Thursday, December 25, 2008

joke's on me!

Every time I write about the occurrence of anything baby-related -- an opinion, an observation, a decision -- it feels so TRUE, and yet I barely have time to turn around and it is no longer so.

To wit:


Why yes, that's Auden amid a pile of toys, of the rainbow-colored-bells-and-bilingual-whistles variety, and happy as a clam. I'm getting so good at eating my words, maybe I should write a recipe book.

Merry Christmas!

*

Saturday, December 20, 2008

unclear on the concept

Okay, is it just me, or do babies hate toys made for babies? If I were a toy manufacturer, or hey, someone who does research about what toy manufacturers should make, basing my ideas on observation alone I would make baby-friendly versions of all of the following:

  • stereo receivers
  • remote controls
  • phones
  • brooms and dust pans
  • books
  • cats
Because all the educational-plastic-rainbow-colored-multi-textured-bells-and-whistles stuff holds the attention for maybe 30 seconds. A watch, on the other hand? A flashlight? The camera? Anything with batteries? Utterly compelling.

*

Thursday, December 18, 2008

art day

Thursday is art day now. Jason stays home and chases Auden while I fiddle with paper and glue in my studio. I'm supposed to be making new pieces for the group show in Cedarburg in February -- I actually have a deadline, have I ever had a deadline? -- but as you can see, I'm making a mess instead. I like to call it warming up, not procrastinating.



I've been inspired lately by Randal Plowman, whose blog A Collage a Day has lit a virtual fire under my butt and motivated me to start several small collages and work quickly.


Eventually I'll dust off the ol' Etsy site and post some new stuff... but for now I'm just happy to have my materials out and ideas percolating.

*

Saturday, December 6, 2008

unpredictable baby genius

So, Auden is walking and talking these days. Such an active and intelligent toddler! Oh wait... it hasn't really been that long since I last posted. Ahem.

But it's not too far from the truth, if by walking you mean this:

video

And if by talking you mean "da da da" and other syllabic mimicry.

Lately when people ask how old Auden is, I have to pause and think about it. Uhh, 10 months? Give or take?

No, only 8. But holy crow, really? 8 months? I'd always pictured 6 months as the pinnacle of babyhood, especially when I was pregnant and six months of baby seemed epochs away. (But then, I was a little obsessive about keeping track of time at that point, too, ie: "I'll be 28 weeks in 2.5 days. Well, 2.75.") As a result, I knew a lot about what to expect during those six months, and not so much about what happens after. Maybe this is why Auden is utterly bored with all his toys -- I'm trying to give him a rattle and he wants a Rubik's Cube or something.

We've been going to some play groups during the week, and aside from relieving the walls-closing-in feeling of being in the house all day it gives me plenty of chances to see how the other humans are doing it: how often food? how many nap? what time bedtime?

I am much reassured to have such company, of course, and also slightly bemused to discover I've become one of those poor saps in the play area at the mall, tethered by slobbering offspring and sippy cups. Turns out the view from the inside isn't so bad, eh? Why, just the other day I caught myself cheerfully going about the trifecta of domestic duties (you know, diapers, dishes, dinner) with a feeling akin to pride that would have appalled my post-punk pro-revolution radical-womyn San Francisco self.

So most of the time I feel like I'm navigating without a map, making it up as I go -- especially in the baby food department -- but for all my dramatic casting about for A Plan and How to Follow It, I have discovered quiet moments of success:
  • Auden was not interested at ALL in solids. I thought for sure he'd be the only kindergartner with a lunch box full of breast milk until one day, finally, he willingly opened his mouth and ate.
  • The other day I was buckling him into the stroller for a walk, and realized his crying wasn't the usual why-are-you-always-buckling-me-into-SOMETHING-restrictive? fussing, but a hungry cry. I could tell the difference!
  • A couple weeks ago I put him into his crib, fed and sleepy but awake, and he just rolled over and went to sleep without a sound.
I'd heard tell of these things, from beyond the hills, where all parents are patient and all children are cooperative...

All the things I read, all the things I "knew" about babies, while not useless, were perhaps staving off the inevitable realization that your baby teaches you in a hurry, and we're all learning as we go. Nothing goes according to plan; predictability is a fantasy best tossed aside with the bedclothes when you wake up. At 5:30. Or 6, or 7:45, or whatever.

I mean, of course, right? Auden is smart, he's learning, but he's not programmable. He's not a baby-bot. And if he were, it would probably just be a phase.

*

Monday, November 17, 2008

on a roll

For maybe the first time my artist self and my mama self have converged onto one point:



*

Sunday, November 9, 2008

and lo, more artistic validation

I just happened to be looking at the blog of Michelle Moode, whose work I love, and look! She picked one of my pieces in an Etsy treasury! I feel all warm and fuzzy. And like I need to spend more time on Etsy.

*

Saturday, November 8, 2008

an artistic interlude

I've had it in my mind to do some drawings of Auden. I keep thinking to myself, he's only going to be this little for a heartbeat... draw him, draw him now! And, well, there's laundry to do and dishes to wash and pillows to fluff. I know, it's a boring excuse.

But! I found a Friday night uninstructed figure drawing session at the University, and have gone a few times. It's good practice, especially since the models sit still, which Auden NEVER does.

