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There are so many things that I love about where we are, and parties are one of them. I love that this community does parties like how I imagine Italians do. They are these cross-generational, full-on affairs that are fun for everyone involved. Pinatas are popular here. So is beer!

But as much as I like going to the parties, I confess that I wouldn’t have probably have wanted to throw a party at all though if it weren’t for Brianna here:

brianna and me

You see, she threw this super-fun party for her 3 year old only a month or so after giving birth to her fourth baby! I had a lot of fun at her party, and I felt then for the first time that a party is kind of like a gift, isn’t it? I mean, it’s a gift that you give others – a stage that you set for others to enjoy, right?

I wanted to do the same thing, or at least learn how to give the gift of a party. Because I really suck at it.

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I spent over a week preparing – I made around 30 sugar skulls for the kids to decorate, holy cow, I’ve never been so crafty in my life. I made sugar skull cookies too. Oh, and a sugar skull brownie cake!

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Then came the golden moment when I realized that I had to transport all of these REALLY BREAKABLE things down the hella bumpy, hard ride from our yurt to the party venue. It was a total facepalm moment, you know, like, whaaaaaaaaaaat was I thinking????!!!!!! Next year: party at our yurt. Fo’ sho

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Kids and a piñata! Is there anything better?!

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rockin’ roll mamas

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Humor me.

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MacQuinn is steadily becoming Mack. Oh, I suppose he can always be “MacQuinn” if and when he wants, but to be honest, someone called him “MacQuinn” a few weeks ago and I had no idea who they were talking about.

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He’s Mack. Sometimes Mac-Q. Sometimes Mr. Mac-Q.

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He’s 2.5.

I was all set to write this post about him being a solid Mama’s boy, but then right before I hit “publish”, I thought I ought to double check what the definition of “Mama’s boy” actually is, you know, since I’m about to throw it out there in the internet that my boy is one.

Wikipedia says that a “Mother’s boy, also mummy’s boy or mama’s boy, is a term for a man who is excessively attached to his mother at an age when men are expected to be independent”

That being what it is, I’m not sure he’s a Mama’s boy. He’s not excessively attached to me – and he’s not at an age when he is expected to be independent! But he *IS* absolutely, unquestionably in love with me in a way that the other two were not, have never been.

In fact, I’m typing this while he stands behind me with his arms wrapped around my neck. 

This boy is ALL about his Mama.

I’ve done nothing to encourage him – I’m not particularly cuddly, I don’t want him staying by me all the time – I don’t like it when kids are clingy. But for whatever reason, Mack grips me with his soft, squishy little arms and wraps his big love all over me. Constantly.

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“Hi, Mack! How are you?”, an acquaintance might ask him, and he’ll nod and smile and point to me, saying, “Mama!”

He’ll be watching a show with Moxie, on the couch where he can’t even see me. I slip out and go to the outhouse. He just senses when I’m not in the yurt anymore and heads out to find me. When he finds me, it’s like, ‘just checking!’ – he’s not particularly clingy or crying – he just wants to make sure I’m okay, wants to know where I am, wants to say ‘hi’.

The other two were not like that – or if they followed me to the bathroom, it was different. It was to play or because they needed/wanted something – with Mack, it’s about his internal homing device or something.

small boy by the river reaching down to pick up a stone Meriah Nichols Mack-2-3

 

Moxie goes to school for 3 days a week – that leaves him with 3 days a week that he can hang out with JUST MAMA.

Meriah Nichols Mack-1-5Let me tell you, he shoos the other two out the door – “byeeeeeeee!” and slams it shut behind them.

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And it doesn’t matter what I do – if I exercise, he just wants to exercise next to me. If I take a shower, he’ll hang out by the shower curtain.

Take a walk, a hike, whatever – no problem – he likes it all, just so long as we are together.

 

Meriah Nichols Mack-8It is impossible to not be affected by his love.

Absolutely impossible to not warm up with this little fellow whose hair smells like sunshine

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While I am coming to suspect that he’s the kid who is the most likely to be the eccentric artist living on a desert island when he grows up, he does like large earth moving machines

Meriah Nichols Mack-4 Meriah Nichols Mack-5Tractors, large trucks, trains – they all thrill him

Meriah Nichols Mack-2He likes planes, boats and other large things that transport

Meriah Nichols Mack-1And he likes the idea of swings. Just not the reality

Meriah Nichols Mack-1-2He likes horses. A lot.

