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good bye belle squeaks…

July 10, 2012

…Hello Paper Doll Tales.

It’s been two years. 209 posts. 1,298 comments. 62,976 site visits.

What started as a sleepless night’s whim when Little Friend was just a slip of a pip-squeak has grown, matured, and deepened into a blog that can’t squeeze into its old clothes anymore.

Now it’s time for Belle Squeaks to don some new digs big enough to fit Little Friend and Little One.

All the same, I don’t like good byes. Not a bit.

So can we skip the soggy tissue part of this closing chapter and rush headlong instead into Hello?

As in…

….Hello to Paper Doll Tales

Hello to more of the same {Little Friend adoration, inspiration, rumination} and hello to some new things {look, feel, focus, and of course, Little One}.

The fabulously talented and long-suffering Nicole at The Pixel Boutique has spent hours and hours getting the design of Paper Doll Tales tweaked just right, and now I’m ready to whip the curtain back for the big reveal.

Will you follow me over to Paper Doll Tales? (I really, really, really hope you will.)

Click over to Paper Doll Tales and (pretty please) do me two favors:

1. Subscribe to Paper Doll Tales by entering your email in the box on the right of the home page.

2. Leave a comment on my first post to let me know, as Little Friend would say, “Do you like?” Say hello, even if you’re usually not the type ever to leave a comment. You’ll make me smile.

{For those of you following in a reader, update your RSS feeds here.}

And now, I’ll just say a teeny, weeny, tiny good-bye to Belle Squeaks followed by a robust HELLO to Paper Doll Tales!

a sneak peek

July 2, 2012

New blog name?  Check.

New blog design?  Check.

Polishing the finishing touches?  Almost done…

The updated blog should be ready to reveal next week!  In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of what’s to come…

Have a restful, relaxing, and rejuvenating Fourth of July!

this is a moment

June 6, 2012

A head, downy as a baby mole’s underbelly, snuggles velvet under my chin. With each tiny puff of breath comes a mourning dove’s sigh: “Coo…coo…coo…coo.”  The breath would not pass a milk breathalyzer test. A hand snarls and grips in my hair. A gray canvas sky,  propped behind the row of houses across the street, waits for daubs of sunshine. A new neighbor launches a vicious hedge clippers attack on the shrubbery next door.  I feel the tug of two emails that have been awaiting replies for two days. I, with the weight of a 9 lb-and-growing baby on my end, win the tug of war and remain rooted for just a moment longer.

big happenings

June 4, 2012

It’s not lost on me that Little Friend is a little less than Little these days.

Let’s be honest. Body snatchers visited on the night of April 25th, whisked away my baby, and replaced her with a tween giant.

Her legs stretch all the way from here to there.

Her head’s the size of a bucket.

Someone stitched Shaquille O’Neal’s hands onto her arms.

Her body has elongated into a boa constrictor’s torso.

And she’s assumed the matriarch role in our house, ordering around Big Friend: “Daddy, YOU DID NOT PICK UP YOUR SHOES!” or “Daddy, YOU DID NOT THROW AWAY YOUR NEWSPAPER!” or (my personal favorite) “Daddy, YOU DID NOT PUT THE GRILL COVER BACK ON!” (Emphasis all her own.)

She’s growing up, my first baby.

I think Little One’s arrival on April 25th may be to blame. My second baby gives me an instant comparison of little vs. big. And now, Little One has decided to quickly follow in Little Friend’s big(foot) steps and sprout into a bulbous baby overnight.

I’ve got to move quickly to keep up with these little(?) girls.

So in my efforts to match the child-cheetahs I’m raising, I’ve got some big plans for Belle Squeaks. I’ve mosied through the past three years documenting Little Friend’s journey using her name (Isabelle) as inspiration for my blog. With Little One’s arrival, we have to scoot over to make more room for her on the family blog.

Starting next week, I’ll be working with a talented blog designer to give Belle Squeaks a new look and a new name.

That’s right–time for Belle Squeaks to grow up a bit, too.

I’m going to leave you with that teaser for now. Big happenings on the horizon. Will you wait with bated breath until the big reveal?

During the interim, here’s what Little Friend will be up to:

Stay tuned…

one month

May 31, 2012

You could write the story of the past month of my life using only Google queries that have been pecked into my iPhone in the wee hours of morning:

“When do newborns sleep through the night?”

“When do newborns have growth spurts?”

“Is it okay for a three-week old baby to have a cold?”