Here, have a look (click on the image to get up close and personal):











Oh, and? I was accepted to a juried group show in February, in Cedarburg, WI. Hooray! I'm still an artist! I'll be doing some more little glass paintings, since their theme is "miniatures."

So while I fantasize of enormous canvases and several consecutive hours --days, even! -- of painting, 15 minute drawings and 4 x 6 inch paintings are not chopped liver.

*

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama!

Ditto.

And, ditto.

I went out volunteering yesterday morning, knocking on doors to remind folks to get to the polls (as if they needed reminding!) and have never felt so connected and inspired. The excitement was palpable; the groundswell of participation was awesome.

Obama said this victory is for us -- US! -- and that's what gives me so much hope for his presidency. We are ready to shed the cynicism and shame of the last 8 years and be active players in our democracy and our future.

Obama will be our president, not our savior... as much as ever, it is up to us to stay involved. For the first time in a long time, I feel dedicated to such a thing. I'm giddy about it, even!

I am savoring this victory, for its promise and its precedent. I am relieved, I am proud, and I am indescribably grateful.

Huzzah!

*

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

seven months

Dear Auden,

It's been a busy couple of months, huh? That's nearly a third of your life! We uprooted you from our little apartment among the eucalyptus trees and never-ending sunshine, visited all the grandparents in a whirlwind, and slept in enough different beds to confound your little sense of direction. Then we landed in a new house, a new city, a new way of doing things that involves sleeping alone and being entreated to swallow foods of perplexing flavor and texture and not being allowed to grab at all those lovely speaker wires.

Sometimes I forget that you are just a baby. Sometimes I get so caught up in wanting you to take a nap, or lie still for a diaper change, or to stay out of the garbage can for crying out loud, that I forget to honor the gorgeous spark of curiosity in you. You! The you that you are becoming, separate from me, with your own will and your own way.

You are ticklish under your chin. You giggle when I shake my hair in your face. You put everything into your mouth and test it with slobber (plastic kitchen funnel, okay; cell phone, didn't make it). You like to hold my fingers while you fall asleep in the sling, and I marvel at how warm and silky-soft your little hands are. You have a sense of humor now -- you laugh at papa's funny faces, you squeal with delight when I magically reappear from behind a door. You blow a mean raspberry.

You have been crawling for over a month, and are now a pro at pulling yourself up on anything -- steady or not. You have also mastered the one-hand-assisted stand, which lends itself to grabbing at yet more (wires, buttons, books, CDs, plastic bags) toys, and is also useful for crouching down to retrieve dropped things. You are an intrepid adventurer, and have no patience for my limitations, and no regard for danger. Or gravity.

You have discovered the joy of your own voice: you can make it yell, you can pitch it high in an eeeeeeeeee of pleasure, you can do a syllable that sounds like blah blah blah blah. You have also discovered the strangeness of water, and watch with wonder when I pour it on you in the bath. Then you slap it with your hands. Then you flail your legs and splash furiously and breathe in excited huffs when it gets all over your face.

My heart aches at how quickly this time goes. Every day you do something new, adding tiny layers of experience and recognition to your world. And while I celebrate your growth -- what choice do I have? -- part of me wants you to stay small, to always fit in my arms, to always burrow your fuzzy head into my neck when you're tired. Even on days that are hard (and there have been plenty of those), I find solace in the fact that this is the only day like it that I have with you. That doesn't exactly make me less tired, but it makes me more grateful, more attentive, more painfully open to the fleetingness of your infancy.

My sweet, beautiful son, I love you full to bursting.

love,
mama

*

Thursday, October 16, 2008

the walking dead

Okay, not only did I have the longest, most graphic and disturbing dream about zombies the other night, but I'm starting to feel like one during the day, too.

Or, in other words, fear of sleep: redux!

I got a little cocky after those first few nights of abundant sleep, see, and figured we were on the up and up. Now I feel as though I've passed through the looking glass, and this is some wacky experiment where the hypotheses are actually the variables and the conclusions are anybody's guess -- there's been lots and lots of guessing, second-guessing, too! -- which makes for less sleeping and more living dead.

We were going to extend the nighttime sleep training to naps, which did not go over well (I'm not sure the CIO people intend for there to be two hours of crying, and then 30 minutes of sleeping) and then the nighttime success started to unravel, too. He started waking up every hour after going down, or every hour after being fed, sometimes crying for an hour and a half. So, this leaves me, what, 2 or 3 hours during which to dream about zombies?

Last night was actually okay, but after eating humble pie all week, don't think I'm about to brag about it. In fact, remind me not to write anything else about babies sleeping until, say, 2012, when this is all comfortably behind us. Knock on wood. But quietly, so you don't wake my sleeping baby.

*

Monday, October 6, 2008

fear of sleep: no more!

Well.

We bit the bullet, people, and got a crib. You may recall that I wasn't partial to cribs, or the cry-it-out school of sleep training, but if there's anything I've learned as a parent it's, well... you'll pardon me as I blog with my mouth full. Because why didn't we do this sooner? Ach, me.

We borrowed a book from our pediatrician about infants and sleeping, which pointed out some habits that well-meaning parents establish with their babies, only to have to undo them later. Namely, rocking to sleep, nursing to sleep, and co-sleeping.

Let's see: check, check, and, oh yeah, check.

