You now can reach the tip of your tongue
up to taste what's leaking from your nose
and tears, what keeps the first week's crying
at a distance breaks it down a few
Who this time last year was only shadow puppet
theater and swollen skin stretched thickly
dreams hanging from the rafters
of my heart but skittish
taken my love your hostage in a fierce and tender
spectacle of birth, your little bloody body
braving the coming up for air and then
the smell of you like Jesus
exploding outward with all these pent-up
I woke up this morning inside a thick mental and outside-world fog. It was cold and grey and something surreal was happening....music was coming from inside the baby monitor. It sounded like a music box had been wound up and was playing from inside the monitor. Only problem was, the only thing on the other end of that monitor was a little, albeit precocious, baby, asleep in her crib. I tried to pull myself closer to the unwelcoming world of October 23rd, 7:30 in the morning. Wait--7:30 in the morning? Why was it already this late ? Jeffrey was still in bed. Normally he gets up with Pea and changes her and they play for a few minutes, or as long as it takes for her to decide that she's ready to nurse.... The music kept playing but then I heard it stopping every few bars and restarting, with a popping sound in between. I opened my eyes and then I remembered that a few weeks ago I tied to Penelope's crib rails a soft, stuffed pink bunny whose tail, when pulled, plays Brahm's Lullaby. It's the same music that her mobile plays and I was thinking that when she got a little older she'd figure out how to make it work. It looked like she already had. Jeffrey and I crept into her room on tiptoe and saw her: a pink sweater blanket wrapped around her middle and up against her face the way she likes, little, wiggly toes and feet (probably cold) poking out from the bottom of it, one little hand reaching out and pulling the bunny's tail again and again as the music started, stopped, and continued. She was entranced. So were we.
Posted by Annagrace at 9:19 AM
Last Saturday Jeffrey and I, along with my sister and brother, took Pea to the pumpkin patch on Sauvie Island. It was a cool fall day with occasional mists of rain but that didn't stop oh, maybe HUNDREDS of people from also heading out there. I thought that it was still early enough in October that the crowds wouldn't be too bad. But I forgot to factor in the weekend. We ended up skipping the hayride out to the field, opting to instead pick out some already-picked pumpkins, as Penelope was too excited to nurse but too hungry to really enjoy herself. Baby pumpkins for Baby Pea.
We did take her into the barn with the animals and though she didn't seem overly impressed, she got to see chickens, ducks, two beautiful sheep (one with a black face), a very happy sleeping pig, and two rabbits spooning in their crate, all fluffy white and snuggled up together. Very cute.
It seemed like everyone started leaving at the exact same time we did. It took exactly an hour to get off the island. Not our favorite part of the day, to be sure, but it was worth it. I know she won't have any memories of the day and that next year it will mean so much more, but it's still fun doing as many "firsts" as we can her first year in the world.
Posted by Annagrace at 11:44 PM
Pea, you are precious. I'm certain that never before has there been a baby so feisty, so picky, and yet so gentle and tender. I just laid you back down in your bed, after your late-night nursing, and you woke up a bit so I stayed by your bed for a few minutes to rub your head and whisper to you. You reached out your hand and wrapped it so softly around my arm and wrist and just held it there....scratching, just so, every few seconds, very gently. You moved your face to where your nose was almost against my hand and the smell of Mama must be very comforting. You have fallen asleep.
I need to remember this, when I'm having days with you that are frustrating and I want to give up. I need to remember this when you're starting to crawl, or worse, walk--you're sure to be fast and I'm sure to be tired. I need to remember this other side of you, this deep, quiet, still place in you that every so often stares out from the inky dark of your beautiful eyes.
Sleep, baby, sleep.
Posted by Annagrace at 12:30 AM
Where to begin.... Penelope has treated the past few week's accomplishments like her very life is on the line. She can't just learn one new skill and slowly and steadily master it, but she must learn FIVE and do them over and over and all the time and all at once until she's plumb tuckered out. If we have any major problem around our house it's over-achievement. Of course she comes by it honestly. The only time in my career that I was seriously reprimanded it was for expecting too much of myself. Sorry, kid. Anyway, here's the latest list.
