So! Let's catch up a bit.
As you can see by the picture progress, Sarah grew some hair! Hooray! She also grew some more squishy rolls. I think the earlier pictures with her thin face, short hair and perma-scowl look like her army days.
|Look alive, maggot!|
She's filled out a lot since she decided to start drinking her bottle. This was a HUGE step forward for us, and it happened very suddenly. Both she and Hayley had been sick for about a week, with lots of barfing and little to no eating from either of them. Then when Sarah regained her appetite, it stayed for good and she never had a problem with her bottle again. It's such a relief to be able to feed her without a fight; I actually enjoy bottle time now, when before I dreaded every meal of the day.
Unfortunately, she's still far behind the eating curve. She refused to let a spoon into her mouth and was on 100% formula until nine months old, when Hayley was already eating avocado chunks. And while she's a decent puree eater now, she has almost zero tolerance for texture. A tiny lump will make her gag, barf, and slam her mouth shut like a bear trap against all other food offerings. We're trying to work with her to get her comfortable with texture, but with all the stressing and planning and research and tactics, I don't know if we've made any progress at all. So now I'm just trying to step back and realize it's not up to me. Sarah tends to work in instantaneous miracles. For months, we tapped baby food spoons against her tight lips with absolutely no response, until one day she decided "Today's the day" and ate some guacamole and a tub of Apple Chicken. So I think it will go the same way with texture; she'll gag and gag until the day she pops her own bag of popcorn and munches it down.
While the willfulness when it comes to food is still strong, otherwise Sarah has become a completely different baby. When she was first born, and for months thereafter, I thought she was always going to be my feisty little firecracker. She knew what she liked, and damn it, she would let you know when she wasn't happy. But as time passed, she got snugglier, friendlier and more easygoing, and now she is definitely "the sweet one." I think she just outgrew the irritability that goes along with being a preemie. Matt thinks she realized she would never beat Hayley to the physical milestones, so she's trying to become the favorite with her personality instead. It's a good strategy. When Sarah's sleepy, she clings to me tight and lays her head on my shoulder, and it just melts my heart. She also likes to bump foreheads like big cats, and if she's feeling extra playful, will chomp on my nose while our foreheads are pressed together. (I have to be more careful with that now that she has needly little bottom teeth, but it's so worth it.) She loves Eskimo kisses, which make her giggle and coo, and after she's finished her bottle, she likes to throw her head back so I'll kiss her under her chin. She's such an affectionate little girl now; I never thought she had that in her.
The list of things that make Sarah happy is much longer now. Demon is definitely near the top. So is Bubbles Bubbles, the Sesame Street board book. Just hearing the opening line, "Bubbles, bubbles, on my nose" makes Sarah drop what she's doing, swivel her head toward you and grin ecstatically. She likes Elmo the best and always points at his eyes on the page. She likes small toys that fit well in her hands, and she always wants one in each hand. No matter how appealing a toy is, she doesn't feel complete until her other hand is filled too. In general, she prefers quiet contemplation to more active fun, and is perfectly happy to sit by herself and meticulously examine her toys. She is coming out of her shell a little, though. She never cared that much about playing "I'm going to get you!" and only gave me a mildly amused chuckle when I came after her. But now I've started getting some actual shrieks of joy out of her, which is adorable and rewarding. But I think Sarah's favorite thing in the world is getting her face stroked with something soft, especially her furry dog blanket. It puts her in an instant trance, with half-closed eyes and a dreamy smile. She's even started picking out furry cat toys and rubbing her own face with them, but it's always best when it comes from us.
What else is there to say about Sarah? There are so many little details that combine to form her. She sucks on her sleeve when she's sleepy or hungry, at the inside of her wrist so her fingers point outward. She hates having her nose wiped. Her feet smell like Cheetos. She has a strangled little laugh that never lets loose completely. She expresses her anger by increasing pitch, not volume, until I think the windows will shatter. She grins at us but doesn't crack a smile for strangers. She occasionally cries at night because she got into a sitting position and can't figure out how to lie down again. She enjoys slapping at our faces, but she does it with such a big smile and soft little hands, I don't want to tell her to stop. She loves any rhythmic hitting, actually; palms on the table or a stick on her drum. She's cautious to try new things and understated in showing her enthusiasm, but I think she takes in a lot and has more going on inside her than she lets on. I think she's going to grow up to be an incredible person. Maybe a little hard to get to know, but that much more special when you do.
It would be easiest for me to say, "Reread the Sarah section, except reverse everything. That's Hayley!" In fact, it's hard for me to think of anything that wouldn't apply to. (Except Bubbles Bubbles; they both love that book.)