Man! You're a new parent, you'll take sleep in any form, on any surface, in a daze of horomones, and it's just easier to have the kid nestled into your armpit all night, and once you emerge from this hazing, well, it's become a Habit.

So it may or may not have been equally traumatic for me as well as Auden to sleep alone that first night, and I may or may not have taken him back into bed with me after just a few hours. BUT. I do remember the swearing -- and Jason remembers some wall-pounding -- in the wee hours of the morning in the not-too-distant past, so I held firmly to my resolve and to the assurance from The Guide to [My] Child's Sleep that I would not be a horrible and cruel mother if I let him cry a little. And the second night he only woke up once, and went back to sleep without eating. Imagine my elation! The only drawback to a schedule like this is that it isn't only my tears of joy that leak all over the bed by morning, if you know what I mean.

However, buoyed by the knowledge that he can in fact sleep for more than three hours at a time, I felt even more determined to tough out the crying jag that usually precedes said sleep. We still go to him every 5 to ten minutes to lay him back down (you know, with the pulling up and all), put the pacifier back in and soothe him a bit, but we don't pick him up and there is no feeding or rocking back to sleep. It hasn't exactly been easy, but I'm no longer prostrating myself in the next room shedding tears of my own. And doesn't that make everyone happier?

Coming up: Naps, the Next Sleep Frontier.

Friday, September 19, 2008

in which I lose my cool

I haven't been blogging much lately, friends, because I have been struggling.

There has been a slight improvement in the night-time sleep schedule -- enough to remind me what a delicious and potent tonic sleep can be -- but it seems to be coming at the cost of those day-time gems of sweet relief called naps.

The past few days have seen me face down, crying into the living room rug by 6pm. No matter how plucky I start out in the morning, my resilience is eroded by the constant whining, the wriggling, the struggling to get away from diaper-changes, the sporratic 1/2 hour naps, the inability to be entertained by any one toy for longer than 30 seconds, the reaching for all things forbidden, the insistence on playing Attack Baby** until 9:30pm, and in fact, the total resistance to any kind of regular bedtime, and can I get a witness? Or maybe just a babysitter? By the time my poor unsuspecting husband comes home I'm ready to toss him the baby and exit the room, tipping my hat, saying, "aaaaaand eff you very much!"

I've become a fierce and desperate defendant of sleep, when it comes -- after endless walking, bouncing, nursing, humming, praying -- and I find myself composing detailed deals with God wherein he grants me an hour and I promise to get other things done besides blogging. But then as soon as the eyelids close, a neighbor comes out to ask HOW OLD'S THE BABY? or I walk on the creaky part of the floor, or dishes clank in the sink, and I'm cursing (sorry God) and waxing nostalgic about the early months when Auden could sleep anywhere, anytime, through any kind of noise.

I'm so tense I'm wearing my shoulders up around my ears, even though I never meant to be so rigid about this. I want to go with the flow and all, but damnit, when he needs a nap he NEEDS a nap, you know?

[smooths hair, settles back down in chair]

Ahem.

Like a good Buddhist, Jason reminds me that the root of suffering is attachment, and that I have to just let go. That's when I sic Attack Baby on him and go fix myself a drink.

Ah crap. The baby's up. Well, at least I got this post finished! Never mind about making dinner or folding the laundry or taking a shower or starting that Valium habit. You'll come visit me in the nuthouse, right?

Oh don't worry. The next thing I write is going to be an ode to Auden about all the reasons I'm completely in love with him.


** this game is actually hilariously cute, remind me to tell you about it when I'm not so intent on being Righteously Frustrated.

*

Monday, September 8, 2008

mobile

Oh boy. We have mobility, folks:

video

We're in trouble. But how cute is a baby in a hoodie?

*

Sunday, September 7, 2008

hello, Milwaukee

A few weeks ago Jason and I watched the entire Planet Earth series straight through. Amidst all the marvels and the superlatives (damn you, David Attenborough, which is the deepest lake? the tallest tree? has the most biodiversity? the least? ack!), one random thought is sticking with me: why don't humans have an easy way to lie down?

I mean, nevermind the breathtaking footage of a mother snow leopard and her cub, gently shrouded in falling snow, nuzzling at the entrance of their den -- look at how comfortable they look just lying on the rocks!

What kind of design flaw is this? These are the things I think of when I'm breastfeeding Auden, lying on my side (propped by pillows, of course), in the middle of the night.

Ahhh, but it's wonderful to be in my own bed again.

We had a whirlwind visit to Michigan, where Auden was properly spoiled and cuddled by all his grandparents. Then we camped out at our new place in Milwaukee for a couple of nights (sleeping on an inflatable mattress, also not found in the wild), waiting for our stuff to arrive in a giant truck from California. Now we're waist-deep in boxes, going about the exhausting but rewarding task of settling in.

Auden seems to be handling all this chaos fairly well, despite a handful of wonky nights adjusting to the time change. He's even making determined attemps at crawling, getting up on his haunches and doing face-plants in order to move toward a desired object -- usually a plastic bag or his potty. Not that we let him play with those things.

At some point in Michigan he became swaddle-resistant, though, I guess because crawling is too exciting and one must also practice while sleeping. So now he can wiggle right out of the straight-jacket technique I'd perfected -- a regular Houdini, this one -- and rock n' roll to his heart's delight. With all the thrashing, papa ended up on the floor, and mama built a barrier around baby to prevent excessive kicks to ribs.