Meriah Nichols Mack-2-2Even play ones.

We had high hopes with Mack that he’d be our most “typically developing” kid. You know, after children who have REALLY unique learning styles and needs – especially Micah, who is so utterly cerebral and yet still a young child who loves legos – we thought a kid like Bam Bam (from the Flintstones) would be awesome to balance things out.

So far I’m not sure he’s leaning in that direction. Something about him loving his sparkly boots, wanting his hat on him all the time, carrying his doodle pad around and the way his love runs for Mama – and Moxie – doesn’t make me think he’ll morph into Bam Bam.

But who knows, right?!

Meriah Nichols Mack-1-7He’s 2 and a half now, and starting to talk.

It’s right where Micah was, and he sounds like Micah too. All robotic but not as gravelly. It’s pretty funny that he gets most of his words from Moxie (also means he doesn’t learn many).

Moxie and Mack…they speak their own language, you know, when they play. Like, literally – we don’t understand much of what they say to each other, but they understand each other just fine. Do you remember the Star Trek Next Generation episode with the binaries? Mack and Moxie remind me of them – they put their heads together and speak their squeeky Binary gibberish then turn to us and say something we understand like, “bye” – and run off together

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They are very much in tandem, in cahoots.

two kids mock fighting with sticks

And somehow he’ll still shoo her outside to school, just as he did this morning, slam the door and turn to me and say, “MAMA!”

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The Best School Ever said that it’s okay that Moxie isn’t potty trained, they want her (and more stuff like that that has me looking at my toes because I’m always worried I’ll start crying over their total awesomeness). But even with them saying so, I know it’s a good thing to get her on the bandwagon now. I’ve been feeling guilty on account of how MUCH she wanted to do it before and how LITTLE I did, and so… we didn’t. But I’m ready now!

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I am potty training BOTH Moxie and MacQuinn: Moxie’s 4 years old and her typically developing little brother MacQuinn, is almost 2. I decided to just work with them both at the same time – I mean, why not?! Their level of interest was about the same and if I’m doing one, may as well do both, right?

This is a work in progress: we are not done

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I have been doing this for about 10 days now, but we are far from done. This is going to take some time, it seems. This post is more of a beginning of the process as it has led me.

Prep for Potty Training

I prepared by googling “Down syndrome + Potty Training” – useful links are at the end of this post – and also googled plan ole’ “potty training techniques”.

I ended up liking Julie Fellom’s Diaper Free Toddlers Program the best, wherein you let your child run around naked from the waist down – and make the potty the centre of your existence for those three days.

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We got busy.

I took the clothes off of their lower parts and set the timer on my iphone to every half hour.

Then every half hour after the timer buzzed, we sang “Potty Time” (- from Signing Time) and sat down in turns, Mac and Moxie.

Both children would go potty in their toilet but to date neither poops. They both poop outside – squat, go and then come over to tell me about it. Since they both have predictably-timed bowel movements, I think I need to follow them around at that time and place them on the potty when they start to squat.

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Cloth diapers

I have cloth diapers that can be pulled up and used like underwear but with a little more absorbency. (I use Charlie Banana that we bought 50% off from Target -does the job). I use these now around the house,  but I use regular diapers for when we go out/to bed.

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I also use the cloth diapers when we hike around the property since it will keep their privates protected. Hill and tree climbing, you know.

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So far…

The kids have been half naked A LOT. Mac-Q will go on an almost laughably Pavlov-like basis – he hears the ringer go off and BAM! I just have to hope the potty is nearby.

Moxie will go (it seems) when she feels like it. She’s far less conditioned than he is.

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meriah nichols aug (1 of 3)-2If I drop the ball and forget the timer on the iPhone, I live to regret it.

But overall, I try to keep perspective and laugh and remember that it’s all a work in progress and it’ll happen.

Maybe slower than I want, but it will.

