The Roundness of Things

29 05 2012

Hazel likes round.

She likes her neon blowfish.  She likes the tennis ball.  Lids.  Of all the blocks on her wooden train, she grabs the cylinders that form the engine, every time.

In pondering her preference for round, I got the phrase “the roundness of things” stuck in my head.

Tonight, I finally tracked it down to a quote from Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much is True that I jotted down maybe ten years ago:

I am not a smart man, particularly, but one day, at long last, I stumbled from the dark woods of my own, and my family’s, and my country’s past, holding in my hands these truths: that love grows from the rich loam of forgiveness; that mongrels make good dogs; that the evidence of God exists in the roundness of things.  This much, at least, I’ve figured out.  I know this much is true.

Oh, my sweet baby girl.

You’re way ahead of the rest of us.



Dinner Time!

29 05 2012

Immediately followed by bath time, obviously.  And then laundry time.  But, boy, dinner was fun!

The Spiny Neon Blowfish of Note

26 05 2012

About a Girl

25 05 2012

In a couple of weeks, my daughter will be nine months old.  And that is, like, a really big deal.  That doubles the amount of time she’s existed in any form (other than in my overactive and wildly inaccurate imagination).  It means that she’s been a person all on her own for almost as long as she was a person-within-a-person.

For me, in that first nine months she didn’t change much.  Oh, I read the books with the creepy pictures of a zygote and an embryo and a fetus.  On some level, I realize that she resembled a sea monkey more than, say, her mother or her second cousin.  But to me, she was a teeny, tiny baby as soon as I took that first pregnancy test.  And, low and behold, out she came, nine months later: a teeny, tiny baby.  Which proves to me that I was correct in my initial analysis of the situation.  There was a baby in there.

This second (almost) nine months, though?  I’ve SEEN her change.  She’s gone from a teeny tiny baby to… well, to a big baby. Or maybe a really diminutive person.  And while I’ve been there for nearly every minute of it, I still can’t believe how much she has learned and grown.

She does stuff now.  Not by accident, but with purpose.  She grabs the toy box because – get this – she knows there are toys in there.  I understand that this is not the stuff of Nobel winners, but, come on: a few months ago, she didn’t know toys, she didn’t know box, and she had no concept of in there.  Now, she’s so nonchalant about the whole thing: “Oh, what should I do now?  Maybe I should watch my mom freak out with happiness when I tip over this box and grab the ring.  That never gets old.”

Of course, she’s still a baby.  So once she has tired of repeating camera-worthy antics, into her mouth goes the ring.  And then she tries to eat the toy box.  And then she tastes the piece of lint that floated out of the toy box.  And then she is tired of the whole thing and demands milk.  Repeat those steps 500 times and you have an idea of how we spend our time at home.

She has developed her sense of object permanence, which is a challenge.  Before, it was simple to fool her.  “Oh, you want to chew on mommy’s cell phone?  Too bad, because it disappeared, and now you have no idea it ever existed [insert evil laugh].” These days, it is a whole circus to distract her from the unsavory bit of cat hair or dad’s steak knife that has caught her attention.  “That will make you sick.  Here, play with this expensive, noisy, flashing-light baby toy!  No?  A stuffed animal?  A book?  A spoon?  Please, will anything besides playing with your own soiled diaper make you happy?”  Still, it makes me choke up with love and pride to watch her peer around a corner to see if I am there, or follow the trajectory of the toy she has dropped onto the floor.

I am in this temporary state of parental grace right now, as she can solidly sit by herself  but cannot yet crawl.  I find endless uses for this unfortunately brief stage.  As long as she is in a decent mood, when I need two hands, I simply set her on the floor.  This is new and wonderful for me.  She’s really into it, as she had never before been on the floor of our bedroom or kitchen, so the novelty simply overwhelms her.  I can practically hear her thoughts as she is placed on the tile in the kitchen: “So THIS is how it feels.  I’ve been staring at this place from 4 feet away for 8 MONTHS now.  AMAZING.”  I, meanwhile, am thinking something along the lines of “I wonder how many dishes I can put away before she realizes that I’m not paying attention to her…”  It’s too bad that it is developmentally unsound for babies to linger in this sitting-but-not-moving stage for very long.

We have two very special stuffed animals for her.  One is a little blue bear, passed down from her cousins.  The other is a dog that her grandma bought her because I was convinced that it was the cutest stuffed animal ever.  One goes to bed with her each night (not trusting my ability to keep a baby AND a stuffed animal safe for the next ten years, I decided she better have at least two comfort items).  However, I am learning that you can’t decide what is important to someone else, even your baby.  What’s important to my daughter is the dryer ball.  Because my husband insists on having his clothes fluffed by the same ball fairly regularly, we found a bath toy that is a little smaller and bright orange instead of pale blue but is apparently an acceptable substitute for the dryer ball.  It’s like a spiny neon blowfish.