I'm sure you (and David Attenborough) have noticed that no other mammals swaddle their young. This is why the good Lord invented cribs, which are totally natural. I'll be eating my words in the next post.

But look! Here we are in our new city:





Yes, that's the Bronze Fonz. Milwaukee!

*

Sunday, August 31, 2008

golden

Today was my golden birthday: 31 on the 31st.



We had a perfect day at the beach. Looks an awful lot like that last shot, but if you look closely you can tell it's the lovely Lake Michigan.

*

Sunday, August 24, 2008

goodbye California, for real

Last weekend: taking in the ocean one last time


Next weekend: dipping toes in Lake Michigan...

*

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

fear of sleep

Bad dreams?

Growth spurt?

Four-and-a-half month existential dilemma?

Tell me, child, what is this sleep regression all about?

I am not a fan of imposing strict sleeping schedules, nor do I subscribe to the cry-it-out school of sleep philosophy, but I thought I might gently try to eliminate the middle o' the night feeding. You know, to train the little guy not to expect it. I'm allergic to parenting literature, but I've heard that, after a few nights of hell, this tactic can deliver us to a utopia of consistent sleeping through the night. Did I say consistent? Ha!

The first night went off without a hitch, and I just rocked Auden back to sleep after minimal fussing, feeling triumphant and a little smug. Not so bad, I thought. The next night was not so easy. He cried, and I caved. Is this the hell? I wondered. Man, I'm a lightweight.

In the light of day it was not so easy to explain, but again the next night I could not bear to refuse him. It felt cruel and arbitrary and control-freak-ish.

He doesn't know, he's just hungry! Damn! Give a baby a break!

(That was an exerpted transcript from my very own version of Baby Whispering, called "Listen to Your Kid, Don't Project Your Adult Expectations for Uninterupted Sleep onto a Creature Whose Stomach is the Size of a Golf Ball")

I talked to Jason about it, asking him what he thought I should do. Like a smart man, he asked what I thought I should do (possibly knowing I already had a preference, possibly just wanting to defer to mama's intuition and wisdom. Like I said, smart man). I said I would rather wake up and feed and go back to sleep within twenty minutes than wrestle with a squirming, screaming babe for forty-five.

So then on Sunday we were listening to the best radio program ever, the subject of which just happened to be "Fear of Sleep," right? And since we don't have roaches crawling in our ears, an infestation of bedbugs, or somnabulant activity a la Incredible Hulk (really, you should listen to this episode), I figured we should count ourselves lucky. But that night Auden woke up every two hours, like a flashback to his first month of life that I couldn't help but feel was kind of cruel and arbitrary. I was crying into my pillow by 5am, with Jason mumbling sleepy reassurances.

In previous weeks, babe had been sleeping a good six hours at a time, and then maybe three or four hours after that, and holy Hypnos is it painful to slide backwards from such progress. It was torture. Really, don't they do that to torture people?

I know, it's so unique to be a new parent lamenting the lack of a good night's sleep. And I'm not nearly as funny as Alexa at Flotsam in writing about it. But I chalk up the weak humor and unoriginal subject matter to the lack of a good night's sleep.

*

Sunday, August 10, 2008

now with giggles

Nowadays I get smiles for just existing. Still rewarding, of course, still meltingly cute, especially from across the room. But Jason has coaxed forth the highly elusive baby giggle, caught here for the first time on video:

video



*

Monday, August 4, 2008

we called him 'Grover' in utero

Carrying on in a fine tradition of calling my baby anything but his name, here's what we call Auden around here:

Bug
Booger
Bun
Bugaboo
Brown Pants Man (when he's wearing his brown pants)
Cutie-Pants (no matter what color pants)
Cutie-no-pants Pants (when he's not wearing any pants)
Little man
Little guy
Little boo
Little potato
(Okay, little anything)
Monkey
Sprout
Squirt

And you thought we were really going to name him Grover, how silly!

*

Monday, July 28, 2008

just ignore the man behind the curtain

Hmmmm.

That last post suddenly feels kind of creepy, like I'm peering over your virtual shoulder as you read. I didn't mean it like that, honest.

Quick, post about something else... anything...

So! It turns out you can get a rash from your own drool!

And look, pictures!





*

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

the middle finger

I took the rather silly step of adding a fancy traffic analysis widget to my blog. For this site? It's like putting steel girders under a wooden footbridge.

I am not at all savvy in these matters, and there's way more information available to me now than I can possibly use (bounce rates, anyone?), but it's kind of fun to see where my traffic is coming from. It's fun that I have traffic at all!

There's even a map overlay that shows me where my visitors are coming from. I have Japan and Colombia, even. In the US, the map shows me how many people from each state have stopped by. I realize that it's not a campaign to get all 50 states, since it'll be a looong time before Fingerfold becomes president. But I still get a little giddy when a new State shows up, nevermind that some of those visits are just an "oops" click from a wacky google search. Yes, the prying eye can even see what you googled in order to get to my site.

For example:

"thickening middle finger"

Some poor Joe went searching for advice for a serious medical condition and the first link he got was about me burning my middle finger and finally putting on some pregnancy weight!

Whew, the interweb casts a wide net.

Because, really, if you're going to look up middle fingers, you should go directly to this. Go.

