10.09.2014

She's One.

Dear Lucille,

Today you are one year old. Your age is no longer relegated to the obligatory month-count; when folks ask how old you are, I can now say, “she’s one.” You’re one. Already your life of one year is replete with memories, none that you’ll remember, and some of which, for me, will certainly collapse under the weight of time. But there are many, many moments, hallmarks and milestones that have stitched themselves onto the fabric of my life. And because you won’t remember, there are stacks upon stacks of images, both in video and photograph, that document this first year.

Lately, I’ve been replaying the days leading up to your birth, your arrival, and the days that followed. Scenes from your first few weeks queue themselves like stills from a movie. Feeding you bottles in the wee hours of the morning, my eyes barely able to focus on the clock tick-tocking on the wall across from us. Visitors coming in and out to meet you, dropping off trays of food, and the moment your grandparents met you for the first time.

There is still clarity in many of those memories, but the raw pink flesh of newborness and motherhood have since callused over. Who you and I are today are not the gals we were then. More than anything, you have single-handedly taught me to trust my instincts. That mother’s intuition is the real deal, and no one knows you better than I do, my darling. No one, not even, dare I say it, your dad.

This past year wasn’t always masked in buttery bokeh and soft twinkling light. There were more than enough pitfalls and days laden with a suffocation I was certain would get the better of me – but somehow, we weathered the mighty white-capped swells. And in doing so, something has been forged between us, you and me. It was built in the fractured menagerie of all the hours and minutes of the past year. In the innumerable tears spilled, the frustrations, and the successes. It was built in the time spent making your food from scratch and spooning the brightly colored purees into your little bird mouth. Learning each chord of your cry, my ear tuned to precision, often times in scattered fragments of desperation. In washing and folding your miniature clothing, the socks unfathomably tiny. In the naps you took on my chest, your face turned up to mine so that every exhale was my inhale, your breath and the weight of your body an intoxicating elixir.

While I mourn the passing of your babyhood, I am giddy with excitement over what lies ahead. Your proficiency in walking will lead to running, and beyond. Your babbling and the few words in your vernacular will turn into phrases and then sentences. We will go places that you will be able to experience and understand in a way that you could not as an infant. Through your eyes, I will see the world anew.

This life you begun a year ago is off to a remarkable start. I can only hope that down the road, when we enter the quivering grounds of the pre-teen and teenage landscapes, you don’t disappear for too long, that even though you may become distant, you will always be just on the horizon. My hope is that by then we will have built such a strong relationship it is able to weather any dark storms. A mama can wish, right? Let’s not be the cliché.

You make us laugh, your smile is brilliant and there is an unmistakable twinkly in your eyes. Your curiosity is insatiable, and the learning and growing you've done this year have been humbling to watch. It has been, my darling, an absolute honor to be your mother. You are delightful and comical, affectionate and clever. More than anything, more than your exquisitely beautiful face, I am in love with who you are.

Last night you fell asleep, a baby, under a gloriously bright moon. Today you wake up a wide-eyed toddler. Tonight we will sing Happy Birthday to you, and the very same style of Cuban cake your mama ate when she turned one, will be the cake you get to have as well.

Happy birthday, my sweet Lucille.




10.03.2014

Ramblings

Maybe it’s the autumnal air, the trees beginning to turn their brilliant colors, the sky deepening it’s hue before a long winter’s sleep. Something has affixed itself to me; something that has no name but boards alongside restlessness and boredom. Let me interject and state that this has nothing to do with Lucille. On the Motherhood front, I feel a sense of gratifying fulfillment. Motherhood has simultaneously shattered and healed me. By day’s end I am exhausted, but even in a collapsed state on the big brown couch, every evening, my heart swells when I turn the monitor on and see my daughter’s rumpled body in the corner of her crib, her doughy hand clutching her lovey.

This thing, this some other, has more to do with the rest of my life. I’m 36. Am I too young to be facing a mid-life crisis? Is that what this is? I have been teaching for nearly eleven years, a decade split between two schools I love. For the majority of my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to teach exactly what I want and how I want, and I have been relatively successful at it. But lately the claws of a greener pasture seem to have fastened themselves to the hours of my days. Daydreaming has turned into thoughts of a full-fledged photography business, or transforming into a married with a kid version of Carrie Bradshaw. My usual state of acceptance and general happiness has been stained with a narrative of I want more.

Can we really have it all?
Pause.
My god, can we have it all and more?

