3.18.2015

Winter 2014-15.

After hibernating through a protracted and bitterly cold winter, we are more than ready for the sun to shine, to open windows, and step through doors instead of wondering about the world from behind the glass. We are excited to fill our lungs with crisp spring air, take walks, and allow the dirt to pack crescent moons under our nails.

Miss Lucille’s edification of the world, just weeks out from marking 1.5 years of existence, is exploding. It literally feels like there has been something new every single day. I actually quit keeping track of her new words because there are too many, and most recently she’s become quite the parrot. We can ask her to say just about anything, and she’ll repeat it. It isn't always enunciated perfectly, in fact, it rarely is, but I can tell she’s trying, and I love that. Lucy has begun to talk in two word phrases and regularly likes to point out “mama car,” “daddy chair,” and “mama shoes.”

She clearly identifies, in pictures, myself, Big Red, Grandma, Nana, and Pa-Pa. Her mouth is erupting in teeth, teeth she now brushes on her own every evening. A hearty eater we continue to witness, and we've begun to encourage the use of utensils. She’s got the basic concept, but immediate gratification often wins out, and thus the use of the reliable tried and true hand. This winter she had her first raw apple, and began a love affair with mandarins. She loves to paint and does so enthusiastically, often canvasing her own face and hair with bright colors, and she’s really into coloring.  Requests for music come by way of pointing to the stereo and *snapping* fingers. We are made aware of what she needs by her stubby finger pointing to whatever object of desire, or pointing to the particular cabinet holding said object of desire – usually food—by saying, “this.”

Lucy was introduced to snow for the first time, and she was skeptical at first, unsure of every crunchy step she took in her tiny snow boots. There may have even been a few tears, but they were short-lived. The firsts continued with the first sled rides down the hill in your yard; the inaugural ride was a hit, the second one, not so much. When asked if she wanted to do it again, she most clearly and distinctly said, “no.” She has, though, enjoyed our most recent activity of Mommy & Me dance classes, and so have I.

Unfortunately, we did not escape the claws of daycare induced winter illnesses. The poor kid endured a stomach virus, the flu/RSV, and four ear infections, not to mention the constant drip of a runny nose. The RSV was the worst of all. It slammed her just before Christmas and it turned my happy, fun-loving, bright-eyed little girl into a quiet, lethargic, fevered lump. She clung to me, slept on me, didn't move from my arms for days. It was round the clock dosage of Tylenol and Motrin to keep the fever at bay, and she hardly ate or drank. In fact, the best we could get her to take was a handful of blackberries and some sips of water. It broke my heart to see her so rundown. Thankfully, she turned the corner just before Christmas, and was back to herself by the time Santa deposited some gifts under the tree. It was also around this time that we ditched the toddler tub, and Lucy started having baths, big kid style – something she quite enjoys, especially the mounds of bubbles Big Red creates.

The two biggest changes that occurred this winter were not only major markers in Lucy’s life, but emotionally challenging ones for me. Lucy took her final bottle on February 1st, and transitioned to the toddler room at daycare. I was horribly unprepared for how these milestones would register and I was definitely caught off guard. I cried after that last bottle, and I cried when I picked her up from the infant room for the last time. Her transition to the toddler room was remarkably smooth, and Big Red reported only a few days of tears upon drop off to the new room that first week. I was secretly happy I did not have to witness the tears; it would have been too difficult.

My baby is not really a baby anymore. Sure, she’ll always be my baby, but there’s no doubting that Lucille has two feet into Toddlerhood and shows no signs of looking back. She is sprinting forward, grasping at something new with every step. She is insatiable; she is, as her Pa-Pa likes to call her, unstoppable. Long gone are the days of cradling her sweet little warm body against my chest. That little nugget of a baby has turned into a 25 lb., 31.5” little girl with her own distinct desires.

It is only in the evenings, when we she comes to find me after Big Red has bathed her, that she will sit still on my lap. We settle into the rocking chair in her room, the lights dimmed, and we read stories. After Max has sailed back into the night of his own room, I turn her on my lap to face me. We have a brief conversation about what the best part of the day was, and to what we look forward tomorrow at school. I remind Lucy that the most beautiful facets of who she is belong to her spirit and her heart.


I kiss my baby goodnight, and as I lay her down, wish for her to dream wonderful dreams.

3.09.2015

Balance.