Okay, but really. I'm only going to use google analytics for the power of good.

*

Monday, July 21, 2008

lest I think I am getting the hang of anything

Um. So, more on the diaper-free lifestyle.

We've been doing great at night: for the past two weeks, Auden has stayed totally dry while sleeping. He fusses quite a bit upon waking, but I take this to mean he's got a full bladder and am glad he registers the sensation. I unswaddle him, hold him over the potty, and he pees like a champ. Every time.

Wow, I think. Progress!

During the day? Not so much. On a little OCD impulse, I bought a kitchen timer to see if that would help me be more mindful of his intervals, but he's determined to out-wit me every time. Add to the mix that he's getting bigger and seems to be able to hold it longer, and I just have to guess how often he pees. Sometimes every 10 minutes, sometimes 25.

Sometimes we hold him over the potty for a good 2 minutes with no results, only to have him squirt with glee once we get the diaper back on. Sometimes he makes a fuss, which means he has to go, other times he just goes quiet for a moment (by which time it's too late...), then goes happily about his business of drooling and putting things in his mouth. One day we only use 7 diapers; the next day it's 17. He's a riddle, this kid.

I'm inclined to hang out on the lawn all day and let him pee into the grass. Seriously. Here's some pics from the last time we did that, in which he displays his awesome new turtle face:








Awwww, you little rascal! Of course I'm not mad that you peed on my pant leg, the carpet, the laundry hamper, the couch, the bed, the... wait, where was I?

Oh right, determined to stick with it.

I just keep telling myself, the more we do it now, the less we do it when he's two and is really inclined to challenge our illusions of parental control.

*

Friday, July 11, 2008

i still make art

I've put up some new pieces on Etsy, head on over and have a look.

Okay, here's a peek:





And wonder of wonders, I've been painting again, too. When Auden sleeps, I get him snug in the sling, leave the dirty dishes in the sink and head to the easel instead. The four-panel flower piece is still evolving, here's how it looks lately:



Frankly, only a little less cartoon-y than when I started. It's hard to keep my focus with this piece, especially since I feel as though I'm flailing around in search of the right colors and composition... it's hard not to think I was on the wrong foot from the beginning. How will it resolve? Stay tuned for the next episode: "The Secret of Underpainting," or, "Palette Knife: Friend or Foe?"

*

Monday, July 7, 2008

rollin'

So, it turns out that tummy time is just a gateway drug. Auden is now getting into harder stuff:

video

He pulled this one on Saturday, and even though he ends up burrowing his face in the ground and getting a little stuck, he is quite determined. But now he can do it with considerably less yelling.

And for Fenna... horse lips!

video

Someday I'll get back to writing thoughful and poignant tomes about motherhood -- and maybe even art! -- but for now it's just video.

*sigh*

*

Sunday, June 29, 2008

tummy time

There are things you just sort of find out about when you're pregnant, like don't feed honey to a baby less than a year old, beer helps your milk come in, breast-feeding is not good birth control, etc. There are also infant activities that seem to be mandated. One thing I hear all the time but, frankly, just don't understood, is the concept of tummy time... to me it's along the same lines as a "play date" -- something parents have always done but now has a hip and smart-sounding name.

It was something I pooh-poohed, along with the Baby %*#@$tein play thing (which also goes by the names "smart machine" and "genius tent" in our household), but which I now realize is the source of great entertainment. For me. And of course totally edifying for the babe.

Last night I gave Auden his first chance at tummy time, to see what all the other babies are up to.

I couldn't decide which video was funnier, so I'm posting them both. They're a little dark, hopefully you can make out the awesome face he makes in the second one (that one is short because I was laughing so hard the camera got all shaky).

video

video

*

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Jason's baby: EDD June 27

Jason is in the final stretch of gestation. He's experiencing a bit of panic, self-doubt, and possibly some incredulity at the fact that delivery is so close at hand. He's not is as much pain as I was (can I get a witness?), but the process is still hard, and the event is still a milestone. Especially considering he's been growing this creature for a year and a half.

For this labor, though, he doesn't need a doctor, he's becoming a doctor. Um, of Philosophy, that is. Okay, enough of this silly metaphor.

His writing began in earnest around January of 2007, some months after we returned from Japan, and I half-way considered forming a support group for Spouses of the Dissertation so I wouldn't end up like Wendy on the steps of the Overlook Hotel, swatting at Jack with a bat. Just kidding. Sort of.

So I'm not sure who's happier about finishing. I think at this point it might be me, since he's still worried about, you know, making it turn out good. But really and truly, I am bursting with pride. He's finishing his degree in record time and proceding directly to an ideal post-doc position, where he'll be able to do the interdisciplinary-group-applied-research work that he's been aiming for. Time for some unbridled celebration: Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

And, since I can't resist, here's Jason with his other baby:



*

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Snot Suckers and Mutha Uckers

When we were in Japan last fall, during my first excursion to buy maternity clothes, Jason found this and decided to buy it:




Baby torture device? No! Ingenious snot sucker: insert bulbed tube into baby's nostril and suck heartily on the other tube. Nose contents end up tidily in the little reservoir, not in your mouth!

I used it for the first time the other day, and it worked brilliantly at dislodging two giant boogers. "Save them for the scrap-book!" Jason said. Auden smiled and burbled happily.