“What should newborn poop look like?”

“How long is a baby a ‘newborn’?”

I didn’t like the answer to the last question.  Actually, Google’s collected wisdom varied–a number of sources informed me that a baby is a newborn until 3 months old.  Then Google dredged up Dr. Sears, who is rather adamant that a newborn is a newborn until a mere one month old.

Little One is one month old.

Hey Google, “How can I slow down time?”

I think I’ve Rumpelstiltskined the last four weeks of life.  I went to sleep in the hospital next to a four-hour old Little One and woke up the next morning, not exactly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed but awake nonetheless, to find a Little One who had doubled in size and a brand new month already skipped away on the calendar.  Somewhere in between, meals had been delivered, visitors had oohed and ahhhed, Little Friend had perfected her big-sister bedtime tantrums, and Little One had grown into a new size of diapers.

It’s not supposed to go this quickly.

In the midst of the blurry days and nights of the past four weeks, the wonder has been getting to know Little One as a person unique from the belly-bulge that twisted, turned, kicked, and hiccupped through our lives during the months and weeks previous.  This Little One is a person of great intensity who feels the need to narrate every twinge, emotion, movement, and poop with grunts, chortles, groans, gags, gulps, and coos.  She is not a quiet child, this Little One.  She lives large.  All one month, ten pounds, and 21 1/2 inches of her.

Oh, and she’s got a great male-pattern baldness thing going on.  She’s totally chill with it.  Google?  “Where can I buy newborn Rogaine?”

We can’t help but love our poop-squirting bald bundle of vocal energy.  In the rare moments that she cries, we’ve discovered that she quiets immediately when we lean close, brush cheeks, and murmur in her ear.  It makes for much quieter diaper changes.  And all of us, Big Friend, Little Friend, and I, would walk to Timbuktu and back barefoot and cross-eyed for this Little One.

Little Friend has assumed some important duties in the past month.  She has unearthed three or four pacifiers from forgotten, dusty locations and offered the crud-crusted artifacts to her sister.  She has learned the difference between burp cloths and muslin swaddle blankets and responds eagerly to the command, “Fetch!”  She’s acquired an admirable ability to keep watching Kipper the Dog through Little One’s ear-piercing siren of a cry.  And she’s determined, with all the unadulterated certainty of three-and-a-half years old, that she’s bigger.

I’m a bit puffed and swollen.  With pride, that is.  Pride and love and some squishy version of all-day-long joy over watching Little Friend love on Little One.  When she sings “Rock-a-bye-baby” to Little One, I tear up a bit, press pause on the day, and soak it in quickly before the Rumpelstiltskin syndrome fast forwards all over again.  “Awwww, she’s so cute!” Little Friend pronounces.

She’s a model big sister.  She even shares her toys.  She even shares Thumkin.

That’s the story of a month.  Days measured in diapers and nursing sessions and outfit changes and joys and frustrations and moments so sunny and heartbreaking and precious that they have to slip by quickly or else threaten to overwhelm this mama.

But really, Google, “Where did the last month go?!”

it’s a girl!

May 5, 2012

Cora Bailey, born April 25, 2012, 5 pounds 13 ounces, 19 inches

I’ll refrain from saying “I told you so.”  When we opted to wait until the delivery room to discover Little One’s gender, we were met with a variety of reactions, most of which could be predicted based on generational lines.  Our friends and contemporaries, those  of us who are more likely to consult our smart phones to check the weather than look out a window, gave us thinly veiled looks of skepticism. Older generations, the ones who look outside to check the weather, seemed all for waiting.  “Good for you!” we’d hear with a little “pip-pip” of cheer in their voices.

Everyone, generational barriers aside, was skeptical when we shared that we had the gender documented in a sealed envelope, burning a hole in our pockets, from week 20 on.

We didn’t peek.

Not once.

So I spent months feeling convinced in my DNA that we were having a second little girl.  Everyone else, including Big Friend felt tugged in the direction of boy.  Now I can say, “I told you so,” but I’m not going to.  I will say…

…It’s a Girl!

Cora Bailey Hendrickson entered the wider world on April 25th at 7:39 pm after 24 hours of what turned out to be a surprisingly relaxed, joyful, and blessed labor.  After the trauma and fears of Little Friend’s premature birth by emergency c-section, the full term VBAC, while induced every step of the way, was a healing, beautiful journey for me.

