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Friday
Mar162018

Memo to Renley: ONE YEAR

Renley J,

It's pretty official.

I've enjoyed babyhood with you the most.

I think it's because I know you are the last. Final. Ultimo. No one else will ever emerge from this womb. 

So I'm savoring all the moments. Like at least 88% of them. That's a B+, like your dad's personality type. I'm an A+, he's a B+. I normally wouldn't celebrate anything less than a 4.0 but I've relaxed with time. And given the fact I am SO NOT A BABY PERSON and you're the THIRD BABY PERSON I've had the pleasure of creating, it's sort of astonishing to me how much I love you as a baby. 

It's ironic that I'm enjoying you the most as a baby when you're technically the worst as a baby. Worst sleeper (except apparently Daddy thinks you're best napper), loudest crier, most violent and injurious, most prone to crazy temper tantrums with flailing and screaming. I've never been told by so many strangers out in public, "Wow you really have your hands full." Your mullet hair don't care if we're out and about, you will voice your concerns and let your disgruntled flag fly freely, right in the open. I've become 'that' mom. The one who walks into a store, has her baby scream, yell, arch her back and knock something over, startle the clerks, and then I'm so flustered I have to just corral the big sisters, apologize, and leave.

That's you in a nutshell. What Renley don't want, Renley don't do. 

And YET, I'm just inhaling you every chance I get. Nuzzling your fat baby neck and nomming on your back and belly and drinking up every hug you hand out. And you give the best hugs for a person under 25lbs.  They're so satisfying, and you lean in and put the weight of your oversized baby head right on my shoulder and you do the thing Oprah says you're supposed to do to make a hug really meaningful: hugging for like 20 or 30 seconds without releasing the pressure. You do that and it's uh-mazing.

You have a mouthful of shark teeth. So many teeth. You eat all of the things. You skipped the baby food stage and went straight to spaghetti and chicken curry, beef stew, all proteins. "Meat, meat" you're fond of saying. You're like a little WWE wrestler in training with the amount of food you put away. 

You're happy and smiling and mostly enjoyable. But you have very little middle ground. You're hero to zero in 3 seconds flat. 

We gave you a giant waterslide pool party for your first birthday. Ghetto fabulous waterpark backyard edition. You hosted like a champ, no tears, chilled in the plastic blow up pool. Ate some cake and called it a day. It's so nice having one summer baby where I know the weather will allow for an outdoor celebration. Plus, everyone knows summer birthdays are rad.

By the lunar calendar you're a fire monkey. Smart, passionate, adventurous, business minded. Famous monkeys include: Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Dickens, Yao Ming, Daniel Craig, and Gisele Bundchen, Selena Gomez, and of course the Empress Wu Zetian of China's Tang Dynasty. You're in excellent company. 

If there is one wish I have for you after your first birthday, it's that you have at least 99 more filled with health, happiness, and love. We will do our best to ensure that happens. (Keep in mind you're 3rd in line for resources and we're not getting any younger, so the whole pull yourself up by your bootstraps is probably a good motto to start embracing now.)

Love you Rendoodle,

Mama 

 

Saturday
Dec232017

Merry Christmas 2017

2017 has been a rough year in many ways, culminating for us with the North Bay fires that decimated a big part of Santa Rosa and leveled my in-laws' home of 42 years. SO, we decided to go with serious Christmas cheer for this year's holiday card, with a nod to our Santa Rosa history. The cheerleading outfits on Emmy and me are from my high school and Odessa is wearing my junior high songleading uniform. We had to modify the purple and gold to match the maroon and gold theme, added a few clothespins in the back and voila! My very own cheer squad. Renley had a little baby uniform we found super cheap online, and The Good Doc is wearing some sort of Navy uniform pants and a giant cheer sweater from a thrift shop. We spare no expense. 

Once again Kiet Do worked his incredible magic and brought it to life. Entire shoot, done in under 40 minutes because when you have a fifth wheel named Renley, things turn into a pumpkin real quick.

And besides, we have it down to a science. Everyone takes a few really great shots, and then it's The Good Doctor's turn. We have to build in extra special time for him because, well, he's extra special.