So I ended up being prepared for yesterday morning's panic:

Auden woke up around 5:30 in a fit. It was not the usual whimpering in his sleep because he's hungry; this was a full-bore cry, a fightened cry that I hadn't heard before. This cry said, something is really wrong.

He sounded congested, like he had a big gob of phlegm half-way between his sinuses and his throat. He couldn't swallow it and couldn't blow it out, but he was crying and gagging and there was snot and milk coming out of his nose. Big fat tears squirted out of his eyes. I picked him up and he pitched his head back and jerked himself around, like he was trying frantically to get away from the awful feeling.

This is a job for the snot sucker! I thought, amazingly not freaking out in the least. I propped him up on a pillow, got the tube in his nose, and sucked fiercely until the offending mucous came free. With his nasal passages clear again, Auden's cry turned into a back-from-the-brink-of-trauma whimper, while I kissed and cuddled and nursed him back to sleep. Then I inspected and marveled the goo in the tube as only a mother can.

The whole thing took less than two minutes, but man! I will not soon forget that cry. Whew.

And since I so cleverly titled this post, go watch this video and see why Flight of the Conchords is my new favorite (not least because they're on bikes. With helmets).

*

Monday, June 9, 2008

Freud would have a hey-day with my dreams

Some highlights:

When I started taking my prenatal vitamins, I got a little constipated, and dreamed that a Japanese lady was arranging ikebana in my nether-regions.

In my second trimester I dreamed I was making out with Barak Obama. Um, more than once.

A month before Auden was born, I dreamed about giving birth to all manner of strange creatures, including a hunch-back and something that looked like the giant writhing alien-bug in Naked Lunch.

But this one's my favorite:

Just the other night I dreamed that I was trying to get into a night club with my giant diaper bag. The bouncer wouldn't let me in with it, insisting that I bring it back to my car. Just then I realized I was wearing a cloth diaper, with an adult-sized version of Auden's snap diaper cover, and I was WET. Can't I just come in to change really quick? I pleaded. But no.

Maybe I'm identifying a little too much with this diapering situation?

*

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

goodbye, California...

Sunday afternoon we strapped Auden into the bjorn and went on a long walk in Los Penasquitos Canyon.




It was a typical southern California day: wide blue sky, golden hills, relentless sun. We spent most of the walk with our heads in the Midwest, though.

Jason was offered a post-doc position in Milwaukee, so come August we will be packing up and leaving the Golden State for good.


We are thrilled to be leaving behind high rent and the Santa Anas, and are looking forward to thunderstorms, seasons, Lake Michigan, and living much much closer to all the grandparents. Native Californians think we're crazy for voluntarily moving back to a region with weather of any kind, and I'm sure we'll wax nostaligic about 70 degree days in January when we're up to our eyeballs in fleece and scarves and scraping ice off the car, but this Michigan Girl also remembers a certain romance to the cold months.

And, selfishly, I want Auden to grow up shuffling through Autum leaves, going sledding and eating snow off crusty mittens, rejoicing at the first crocuses to poke through in Spring, and luxuriating at the beach in the long days of summer.



I wonder if he will see these photos of his first months and wonder about the palm trees, the impossibly clear skies, the hillsides electrified by purple and pink bouganvillea, and wonder why we chose the Hometown of Schlitz over Our Dreamy California life.

And we will say, You wouldn't have had any character if we'd stayed in San Diego. Also, you would think it's acceptable to wear flip-flops year-round.



Then he'll giggle gleefully and go back to shoveling the driveway.

*

Monday, June 2, 2008

marveling


How can it be?

The days and weeks have been piling up, and suddenly Auden is more than two months old.

Already, the day he was born has retreated in my memory, overplayed, a story of words now rather than visceral sensations. He is plump, smiling, growing more familiar with the world. Things seem utterly normal now -- he wears socks! we go to the grocery store! -- where they used to feel terrifying and sacred. I dress him in tidy little ensembles that belie the messy and primal way he entered into this world; the way we all enter, wet and new and smelling like blood.

Is it not still a miracle? Are we not still close to the source, two months out? But it is less raw, less remarkable somehow. I feel silly pining for those first tender days, especially when there is so much brightness in him now and so much clever mischief brewing -- but I can't help it. I could tell my birth story a hundred more times and still be amazed by it: the way I became a portal, the way all women are marked by this event and carry it with them always. I had not known this, but now I see it everywhere... Older women smile at me and ask about the baby, we nod knowingly, exchanging a quiet pride. I see how they still remember their story, how it transformed them, how they still delight in seeing a new mother emerging, wide-eyed.

I watch TV shows about babies being born, and lord help me, I cry every time.

This, from Annie Dillard, about the Obstetrical Ward:

"There might well be an old stone cairn in the hall by the elevators, or a well, or a ruined shrine wall where people still hear bells. Should we not remove our shoes, drink potions, take baths? For this is surely the wildest deep-sea vent on earth: This is where the people come out."

May it never cease to be amazing.

*

Monday, May 19, 2008

smiles

Robin: I don't mean to, but I've started saying everything in a cutesy voice and saying it twice.

Jason: Like what?

Robin: Like, "Let's change that diaper! Let's change that wet diaper!"
Robin (sing-song, to Auden): Don't I? Don't I do that?

Jason: Heh.