Things I was unprepared for with this birth experience:

1.  Water breaking.  I mean, really?  No one could have prepped me for that gushy, ooshy, mushy experience?  I’m just going to leave it at that.

2.  Simple joys.  The relief of an epidural after two hours of pitocin-punched contractions.  The warm smile of a midwife threading the 24 hour wait.  The sound of Alison Kraus crooning to YoYo Ma’s rendition of “Simple Gifts”.  The pictures of Little Friend cycling around and around on Big Friend’s iPad while we waited through push after push.

3.  A mama’s love.  Cora was wrinkly.  And red.  And covered in some icky stuff that made her look like a marbled alien.  I loved her at first sight.

We’ve had ten days to get to know her.  She’s been kind to her sleep-deprived parents, giving us three sometimes four hours between night feedings.  She’s slept through a lawnmower, sander, leaf blower, car rides, adoring visitors, and shouts of “It’s bedtime” to Little Friend struggling to fall asleep upstairs.  She has forehead wrinkles just like mine.  She has long fingers like her daddy.  She looks identical to a newborn Little Friend.  She has ragged fingernails too tiny for me to cut.  She has eyes that have moved from cross-eyed to focused for the four minutes each day they’re open.  She loves to sleep with her legs folded up like an envelope against her belly.  She has a butt that I know from it’s shape in my hand–I pushed it off of my ribs just days ago.

She has filled our hearts.

We chose the name Cora for her in part because it’s an old family name, but also because it means “a filled heart.”  Part of Cora’s life story is the loss of her twin at 14 weeks.  It’s important to us that we avoid dwelling on what wasn’t to be with this pregnancy, and instead focus on what was–a little girl who at 5 pounds, 13 ounces fills our hearts to the brim.  Yet with her arrival comes the bitter part of the sweet.  The final surrender to the truth that Little Two will be waiting for us in heaven’s delivery room.  In honor of his(?) 14 weeks in our lives, we’ve named him Joseph Thayer, and right now, if he’s anything like his sister, he’s cuddled up on an angel’s chest, breathing quick little puffs, smacking sleepy lips, and fluttering paper-thin eyelids.  We’ll hold him someday, and we’ll ve just as filled with joy as if we had held him on April 25th, 2012.

And Little Friend?  What is she up to in all of this?

She’s patting Cora’s head, kissing her hand, “helping” with diaper changes, and wondering constantly, “Where is MY baby?”.  She’s also throwing temper tantrums, perfecting a particularly obnoxious version of the word “No”, and wishing that she weren’t a big sister.

It’s a see-saw, this big sister thing.

When our dear friends, who were watching Little Friend during the birth, told her that her little sister had finally arrived, she leapt out of bed (of course already dressed in her “fanciest outfit” picked out especially for the occasion), grabbed her fairy wand and pink sparkly shoes and announced, “I’m ready!  I’m ready!”

The sweet, serene look of pure joy on her face as she saw Cora for the first time rent a new tear in my heart.

And then the see-saw tilts down.

A few days after Little One joined Little Friend at home, I intervened in a colossal bedtime meltdown.  “You know what I think is happening?”  I asked Little Friend’s back, which was directed, pointedly, at me.  “Humph” came her response.  I soldiered on, “I think it’s hard to be a big sister all the time.  Would you like a break to be just Isabelle tomorrow?”  The back twisted to a front and I suddenly had a puddle of Little Friend limbs, torso, and head in my arms in a gigantic bear hug.   I watched the dusk gather around the neighborhood houses outside her window.  Then came her small voice, “I just want the baby to be back in your tummy.”  I could barely choke back the sobs as I confessed, “Sometimes I do, too.”

It’s an adjustment, this family of three becoming four thing.  It’s not smooth sailing, and I’m not sure when the choppy waters are supposed to smooth out for us.  We’re all on Little Friend’s see-saw in some stage of up, down, or in-between.  Through this uncertainty and new ground rules, I’m ever so grateful for the thread of grace that runs clear and bright and strong among us.  Grace for a tired mom who doesn’t want to police the obnoxious “No” one more time.  Grace for the tired dad who has offered to get up for a diaper change at 3 am.  Grace for a big sister who may or may not have dropped a book on her sister’s head intentionally.  Grace for a life that is never easy, never predictable, never boring, and never unrewarding.

We are blessed to the brim.

It’s a girl.

Please excuse me if I don’t post for a few weeks in this precious window of newborn baby.  I will hopefully be sleeping occasionally, laundering constantly, cleaning seldomly, and mothering lovingly.  I’ll be back with stories to share and an exciting new direction for Belle Squeaks in June.