My immediate response to this nebulous fog is to organize. The need for a clean slate, for shirts hanging in the closet to be filed side-by-side according to color and sleeve length, makes me happy. Begin a cleanse and whole body makeover.  And I know why. It’s because I can control these. I can make changes, I can reorganize my desk drawers, I can clean out the pantry – I can be in complete control of the outcome. I’m not grasping at gossamer trails of smoke in the air that don’t exist. Shirts on a hanger are concrete items that can be manipulated. The daydreaming, the fettered state of metacognition – it’s all so elusive.

The reality, though, of this more, is not really real. At least it appears to be temporary; it comes in waves. While I was feeling as previously described for several days, I then sank my teeth into planning one of my new courses, and guess what? I felt revived. The color came back into my cheeks, and the wan sense of boredom retreated. Clearly this just bolsters the case for not making a rash decision. Good thing I didn’t resign and go spend umpteen-thousand dollars on lenses and a new camera body. Good thing my family still has health insurance.


Good thing.

9.09.2014

Month Eleven.

Just one month shy of her first birthday and Lucille is on the precipice of Toddlerhood. There is no denying that the baby we brought home eleven months ago is rocketing her way into this next phase of life with spunk, charm, intelligence, and the brightest of smiles.

Our little star finally cut her first two teeth, the lower central incisors; she is now not just removing toys from bins or baskets, but replacing them as well, and she has caught on to using a straw. She can sign “more,” and holds her toy phone up to her ear and says, “hello.” She continues to listen well to our redirection and stern-voiced NOs. The gal appears to get it.

In terms of being mobile, she has become an upright walking human in a matter of days. The transition was light-speed. On August 30th, she took her firsts steps, just a few days later she took steps that were unprompted. As of today, Lucille can walk long stretches (think the length of the hallway, or from one room to another), before collapsing on her tooshie. We are slack-jawed, wonderstruck parents.

There is little to document by way of food other than to proclaim my daughter a foodie. She eats everything and anything, not to mention the occasional fistful of dog food. We have begun a slow transition from formula to milk by replacing just a few ounces of her Enfamil with the moo juice. She seems unaffected so we’ll continue in this fashion, diluting the formula with milk a little more each week. The goal is to be at 100% milk by her first birthday. She often enjoys her bottles now, on her own, big kid style, relaxing with some pillows and stuffed animals. To date, she weighs 22.5 lbs.

On a recent lazy Saturday, Lucy and I visited a very cool venue called the Toy Lending Library, an indoor play space, run by a cooperative of volunteers in the basement of a local church. Kids can check-out toys, much like they would in a traditional library. We had a blast, but the time spent there that afternoon was particularly memorable. There was a learning moment for me as a parent while Lucy was traversing and attempting to navigate a ramp and some stairs in the baby section. She’d never encountered a ramp of any sort and my initial instinct was to step in and turn her body so that she could understand how to crawl down it. Instead, I opted not to interfere and allowed her the opportunity to figure it out on her own. I was channeling Pamela Druckerman’s account of French parenting in Bringing Up Bébé, if you will. Sure enough, she was able to deduce that she could scoot down the ramp backwards while on her belly. I continued the hands-off posture when she attempted the stairs.

While it may sound a smidge overdramatic, it was really breathtaking to witness her figure out each challenge; how she’d thump her hand to test the ramp, look back at me, and thump again; how she’d dip her toe, cautiously to the next step, but retract if it didn’t feel right, all the while her little hands gripping the railing. I could see her eyes scan the situation, make some kind of connection and calculation, and turn that answer into action. She learned something new, from start to finish, right in front of me and I was awash in fireworks of adoration and amazement.

My daughter is my teacher, and that day she taught me to trust in her. To be there should she fall, but to allow her the chance to solve a problem, to fail, and try again. Who would have thought a two foot ramp, and a set of three stairs would be ripe with such enlightenment – for the both of us.

Happy eleven months, my sweet Lucille.







8.09.2014

Month Ten.

She has officially existed in the world longer than she did inside my body.  The tides are changing, and she has become an eddy to the ocean she once inhabited. She is developing distinct traits, quirks and reactions; before our eyes, to our utter incredulity, Lucille is becoming her own person.

