Saturday, March 30, 2013

Two Months

If you can't believe that Annika Mae is two months already, well, neither can I.

I absolutely adore the newborn phase of life--the tiny fingernails, the wrinkly hands and feet, the curled limbs, even that distinctive wail--a cry so surprisingly vibrant. And oh, that newborn smell. I could drink it up--and do. Every day is an excuse for a thousand kisses.

Hard as it is to admit, Annie Mae isn't exactly a newborn anymore. That wrinkled, puffy, androgynous newborn face has morphed into a sweet little baby face that resembles an infant more than an old man. Her hands and feet have fewer creases. Her cry is more focused, and that newborn smell is generally masked behind the traces of milk left over from the last meal.

I'd like to believe that if I gaze long enough, I'll be able to remember every detail--etch her permanently into my memory. I yearn to preserve Annie as a newborn, especially since she may be the last infant I call my own. Yet experience has taught me that memories are fleeting. As much as we want to hold on, we still forget. Life is ever-changing, with each day morphing seamlessly into the next. I can remember my child today, and yesterday too, for she was almost the same as today. Yet add enough yesterdays, and the vision becomes blurry.

And so today, I want to freeze time and describe Annika Mae in this very moment, as a two month-old on the cusp between newborn and babe.

At first glance, Annie Mae makes quite an impression with her shocking mop of hair. Everyone comments on it, leaving me to wonder what people to say to parents of newborns that look more generic. I ought to confess that we occasionally accentuate her wild hair by blowing it dry, making it stand straight up in a dance between the cowlicks and mohawks. Lest ye fear I'm cruel to subject her to the blow dryer for the sake of my own amusement, let me assure you that Annie genuinely likes it. Between the white noise and the warm air, she invariably calms down and enjoys the spa.

Annika's other great love in life is the bath tub. Her whole body relaxes when submersed in water. A couple nights ago found me at a loss as to how to calm my howling Annie. She was warm, fed, dry, and ever so furious. I finally gave up on the dry part and brought her into the bathtub with me. The very second her feet touched the water, she calmed down. It was such a lovely experience, snuggling skin to skin in the warm water. While pregnant with Annika, I craved baths like nothing else. By the end of my pregnancy, I was occasionally taking baths two times a day. (Just check out our utility bill if you don't believe me...) It seems only appropriate that Annie should love the water as much as I do. I spent so much time in the bath pondering our unborn daughter; I loved gazing into her eyes from the very same place.

For one so small, Annika is surprisingly strong. She holds her head up well for extended periods of time before she grows tired and finally lets it flop (often startling herself in the process.) Two days ago I was talking to Jason on Skype when Eli needed some help in the bathroom. I put Annie down on the carpet on her stomach, and when I came back thirty seconds later, she'd somehow rolled onto her back. While I'm sure it was accidental, I still can't believe she rolled. That night I dreamed she was already crawling. Not surprising, for when I finally woke up, I discovered that she was pumping her legs and kicking me like crazy.

It's really hard to unveil a child's personality when she's so small. As much as I love the newborn stage, I occasionally wish she'd hurry and grow up so we can chat and get to know each other. I'm hesitant to make too many predictions, for fear that these expectations will color reality. If you believe your child to be ill-tempered, there's a pretty good chance that she will be. Even so, if I had to guess about Annika from the little I know thus far, I would describe her as perceptive and observant. Beneath those dark blue eyes, not quite as crossed as they once were, she seems to be constantly learning, absorbing everything around her.

She's also intense, with definite preferences. She goes from extremely sweet to howling bloody murder in two seconds flat. Well, maybe only one second. Seriously. Try dressing her. You'd think we were torturing the child. Other dislikes: having anything put in her mouth (like a binky), getting out of the bath, and being put down.

As you might imagine, Annika's distaste for being put down is a bit problematic, especially as the fourth child to a Mom who's winging it on her own. Luckily, Brooklyn enjoys holding Annie Mae, plus we've borrowed a swing that she tolerates. There are moments when I'm in the middle of something else and Annika simply has to wait, just like everyone else. To tell the truth, however, I don't always mind her fussing wailing to be picked up. I'm often glad for an excuse to cradle her in my arms and plant a few more kisses.

As a solution, Annika spends a lot of time snuggled close to me in a sling. She seems comforted by the confinement, rhythmic movement, and close heartbeat--not surprising when you consider her environment over the past nine months. I do more baby-wearing with Annika than the others since we've swapped the infant car seat carrier for a rear facing car seat that attaches to the car frame directly. I've always found the car seat carriers to be awkward to heft, not to mention extremely heavy. So when Annie and I shop or walk, she stays close to me in the sling, leaving the shopping cart or stroller free for Eli. The sling is also very handy for keeping your baby covered and close when going out into public places during flu season. People are much less likely to touch your baby's hands and face when she is bundled right next to your chest. (Even so, many still couldn't resist stroking Annie's fuzzy hair sticking out of the sling--can't really blame 'em, I suppose.)