No people or animals were harmed in the shooting of this card. As it says on the back, "Wishing you holiday cheer and a spirited new year!"

 PS Faces have been blurred to protect the innocent.

Wednesday
May242017

Memo to Renley: 10 Months

Reynolds

 

Are you seriously going to do lateral rolls to get around? Four rolls this way to grab a toy. Four rolls that way to get back. I didn't realize this was your preferred mode of transportation at 10-ish months. We were always so certain your big sisters would skip crawling and go straight to walking because they were good at standing. Your little legs are solid as tree trunks so we thought that about you too.

 

But nope. You refuse to even go from a sitting position to a crawling position. You lean 95% of the way forward on one knee and two hands. Then you get stuck. And sit back down. Eventually you wind up flat on your back, and rolling to get around. Or you just yell and command someone to pick you up for transport. It's so effective and probably the reason you'll skip crawling and walking and go straight to being carried by shirtless men in a litter. Or women. Or trans pan non gender specific people. It's all possible at this point.

 

You are by far the best eater of the three babies thus far. That's saying a lot in a family of incredible kid eaters. You have 4 teeth on top and two on the bottom and you aren't afraid to use them. You bit Daddy's chest so hard one day he actually yelled out loud. It takes a lot to get that man to yell out loud outside of an amazing/horrible basketball play on TV. That instantly startled you into crying. Then two days later, you chomped down crazy hard on my left shoulder. Weeks later I still have a mark! I too yelled. Then you were quickly carried off by Daddy who was all too familiar with the power of your bite force quotient.

 

Back to the food though. You pretty much skipped the baby food stage. Yeah a few pureed fruits and green beans but you're way more interested in chewing cooked foods and eating everything we're eating. Salmon, rice, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, turkey burgers, tomato soup, chow mein, lobster ravioli, steak, the Burger King croissandwich I had to grab the other day, peanut butter (yes, babies are supposed to eat that around 9 months now instead of 1 year to help with allergies apaprently), every kind of vegetable soup Asian Grandma makes. Carbs, protein, and cups and cups of water. It makes it super fun to feed you and easy too because you're eating what we're eating. No need to pack a bunch of jars of pre-made anything. 

 

You love to be carried around so you can point at things. You yell and shriek louder than any baby I remember raising. You are very vocal when it comes to eating or drinking, slamming your hands down to scatter any food onto the ground that doesn't meet muster. Romeo would have loved you.

 

You're down to 5 ounces of breastmilk a night now, your last bottle before bed. The transition to formula was mentally tough for me. Maybe because you're the last baby, maybe because Emmy was on formula for one month, Odessa none, and you started at 9.75 months because my freezer stores dwindled. Lots of weird mom guilt that I could quell intellectually but it still strangles emotionally.

 

Napping is killer. I can barely put you down for your naps. You just won't let me. There's fussing and wiggling and arguing. Luckily you're much better for Dada and Asian Grandma, who do the bulk of putting you down. I like to think it's because you just looooooove me so much you don't want the party to end. 

 

You're so easygoing and fun-loving otherwise, a happy camper for all things family. 

 

What a lucky break we got, adding you and getting to celebrate the miracle of a life one more time. My sweet Renley baby. Now just stop biting people and we're good.

 

Love you,
Mama 

Thursday
Feb022017

Memo to Renley: 7 Months

Little Ren Ren

AKA Renbok or RenBAH or Renbakeedoh as you're often called by Odessa.

What happened to memos 2-6? See memos 2-6 for Emerson or Odessa. Sorry 3rd baby. Let's just look on the bright side, which is, you've made it this far!

What a delicious little chubby dumpling you've become. Always quick with a smile and a little tongue poking out of the corner of your mouth for anyone who calls out to you. You're still battling that baby bald spot on the back of your head but it's getting a little more manageable. Definitely a party in the back with some really long hair and some sadly broken strands that can't quite cover that one square inch of scalp.

Nothing a little baby Rogaine won't cure. Kidding. We only use all natural grapefruit skins like Asian Grandma and Asian Grandpa used on me when I was a baby. What I need to find out is what Janelle Wang's parents used. Hands down, best hair game in the television business. 