She can crawl backwards. And she's fast. She fell last week for the first time--and hopefully the last for a very, very long time. It was so disturbing for me. I had her on our bed (anyone can see where this is going), and she was smack-dab in the middle, and there were pillows all around. We had been playing, it was the beginning of the day, and I decided to run down the short upstairs hallway and grab a couple toys from her room. I was gone literally seconds when an awful thud reverberated through the house. In the twenty minutes or so that it took for me to make my body turn (faster, please move faster, hurry) the worst thing was the eerie silence. I felt like I lived at least ten Lifetime Channel scenarios (from serious concussion to brain damage to paraplegic) in the time it took me to turn and see the little, shocked body lying on the floor on her hands and knees. Her head slowly lifted off the floor and I started running before she even started crying. I cried right along with her. I wanted to scoop her up and hold her so tight to me and breathe her in but I forced myself to hold her gently at first so I could check all her limbs and joints and be sure nothing was broken. Everything was fine. She moved completely normally (i.e. a LOT) and didn't seem to be in pain anywhere. She was just scared and shocked. My heart didn't start beating again for something like two days.
She drinks water from a cup. With help, of course. I have been searching for possible explanations for her new habit of pooping once a day on a good day and once every other day (or two) on a not so good day, and one theory is that her new nighttime diet of people food may be clogging up the pipes a bit. So I offered her a bottle of water. She hasn't seen a bottle in several weeks as I have just about given up pumping entirely. My breasts respond to the pump only sporadically and after months of anguish I finally read somewhere that some woman don't have as much success as others. I wish I had read that sooner, before the weeks of heartache. I also wish someone had told me sooner that the amount you pump is not necessarily an indication of the amount of milk you are actually producing, or what your baby gets at a feeding. That would have been really nice to know. It was really nice in the first couple months of Pea's life to be able to have milk in the fridge and be able to leave her while she was still feeding more often. It was just such a struggle to make it happen. Anyway, last week I gave her a bottle of water and all she wanted to do was pull on and chew the silicone nipple. It probably felt good on her gums but it was painful to watch, and as I am having a bit of trouble with her biting me, it did not seem in my best interests. Or in the end, hers. So I offered her a cup with a tiny bit of water in it and held it for her while she excitedly reached for it with her mouth open. She drank it and loved it. It hasn't cured the constipation (I'm already on to other theories) but she does have some every day and gets really, really excited about it. She hardly spills or spits any of it.
She laughs now, for real. A shrill and deep sound that cuts through all the bad things in my heart and clears my head. Once I've heard it I go ape and crazy and all kinds of other things, as I do everything in my power to hear that sound again, and again, and again. What usually works is kissing her under her chin or tickling her ribs and side. Or blowing raspberries on her belly. If you've never heard a little baby's laugh then you won't understand how deep and shrill can go together without canceling each other out. Well I'm here to tell you that they do, and that they don't, and that it makes perfect and complete sense.
She can sit by herself. She can't actually get herself into a sitting position, but if she's put in one she'll make it for several minutes without toppling over backwards with a "thunk" or sliding onto her side. She seems very aware of how cool this is and that it means progress, as she'll go from whining and being generally bored or unhappy, in whatever position she is currently, to being almost intense in her contentment once placed on her bottom. Suddenly the same toys that have been in front of her off and on all day are super interesting and demand all her attention. As for me, I can just lie next to her and watch. She's so bright and interested in life. The world IS her oyster and she is slurping down every single helping of pearl and goo.
She knows how to make some of her toys work. When we're reading together she tries really hard to turn the pages, and when she's on her own with the books she gets frustrated when she can't open them up without a struggle. One of the toys in her playmat/gym is a fish with a button that plays music. Whenever it's placed in front of her she'll think about it and then smack her hand down, right on the button. I'm sure it helps that every time she's done this I do a happy dance and clap my hands.