Food continues to be a fun exploration. With the go-ahead from Dr. V, Lucy has had peanut butter, and shrimp. Both proved to be harmless (a huge motherly WHEW!), and she enjoyed eating them. Of the top allergenic foods, so far, we have escaped harm. She has not had tree nuts yet, but not because we’ve avoided them, it just hasn’t come up. She continues to eat with vigor and without hesitation. At her 9 month check-up, she weighed in at 20 lbs., 3 oz. (75th percentile), and she stood 29.5” tall (95th percentile).

In terms of skills developed and acquired, my girl can now clap, understands and delivers, sometimes on request, kisses. In fact she will spontaneously kiss any object, including every page of a book you’re reading to her, the wall she’s stumbling past, or the dog’s paw. She can stand, unassisted for long periods of time, and it looks like she thinks about taking a step, but before she does, she drops back down to her rump, where she crawls as if she’s got a turbo attached to her heels. I’m convinced by her first birthday, she’ll be taking those first steps, if not walking. She says the words, “eye,” “mama,” and “baby.” Baby sounds more like “bee-bee.”  I’m still not convinced that while she clearly enunciates, “mama,” she knows that word is me, her actual mama. It is apparent that she can, on occasion, correctly identify an eye.  She will point to her baby doll or stuffed animal, poke it right in its plastic orb, and say, “eye.” We can credit this to her Abuela in California. Lucy has also learned how to wave hello and goodbye, and if we say, “doggie,” she looks or points at Olive. Her pincer grasp is coming along nicely, but on the flip-side, I tried giving her a cup with a straw the other day and it didn’t work. Lucy points her nubby little finger at everything and is constantly babbling a story or telling of some discovery. One of her favorite things to do right now is push her little walker toy around, and would be content to motor up and down the hallway a billion times, as well as play with her piano. And this girl loves, I mean ell-oh-vee-ee, loves the water.

Unfortunately, this month was not a sick-free month. No dice there. This month she had the luckless circumstance of dealing with a nagging and persistent yeast infection, followed immediately by Hand Foot and Mouth Disease. Thankfully, though, her bout with HFAM was mild. We basically had one horrendous weekend with an alien child that had replaced our smiling, happy-go-lucky kid. That damn yeast infection took nearly a month to clear up. We just repeat to ourselves that it’s all part of both the daycare game and growing up. Her immune system gets stronger and stronger with each lame-ass incident.

The tides of our summer days are quickly receding, and Lucy and I are enjoying what precious time is left before I become a washed up piece of ocean turned sea glass on the nineteenth of this month. We have enjoyed trips to the zoo, the Children’s Museum, lots of walks, and of course, our vacation in California. While in California, she saw for the first time the ocean, and put her doughy little feet in the Pacific.

She’s had a vast variety of experiences these past few months, and I’m proud of that. I know she won’t remember a single second of her first summer, but I will. Someday, she will point to pictures of herself in my cousin’s pool, pictures of herself on a carousel, and she will ask. I’ll tell her stories of an infant, wide-eyed, curious, and eager to inhale the world and all it had to offer.


Happy ten months, my sweet Lucille.

7.29.2014

She's Cute, But Sometimes It Sucks

A colleague of mine often brings in her husband's TO DIE FOR key lime pie whenever there's a staff function that involves food. It's my absolute favorite among the potluck options, and that first bite never fails to pack a mighty zing.

That's parenthood.

When you first bring your kid home, it's a shock to the system much like that tart zap to your taste buds. But, after a few bites months, routines emerge and you become acclimated. You find yourself staring at this warm sweet-smelling bundle that mews like a kitten.

Everyone has their own version of parenthood, and their own stories to report. I'm incredibly skeptical of any Mom out there who claims that motherhood is simply "the best thing ever." The end. No, not the end. That sentence, in my world, gets a significant revision: Motherhood is amazing, fulfilling in a way no one can explain, but there are moments, and occasionally days, when even though she's the cutest thing ever, motherhood can suck. When you just want to call a time-out, but you can't.

Uh-huh. That's truth for you folks. Real life. If it sounds harsh and not all Anne Geddes then you're not being realistic.

Honest to god, I love my kid. I love her as wide and deep as the ocean. Love, as I've said before, is almost a trite word when I begin to attempt to encompass what I feel about this little creature. It's too big, too nebulous to fit into four letters. But loving her does not mean that all moments are to be treasured. When you have a baby, people like to preach, "Cherish every moment." That's all well and good, but I've learned you can love someone, and still not like a moment with them.