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Links for Potty Training Your Child (with Down syndrome):

Toilet Training Children with Down syndrome (NDSSS)

Toilet Training Children with Down syndrome (article by Kennedy)

Potty Training in Three Days (- Baby Center)

Diaper Free Toddlers Program (- Livestrong, because I couldn’t find a link to the actual program)

Naked Potty Training (- site)

Down syndrome Potty Training Facebook Group

 

Programs that are GOLD!

Potty Time – from Signing Time – includes songs and lots of inspiration for the kiddos. They love it!

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood – Potty episode – it is on youtube, amazon instant video and mayyyybe on netflix?

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PS

I’d seriously LOVE to hear your potty training stories or tips!

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Mac’s teething.

You know, that sounds pretty innocuous. Like he’s just knawing at stuff sometimes, chewing on one of those little ring things – or maybe a frozen carrot – and letting those little buds of teeth push through.

And that’s a total far cry from what is actually happening.

What is actually happening is night screaming – and I’m talking the back arching, kicking everything in sight, screeching, red in the face, full-on HOWLING. Coupled with this is the relentless – and I do mean relentless – all night nursing.

And like “teething”, “nursing” sounds pretty innocuous. Baby tethered to mama, all gentle and in soft focus like the pictures.

And that’s not what’s happening.

What is actually happening is he chomps down on my nipple and PULLS it with his entire body while he kicks me in the stomach, pokes his finger directly in my eye, nose and does a thorough mouth examination while he’s at it.

It’s as if one type of inflicted pain isn’t enough for this kid.

When I disengage him and try to latch on again gently, sans all the kicking, he starts the camper-shaking-howling. So we go at it again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again.

Then I start to feel like a battered mother and it’s a choice between trying to let him cry it out if/when he howls when I disengage him (and chance the entire beach camp crying too) or I got lucky and he fell asleep.

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On some more well-rested objective plain, I can’t help but wonder at WHY people don’t talk about THIS stuff, I mean why is all the focus always on child birth? Childbirth wasn’t a walk in the park but compared to teething, it’s cake. Pull a baby out of me any day, rather than teeth out of my baby. Ugh.

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It is a good thing he’s so cute by day light. It’s all about self-preservation and survival of the species, isn’t it? No baby would ever make it if they weren’t all so big-eyed and gooey-smiled when not screaming their heads off, would they?

 

We decided to have MacQuinn in San Francisco, and we relaxed into the idea of a c-section after concerns about my uterus ruptering and his being in the breech position. We decided to have him in San Francisco partly because San Francisco is just hella cool and he’ll get to say he was born in San Francisco – yay! And partly because the people in the hospital were friendly and smiling and fun when we were touring it. We liked the vibe.

My Mom took Micah and Moxie up to stay with my brother Dana in Humboldt County for a few days, so Mikey and I could focus on meeting our new child.

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And it felt like a date! I wasn’t in labor or contracting or anything – I was just supremely huge, uncomfortable, eager to meet my little boy.

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The weather was perfect. Stunning in all its Bay glory. We drove over the bridge to San Francisco, parked the van in long-term parking, walked on up and said we’re here to have our baby! We laughed – hard! – when the staff seemed to think we were first-time parents. We joked around and played scrabble and just enjoyed one another’s company. It was pretty great.

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They moved us with surprising speed from the waiting room to my own private triage, a lovely room with high ceilings and bright sunlight. My nurse wore birkenstocks and was kind. My next nurse wore danskos and was also very kind. She helped me into the operating room and through the spinal.

I want to stop a minute and talk a little about the operating room.

They are always FREEZING – something about bacteria? – and this was no exception. But it featured floor to ceiling windows of San Francisco, the water, the bay – the whole shebang. It was GORGEOUS! And since the sun was shining that day, I was sitting there on the operating table, looking out onto the city and the bay, looking at sunshine and just feeling happy, even with all the pain from the spinal (- have you seen those needles??? No?? well, you don’t need to). Those windows made all the difference. Just…wow.

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The staff were also wonderful –  convivial, chatting in merry tones (- I couldn’t hear what they were talking about. Maybe that’s just as well). There was definitely a point in which the drugs started wearing off and I began to FEEL things, like the tug and pull and stitches and such. It didn’t hurt but it was infinitely strange to feel people messing with my inner organs. I told Mikey that I could feel stuff, I’m sure he thought I was just high on drugs because he was like, ‘oh…really?’ – and later, he was like, “WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SOMETHING?”