I'm breastfeeding Annie Mae, just like I did with the others. Judging by the chubby cheeks and weight gain (10 pounds exactly on the family scale), she seems to be doing just fine. Nursing her, however, has been a bit different than with her siblings, given her aversion to having things stuck in her mouth. Annie nurses like a champ when she's truly hungry (although she doesn't like being covered.) Try to nurse her for comfort when she's mad, however, and her face is likely to change from red to purple with anger. When she's not really hungry, she'll either pucker her mouth or lick instead of suck, as if to limit the intake of milk. And then, when I let down, she chokes, coughs, sputters, and turns away, leaving us both a soaked, milky mess. And so, even though Annika doesn't really like her pacifier (she often grimaces like it's the worst thing she's ever tasted), we've been working hard to teach her to take one anyway. She needs a mechanism to help soothe herself, and unlike Mama, a binky doesn't suddenly shoot copious quantities of unwanted milk.

What else? Annika's first smiled at five weeks. She doesn't smile often, but it lights up her entire face when she does. Mornings are her happy time, so you're most likely to catch a smile then, especially if you're Aunt Brianna. Annie coos occasionally, and naps swaddled in her cradle. She prefers being jiggled on her side or tummy to being rocked upright. She's a talented belcher, but doesn't spit up a whole lot. As for those mustard-colored baby poops, she seems to be on an every other day schedule. It's tough for any diaper to contain that much, but hey, the memory of Eli's diapers are far too pungent for me to complain.

Evenings are Annika's fussy time, meaning that most nights I simply give up on trying to get anything done and enjoy holding her instead. I discovered that she will let me crochet while snuggled on my lap, so I've finished an entire baby blanket dubbed "Downton Abbey." I credit my mother for both teaching me how to crochet and getting me hooked on the series. And as for nighttime, Annie Mae sleeps with me. With Jason gone, I don't even make any pretense about trying to put her down on her own. Not only is it much easier for me to feed her, but it's less lonely. Since I can't sleep on my hubby's arm, it helps to have our baby sleeping on mine. We miss you, Daddy!

To commemorate Annie's two month birthday, we finally took some hand and feet prints. (The "home hospital" somehow failed on this point.) Needless to say, she needed a bath afterwards.

Here's before:


And all clean.

While Annie howled like crazy at being printed, the bath brought out her smiles. Speaking of which, I think a hot shower is calling me...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Today, Two-day, Tuesday

Seeing as to how today is Tuesday, I thought I'd share a conversation from last week.
Eli: I want to go the Family Center.
Mom: Sorry, bud. It's not open until Tuesday.
Eli: No, not Two-day. One-day!

Well, he waited more past one-day, past two-day, until Tuesday finally arrived. I guess it's time for a visit to the Family Center!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Annika's Baby blessing

Jason querido, in honor of your birthday, I really wanted to post some photos from last weekend when you came home to bless Annika Mae. Of course, in honor of your birthday, I also want to take good care of the rest of the munchkins as well. To quote Eli, I hope to "be a nice mommy." And so, I'm stepping away from the computer and leaving this post very unpolished. Just know that the world was blessed the day you were born, especially in how you bless others.


(April 7th Update)

Well Jason, it turns out that despite my best efforts to brighten it from afar, your lonely New York birthday was pretty lousy anyway.  While there's no way to go back and fix that, I can at least fix the post about Annika's baby blessing.  For in my view, that special day really was perfect.

Annika was blessed on Sunday, March 17th--St. Patrick's Day.  Even though traveling is tiresome and expensive, we were joined by lots of family who wanted to share their love and support.  Jason flew home from New York, NomiAnn and Papa Kay flew in from Nebraska, Charles and Susie drove down from Hyde Park, and Justin and Brianna drove up from Phoenix.  The house was crowded and a little bit chaotic, but we wouldn't have had it any other way.

Here we are, so delighted to be reunited as a family once more.

Feeling a little bit goofy.

Getting everybody organized for pictures is always a challenge.

And a photo with NomiAnn, her daughter, and the grands.

Here's Annika Mae with the men of the family.  Unlike our other infants, Annika was blessed during sacrament meeting in church instead of at home.  While we initially made the change to accommodate travel schedules, it worked out beautifully.  We've had so many neighbors reach out to welcome this new baby that it felt right to share this special moment with them.  Encircled by those who care, Annika was tenderly held by her father who gave her a name and precious blessing.  Unlike our other babes, she was quiet and content during the blessing, so we could hear every special word.  Apparently our children can be either blessed or born at home--not both.