Let's face it, how can you expect me to cherish my kid when she's miserable and cranky? You want me to cherish her when I'm wiping up the shitty blowout diaper that has defied gravity and magically climbed up her back? These are not treasured moments; they can be memorable (after some space and time), but they're not to be cherished.

And thinking this way does not make me a bad mother. What it does is make me honest. No pretense. The good and the bad. Kind of like marriage. When you take those vows, what are you truly pledging to do? Stick around when times are good? Nope, that's the easy stuff. You're promising to yourself, to your betrothed and to whomever is witness that you're going to stick by your partner when the shit hits the fan. Likewise, when you become a mother, you silently vow to stick with this kid through it all - the poop and the smiles.

Last Friday night, my baby came down with a fever. Saturday she was miserable. I mean inconsolable, cranky, clingy, didn't want to eat - a mess. Buckets of tears. We were convinced an alien had abducted our child. This was NOT a day I cherished. Sunday was better, but then Big Red noticed a developing rash on her when it was time for her bath. A call to the on-duty nurse revealed a suspicion of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, which consequently, we knew was running rampant among kids. You know what some of my first thoughts were?

1. I hope she gets over this quickly.
2. Dammit, now she can't go to school on Tuesday and Thursday, and I won't get any downtime.

Yup. I'm admitting it - I thought of myself. And I felt a little like an asshole for it, but if you've ever had a sick kid, you know that when they're sick, everything stops, nothing gets done, and you're as miserable as long as they are. We won't even talk about the worry factor - cause it's always present and turned up considerably when your babe becomes ill.


Yesterday, I was feeling sorry for her, and still a little for myself, but decided we needed to get out of the house. It was day 3.5 of this dreaded "disease," but she was weathering it well, and good enough for a quick field trip to the store. While in Babies R Us, we ran into another mama who was looking at neck supports that go into car seats. We chatted quickly about how we liked some of these ideas, and in the midst of our discussion, she mentioned that her son has cerebral palsy.

Okay Universe, I hear ya. Loud and clear. All it takes is one moment, a life hip-check to snap you out of whatever mood you're in. My kid is healthy by all stretches of possibility and a little dumb HFAM is nothing compared to larger issues that others face. Got it.

Lucy is on the mend, her appetite has returned, and she's nearly all herself. We are several bites into our key lime pie, and enjoying each other's company again. I know, I'm certain, we are in store for more less-than perfect moments - that's just how it goes, and I'm not going to beat myself up for wishing I could escape once in a while. It's not worth it. Perfection, Supreme Motherhood, and "It's the best thing ever. The end." It's all unreasonable and unattainable.

I love her, I am thankful for her existence and yes, I wouldn't change a thing - but I can also admit that there are moments that suck.

The end.



7.09.2014

Month Nine.

Last month was brimming with milestones and changes.  We’d hardly have expected to repeat shut feats, but sure enough, this past month was replete with such feats.

While it wasn’t something Big Red and I cared to repeat, Lucy did come down, again, with croup. The difference was this time we knew exactly what it was and were familiar with the drill. Off to Children’s Hospital Emergency we went, late one Monday night. Turns out it was, thankfully, a slow night and we were in and out in about an hour. Whatever virus caused her to develop croup, this time around, wasn’t as strong as the last one. She quickly got over the bug, and returned to her happy self.

Then, soon after, we experienced a week of what I would just characterize as Lucy Fussy McCrankerson. I was concerned that, although mild, the congestion left by the virus that had initially caused her to develop croup, had gone to her ear again. Because we would be flying out to California in a few weeks, I was adamant about having her checked out and addressing anything that might have come up, but nope, her ears were perfectly clear and healthy. The doc did mention that infants can often go through a fussy period just before reaching new milestones. I did relay the fact that our gal had been up on her hands and knees and was scooting backwards, but working hard to figure out the forward movement. Turns out, the doc had sniffed out what was wrong. Within a matter of days of having been to see the doc, on June 24, Miss Lucille figured out how to crawl. And within 48 hours of that, had figured out how to pull up and stand.

Miss McCrankerson turned back into her jovial self.

Homegirl is ON THE MOVE. She’s not interested in sitting in one spot that is unless Tiger, her favorite stuffed animal, is nearby. In order to better accommodate the moving babe, I rearranged some furniture so that she’d have some space. We also busted out the Pack’n Play, because now if we need to leave the room for longer than a millisecond, the little miss needs to be safely contained.