April 20, 2012

“Eeeeeek!!!  We are two girls who hate snakes!”  She shrieks in a falsetto “this must be what girls sound like when they’re scared” kind of way.  She’s huddled against my arm, quaking with pretend tremors at the grow-300%-in-two-days-rubber-snake that’s bobbing innocently enough in a measuring glass of water across the table from us.  She’s decked from head-to-toe in a purple nightgown that she put on, backward, by herself during quiet time.

We are two girls.

She’s categorizing us like this a lot these days.  Mama and Little Friend against the world.  Mama and Little Friend united by ponytails, the color pink, baby-bearers, bread-bakers,  high-jumpers, snake-haters.  Whatever it is we’re doing, we’re doing it together.  Me and a backward-nightgown-clad wisp of a big-girl growing up attached to my arm.  We are two girls.

I’d be happy to get a tattoo together.  Something that etches this portrait of closeness on the very muscle fibers and flapping valves of our hearts.  Some tattoo that reminds each of us permanently with each flex and gush of blood flow that we are together.  Always.  We are two girls.

Because what I’m thinking is this: I’d like her to remember this togetherness ten years down the road when, for a period in her life, I will become that person she needs to define herself against, not with.  In those moments when we are separate, when she’s making solo choices in good or bad directions, sometimes directions that veer far off of a path I’d choose for myself, I want some strong scar-tissued message to beat unseen in her chest: We are two girls.  As simple as that.  We are two girls who don’t like snakes.

With someone like that by your side, you can face every “eeeeeek!” that life throws at you.

Gratefully inspired by and shared with the readers of The Gypsy Mama’s Five Minute Fridays.

being okay with four

April 18, 2012

Today Little Friend started wondering about future candy windfalls in her life.  As in, “When will it be Easter again?”  The Easter candy pile, carefully doled out a piece per day, has dwindled to a sorry lot of yellow and orange jelly beans, a few forgotten M&Ms and the legs and feet of a chocolate bunny.  Clearly, she’s trying to plan ahead.

I inform her that “Next Easter” will be a year away.

“But I do not think I can wait that long.  How old will I be then?”

I add a year onto her current three and say, “You’ll be four.”

“Nooooo!” the wail begins.  “I do not want to be four.  I want to stay three!”

That makes two of us, Little Friend.

With a mere month left in this pregnancy, a day can’t pass without the minutes and hours reminding me that our family number of three will soon be expanding to four.

Can I confess something?

I do not want to be four.  I want to stay three.

At the risk of revealing myself to be the selfish, frightened, change-shunning monster that I am, I really, really don’t want to lose the “normal” life I have today.  It’s a life that happily revolves around a triangle of Mama, Big Friend, and Little Friend.  I shudder to think what will happen to those sides of the triangle when we rearrange into a square.  Will we break, crack, bend, or split into permanent stretch marks?  Will all that is beautifully balanced in life be cracked on the sidewalk like Humpty Dumpty?

Once upon nine months ago I was tempted by visions of candy: the gold-spun heads of two children huddled at play, four blue eyes flashing with mischief at the dinner table, the round, solid heft of a baby bum cupped in my palm.  I wanted more of that candy.

Having a sweet, lovely, scrumptious daughter like Little Friend will do that to you.  You can’t stop at one bite–you want to devour that chocolate bunny from ear-tips to toe-tips.  And then you want seconds.

But like Little Friend, who wants to have TWO piles of Easter candy while she’s still three, I wished for the impossible.  I wanted to add a human being to the midst of our family without changing a single, precious dynamic.

It’s impossible to have two Easters when you’re three.  It’s impossible to grow to four but still stay three.

I know what I’m supposed to be saying at this point in the pregnancy: I’m so excited.  I can’t wait.  I know it’s going to be hard, but I’m ready for it.  Grin.  Squeal.  Gush.

But I can’t say those things.

I can say the following: I like full nights of sleep.  I like no diapers to change.  I like being able to run out to the store to pick up two things and not have the errand take three hours plus a breastfeeding session in the middle of a parking lot.  I like being able to cut up, instead of purée, a dinner.  I like having a child who can put on her own underwear, even if one of the leg holes becomes a waist hole.  I like the way things are right now.

I don’t know if I’ll like four.

So while it seems that every expectant mother around me is just that–happily expectant for the change to come–I’m feeling a bit morose about the unknown.