Appearance-wise, I think they look pretty different, although people tell me they're looking more the same now that Sarah's plumped up and grown hair. Hayley's still got almost three pounds on her, though, and a couple inches. She's a rock solid baby, with thick leg muscles and a strong core. Her hair is long and wild, and she gets bedhead that Matt says looks like someone set off a firecracker in it. We always keep a clip in her hair to keep it out of her eyes, because neither of us wants to cut it. Hayley has enormous eyes and cheeks, and a big silly grin that's pure joy.
|I love everything!!|
We've had zero trouble feeding Hayley; she's a little garbage disposal and will eat anything you offer her. She particularly loves avocado, and is eating soft chunks pretty well now. She has her four front teeth, which she bites bananas with, and I think once she gets her molars she'll be eating people-food in no time. (I can't even imagine such convenience!) She's also a fantastic sleeper, although she's started having nightmares in the past couple months. They happen in the first couple hours of sleep; she suddenly starts screaming with no wind-up at all, and when I run upstairs and pick her up, she falls instantly asleep in my arms. In fact, I'm not sure if she even wakes up at all. They don't seem to bother her after the fact, so I kinda like getting an extra hug out of her some nights.
When I think of how to describe Hayley's personality, I keep coming back to the word dynamo. She's a little tornado of energy, curiosity, and drive. She is fearless (except for the vacuum cleaner and blender) and has no respect for gravity, which makes climbing the stairs and scaling furniture extra fun. She desperately wants to get around the world, so she pushes herself hard to increase her mobility. It's paid off; she can crawl like lightning and she just took her first (four!) steps on Memorial Day! The downside to this drive of hers is that she becomes easily frustrated, bored, and irritable. In fact, she's fussier now than she was as a younger baby. It's a reminder to me that her needs are changing, and she is indeed growing up. A jangly set of keys doesn't cut it anymore, and she needs more stimulation and physical challenges. It's hard to play outside, since she has a pathological need to cram rocks in her mouth, so I try to get her ya-yas out inside. She loves any toy that lets her be active, like the toddler chair that she climbs in and out of, the big stuffed bear that she wrestles, the ball that she chases around, or a pacifier that she can chomp on hands-free while she crawls around looking for trouble. She adores her walker too; she'll gleefully toddle with it as far as she can, then sobs and wails when it gets stuck, and goes immediately back to laughing when we straighten her out in a different direction.
Despite her frustrations, Hayley is an extremely happy baby. She always greets me with an ecstatic squawk when I collect her from her crib, and she's rarely without a huge, bug-eyed grin. (Which got her her nickname "Crazy Face") She loves to greet strangers and is happy to absorb all their attention, which Sarah appreciates. But while she's so outgoing and friendly, she's not a very cuddly baby. When I hold her, she's either looking around the room or actively pushing me away to try to get down. I can get some cuddles when she's sleepy, but not like Sarah's full-body clings. She's like a wriggly puppy that way, and she has that wonderful puppy energy, constantly shrieking with excitement, then looking back at me with eager eyes as if to say, "Are you seeing this too?? Can you believe how amazing the world is??" If she keeps that energy when she grows up, absolutely nothing will stop her.
Now what about Hayley's little details? She likes to blow raspberries, excessively and wetly. Her hair smells like wet dog in the bath. It takes two people to change her diaper, one to distract her with a toy to keep in her place, and the other to change her as fast as possible. She sleeps flat on her face with her arms at her side and her butt sticking up in the air. She'll chew on anything she can get into her mouth. She loves to be swung upside down. And it may be a cliche, but if she goes quiet, she is absolutely doing something that she shouldn't be.
What? There's more? You just slogged through two baby novels, thinking that the end was in sight, and now I pull this on you. And there aren't even any pictures! All right, here are two:
As for the whole family, everything is at a happy equilibrium. Matt gets to enjoy the girls in the morning before he leaves for work. They like to visit him while he showers, and if I'm feeling generous or just resigned, I let them crawl in there with him, jammies and all. (Best baby treat ever.) Then in the evening, we have about an hour of family time after Matt gets home. The girls go absolutely nuts for their daddy, especially Sarah. As soon as he gets home, I put both girls in his arms, and they cry if I try to take them away. After bottles, Matt lies on the ground and the girls climb all over him like a jungle gym. It's very sweet and fun, but bedtime comes quickly and they're down by 7.
During the day we have a nanny come from 10 to 1, and including their naps, I work from 9 to 2ish. The work has been largely theoretical up until now, mostly self-training and planning, but as of yesterday, I'm actually getting paid! For the first time in over a year! It's a really great arrangement; I enjoy the girls' company a lot more when I have a break in the middle of the day, and our nanny is fantastic. She's energetic and caring, and the girls have so much fun with her. I love that I can have my own personal time while the girls are happy and taken care of.
I feel like there's so much more to say. The way Hayley invades Sarah's personal space and makes her shriek. The way Sarah pulls the clips out of Hayley's hair. The way they both make each other giggle and it's the sweetest feeling in the world when they play peek a boo with each other. The way they sit in the swively chair together and get spun around until they're dizzy and laughing.
But I did want to post this before they turned 1, and I have 20 minutes left. So I will just close by saying that this has been the most interesting year of my life. It's amazing to think of how far we've come since those chaotic early days. It's tempting fate to say the hardest is behind us, but I do think the best is still yet to come.