Lucy continues to forge into the food world with gusto, adding waffles, broccoli pancakes, strawberries, salmon, apricot, nectarine, pasta, pineapple, kiwi, turkey – and finally – she now likes avocado!! She’s had a couple bites of French fries, and not shockingly, loved them. Smart girl. We celebrated the fourth of July with little fanfare, but Lucy did experience her first taste of steak and King’s Hawaiian rolls. And just like her folks, she housed every piece offered.

She loves all mirrors and goes nuts when she sees one. She also loves to play peek-a-boo with herself if there's a blanket handy. As of lately, she's begun to parrot what we say; not so much words, but sounds. As of right now, she repeats, "uh oh." And it's just about the cutest thing ever.


Just a day ago, Lucy experienced her first, of what will surely be many more, flights out to California. She did SO WELL! While she only napped for 45 minutes of each leg, she didn't fuss, she was smiling at other passengers, and checking out all parts of the seat in front of us. We arrived to her smiling Aunt Shannon and her elated Abuela.

My girl is spending her nine month mark in my hometown, and we share this day, as it's my 36th birthday.

Happy nine months, my sweet Lucille.

6.09.2014

Month Eight.

Somehow, I knew this month was going to be a big one, maybe even a grand slam. It is almost incomprehensible how much Lucille has learned in the past four weeks. She has hit milestone after milestone, so much so that were I to elaborate in the narrative format, this entry would be to long:
  • She can now hold a sippy cup and drink from it.
  • She had her first ride, big girl style up front, in a shopping cart. And she loved it!
  • She sat in a high-chair at a restaurant. Gone is the schlepping of the car seat.
  • She now reaches for and attempts to hold her own bottle; those bottles are now 6.5 ounces.
  • While in the sitting position, she can then move onto her belly, then up on her hands and knees and rock back and forth.
  • She in incredibly intent on pulling up and standing.
  • She fed herself food for the first time, and now continues to do so on a regular basis.
  • She often grabs for the spoon and attempts to feed herself.
  • She has figured out how to roll!!
  • Should her pacifier fall out in the middle of the night, Big Red and I no longer have to replace it for her. She can reach around, find it, and put it back in her own mouth.
  • She can now put herself to sleep, not only at night, but for her naps as well.
  • She has dropped the five o' clock hour feeding and now sleeps through to the six o' clock hour, upon which she gets a bottle, and then goes back to sleep for a hour, sometimes an hour and a half.
  • She had her first pool experience and splashed happily in the water.
  • Is beginning to learn to wave, "bye-bye."
  • Added scrambled eggs, toast w/butter, black beans, mango, quinoa, kale, blueberry, and cauliflower to the list of foods she eats.
  • She now weighs roughly 20 lbs.
  • And she responds to her name.

This was also the month we celebrated my first Mother’s Day. I had requested of Big Red a particular gift I’d seen mentioned among my Mommy Group friends, a Mother’s Journal. In lieu of cards, the idea behind the journal is to provide a space for your child to write letters to you each year. Since Lucy is obviously not old enough to write me a letter, Big Red penned one on her behalf, glued in a couple of pictures, and outlined her tiny little hand. It was perfect. Flowers arrived the day before Mother’s Day, and to my surprise, they were from my West Coast family! Breakfast that Sunday morning was eggs benedict, my absolute favorite. It was the Mother's Day it was supposed to be; sweet and intimate, not too much fuss. 

A friend of mine from graduate school sent me an email the other day and he’d asked, in the message, to update him on Lucy and my life. I told him that I really like my daughter, and I explained that sometimes when I tell folks that they’re response is, “You like her? You don’t love her?” Without question or hesitation, I love my daughter. In fact the word love often seems to pale in comparison to what I feel for this little girl. But you can love someone, and not necessarily like them. Not only do I love my daughter, but I like her too. She’s so much fun to be around these days. 

We hit a home run with this kid, I tell you, and it continues to be a privilege to see her personality flourish. Lucy is becoming this wonderfully funny and bright little being; her very own self apart from me and Big Red. It’s like magic. 

Then I think to myself, I made her. 

And then I’m overwhelmed with the gravity of it all. Those slippery ideas that you attempt to grapple with but end up shelving for another time because they’re just too big. Maybe that’s  the way it’s meant to be: stay present, dance in the feelings of the moment, and quit trying to understand the expanse of those emotions, because you just know.


Happy eight months, my sweet Lucille.