But really, with a face like this, can you blame me?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

pound a week

Okay, I'm blogging at 8am on a Saturday to tell you that there's no way I can possibly tell you all the brilliant and blog-worthy goings-on. The days are still a blur. Auden is smiling now -- great gummy flirty open-mouthed smiles that light me up (even at 4:30 in the morning). And he slept for four and a half hours IN A ROW last night. I've heard stories about this much sleep! Can it finally be true?

I've been going to a breastfeeding support group meeting every week to get out of the house and shoot the shit with other new moms. An added bonus is that I can weigh Auden and see how much milk he's getting at each feeding.

Apparently there is a three-week growth spurt and a six-week growth spurt, where baby is eating almost constantly and gaining quickly. I think Auden never took a break between growth spurts, as it seems to be his style to eat every hour and to put on nearly a pound a week. (!)

The other day he weighed in at 12lbs 10oz -- that's five pounds since birth. I had to dress him in this cute stripey outfit before he busts out of it:



And my good friend Beth came for a visit last weekend. She cooked and washed and displayed great new holds for calming fussy star-bellied sneeches:



Hooray!

Time for coffee!

*

Sunday, May 11, 2008

the human line

From my mama to me to all of you:

The Human Line
by Ellen Bass

After I had carried her those nine months,
Those two hundred and eighty-four days, each
With its sheaf of hours, each hour fanned out
Into minutes, into seconds, as though time had been
Sliced thin as onionskin-

After I'd hauled this cache of cells as it swept
Through a kind of rough evolution, devising
Arms buds and sex buds
And the buds for twenty milk teeth-

And then birthed her, my cervix cranked open,
A rusty hinge. And the pain-
What a tree might feel when lightning splits it
And the two halves fall away-

Then I realized- I'm not proud
To admit this is what it took- that everyone
Was lugged in the sack of a woman's body,
A woman stretched past reason
Or slit with a steel scalpel.

Even if she left that baby right there
Without counting the pearly toes, thumbing
The miniature knuckles, even if she didn't
Look into the face, neutral as Buddha,
Before thirst even. If she was drugged
Or relieved and the baby whisked away, still

She gave this child every intricate bone of both feet,
The hollow vertebrae, tiny liver,
Lungs that fill with air for the first time
And begin, without a lesson,
Bringing this world in and releasing it.

Did Mary feel this when the angel came to her
Holding his useless lily? Not in the surfeit
Of gilt frames where she's poised,
Serene, but those few where the artist knew,
Had seen women already crushed, bowed.
I was standing in the long hospital corridor
When the knowledge entered me.
I didn't want it. It was grief-
Extending back through time
And reaching into the future, all these babies,
All these mothers with their hearts
Beating outside their bodies. And now
I was one of them, lashed to the human line.

*

Thursday, May 1, 2008

diaper free: an update

Since it's now May, I'm led to believe that the very long day and very long night that has elapsed since Auden was born has actually been a month. Happy one month, little bug!

So. I know the question on everyone's mind is: how 'bout that diaper-free? We jumped right in and started the diaper-free discipline within 24 hours of his arrival. We even managed to catch his first couple of poops in the potty -- which was an amazing and miraculous feat to us, the uninitiated (and to my mom, who said she'd have to see it to believe it). Since then it's been hit or miss, pun quite intented.

I'm just glad that despite my high expectations of effortless communication with my newborn, I did also invest in cloth diapers, sassy diaper covers, and more than a couple packs of disposables. We're more diaper-reduced than diaper-free.

Well, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it:




J drew up a score board so we can tally the results of "Potty vs. Diapers" every day. The diapers are unequivocally winning, although I think catching a poop at 4am as I have the past two mornings should be worth way more than one wet diaper.

Yeah, but that's not really the point.

I'm reminding myself that this is a process, and that it will take months... it's exhausting and rewarding, like everything else in this baby adventure. It is seriously gratifying when we get it just right, though, and I'd like to think Auden feels the same -- even when it's his bare bum in the chilly morning air.

[For those of you willing to take the challenge, allow me to recommend "Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene" by Ingrid Bauer, and also some helpful sites like http://www.diaperfreebaby.org/ and http://bornpottytrained.com/]

*

Thursday, April 17, 2008

the unbearable cuteness of being*

I will now shamelessly join rank with countless other new parents who post video of their child doing absolutely nothing:

video

Genius! Hiccups AND sneezes!

*apologies to Kundera

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

these days

(To empathize: Put a 9lb weight in the crook of your arm and go about doing everything with your one free hand. Be constantly amazed that nothing was designed to be done one-handedly. Gush with admiration for the agility and patience of mothers everywhere.)



Oh, these days are exquisite and fleeting and difficult.

Already the first week of Auden's life seems like a blur, a tiny closed-in world of heightened senses and deepening awe. These days are imprinted indelibly in my memory now: awake, bleary, to hear the birds start singing at 5 in the morning; J playing old Tom Waits records, The Smiths, The Pretenders; stroking baby's impossibly soft skin, marveling at his tiny mouth and his many expressions; the smell of my body mingling with his and reminding me every moment (as if I needed reminding!) what momentous event had taken place by way of it... my body.

My mind is mush without sleep, but my body has taken over and propels me instinctively through moments of doubt and exhaustion and unparalleled joy. New motherhood is not a task for thinking.