In the evening, as she nurses before bed, she pats my chest with the spiny neon blowfish.  She sets the spiny neon blowfish on my breast and lets it roll down to her chin.  She waves the spiny neon blowfish in her peripheral vision as she gets sleepy.  If she accidentally drops the spiny neon blowfish, she looks around frantically until I retrieve it for her, then she has to alternate between a nipple in her mouth and the spiny neon blowfish in her mouth a few times, just to make sure it’s the right spiny neon blowfish.  This morning, I woke up with a spiny neon blowfish lodged under the sheets and beneath my right kidney.

It’s weird that my kid loves this cheap bath toy above all other toys, yes.  But it’s weirder to me that my kid is now old enough to have an opinion about a toy at all.

I still haven’t convinced her that bed time isn’t THE END OF THE WORLD.  I understand that it’s hard to let go of a great day – or even a mediocre day (maybe especially a mediocre day, you just need to stay awake long enough to redeem it), but after four or five hours, you know what?  It’s actually THE NEXT DAY, and it’s not going to be a good one if neither of us have gotten any sleep.

Yesterday, she woke up from her nap with me and laughed and laughed.  Life is THAT GOOD sometimes.

If I have done nothing else of value in my life, I have given my daughter a day on which she woke up so happy she laughed.  And that is worth all the rest of my days, no matter how hard they may have been and may be.

Another Dream-Vs-Reality Post

25 05 2012

When I’m still in my pajamas at 6pm, crying because Jason is going out for a beer with the guys and I am invited but I don’t want to go because it’s too close to bedtime and the baby will be screamy plus, as mentioned above, I am still in my pajamas, Jason is inclined to point out that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mother, it was my dream.  So he is reasonably confused about why I begin to pluck my hair out one strand at a time if I don’t at least get out to the grocery store in the course of the day.  And I know I am incredibly lucky to be home with Hazel for this year.

But.  Here is how I imagined I would be as a SAHM:

I would wake up and have coffee before the baby woke.  I would take a shower as she played nearby in a bouncy seat or exersaucer.  After we had some educational fun together, she would take a 2-hour nap and I would clean up the house and do some laundry.  Then, looking skinny and well put together, I would head out to meet some other moms at the coffee shop – moms who were cute but not hotter than I.  In warm weather, we would meet at the park.  After our play date, I would head home with my sleepy baby for her afternoon nap.  Which would be 2 hours long, so I could cook a healthy dinner and make some organic baby food from scratch.  She would be in bed by 7, leaving me a pleasant three hours to relax with my husband.

Here is the problem with that scenario:

– The baby wakes up when I do.  Because she is in bed with me nursing.

– Her tolerance for independent play is about 10 minutes – not long enough to take a shower AND get dressed.

– I have not sung her the ABCs, nor do I point out her nose and eyes, nor do I speak to her in a second language.  Because I spend most of my day trying to get her interested in something for 10 minutes so I can make myself something to eat or go to the bathroom.

– Her naps are about 30 minutes.  Maybe.  And often only if she has company.

– During my 30 minutes of occasional free time, I am not inspired to whip out the vacuum.  I am usually trying to take a shower.

– I WASN’T A HOT, SKINNY CHICK WITH A STYLISH HAIRDO AND MAKEUP AND CUTE OUTFITS BEFORE I HAD A CHILD SO WHY THE HELL DID I THINK HAVING AN INFANT WOULD TURN ME INTO ONE???  This aspect of my imagined life as a stay at home mother never changed.  And it is the most unreasonable one.

– I don’t actually know other moms who are at home during the day.  Well, I know one, but I don’t know, she seems to have her act together, so I’m always a little ashamed when she sees what a wreck I am.

– To get to coffee shop or park, I would have to leave my house.

– Afternoon nap? 30 minutes, tops.  Or none.

– Run a blender, bang pots and pans, make any noise at all when the baby has FINALLY gone to sleep?  Not likely.  Cook your own damn dinner.

– She is in bed by 7.  And up at 8.  And 10.  And 10:30.  And then she’s in bed with me.

– Oh, and I don’t even drink coffee anymore, so go figure why that appears in my fantasy, not once but twice.  Well, that’s probably BECAUSE I don’t drink coffee anymore.

So, any way, that’s a long introduction to say that, basically, I need to get out more.  Today I’m going to the free children’s music show at the bookstore, and I am renewing my vow to attend the library story hour once a week.

Even if I have to go in my pajamas.

