, she really tries to hold her own head up, she moves her head to study the world around her. And cognitively, they are already very different. Eleanor strives to get my attention, she imitates my emotions, and she’s already trying to smile. She even laughed her in sleep last week. She also looks proud of herself when she does a particularly good job at something, like holding her head up or holding her own weight.

Abigail never seemed pleased with herself for hitting a new milestone: sitting up, pulling to stand, walking for the first time. It was like she didn't realize what she'd done. She was a quieter baby, a better sleeper, wwwaaayyy more flexible. Eleanor is more sensitive to touch, fussier, and clingier (and I thought Abigail was bad at the time).

Really the best way I can explain it is that Abigail is a manual and Eleanor is an automatic. If you take your foot off the pedals of a manual, your car will just sit there. It waits for direction, for momentum. In an automatic, if you take your foot off the pedals, your car will creep forward a bit. Propelled toward movement by something internal. But they are both still cars. And they still take you from point A to point B. And therefore, they have more in common than in differences.

* * * * *

It does feels a bit unfair to compare the two girls’ developmental timelines because Abigail had a delayed start due to her heart condition.

You see, Abigail’s heart defect meant that her heart had to work significantly harder just to keep her alive. All of Abigail’s energy was poured into just staying alive, so she didn’t have enough left over to stay awake, let alone practice holding her head up. I was reading through old posts and looking at newborn pictures of Abigail in preparation for this post, checking to make sure my memories were accurate. And I realized that Eleanor at one and a half months is very similar to Abigail at about five months.

But it actually makes a lot of sense. Abigail had surgery at 2.5 months of age. Give her a few weeks for recovery, then give her a month and a half to grow? That puts her at about five months of age. If you deduct the time Abigail spent in “heart failure coma,” the girls are actually surprisingly similar developmentally. They even weigh about the same at those two ages.



Abigail at five months of age, Eleanor at one month.


In some ways, I hope this post is a bit confusing and even a bit contradictory. Why? Because that's how I feel like my life is when I try to analyze it. "My girls are so different! Except they are more alike than different!" "I am noticing differences already! Except they are developing at the same pace sans the heart surgery!" Oi. And getting new experiences changes the old experiences. Like, I thought Abigail had a lot of hair. Until I met Eleanor. I thought Abigail was fussy. Until I met Eleanor.

But I'm relishing the differences. Seeing Eleanor grow is a heart-filling experience in itself, plus remembering it against Abigail's childhood gives me a chance to re-live the best parts of the past. Getting to know my girls, differences and similarities, is the best part of being a mom.