In an apparent act of Houdini sorcery, my daughter has turned seventeen months old. Time has fluttered past us, beaten forward by the gossamer wings of moths we cannot touch. I see her everyday of my life, so taking note of the incremental changes in her features, slips by. It is only when I look through photographs of days gone that I can fully grasp just how much Lucy has transformed. I took this picture, the one you see here, this past weekend at our Mommy & Me dance class. After the songs and dancing, there's "free time" to play in the gym space. She always makes a beeline for the balance beam. Because she's still getting the hang of keeping her balance on the foam beam as she puts one tiny foot in front of the other, she inevitably reaches for my hand. And I hold it gently, never the first to let go.

Many times throughout the course of a day, Lucy will reach for my hand or she'll raise her arms up towards me, her head tipped back and plead, "up." I know, I know, I've seen the poem immortalized in needlepoint, the one about how babies don't keep, and the housework can wait until the next day, and so on and so forth. And sure, this could easily turn into a Huff Post worthy piece about how in those precious and fleeting scraps of minutes I drop everything that I'm doing and lift my daughter into my arms - but it's not. That wouldn't be honest, that would be too perfectly scripted. The problem with the needlepoint scripture is that it's not practical. Once in a while perhaps, but not on a daily basis.

My version of reality with Lucy involves scrambling to get dinner made while trying to keep her occupied so she doesn't melt down because I can't pick her up. We have a Learning Tower, and she's got her own kitchen tools to play with, but that only lasts for so long. My version of life involves getting the sink full of dishes washed on a Sunday afternoon because if I don't, they will be there the next day - Monday. A work day. A day with drastically limited time in which to make dinner, let alone clean up what had not gotten done over the weekend. Sure the dishes could sit, and I could oblige my daughter's appeals to pick her up, but as certain as Murphy's Law, we'd tumble through the door Monday afternoon, and between requests for milk or crackers or crayons or books, I'd need to make dinner, and inevitably, the tools I'd need to make dinner would be dirty in the sink. It never fails.

Instead of the made-for-TV version of life, this is how our Sunday unfolded: after a lovely morning spent at the Children's Museum, while the babe took her afternoon nap, I made dinner. In the short 30 minutes that was left of her sleep, once I'd gotten everything into the pot, I chose to rest myself. Once she was up, it was teetering on bedlam as I attempted to clean the kitchen, and get her lunches ready for the week. Why not wait until after she goes to bed you may ask? Because I'm beat by then. EXHAUSTED. Because once she's asleep, that's my time, time I have with Big Red to catch up, time I have to watch something useless on television, time to think for myself. To just breathe without interruption. If I'd have dropped everything until after she went to bed, it would have left me, once everything was finished, a paltry half hour before it was time for my own date with the Sandman.

I'm not interested in wishing away my daughter's childhood. No way. Of course I look forward to her independence, but I'm also painfully aware that one day she won't grab my hand. She'll no longer reach up and asked to be lifted into my arms. It's the ceaseless contradiction of Motherhood. You are constantly at odds with a desire to fast-forward time, and yet desperate to stop it altogether for fear of missing something and never getting that moment back again. It's cruel and unfair. My kid walks the foam balance beam every weekend, but so do I - mine is the big girl version, the proverbial plank of timber I'm nearly falling off with every step forward. So I compromise. I give her attention, then I get back to the kitchen. She asks for me, requests things of me, and I attempt to explain that I'm busy. Sometimes she whines, sometimes she finds something else to do.

Sometimes there's just too much to do, too much that stretches my toddler's nearly complete inability to be patient, so I take breaks to chase her around, snatching her up, blowing raspberries into her belly, and reveling in the marvelous music of her laughter. Momentarily, I pause the cadence of the wings on those moths. And then I get back to the dishes.


2.15.2015

Dear Friend,

As I write this, you are checking into your hospital room where you will begin the journey of birthing your daughter from the dark waters of your womb, into this world. Neither one of us knows what the experience will hold for you; my only wish is that it is everything you want and need it to be.

There is so much I want to tell you, so much I want to say that hasn't been said in the many conversations we've had, the emails written, and the texts that have been exchanged over the past 39 weeks. And honestly there is little I could actually say that would properly illuminate the journey you're about to begin. But there is something, something that needs to be said, something that won't make sense right now, but will in the coming days -

you are not alone.

All the questions you will have, every feeling you'll encounter - the fear, the guilt, the worry, the unrivaled joy, the frustrations, the happiness, the humility, the inexplicable anger and love, every fat tear that will fall - a tribe of women who have come before you, have felt the very same things.

You are valid in everything that has passed through you and will wash over you.