But back to you little Ren baby. Your 6 month milestone was huge for you. We dismantled the crib, put you in your own room, and killed the pacifier. All on the same day, nevermind that looking back, it appeared you were about to sprout two bottom teeth and you seemed just a little bit stuffed up. It was time. We did this to Emerson. 6 month baby coming of age event. Like a baby bat mitzvah if you will. A seismeses-anera.

It was untenable. You were becoming too aware. Our noises were messing up your sleep, your noises had been messing up our sleep for 6 months. Actually 16 if you count the pregnancy. As with most moves in our household, this one was dramatic.

We agreed Daddy would begin the night by putting you down for bed. We anticipated some pushback.

Obviously you liked your paci and you wanted it. But it's never good to be too dependent on something Renley.

We're imbuing you with that lesson now. You're welcome.

As expected, you did not go quietly into the night. The crying. The wailing. The horrible sound of my baby unhappy. Daddy sat in the hallway reading on his phone and keeping an eye on the timer. It's a form of sleep training he did with Emmy too. Go back in every 5-10 minutes to pat the baby and calm her down without picking her back up. But I was not involved with Emmy's training because I correctly predicted I wouldn't be able to handle it. Odessa was just easy. She never needed the pacifier and we kicked her out around 3 months because she was such a light sleeper she preferred being her own room.

But you have always responded better to soothing from me, since your earliest days, so this time the agreement was that I would go in at the specified intervals to calm you down.

Me: Is it time yet? Daddy: No. Me: Is it time yet? Daddy: It's been 30 seconds. Me: Now? Daddy: 4 more minutes. 

It was annoying. 

Finally, after a bazillion rounds of these 5-10 minute intervals, I decided this was unacceptable.

You were crying. So. Loud. 

I had to take matters into my own hands and pick you up. Sacrilege! Sleep trainers will tell you first rule of Sleep Club, you do not talk about Sleep Club. Second rule, you do not pick up the baby!

But mother knows best. Right? As long as I'm writing this, yes. 

No sooner than I inch out in the hall as you're snuffling and quieting down (which is deeply primally maternally satisfying, of course) does your dad come into the hallway.

At this point it's like 10:30PM. Your sisters, God bless them, are sleeping through all the crying and wailing. But of course we don't want to wake them.

So a full on whisper fight ensues. Whisper yelling at the top of our whisper lungs. 

Him: [[ what are you doing???????!!!!!! ]]

Me: [[ she needs to eat ]]

Him: [[ no she doesn't. she just ate an hour ago ]]

Me: [[ i'm her mother ]]

Him: [[ confused by the relevance of my argument ]]

Me: [[ she can't keep crying like this ]]

Him: [[ you need to put her back down!!! ]]

Me: [[ no! ]]

All of this whisper shouting is happening as I'm trying to walk and rock you down the hallway toward our room so I can get to my chair and feed you. 

At this point, your father stretches to his full 6 feet 6 inches, Wonder Woman pose and BLOCKS ME FROM PASSING.

Which, naturally, ENRAGES me. 

Few things enrage me, but when the teapot gets hot, the water is boiling. Whatever that means.

Whisper fight continues.

Me: [[ i need to feed her! move!!! ]]

Him: [[ no. put her down. you're RUINING EVERYTHING. do you want to RUIN EVERYTHING? YOU'RE RUINING EVERYTHING ]] "Everything" being a reference to his carefully orchestrated plan for sleep training.

Me, still trying to find ways around Daddy: [[ she needs to eat ]]

Him, physically and verball not budging: [[ no ]] 

It was so aggravating, this ridiculous stand off. 

I hugged you tighter, and fired my final angry salvo in a sputtering whisper shout:

[[ she's MY baby!!! ]]

Still, he would not move. I turned around and quietly stomped back to your room and put you down. 

Then I went back into the hall and stormed past Daddy.

I later learned he was silently praying that you would soon fall asleep or it would have been Sleepocalypse in our home with me never letting go of that horrible night. 

Fortunately for everyone, you passed out three minutes later.

And ever since, you've been pretty good about falling asleep on your own without a pacifier or being overly rocked to bed. Good baby.