And did I mention that she plays a mean hand of poker?
Posted by Annagrace at 12:18 AM
Working 70 hours a week for not enough money, too few benefits, with dull or incompetant people, for crazy or incompetant people, only to come home too tired to be a contributing member of society is STILL EASIER THAN THIS! This stay-at-home-mother thing. This 24-hour parade of my worst emotions and deepest flaws and greatest insecurities. This every-single-day-battle to get more done than just another load of laundry made pointless by another six o'clock sweet potato and green pea slime-fest. To try and get a shower even though she can now throw herself over the side of the bouncy seat and crawl backwards so fast that she's out of my sight before my hair is wet. To try and look lovely and attractive for my husband who works so hard so that I can stay home, when too often all I want to do when he comes in the door at night is hand over the whiny, green and yellow goo-child, apologize profusely for the state of our home, and then go sit in the bath with a pack of Export-A's and a chocolate martini. You know, just for a few hours.
Posted by Annagrace at 1:31 PM
Penelope, Penelope, time is truly the one thing I don't have enough of. I can spend all day with you, playing and laughing and tickling you till you giggle, low and deep in your throat, and watching you grow and change by the minute and yet it still doesn't seem like enough. I fight the guilt that hits me when I have to do necessary things, like showering and trying to keep our house from becoming a storage shed, only fit for piles and accumulated things, and stuff, for I fear that I may be missing the most important part of your day or a moment I should be capturing and saving in my mind and heart forever.
I feel like every day I try so hard to drink in every moment and every chance look and sound and touch, but most of the time I fear that in the end I still won't remember nearly enough. That I've already forgotten the true essense of your brand-new baby scent, the little cracks that were in your feet and toes when you were born, lined with dried blood from being a bit overcooked, the darky silky thatch on your head, and your eyes, so huge and dark and deep, like the pools full of new worlds Polly and Diggory stumbled upon in The Magician's Nephew. I had thought about and dreamed about and wished for you for months, maybe even years, and yet when you were handed to me for the first time, just before the sun rose on the first of May, I felt like I had been handed the whole world and here I was only prepared for a small town. The weight of your new little soul and unlived life felt so heavy and important in my suddenly small hands that I realized for the first time just how big the stakes were. That how I mothered you had such huge potential for good or harm.
But I want you to know, Penelope, that never once have I wished for a smaller task or an easier assignment. There are days when I doubt myself every single minute and worry that I'm too broken and battered to be the mother that you deserve. And then there are days when I feel like maybe, for once, I've done a really, really good job. But never once have I wished for my old life back or wanted to throw in the towel. I know that's not saying a whole lot, since we're only five months and a few days into this adventure, but it's true. Every day I love you with more of my heart. Places I had forgotten even existed in me. Sometimes it's difficult to watch your happiness, only because it brings up the deep emotion of my lonely, heartbroken childhood and forces me to look at things I'm not always ready to. But I will continue to look and I will continue to dig up those rocky places thick with thorny wounds, so that you have the mother you deserve, a mother who is present and available to you, and who can see beyond herself.
Wherever you go, whoever you become, may your heart always be easy and unburdened, free to love and safe from all harm. And may you always laugh the way you do now, deep with safety and contentment. I love you.
Posted by Annagrace at 10:52 PM
It's true. Penelope and I have had quite the social calendar of late. Especially in comparison to how empty our days were feeling just a few weeks ago. We've made some new friends, gotten to spend time with old and very loved ones, and even gotten to spend lots of time with family. Even Jeffrey has been able to partake of this recent friend feast. And sometimes it does feel almost cannibalistic, the way I've been devouring companionship and time spent in the company of good people.