And in the coming days, when the high of your newborn daughter's arrival slowly begins to recede, if the tides of sadness edge their way in - don't turn a blind eye. It happens and it doesn't make you any less than the amazing mother you already are. Say something to someone, and ask for help. There is no shame, there is no defeat.

Forevermore, your heart will now exist outside of you. It will magnify whatever fears you may harbor about the evil that exists in the world. It will hold a mirror to every insecurity you have ever had. But, my friend - here is where your backbone lies. That same heartbeat is the one from which you'll draw a reserve of strength and patience you never knew existed.

When you birth your daughter, you will also birth a Mother.

Because whether it is your own muscle, or if she is brought forth by the hands of a doctor, it is still your body that gives her to this life. The two of you are intertwined - forged in the fires of labor and delivery. And it is that knowledge that the flesh now understands, that will stay with you long after the cord is cut. You are transformed through the single most life-altering experience.

Don't burden yourself to remember every moment of what is going to happen in the coming hours, and even in the coming days. The blur of events is dizzying.

What's important will stay with you. I promise.

Welcome, dear friend, to the Tribe.

2.01.2015

Dirty Dancing, Sort Of.

Two months into Motherhood, I wrote about trying to understand who I was now that I had this alien baby. I likened the journey to a choreographed dance, learning new steps while incorporating a few old ones. Fast-forward 13 months, and I still find myself occasionally tripping over my own feet. Picture the Dirty Dancing music montage where "Hungry Eyes" is playing and Patrick Swayze is trying to teach an uncoordinated Jennifer Grey how to dance. She steps on his toes, can't get the timing correctly, and giggles when she's supposed to be serious. I'm barely holding it together Jennifer Grey right now. But I have hope, because if you've seen the whole movie, and I know you have, she's a spectacular dancer by the time the credits role. I mean, who can forget the final scene? Please tell me you have stayed up long into the wee hours of the night, your freshman year of college, perfecting the moves from the final scene, with the girls who live on the same floor as you. Who's with me? Jenny, Sara, Pam - you'd better raise your hands.

I've made some serious advancements in putting the pieces of my revised self, post baby, back together again. The photography gig is going really well and despite Old Man Winter, I'm booking clients. My brother had been on me for a while to update my website, something about flash (not boobies) and html and optimal viewing, blah, blah, blah. I'd been dragging my heals on working on the site because I knew it was going to take me about a billion hours to update and revamp. These days, time is precious commodity. Finally, I just bit the bullet and sat my ass down one evening after Lucy had gone to bed, and got to working on it. I was right - it took nearly a billion hours, or closer to five, which in Mommy time is pretty much the same thing, especially when working evening hours that are best spent zombified on a couch, eyes trained on The Real Housewives, or Girls, or Broad City, or Togetherness. Yes, I watch them ALL and then some. Point is, with the sacrifice of a couple prized evenings, I got the website done. And dammit, it looks fabulous.

Writing has definitely been on the back burner, but I did something today that forced me to dust off some old work, and put a new piece together. I auditioned for the Pittsburgh show of Listen to Your Mother. Gulp. At about high noon on this quiet snowy Sunday, I stood before a panel of three women, and performed my pieces. I think it went well! They laughed when they were supposed to, and they got teary-eyed, too. Both good signs that my writing, and how I told my stories, evoked a reaction. Now it's a waiting game. A fingers crossed, breath held, waiting game...


Slowly, I'm making progress at redefining who I am. There will never be a time, though, when I'm not Lucy's mama; Motherhood underscores everything. It's the nature of this blessed beast. But, I'm discovering that while being Lucy's mama is part of my everyday, it doesn't have to be my everything. I can be her mama, and be a photographer. I can be her mama, sweep some blush across my cheeks, dab on some lipstick, lint roll the dog hair off my pants, scrape the crust of god knows what off my shoulder, drive myself downtown, and rock an audition. 

The more I do for myself, the better of a mama Lucy gets. It's a win-win situation. Now someone lift up your arms, I'm going to jump into them cause - and you knew I was going to work it in somehow: 

nobody puts baby in the corner.  




1.01.2015

2015

The profound, Day #1 of the new year, proclamation.

Nope.

No new diet. I ate leftover Chinese take-out for breakfast AND lunch. And I’ll eat it again for dinner.

Not going to find that here. Far too many times I’ve made some pretty bold statements about new leaves I’m turning over, sins I’m giving up, and how many pounds I intend to lose. Sure, I can make a list of resolutions if forced to do so, but if Motherhood has taught me anything it all, then I know to keep my mouth shut…for the most party anyhow.