Annika Mae with Susannah Mae and Charles Burt Wheeler.

I love this picture: Susie gazing adoringly at her husband who seems fairly smitten with his newest granddaughter.

Annika with her parents.

Annika and her big sister Brooklyn.  Isn't that hair fantastic?

And here's Brianna holding the baby.  Definitely a natural, Aunt Brianna won the biggest baby smiles.

Oh, yawn!  All these photographs are making me tired.

Sharing the love between mother and daughter.

Oh, how I wish I could make these baby days last a bit longer.

Showing off my baby girl.  It's hard to believe that three daughters have been blessed in this beautiful white dress that contains fragments of my own wedding dress.

Brooklyn was excited to put on her white dress to match her little sister.

Such love.

Such joy.

My gorgeous girls all dressed in white.


Here's Papa Kay snuggling his grandbaby.  It was a big sacrifice for my Dad to leave the pressures of work for the baby blessing.  We really appreciated his making the effort to be there.

Annika sleeps peacefully in the arms of her other grandfather, Papa Charles.  Our children are so blessed to have such wonderful grandparents!

Papa Kay with Eli.

The littlest (and most charming) man of the house.

Okay, maybe this guy is the *most* charming, but Eli runs a close second.

Talia Lily, looking like an angel.

And NomiAnn, so glad to meet Annika at last.

I do believe Annika Mae is smiling because she knows she has the very best Dad.

Here's to celebrating the gift of life for everyone!

Oh So Green

While our family may have skipped wearing green last Sunday when it was St. Patrick's, we certainly made up for it yesterday. After church, we had a brief photo shoot:

Here's NomiAnn, the mastermind behind the adorable ensembles (along with Costco, of course.) We were so lucky to have her with us for two and a half weeks.

Eli, feeling a little tipsy served up on the rocks.

Beautiful Brooklyn looks like she has a secret...

...but she's definitely not telling.

You may be concerned that Talia failed to spice up the photo shoot in her typical spunky fashion (aside from the scraped up nose, courtesy of a tumble on her scooter.)

Never fear, she always comes through. Look, the teeth even match! What style.

Want to know what this mouth is saying?

Happy Birthday, Daddy! We love you.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Baby Acne

About a week ago, Annie Mae's perfect complexion suddenly became marred by some bright red spots.

This led to some interesting conversations around the house. The following was particularly rich:

Talia (pointing to Annika's face): What are those?
Brooklyn (knowingly): They're ag-ties.
NomiAnn: I think you mean acne.
Talia: Well, I don't like the look. It just doesn't look good.

Aw, c'mon.

From a mother's eyes, she still adorable. I've always been partial to spots, right PB? Happy Birthday once more.

Birthday Celebrations

In our family, we limit birthday celebrations with friends to every other year. On the off-years, it seems like a great idea. As for the on-years, well, the idea of throwing a party can still seem overwhelming, even with two years to prepare. So when Brooklyn's December birthday rolled around, we convinced her to postpone the party until her baptism in January. Once again, this seemed swell until January came and I was still swamped. Predictably, the party was pushed back once more until NomiAnn's March visit. Of course, by March our family had both added a newborn and (temporarily) subtracted a Dad. Only one solution remained: pay for a pool party.

For sixty five dollars, the Sand Hollow Aquatic Center provided swimming, decorations, treat bags, pizza, hot dogs, nachos, and drinks for twelve cute munchkins. The only thing we brought was the cake. While I'm usually all about saving money, the convenience was worth every penny.

So Jason, in honor of your birthday, here are some photos showing how Brooklyn celebrated hers:
Brooklyn and her best friend Anna check out the treat bags before they swim.

Here we have Talia with another good friend, Sofia.

Time to swim!  Here's Brooklyn laughing with her Girl Scout friend, Skye.

Kolter in his swim goggles.

Talia hitches a ride on Brooklyn's shoulders while Phoenix swims nearby.

We asked our neighbor, Kess Johnson, to come help keep an eye on Eli.  As you can see, they had a great time together.

Naturally, Kess was only too glad to hold Annika as well.

After an hour and a half of swimming, everyone was ready for cake.  Since this party was all about low-stress, we let the bakery make it.

NomiAnn leads us in a song.

Brooklyn makes a wish.

Back at home, our grown-up Brooklyn proudly displays her birthday balloon.

Meanwhile, Talia retrieves a rogue beach ball.

Few things in this world are more beautiful than the love between sisters.

Happy Birthday!