Archive | Dear Olivia

Dear Olivia: Weeks 25, 26, and 27

OLIVIA25-26-27Dear Olivia,

Oh, dear. These letters kind of got away from us, hmm?

Despite having three weeks worth of letters to cram into one, this isn’t going to be very long. I’m declaring letter amnesty and we’re going to move forward.

I just want you to know that this is no reflection of our love for you. We adore you and everything that’s going on with you right now is so exciting. You’re sitting up (mostly — you can’t quite be trusted without a nest of pillows scattered around you, but you’re getting better), rolling over in both directions, and you started eating solid foods (sweet potato fries for the win!).

You laugh and smile and you hold my heart in that chubby little fist of yours. And my hair OW OW OW PLEASE LET GO.

Love always,

Mama

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Dear Olivia: Week 24

olivia-week24-webDear Olivia,

You might as well know the truth now: we didn’t get you any presents.

Don’t feel bad; we didn’t get your sister anything for her first Christmas, either. With so many family members dying to spoil you both, it’s easy to have a far more modest Christmas. You’re not going to remember, and it’s not as if you’re really wanting for anything.

There’s one exception to this: you both get an ornament for Christmas. Your first Christmas and every Christmas thereafter until we decide to not do this anymore, which will most likely be when you’re nearly as old as I am (ANCIENT, I know).

This was a tradition that my parents started with your aunt Leslie with me, and it’s absolutely one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season.

Because it’s not just an ornament, you see; there’s also a note explaining why that particular ornament was chosen and how it relates to whatever happened in our life that year.

Some years it’s straightforward and heartfelt, like my wooden dove signed by the children’s book author Tomie dePaola, chosen because a) Tomie was in town doing book signings, and b) your aunt and I LOVED reading his books.

Others make me groan and laugh at the same time, like my tiny little Wheel of Fortune ornament from 1995. To anyone else it just looks like I was a fan of the show, but it’s actually a reference to the super old-school handheld Wheel of Fortune video game I received as a gift when I was in the hospital after having my appendix removed. With nothing to do for five days except read books and watch bad tv, that game was a godsend. I played it for hours and hours, and now it’s immortalized on our tree.

I have ornaments representing vacations, family traditions, beloved pets, hobbies long since put away as well as ones I still do, and current events from that particular year. Opening up the boxes and reading the accompanying notes written in my dad’s neat block handwriting or my mom’s delicate script is like watching a highlight reel of my entire life.

Before your dad and I lived together and had our own tree, trimming the tree with my family was a collective walk down memory lane. We all have ornaments with notes, and hanging each one sparked a conversation about, “Oh my god, remember when? I’d nearly forgotten about this…”

The year your dad and I got married was the last year I received an ornament from my parents. It was the chance for your dad and I to start our own Christmas traditions, and we have. But this is one we’ve continued, and will for quite some time.

Years from now I hope your ornaments bring you as much joy as mine bring me. I hope you and Natalie laugh as you hang them, carefully choosing which ones to display and which ones to return to their boxes — just for this year; next year will be their time to shine on the tree.

I can’t begin to guess what your ornament collection will look like. I don’t know what life experiences you’ll have, what sports you might play or what books you might adore, or what will be going on in the world that we’ll want to have a reminder of on our tree.

But I can’t wait to find out.

Love always,
Mama

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Dear Olivia: Weeks 22 and 23

oj-22-23

Dear Olivia,

You ever have one of those weeks where you just can’t catch a break? Or a few in a row?

Yeah, that’s where we are right now.

To be fair, I think we’re on the upswing now, but man has it been tough.

We started off the week in a very sleep-deprived state. What began as the four-month sleep regression slid headlong into a very terrible situation where your naps were all twenty minutes, you woke up every two hours all night, every night, and convincing you to fall asleep could take upwards of an hour.

SO FUN.

That brought us to last Friday night, when everything seemed to be normal. Awful, but normal. After we put you to bed you woke up after twenty minutes. Thirty minutes. Twenty-five minutes. The night crept onwards and you would. Not. Sleep.

Every time we rocked you back to sleep, we’d gently ease you down into the pack ‘n play, and EVERY SINGLE TIME your eyes would pop back open and you’d start wailing. Again and again, all night long. You slept for no more than an hour continuously, and we eventually gave up trying to get you to sleep in the pack ‘n play. We took turns holding you until the sun rose and it was pointless to stay in bed any longer. All three of us were exhausted with red-rimmed eyes and pale faces.

I think that might have been the worst night we’ve ever had thus far with either you or Natalie. Gold star for you!

It was pretty clear by 3 a.m. that this wasn’t normal “wakefulness.” I spent the morning with you at an urgent care clinic, and sure enough, you had an ear infection. They sent us home with some antibiotics and assurances that you’d be sleeping better soon.

And you did! Saturday night was definitely better. We did make a pretty drastic decision, though. We took a hard look at your sleeping arrangements and figured hey, it’s not like things could be any worse than last night, right? Let’s put ‘er in the crib!

So we did. The pack ‘n play is now folded up and stowed away, and you’re in your own room, full time.

You didn’t stay in the crib, of  course. That would’ve been entirely too easy. No, after having some more difficulties with you  staying asleep, I decided to try something completely different based on the advice of my favorite baby sleep website: we put you in your swing.