The best teacher: my kid.
Before I had my kid, I had all kinds of notions of the things I would or wouldn't do as a mom; how quickly many of those notions flew out the window when the day-to-day reality of this squirming, mewing newborn – now turned babbling, spunky toddler – arrived on the scene. 2014 has been the single most humbling year of my life. Harder than any rehab after knee reconstruction, harder than getting up at 4 am in the bitter cold to train before heading to class, harder than moves across the country, harder than my first year of teaching. It’s been HARD.

But – I’ve been a keen student and have grown marginally wiser to this new normal. I’m still learning, though. Learning to let go, mostly. To let go of what other mothers are doing and to not compare myself to them; we’ve each got our own gig going, and what we do is the best for our own kids. To let go of the dog-hair tumbleweeds that taunt me in the corners of the stairs, to let go of the dishes that haven’t been scrubbed, to let go of the office that sorely needs to be reorganized. I’m not a “let go” kind of woman by nature. In fact, I’m quite the opposite. I’m the get shit done, every square inch of my home is organized, kind of woman – at least I was. I’ve had to clear out the clutter in my psyche and make room a whole other human being, one that needs me much more than the dishes, the dog hair, or the messy closet.

I’m just going to continue on this journey with Lucille and Big Red. I will do my best to take care of myself a little better, and to continue learning to let go of the small things. Okay, so I lied. That previous statement sure did sound like a resolution, but I’m alright with what I’ve put out into the universe.


Happy 2015.

12.20.2014

Fall 2014

Once again we have found ourselves in coats and scarves, the traces of autumnal colors all but gone. We crossed the threshold of one year as parents, and I personally gave myself a pat on the back for surviving. Not that we're out of the woods; we're still very much deep in the trees, often in the dark, guessing at which direction we should head.

Miss Lucille continues to grow and thrive despite the endless stream of colds, coughs, and annoying germs from daycare. She loves her friends at "school," and she adores her teachers. We often get reports that our kid is the "life of the party," and is quite content to entertain. Big surprise. Not much is different at home, and my blue-eyed babe makes me smile and laugh on a daily basis. She is growing her personality more and more, and learning just as quickly.

To date, Lucy now says: mama, daddy, ball, apple, happy, car, go, yeah, bubbles, baby, doggie, ducky, birdie, book, woof, good girl, and nana. She understands a ton, and can point out or go and grab most of her toys when asked. Her current favorites are Piggy (a stuffed pig), Tiger (a stuffed tiger), and any of the cars Big Red gave to her from his matchbox collection. Lucy continues to enjoy books, and we've added Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to the rotation. For now the pacifier remains (say what you will), but we're down to just an am and pm bottle of milk. Lucy knows the signs for more, food, help (a modified version), and milk. She gets her teeth brushed every night, and continues to be a good sleeper - that is, when there's no illness thwarting her efforts.

In the month of December alone she added four teeth, for a total now of six, and there appears to be a few more on deck. Lucy quickly learned to climb into the Learning Tower Big Red made for her, and most evenings she keeps me company in the kitchen while I put dinner together. She is content to play with a bowl and spoon while mama cooks.

A few other notables this fall season:

  • first trip to the pumpkin patch
  • first trick or treating Halloween
  • she's using a utensil to eat more often
  • she can identify the eyes, nose, ear, mouth, and belly
  • stacks rings on a stick
  • working on throwing a ball
  • getting better at walking faster and close to running
  • she had her first unofficial haircut - I trimmed her bangs
  • she rode her first pony

Personally, I'm still struggling to find a balance - Motherhood and Myself-hood. I joined a gym, and the goal is go twice a week. Out of two weeks, I made my goal once. Baby steps. Most evenings I'm exhausted by 8 pm, but Big Red and I have gone out a couple of times, and I went out with some girlfriends a week ago - no husbands, no kids, just the gals. We had a lovely time. Tonight as I sit here and write this, the monitor next to me, an ear keenly tuned to any chirps my kid makes, there are dishes in the sink, and plenty of tidying up to do. There just aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done. So I've decided I can cry about it (which sometimes happens), or I can pick and choose what I feel really needs attention, and then let the rest go. Letting go is difficult. VERY difficult, but so necessary at this stage in my life. As I've said before, perfection is unattainable and a dangerous bar to set.