“Yes, I am very engaged in eating my blocks. But if you step away for even a second, I will begin to scream and will not be consoled for at least an hour. Your choice, lady.”

I Obviously Didn’t Learn Enough in My “Teaching Multiculturism” Class

22 05 2012

I love our town.  It’s a safe town.  It’s a place where, when there is a rash of car stereo thefts, the local news station reminds citizens that the number one way to prevent such crimes is to LOCK YOUR CAR.  And yet, for the most part, people don’t have to lock the doors on their cars or their houses.  And it’s okay to walk alone downtown after dark.

But I have had a nagging fear for my child – since before she was conceived – and it really comes from where we live.

Because our little town is noticeably… white.

I grew up in an ethnically and racially diverse city.  I regularly heard Spanish and Vietnamese at school and on the street.  My mom worked for a research hospital and university that drew fellows from around the world, so I was able to meet people from India, Ghana, Spain, and just about everywhere else; people who came to our home on holidays and borrowed my parents’ car.

Moving to the Pacific Northwest, I was aware that it was less diverse than the Bay Area, but since most people here are the same color as I am, I didn’t have to grapple with the fact on a daily basis.

But when I contemplated having children, I had concerns, especially when I moved from a large city to a smaller town.  And now I have a beautiful daughter.  And I still have those same concerns.

On our recent trip to Baltimore, I witnessed my daughter surrounded by people of all colors and backgrounds.  And I saw the beauty of her acceptance of them all as people.  The woman from the Caribbean on the plane who offered to hold her while I used the restroom.  The woman from Taiwan on the plane who made faces at her to make her smile.  The doctor and nurse at the clinic, both black, who treated her so gently.  The Tunisian toddler at the wedding who kissed her.  She loved them all.

And it made me wonder.

If we took this same trip a year from now, or five years from now, would she see these people the same way?  Or would she see them as different.  And if different, would she see them as strange, or frightening?

Nobody really likes to talk about race.  Well, I don’t, anyway.  I’m not entirely comfortable writing this post and I’m definitely not comfortable labeling people by their ethnicity or the color of their skin.  But.  I need to know how to teach my daughter about diversity and multiculturism in a place where she won’t necessarily have relationships with many people who look or speak differently than she does.

I want my daughter to see the world the way she was able to see it as at 8 months old: full of people, people who look and talk in all sorts of different ways… but only want to make her smile.


22 05 2012

Checking out the tarmac in SFO. Or maybe PDX. It became a bit of a blur…

Well, I was nervous about our first plane ride.

You know that person who sits in their seat, loudly complaining about the baby boarding the plane?  Saying something like, “A BABY?  Oh, GREAT.  I hope it knows how to SHUT UP.  I should get an upgrade to first class if there’s going to be a BABY on this plane.  Or at least a complimentary beverage.”

Yeah, that was me.

So I was just waiting for the big, Karmic kick in the ass when I boarded a plane at 6am with my 8-month-old daughter.

And you know what?

She was awesome.  She slept the entire two flights from west to east coast.

How she spent 90% of her time on the planes.

She woke up cranky while we waited for our shuttle to the hotel.  At which point it occurred to me that she felt hot.  Really hot. It turned out that maybe she was a great flier, but possible only because she was too sick to complain.


Breakfast before our urgent care field trip

However, we were, like, 3,000 miles from home, so we made the best of it.  The “best of it” being a trip to the urgent care in downtown Baltimore, Tylenol, and lots of naps.


In between health scares and naps, we managed to see a lot of Baltimore: the Hardrock Cafe, Potbellies, some of the fine firefighters of the city, many parks, the harbor, and the National Aquarium.

Posing out with some accommodating fire fighters.

This guy reminded me of someone.


Shark Attack!

With grandma in the rain forest

Making friends with a turtle

Playing with the dolphins

Fighting for possession of the chocolate milkshake. I won.

Still feeling like crap, but cheered up by her new “stuffy” – it’s an octopus. Or Kraken.

And at the end, we even made it to the wedding that was the point of the whole trip.  Due to Hazel’s fever and extreme discomfort the afternoon of the wedding, we were googling directions to the nearest ER (luckily, she rebounded in time for the ceremony) instead of packing the camera, so we didn’t actually get any photos of my cousin’s gorgeous wedding… but we were there!

It took over 14 hours of travel to get home.  And our annual Pole Pedal Paddle party was already in full swing, so we arrived to about 60 guests at our house.  Hazel, however, pooped out pretty early.  As did I.

I am glad we survived our first high fever and first plane ride.  Hopefully, next time, they won’t come at the same time…

Soldiering through her sickness with good cheer (mostly)

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