Among your other notable achievements to date: pooping in the toilet. Multiple times. Asian Grandma gets the gold star on this one. She's really the Poop Whisperer and she's started younger with each of you. You're also a good little eater of pureed veggies. You did not understand food the first 3 feedings but then it clicked and now you're a gobbler. You also love to slurp water from a spoon. Asian Grandparents have always been so obsessed with giving you girls water from day one because they think you're thirsty and that's how they do things in Vietnam. "Babies need water." You definitely like it. 

You're sitting and playing with toys, yowling, and laughing at everything your sisters do to entertain you.

It's so special. I love that they love you so much and that they haven't shown any signs of jealousy or inconvenience at your inclusion. Odessa doesn't love to have you drool on her stuffed animals so she's quick to do a toy switcheroo when you get your hands on something of hers, but otherwise they've taken to you seamlessly. They love to carry you like a sack of rice, grabbing you around your baby middle.

In your eyes, they can do no wrong.

We're savoring all the milestones with you in a way I didn't quite grasp before. With Emmy, everything was so new, so First Time. With Odessa, things were easy and she was easy. With you, even through the initial Hangry Mankey stages, I knew you'd be the last and I knew how quickly all of this would pass, that it never drained me of energy. So I made a point to inhale every bit of your babyness. And I'm still absorbing as much of you as I can with every kiss and sniff and hug. You make me laugh with your habit of burping in my face, often right into my mouth. Somehow you always turn to me when that gas bubble comes up. So endearing. 

You do love your mama and dada though. You always wiggle and call for us when you see us after a long day away. You are a funny little baby with an easy grin and you love to play with everyone. I love your spirit and we're thankful for you every day. And every night that you sleep through until morning. May there be an increasing number of those.

Love you Renroo,

Mama

Sunday
Oct162016

Labor

Baby RenRen,

You’d probably still be in the womb if it weren’t for Pitocin. Like Emmy and Odessa—you were induced. They were both still cooking after their due dates so the OB decided to get the party started. But with you being the 3rd baby and your dad being 6’6” and all, there were concerns you might come out the size of the Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin and ain’t nobody got time for that. So we made an appointment to come in on your due date and prompt a little action right from the get. That’s what she said.

Third baby. Everything’s supposed to go fast, right? Easy, right? Slip’N Slide right? I actually wouldn’t know, I’ve never had the privilege of slipping and sliding. The backyards I grew up in and around were concrete and rocky and Asian. We don’t intentionally spray water all over everything and try to fall down. That would be both wasteful and dangerous.

In any case, I was under the notion the third baby was just going to ease right into the world, and more or less fit right into the sched. As a producer at NBC Bay Area with 3 kids repeatedly said, while gently peer pressuring me into having three kids, “The third baby is the family’s baby. The baby just falls in line. It will go with the flow.” And of course I read zero baby books about birthing and labor, to keep with the tradition of how I went in blind with baby #1 and #2. I mean what good is The Good Doctor if I can’t treat him like a human Alexa MD? “Good Doctor, what does a contraction feel like?” “Good Doctor, what is this poop pain?” “Good Doctor, is labor supposed to feel like you have to poop but you’re not pooping?” It doesn’t matter that he’s not an obstetrician. I still expect answers. Just like the relative who wants him to look at a purple rash. When there’s a doctor in the family, he treats all-comers related by blood or marriage. #doctorlife as the millennials would say in a sing song voice.

So there we were, bright and early, ready for the IV and the drugs to start puffing me up and forcing my uterus to contract. The drip hit my system at about 7AM. You arrived 12 HOURS LATER. As Odessa would say, “For real life?” Yes, for real life. At least we managed to binge-watch the OJ Made in America documentary. I can only imagine what the nurses were thinking every time they came in to check on me.

The whole thing took way longer than I expected. Only when we were at the hospital did I hear for the first time, “Oh third babies are tricky. They are either really fast, or they take as long or LONGER than the first.” Say what?