I've always had this loner streak, a pain reflex that sends me deep inside, and it's always a struggle for me to stay on top of it, stay connected, to actively and purposefully connect. It's the same reason I've had a hard time digging very deep when I write this blog, apart from my obvious and flagrant love for Pea. I want to hold everything close to my chest, safe and apart, and I'm terrified of being judged for my feelings and emotions. I'm determined to learn how to share the deep things inside of me, regardless of who is watching or listening or judging. Bear with me--there is a lot, so much to say, and it may take me a while to truly give it a voice. But I am trying. The last two or three weeks I feel like I've taken some big steps away from self-inflicted loneliness. Some of it is still there, it may always be there as my first memory as a child is being lonely and alone, but the things I can solve I am working on diligently. The other struggle is balancing the need for companionship and friendship with the need for order and calm in Penelope's world. I really believe that routine and order are such a source of safety and peace for children, but I also don't want to get stuck in a rut or expect others to always fit inside our schedule. I want her to have things that she can count on, a daily rhythm that makes her days happy and somewhat predictable, along with giving me a predictable time for housework and daily tasks, and yet I also want to be able to make last-minute plans from time to time without everything falling to pieces. It goes along with something else I've been thinking about a lot lately, and I'll blog more about later, the challenge I've been feeling in my heart to keep the end in mind, to parent with a goal for the big picture of her as a person, not just make the easiest decision in the current moment.
Last week we saw Angie and Brennan and thank God Angie was here on Monday because Monday was the day that the winner of the Hugest Spider of 2006 award decided to grace me with its presence. I laid eyes upon it in the living room that morning, just as Penelope decided to throw herself out of the bouncer. Angie jumped forward to catch Penelope just as I jumped back and stifled all the expletives in my vocabulary, conscious of Brennan even in my panic. I know I should have been the one reaching for the baby since, oh, yeah, it's MY child, but I have to admit that the sizable creature sitting on my carpet not two feet from my baby was the bigger concern. Bouncers don't bite but that thing was more than capable of at least that. Or so I could imagine. Angie has no fear of spiders, bless her, and happened to be the only one with shoes so she made sure I had enough of my wits about me to take care of Penelope's situation and then calmly walked over and stepped on it. When she lifted her shoe, it sprang back up so I brought her a handful of paper towels. Gross. By this time Brennan was huddled atop my sofa and I would have loved to have joined her there. Pea, your mama has done lots of therapy, it's true, but she still has some serious issues. That night Jeffrey, Pea, and I went to dinner with a co-worker of Jeffrey's and his fiance and had a great time. They are such fun people with great senses of humor and stayed out much longer than we probably should have. Tuesday Pea and I spent the day with my mom, taking a long walk, playing with Pea, and having a really good, relaxing time. That night Kristen, my dear friend, came over for dinner and it was so good to see her and spend time with her. Some people just make you happy by existing and that's her. Wednesday Pea and I jetted downtown in the afternoon to see a former coworker, and another person dear to my heart, for coffee. Thursday Abby and Baby Beau, tied with Pea for cutest newborn, came over and we drank coffee and talked and played with Pea and had a really, really good time together. I have been enjoying our new friendship and how much we have in common and all the laughing and sharing that we do. Then Saturday was the Farmer's Market with Jeffrey and then family birthday times in the evening and a late, but fun, night.