This might sound counter-intuitive, like a step backwards. But it’s clear you’re still relying on motion to get to sleep, as evidenced by the hours and hours and hours of rocking we’ve done over the past few weeks. But then you wake up in a very flat, very motionless crib, and realize that something isn’t quite right. So you cry and can’t go back to sleep.

The theory with the swing is that we gradually turn down the speed until eventually you fall asleep with it motionless, at which point it’s time to transition into the crib.

I was a bit skeptical, but day one was such an unmitigated success that there was no question: it works. You took three naps that day, all ranging in length from 1 hour to two and a half hours.

Yep.

After almost a full week of sleeping in the swing (at night, too), we’ve dialed the speed allllll the way back to the slowest setting. We’re going to try it with the swing off over the next few days and see how that goes. But there’s no question that EVERYONE is sleeping better with this arrangement. You’re still waking up at night, of course, and on some nights more frequently than others. Last night you only got up once; the night before that, four times. So, it’s still a work in progress.

But the biggest, most amazing difference is in the routine. Pre-swing: rocking, bouncing, walking, swaying, sitting in the dark for twenty, thirty, forty minutes waiting for you to be out cold, trying to put you down, failing, rinse and repeat. Now: Put you in swing, turn on swing. Close door.

The end.

WHAAAAAAAAAAT.

It’s kind of like sleep training, but without all the tears. Sometimes you fuss for a few minutes, and a few times this week (maybe twice, or three times?) I’ve had to go back in and top you off before you fall asleep, but we’re at the point now where you’re asleep within two minutes of me putting you in the swing. I timed it, because I’m a dork like that.

It’s magical.

And it’s helped keep me sane for the rest of this week, when your sister got the same ear infection you had AND pink eye, and then I got sick with whatever upper respiratory bug you both gave me.

Thanks, girls. You’re too kind. You know that’s not what “caring is sharing” means, right?

Love always,
Mama

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Dear Olivia: Week 21

Olivia-week21-webDear Olivia,

This weekend we put up our Christmas tree. If you think that sounds like a simple endeavor, I’m sorry to say that you are very wrong.

It should have been simple. Our tree was (please note the past tense) a basic plastic affair of a modest size with branches that you fold out and fluff up to make it look more realistic (Christmas tree manufacturers, who, exactly, do you think you’re fooling with these things?). Pop together. Unfold. Hang lights. Bask in the glow of holiday cheer. Done and done.

Except…no.

The problem really started about five years ago. Our cats, then as now, were jerks that liked to chew on the lower branches of the tree. We bought some bitter apple spray that’s marketed as a chewing deterrent for pets and said NOT TODAY, CATS.

We DOUSED that tree. They chewed, we sprayed. They chewed some more, we sprayed some more. Until we came to the horrifying realization that not only did the bitter apple spray have basically no effect on our cats, but also that you could taste it if you got too close to the tree.

We packed the tree away after Christmas and gratefully said goodbye to the intoxicating smell of fake pine needles and bitter apple spray.

Until the following year when we opened up the Christmas tree box and FOOF out wafted a cloud of that vile spray, coating our hands, faces, clothing, and furniture. If you weren’t careful about washing your hands after touching the tree, you were in for a pleasant surprise when you popped that next Christmas cookie in your mouth.

Blech.

This happened every year. And every year the cats sat smugly on the tree skirt, gnawing on the branches while maintaining direct eye contact with us. What’re you gonna do about it, punk? You’re going to touch the tree to stop me? I DON’T THINK SO NOM NOM NOM.

Surely the potency would fade from year to year, we’d say.

Nope. Nope nope nope.

Every year, every single year it was like this. Until this year, when I found myself gingerly handling the branches with kitchen gloves and trying not to breathe as I fluffed them up and said ENOUGH LET’S GO TO TARGET WE NEED A NEW TREE.

So we did. And wouldn’t you know, fake trees have improved exponentially in the last five years. If you squint and hang some pine-scented sticks on it, it’s very close to passing for a real one.

But the best part is that I can now stand in front of our tree, our beautiful, beautiful tree, with you in my arms and not have to worry about either one of us breathing in toxic bitter apple fumes.

Or, the more likely scenario, your sister making herself sick from licking the ornaments.

This is just the beginning of a beautiful Christmas season, sweet girl.

We’re so glad you’re here to enjoy it with us.

Love always,
Mama

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Dear Olivia: Week 20

olivia-week20-webDear Olivia,

Today is Thanksgiving, and I am thankful.

I’m thankful for you and for your sister. For the laughter you bring to my life, the joy you bring each other, and for making me strive, each and every day, to be a better mother. For the well of patience that, although at times has run dry, is deeper than I ever knew.

I’m thankful for your dad. For the light in his eyes when he looks at you and Natalie, for his willingness to read books in silly voices and build endless block towers, and for shooing me out the door to go for a run when he knows I’ve had a tough day. For being my rock and my sounding board and my port in a storm.

I’m thankful for our family, both near and far. For amazing grandparents on both sides of the ocean, and aunts and uncles and cousins who love you to the moon and back. For willing hands to hold you and bright smiles to match your own and sparkling eyes that say hello, little one, we are so happy to see you.

I’m thankful for all that we are and all that we have. We are, truly and unironically and without question, blessed. It is my hope more than anything that you see this, see how lucky you are and how much in life there is to be grateful for.

Not just today, but every day. But today is as good a day as any to count our blessings. Because today is Thanksgiving.

And I am thankful.

Love always,
Mama

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