Despite all the exhaustion of parenthood and life, my crowning achievements this season have been putting together Lucy's first birthday party, and finishing a project that had been in the works since she was born: I edited and put together all the live-action clips of my daughter's first year in a finished piece. It's 30 minutes long, would probably bore anyone who isn't blood related to this kid, but I LOVE IT.

Christmas is around the corner and I have a sneaking suspicion Santa will make a stop here for Lucy. She's too young get to get Christmas, but I still look forward to seeing her face light up each night when she flips the switch that turns on the Christmas tree.

I'm going to hit the "publish" button on this post, change into my comfy clothes, ignore the dishes in the sink, and head downstairs to relax. Because if I don't take the opportunity to relax tonight, then it won't really ever happen.








10.28.2014

Rattled.

I belong to a network of working mothers and we have a space on Facebook that’s closed to the outside world where we can post whatever rants, frustrations and successes that currently pepper our chaotic lives. Recently, a member posted a link to an article that revealed some statistics (as collected by a survey done through Care.com) about working mothers. First of all, I could have written several portions of that article, but what startled me the most were the following two revelations: 1 in 4 working moms cries at least once a week, and 11% are late or call in sick to work at least once a week. Before my daughter was born, I was the archetype of timeliness to work. Not anymore. Just this morning, my alarm went off, as it always does, at 5:30 am, but it wasn’t until 6 am that I pulled what sorry sack of a human I currently am, out of bed. In order for me to get to work on time, I need to be pulling out of the driveway by 6:20, and definitely no later than 6:30. Today it was 6:45, and that included skipping breakfast. 

Early on in the article, the author recounts a rough evening where after a long night at the office she comes home to discover that there isn’t enough milk left in the house and that come morning, her kids would wake wanting their milk and there would be none. Fatigued, and ready raise the white flag, she “[shuffles] into the living room, [crumples] into an exhausted heap on the floor next to a pile of toys no one had cleaned up” and cries. This morning as I was frenetically getting myself together (which involved grabbing the nearest work-reasonable top, one that I wouldn’t notice until it was too late, had dried Lucy snot on one shoulder), I passed by the living room and was also confronted with a scattering of toys that had not been picked up. That chore falls under my list of responsibilities, but last night I’d made a deliberate choice not to pick up her toys because I needed to get a lasagna into the oven. And the reason it had to happen last night was because attempting to put it together this evening, baking it, and having it be ready for a 5:30/6 pm dinnertime would be impossible. So it had to happen last night. By the time Lucy was in bed, and the lasagna was bubbling in its Corningware, it was nearly 8:30. I had just a paltry thirty minutes left to speak to and hang with the man I call my husband before my eyelids would become too heavy to keep up. These days I turn to dust around 9 pm. 

Motherhood itself is tough stuff, but more than motherhood itself, it's the rattling motherhood does to your life. The secondary expense. All that stuff I got done on time, had organized, remembered - well, I can't seem to get a handle on it. Any of it, and it's rattled me because I've always been the one who has their shit together. There just isn’t enough time anymore.

I’m late to work on a regular basis, I haven’t exercised in god knows how long, I eat crap (breakfast this morning was chocolate chip cookies and a Sunkist – leftovers from Lucy’s party this past weekend I shoved in my bag on the way out the door), I forget stuff, and the house is constantly verging on disastrous. Here’s the good news. My daughter is healthy, happy, thriving, and loved immensely. My marriage is solid, and we have an understanding that while most days we can only muster a quick conversation and check-in, for now it’s about survival.

I know that so much of this, motherhood, parenting, life, is all about perspective. If I take a moment to pause and examine the details, the conclusions are a lot less dramatic. Late to work for me means not getting there with time to exhale before running down to do bag duty. Am I technically late? No. But to me, it feels like late when I don’t have some leisurely time. While I occasionally replace some meals with total shit-bag food, not every meal I shovel into my pie-hole is without merit. In fact, tonight’s lasagna is made with grass-fed beef, and plenty of vegetables. And the disastrous house is not tragically disastrous, it’s just lived in and not always picked up with everything in its place. What can I say? My standards are my own prison.

Too many plates are spinning, there are far too many balls in the air. Something has to give. And not only does something have to take a backseat, but I need to pick a starting point. A place from which to reassess – find and hit the proverbial reset button. Instead I’m faced with what feels like my own personal Everest of a mission, and I have no idea where to begin. If I could just get 48 hours - 48 hours that included an acupuncture session, a full-body massage, and time to regroup, that would be perfect. Instead I’m Clarice Starling in Buffalo Bill’s basement, in the dark, pointing my gun at nothing in particular.