This week, Penelope and I have had plans almost every day and it's been a little hectic but also fun. The weather has been amazing and I've wanted to take advantage of as much of it as possible. It's not every October 12th that you can boast of temperatures in the high 70's with lots of sun and clear skies, followed by cool, calm evenings. At least not in our part of the world where rain or cool has usually taken hold already. We've finally started up a regular walking routine. Now that her health and well-being are not tied to a long morning nap, which used to the be the only nap I could count on and so not to be messed with, we have been getting out for a walk first thing. Sometimes she sleeps and sometimes she's awake, but by then she's already had a morning snooze of some sort so whatever she takes on the walk is bonus. Once we've finished that, and I've nursed her again and had some breakfast, we've either played with friends or played with each other, around my dogged attempts to keep the laundry caught up and the house in a general state of order. Sunday was church and the chance to see lots of people that mean so much to us. We haven't been there in a few weeks, for one reason or another, so it felt really good to be back. Monday we played with Tiffany and Theo and Maya and were outside for most of the day. We helped ourselves to an overloaded fig tree that's in the nature strip in front of a neighbor's house and went home with a big bag of figs I cooked down into jam, with a little apple, ginger, and lemon (and sugar). Tuesday my mom came over in the afternoon and played with Pea and stayed for dinner. Wednesday I spent the day getting ready for our friends to have dinner with us: cooking a pot roast, roasted carrots and parsnips, mashed potatoes, gravy and for dessert baked apples and whipped cream. One of my all-time favorite dinners and something that really feels like fall. Today we saw our new friend Brett, who is moving out of state tomorrow, along with her family. I am so happy for her to be following her heart and where God is taking her, but at the same time I feel a little bit sad that she's going when I've just begun to get to know her. It's selfish and yet it's also because I realized, sitting in her house today, that I feel such a deep connection with her already and that there are very few times in my life when I've felt so comfortable and safe so quickly. I know there's a reason we haven't met till now. I'm sure a big part of it is that I probably wouldn't have appreciated a friend like her at other times in my life. I was often too self-absorbed or too unwilling to move outside of my pain and fear. Thank goodness for email. Tomorrow we're seeing Penelope's favorite and only (so far) uncle, her Uncle J. She loves Jeremy so much. Whenever she sees him she gets this look in her eyes like, "where's the joke, when is the crazy, crazy fun starting, I know that's why you're here...." Then Saturday we have big plans with Jeffrey--I'll write about them when I have pictures. It should be a lot of fun.
Posted by Annagrace at 9:24 PM
Happiness is: Getting to go to a movie, a good one (Little Miss Sunshine), with my husband while Penelope is babysat by her lovely auntie.
Humility is: Getting to the front of the ticket line, only to discover that in my haste to feed Pea and then get out the door I have neglected to refasten the front flaps of my nursing bra and said flaps are lying in bunches below my unprotected boobs. I am wearing, of course, a close-fitting t-shirt. While Jeffrey pays for the tickets I decide that I can't wait till I'm in the darkened theater and that I must, right away, attempt to discreetly reach my hand inside the neck of my shirt and refasten myself.
One month later....
Happiness is: Making it to Trader Joe's with plenty of time to do the week's shopping before they close at nine. Oh, how I love TJ's. I wander happily through the aisles selecting my grocery budget's worth of tasty and fresh food.
Humility is: Standing at the cashwrap, watching as my food is scanned and packed so swiftly and expertly into three bags, and suddenly realizing, as I lower my gaze, that all those nice people I kept passing in the aisles saw what I can now see: once again, I have neglected to refasten the front flaps.
What an aweful phrase that is, too: Front Flaps. Sounds bovine--or like skin flaps. Gross. All I can say is that once again I was in the crazy nighttime mode of: Feed Pea cereal, attempt to make dinner for Jeffrey and me while Pea screams bloody hell from her bouncy seat, hand Pea a teething bagel and speak calmly to her even though I want to scream back, quickly finish the thrown-together dinner, pick Pea up, wipe her off, hand her to Jeffrey to take upstairs and bathe, plate dinner, eat dinner while Pea cries huge tears of exhaustion and wants to be held, nurse Pea, hold her for a while and kiss her and whisper to her, lay her down and sing to her till she falls asleep, turn out the light and quietly but quickly gather the scattered contents of my purse, head to the store before they close and I have to shop somewhere with nothing I need and at higher prices. That, my friends, is my excuse. I didn't have time to explain this to the lady and her husband at the next checkstand over, who were staring disapprovingly at me from over their thirty or so bottles of iced tea.
Posted by Annagrace at 9:16 PM
This is what Penelope Aoife, the delight of my eyes and joy of my heart, is now capable of:
And for still more proof of her prowess:
My days of rest, such as they are, are fast coming to a close. And there is a good chance that she will be one of those that decides to skip walking and go straight to running. I can see this glint of logic in her eyes and needless to say, I am very, very afraid.
Posted by Annagrace at 3:29 PM