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And then my boy was there.

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Sweet, old soul that he was from the moment he was born. He just opened his eyes and looked right at me. Gulping me in with those precious blues.

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There is a world held in those first moments of meeting a person you have cradled inside your own body for months. Love can explode right then and there, an affair of the heart instantly created between people.

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For Mack, I felt a recognition.

 Hey – it’s YOU!

Finally. It’s you! I am so happy to meet you. I’ve waited so long.

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The next few days were simply a blur. Standing, walking, moving, healing. Trying to nurse, figuring things out. Getting to know my boy. Looking at the clock. Gazing out across San Francisco through the windows with the incredible view. Drinking gallons of coconut water. Healing. Nourishing tea, herbs. Healing. It all ran together in that way that time does when it is suspended, fluid, held in a room.

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Mac-Q (pronounced “Mac-Que”)’s birth was sweet, a deep red velvet bow on the gift that I’ve received of childbearing. He is our final child. I am intensely grateful for the beauty that was his birth, given that it was in a hospital, it was a c-section and all of the other variables that can usually sum up to be negative.

But it wasn’t negative at all. It was bright. It was perfect.  It was an endowment from the universe.

Just like he is.

Mac-Q turned one yesterday. 365 days old, he’s had his first spin around the sun. What a traveler!

His birth story and all that goodness is right around the corner but this here is for your personal enjoyment, right along with that video of him laughing that I put in the sidebar 🙂

xox

Cheers!

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!!!!!!!!!

 

We’re settling in over here.

The little man is growing.

I put this on him the other day and lo!

 

IMG_8189He’s outgrown some of the newborn things.

Mr. Chunkylicious

IMG_8193I love his round belly

IMG_8194His overall good nature

IMG_8197Don’t get me wrong. The kid can scream. I mean, he can belt it with the best I’ve ever seen. He can – and has! – easily scream for an hour or more without stopping. He startles easily and can be extremely hard to settle once he’s riled.

IMG_8176Luckily that doesn’t happen all that often.

Check  out those ears!

IMG_8179Mikey calls them “butterfly ears”.

Micah thinks they have a vulcan look to them.

I think they are hilarious.

And adorable, just like him.

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Overall, things are settling down. My fog is lifting, I’m feeling a bit more like myself, whatever that means.

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The kids seem to be getting used to it all too. To him.

IMG_8278Him to them.

IMG_8276And back.

Life: it’s getting better. I think it’s something about having passed that 3 month mark, isn’t it?

 

I've started acupuncture as a way to get a bit more even keeled. This is an option because of the Berkeley Acupuncture Project, and this is possible because of their whole 'community acupuncture' philosophy. Their goal is pretty simple: to make Chinese medicine accessible by making it affordable – and they make it affordable by practicing it in a big common room with chairs.

It's all very womb-like.

And somehow, not weird at all. In fact, I think I liked being in a room with other people more than I have enjoyed being alone.

Yeah, so that's how it works. I go in, sit down, get comfortable. They stick needles all over me, then leave me to sleep until I buzz them back to take all the needles out!

Groovy.

Only in Berkeley, huh.

Yes, those are my sainted mother's hands holding Moxie, caring for ALL THREE KIDS while I am paying to have needles stuck in me

Meanwhile, I have found that Mac is actually suffering from 'Nipple Confusion" – or rather, we are both suffering, because let me tell you: this ain't no joy ride.

On no account is it as challenging at learning to nurse with Moxie was, but we still have our work cut out for us here.

I think it's mostly especially hard because of the TIME that it takes to get us on the ball. According to Dr. Sears, I have to:

  • commit to ditching the bottle
  • have him close all the time (hello sling, that I never learned to use)
  • nurse his head off

Is it worth it? When I actually have things to do and two other kids to care for? Yes, I think it is. I think breastfeeding is the easiest thing ever, once everyone has the hang of it. Plus, in light of the Pan Am Overland, I want us on something that doesn't involve washing lots of bottles or searching for milk or formula or whatever in some village in Guatamala….