Isn’t it a tad silly to be morose about the unknown?  Especially if that unknown is being defined by the incomparable, miracle-working blessing of a new baby?!  Most of the life events that I’ve tiptoed up to with reluctant steps (marriage, motherhood, career changes, to name a few biggies) have all gone so well, I wouldn’t trade my life experiences for anyone else’s.  So when do I learn my lesson?  When will I learn not to quake at the unknown but instead to love and embrace what is known while also leaving some room in the bear hug for future potential?

The one thing that’s pulling me onward toward four, like Little Friend accepting the inevitable fourth birthday if it bribes her with another bulging Easter basket, is the sheer joy of knowing Little Friend.  The way she arranges birthday parties for her stuffed animals.  The way she makes up nonsense words and then giggles as we try to repeat them.  The way she goes “squeak, squeak” in the morning pretending to be a Baby Koala wrapped around Big Friend’s neck.  The way she directs me to be Princess Snow Fairy Snow White while she’s Princess Snow Fairy Cinderella.  The way she directs me to be a mean step-sister when she’s in an impish mood and set on destroying Cinderella’s dress.  The way she asks if every single bit of food is “healthy or not healthy?”  The way she insists that each package that arrives on our porch is for her.  The way her footsteps thunder at “nap time” as she chants “Jack Be Nimble” at the top of her lungs.

I’m not excited about being four…I’m anxious.  I know it’s going to hard, and I really don’t think I’m ready for it.  But, bottom line, if I get to know another Little One who turns out to be as intoxicating a human being as Little Friend, then I guess maybe, just maybe, I’ll be okay with four.

that’s MY baby!

April 12, 2012

There are enough unsweet moments of motherhood.  The goldfish crackers crumbled all over the backseat of the car moments.  The potty dance that ends in soggy underwear tragedy just steps away from the toilet moments.  The baby vomit in your hair that goes unnoticed by you (but not everyone else) all the way through the grocery store moments.  The high fever in the middle of the night doctor on speed dial moments.  The I miss my once upon a forgotten time of full night’s sleep moments.

Then there are the sweet moments.  Sweet moments that are so overpoweringly intoxicating that they cause immediate and irreversible selective amnesia of each unsweet interlude.

Sweet moments, like when Little Friend wakes up early and finds me still in bed, eyes barely cracked open to accept the first light of day.  She pads in, hauls uncoordinated toddler limbs onto my bed, tucks herself in next to me with her back against her daddy’s still-warm, recently-vacated pillow.

Her tiny hand stretches out to rest on the top of my belly.

“That’s MY baby” she announces with a certainty unique to someone who is three years old, a first-time big sister, and of fixed mind on just about everything she says, thinks, or does.

The baby bats at her hand playfully (of course “playfully” because surely sibling rivalry can’t start in the womb?).

Little Friend feels the wallop and her eyes flash with wonder-sparkle.

Little Friend’s hand looks so minute resting on that mound of baby body.  Her hand still has those baby dimples puckering the knuckles.  But it’s about to look gigantic in a few weeks when there’s some hand even smaller to compare.

The sweet moment continues.

“When my baby is born,” her plan begins, “I’m going to bake her a cake and blow up balloons for her.  And if it’s a girl, I will put a picture of a baby girl on the cake, and I will write ‘HIJKLMNOP-It’s A Girl’ so everyone can see.  Then I will take it to the hospilator where I was cut out of your tummy, and my baby sister will smell me and think, ‘Hey!  It’s my Big Sister!'”

And if the baby is a boy?

“I will write ‘HIJKLMNOPQRSTUV-It’s A Boy.”

That’s my girl.  My sweet moment to end all sweet moments girl.

And just so no one missed it, that’s HER baby!

35 weeks

April 11, 2012

I’m now officially two days more pregnant than I’ve ever been before.  Little Friend made an early entrance into the world at 34 weeks and 5 days.  This time around, I’ve made it to a whole 35 weeks.

I can say I’m actually happy to experience–finally–the third-trimester woes I’ve only heard recounted secondhand: exhaustion, aches and pains, bruised ribs, heartburn, swollen feet.  I even like rolling out of bed like a mama-walrus.  I lie.  I don’t like that part at all.

When you don’t have it (whatever “it” is), it’s all the more precious when you finally get a taste of it.

So hello third trimester.  Hello stretch of pregnancy I’ve never met before.  Hello delivery date waiting just five weeks away.

35 weeks today, and all is well.