After the OJ binge, we did a lot of hall walking, with the wireless monitors velcro’ed around my enormous belly, and The Good Doc maneuvering the IV pole behind me. Design suggestion for architects blueprinting future OB wings: install a track for laboring women. A nice circular loop with mile markers and some natural light, and extra receivers so the monitors don’t get out of range, forcing the nurses to go looking for you because they’re worried you fell off the grid. Then just put the pregnant moms out there and let them grind away until it’s time to push.

When that time did come, I was dangerously close to not being able to have an epidural. Every time, and I mean EVERY single time, I have said, “I’m gonna try to go without an epidural.” Wisely, every single time, The Good Doctor has put on his most nonchalant, non-judgmental face and said, with his most supportive and sincere tone, “Oh yes, definitely. You should try.” If he were Kevin Spacey, this is where he would turn to the camera with a South Carolinan accent and say “Yeah right.”

This was my closest call though. A skilled doctor managed to get the epidural in about 20 minutes before I felt like I had to push in earnest. I’d like to think I would have made it gracefully without the drugs, but we’ll never know. Spacey, toward camera, “Yeah right.”

With the epidural in, the laboring experience was fairly straightforward. Once my doctor and nurse reminded me HOW TO DO IT. The nurse: You remember what to do, right? Me: ??? Actually I don’t!!! Nurse: Take a deep breath and exhale while you count to 10 and bear down. Me: Oh yeah, now I remember. *INHALE* 

The thing is, you forget. Especially if you’re me. I have the worst long term memory. I blame the years of general assignment reporting where I had to exercise my short term memory so much on a daily basis that my long term memory bank grew dusty and cobwebby. Every brain cell was focused on becoming a mini-expert on that day’s story. Remember, process, deliver the story, delete.

Also, nature tries to trick you into forgetting all the loco that comes with childbirth so that you’ll repeat it and we won’t become extinct.

So I’m inhaling and pushing during the exhale and bearing down and our doctor, our lovely doctor who came in on her holiday weekend to deliver this baby, is so encouraging and upbeat and cheering me on so hard, “That’s it Vicky! THAT’S IT! You got it Vicky. YOU GOT IT!!!”

Except I didn’t got it. I would look down and think I had pushed the baby out, along with a pot of gold, because she was so enthusiastic and excited and…nothing. Not one piece of baby anywhere. But this is also a part of the labor mind game. The doctors and nurses have to cheer you on like you’re about to score the Super Bowl-winning touchdown. Even if you’re just barely moving the baby millimeters down the birth canal. Because you’re freaking exhausted and hungry and cranky and even with the epidural you still feel all the body parts doing crazy things that they don’t usually do, so the medical people are smart. They make you feel like a million bucks even though you’re a tired, grunting, primal being in mother beast mode with your uterus in the driver’s seat.

But after about 15 pushes--the Good Doctor will have to confirm--but I think it was relatively manageable and clocked in under 45 minutes from first push to last. I also had a mirror towards the end. I know, I thought that was crazy gross before but there is seriously something incredibly unforgettable about actually seeing your baby being born. I wish I had done it the first two times. Even with my poor memory, I think I will always remember that instant and the indescribable sensation of seeing and feeling something simultaneously that is as close to an out of body experience that I’ve ever had.

Then the doctor lifted you up, RenRen, and you were a purplish blue perfectly formed human being. You didn’t cry right away, and now that I think of it, I don’t know how you did on your APGARs but you must have done okay because you sure can yell and scream with the best of them now.

You were just a warm, soft, tiny and impossibly perfect person out in the world for the first time. I’ve often said I would endure 10 births for every one pregnancy because the birth itself is such a miracle. Pregnancy is month after month of endurance. Labor is a few hours of crazy but the reward at the end is so tangible and magical. A human!

I've read several articles that say how important it is for us to be awestruck in our lives. To be in awe, to feel like you are part of a giant, amazing, way beyond yourself universe. Having that feeling of being in awe is supposed to help lower your blood pressure and stress levels and give you a sense of connectedness. It’s an awe often felt when you’re out in nature. Maybe a walk in the redwoods, or standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon.

Giving birth definitely qualifies for a level of awe unmatched by any of my other life experiences. I’m grateful I’ve felt this awestruck three times. Don’t even think about asking me if we’re going to try for a boy.

Love you Renley Jade,

Mama