But still. This is really, really frustrating. I'm not going to kick myself into a pulp if it doesn't happen. I'm just going to try. Stay sane. And try and stay sane. Haha.

 

Is anyone even reading this blog anymore? I wonder. I'm scared to ask and definitely too scared to check my numbers.

At least I know my Mom and my Mother in Law are reading… um, right, Ma?

***

 

 

Here's Mac, as of today

He's covered in pimples, the remnants of my hormones all coming out of him. For some reason, I find it incredibly endearing.

Not so his behaviour at night.

Little Tyrant with the Bottomless Stomach.

Seriously, this kid never*stops*eating.

And if there is one thing this is teaching me, it's that having a child with Down syndrome spoils you. Or at any rate, my child with Down syndrome spoiled me completely rotten!

She slept!

She grew slowly so she didn't eat all that much!

She wasn't fussy!

She made me think I could do it all again. And I gotta tell you… there's been times recently that I just wonder. Enter post partum depression, that cheerful beast.

I last left you where I picked up my prescription for an anti-depressant, right? Despite being kind of freaked out that I was on a quick slide to the gates of a drug-addled HELL, I took it. And Jesus, Could. Not. Wake. Up.

Even when I was awake, I wasn't.

I had to get off of it just to take a shower and change my clothes. I'm trying some other stuff now – more along the lines of some natural action (think, yoga, acupuncture), and my blessed saint of a mother (do you hear that, Ma? YOU ARE BLESSED! YOU ARE A SAINT!! THANK YOU!!) is coming every day and taking our two other munchkins out so that I can sleep some.

Praise God. This story just might have a happy ending after all.

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Are you still with me? Awesome. I want to tell you briefly about a story I've just heard. It's here in this blog, Adopting Nugget and Lovebug. Carrie, a disability rights activist with Larsen's syndrome, is in the process of adopting two kids right this very minute – one, her soon-to-be-legal-daughter, who has her same syndrome and her soon-to-be-legal-son, who has Cerebral Palsy.

We're trying to get a BOB Duallie stroller for her kids – the BOB Revolution company sent me over to Safe Kids and it's in process now. If you are the praying type, say a prayer that Safe Kids will donate this, would you? Thanks. If you yourself would like to just gift them with the stroller, here is the link to the stroller – just shoot me an email so I can help connect everyone safely.

Either way, I'll be letting you know how this unfolds. I'm terribly excited for this family. Oh my. Those lucky kids and those lucky parents!

Lucky, like me.

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Mikey was wondering why I talk so much about how astonishingly attractive I think MacQuinn is. He says that I didn't say it quite this much, about the other two – when they were Mac's age. Which would be 5 weeks old, can you believe it?!

I told him that I agree.

I didn't say it this much with the other two.

I didn't think it as much either, and I assume it's because I wasn't as crazy-making with them. I got enough sleep in my first two rounds of baby rearing. I wasn't living off of caffeine, sugar, 2 hours of sleep, riveting shows on Netflix and the good will that the charm of an infant induces.

God, but he's worth it.

So I am compelled to remark upon that, over and over and over and over and over.

And over.

Not to forget the other two though!

And that's why we should all be friends on instagram, if we are not already. I'm posting all these over there

With the little pieces – like Moxie making kissy-face, or the awesome bar of "Moxie" soap we received from Amathia Soapworks (SO DIVINE! !!!). Or of how Moxie has taken to diving into the "brest friend", ready-set to be a milky Mama.

I think I prefer instagram to facebook these days. It's so much more interesting, with the visual aspect, and you never feel like you need to watch how many "likes" or comments you give, for fear of cluttering up everyone's feed. You can just slather that love around all thick-like, the way that makes you happy.

Anyway, so I'm over there – withalittlemoxie – so let's hang out, if you are there too.

In the meantime?

I'll keep on basking in the light of Sir Squigglebottom

*****

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There have been some big changes in our little house.

Big, brought on by little.

It’s so funny to me how a creature so small can so profoundly affect the lives of others. I mean, isn’t it?! Funny, that is?

It’s like that African proverb, If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito.

Our Precious Little Mosquito

My One True Darling and I can’t stop pinching ourselves: THREE KIDS?! We actually have THREE KIDS?!

The Third

It’s kind of unbelievable.

Remember, Mikey is the guy that told me flat out on one of our early dates that he didn’t want ANY. And while I always wanted kids, I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have THREE; especially since I started at the ripe old age of 34.

Our three kids. And my swollen, “Borne Childe” feet

It just goes to show: never assume anything because your brightest wish could very well become true.

***

People have asked how Moxie is dealing with MacQuinn. Well. Let’s just say she hasn’t taken to him like Micah, aka, “Little Daddy”

Micah, “Little Daddy”

Who is just about GIVE ME THE BABY!

Moxie seemed to regard Mac as an intriguing new pillow-thing: with some curiousity, but not a lot, more of an intent to make herself comfortable on it (yeah, we can’t leave him on the sofa or the Moses Basket on the sofa either…).

Here are some photos of Mikey trying to introduce MacQuinn to her, with a resulting first “real” kiss:

“Moxie, this is your little brother, baby Mac!”

“See? He’s looking at you! He’s saying, “hi Moxie!”

“You want to say hi to him too? Give him a kiss?”

– leans in for a kiss –

We figure it’s going to take some time. And that’s okay; we have that.

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Guess what this is?

Yes! It’s the suckers from a breast pump!

We are off to a pretty good milkful beginning, Mac and I – better at any rate, than I started with Micah or Moxie. Still, we have our issues in the learning-to-latch and in weight gain. I’m freaking out over his skinny legs and I’m trying to have him firmly on a plumper track.

I’m doing the round-the-clock nursing and pumping regime, we feed him some formula too. I want this baby to be okay with bottle-feeding so I will likely continue pumping for a long time; (for traveling purposes) I also want him to be okay with occasional formula.

I think it’s going all right. We’re hiccuping our way through it, day by day, but it seems to be going well.

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THREE KIDS = never a dull moment

The jump between 1 to 2 kids almost blew our minds off of our bodies. It was so freakin’ huge; I don’t think the jump from 2 to 3 is as drastic but it’s still a leap and we’re not quite sure where we’ve landed yet.

We are INCREDIBLY busy and we are also INCREDIBLY happy. Mikey started work again, part-time, from last week, and it’s still so much fun to have extra time with all of us together, even though he’s gone 4 hours a day – we still have 4 hours more together than we usually do.

I’m not really looking forward to his going back full-time, but hey. It could be worse. He’s got basically The Best Job Ever for a bicycle mechanic, complete with The Best Boss Ever. It could be much, much worse – which kind of levels it out to being pretty good, right?

“Right”, says the Best Daddy Ever

“Right”, says sleepy me, “mmm’kay going back to sleep now”

 

This is going to be a short post.

Short, because this is a photo of me right here, right now:

Clearly, I did not sleep last night. And it was thanks to this person here:

Who likes to get all cuddly and cute after he’s done with his screaming. I’m quite sure that is simply his survival tactic.

 

Well played, MacQuinn.

 

Well played.

****

 

Born: October 24th, 2012

Time: 11:50am

Place: San Francisco

Weight: 8lb 14oz

Length: 21 inches

 

He's bonny, isn't he!

****

About his name:

I always wanted to name a son of mine "Jack", mostly after my Grandpa, but also because I think it's a cool name.

We couldn't name him Jack with us all being "M"'s – and played with the "M" letter exchange – to "Mack".

Smooooth, and of course, also the name of the revolutionary turtle of Dr. Seuss.

I like naming kids after revolutionary turtles.

 

But My One True Darling felt it needed something…more. So, in spirit of things Scotch – honoring my Grandpa Jack who has strong Scottish roots, we thought Quinn felt right.

Like a well fitting glove, it slipped right around "Mac".

Quinn, "wise counsel", born in the year of the water dragon.

Yes.

MacQuinn.

His Vietnamese name is "Minh Long" – which means "bright dragon" – and it connects him with Micah, whose Vietnamese name is "Xuan Minh" – "bright spring".

Minh Long.

Beautiful boy.

We are happy you are here.

 

 

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