And everyone says how quickly this time goes, so I am careful not to take any of it for granted. My senses are saturated with all this Living In The Now. Curiously, my sense of time is completely shot, defying linear expectations. It's more like a heavy sphere moving in an elliptical orbit around me -- speeding up, rushing past; slowing in a wide arc; now lingering, hovering on my son's eyelids as they flicker in his sleep. Is it already 4 in the afternoon? Is it too much to know that all of us were privy to such sacred beginnings?

One thing that seasoned parents like to tell parents-to-be is that Everything Will Change. I resented hearing that, especially the hundredth and the five-hundredth time. Yeah, yeah, I thought, everything will change, taking it like a tacky present and pretending to be appreciative. I think what they mean, though, is that You Will Be Changed: you will shed the old you and begin the richly delicate and demanding and painstaking (and sometimes painful) process of becoming a new you.

And indeed I am.

*

Friday, April 11, 2008

birth story

At last, both my hands are free for a moment... here is the story of how Auden came into the world:

Contractions began 2:30am Friday morning. I sat in bed timing them by my alarm clock and just counting the seconds in my head to see how long they were -- roughly 30 seconds, anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes apart. I counted for an hour before I woke J to tell him I was finally in labor.

I really should have gone back to sleep at that point, but I was too excited. J got up and made me some oatmeal; I woke my mom around 4am, and then we were all up, drinking tea and marking the time of the contractions. They were mild enough that I could talk through them, and was still quite comfortable. More than anything, I was relieved to know it was really underway. I called the midwife half an hour later -- much too early, I realize now -- and she told me to let her know when the contractions were really close together or when my water broke.

The morning passed quickly, with contractions coming closer together and lasting longer. I had settled into a seated position with a hot water bottle at my back, and was able to ride out the contractions by moaning through them -- they were intense but manageable. I was sure I was making good progress, and so when I got really emotional and shaky around 2pm we figured I was nearing transition. We decided to pack up and head down to the birth center.

When we got there, there was another birth in progress and the reception area was empty. An assistant came out while I was moaning through another contraction, and got us set up in the upstairs birthing room. J helped me walk around a bit, but it made the contractions more intense and it was getting harder to cope with them. I hadn't eaten since the oatmeal at 3am, but I was nauseous from the pain, and threw up whatever liquid I'd managed to drink. We waited for about an hour, and finally the midwife came in to check on me.

I was only 1cm dilated.

I couldn't help but feel totally discouraged, even though I didn't want to be overly preoccupied with the numbers in that way. I just couldn't believe I'd already done so much and still had such a long way to go. We had to go home; we couldn't stay at the birth center. The midwife told me to take a bath, try to keep hydrated, and that I was doing beautifully. I didn't feel so beautiful.

The drive home was horrible -- both because of the contractions, and because this was not the way it was supposed to happen.

I took a bath when we got home again, which helped ease the pain somewhat, but I didn't stay in long. J was really good about encouraging me to get into different positions. We went outside at one point, to walk around a bit. Every ten steps I would drag him down into a squat with me and practically scream through the contraction. By the second or third one in such a fashion, I was puking in the grass along the path, vaguely embarassed that our neighbors in the student housing complex would see me... it was too hard to keep walking, too hard to squat, all of it was too hard. I was exhausted by that point, and was starting to get panicky. Despite all I'd read about visualizing and opening up and seeing the pain as a powerful force that would bring my baby out, all I wanted was to get away from it. All the coping techniques from our childbirth class? Right out the window. Not that I'd really expected to use them...

I usually fancy myself as someone with a high pain threshold -- all the tattoos, y'know -- but I found myself against the proverbial wall several times, absolutely sure I couldn't go on. I was practically begging for a break... although who could grant such a wish I have no idea. I can't do it, it's too hard, I said, over and over. My mom kept reassuring me, "you are doing it." But I still felt desperate and scared and totally out of control.

Finally, at about 11pm, we called the midwife again, and headed back to the birth center. She checked me again, I had made it to 3cm. I couldn't disguise my disappointment. Is that it? What the f*ck am I going to do when this REALLY gets hard? The midwife offered to break my water, which she said was bulging quite a bit through my cervix with the contractions. She speculated that there was so much fluid that the baby's head couldn't press properly against the cervix to help me dilate more quickly. Yes, yes, do it, I said.

Immediately I felt a whoosh of relief along with the gush of water that came out of me. She checked me again and I had gone right away to 4cm. Halelluia!

I was in the bed at that point, and she told me to alternate from side to side every three contractions or so. I was still moaning (read, screaming) through the contractions, and the midwife suggested that I do "horse lips" instead -- keep my lips loose to keep my cervix loose. My mouth was so dry that it was impossible at first (go ahead, try to do horse lips with a dry mouth), but she insisted. My mom jumped in and did them with me, god bless her. I figured it out by watching her. It really was a better way to get through the pain, and quieter, too.

A little while after midnight, the midwife offered me an analgesic to take the edge off the pain. "You'll still feel the contractions, but they won't be as hard, and you'll be able to get some rest in between." That sounds perfect, I said. I made a mental note to no longer have judgements of women who opt for painkillers during labor. J and my mom were finally able to get some rest, too -- they'd been up with me for the past 24 hours.

The midwife came in periodically to check on me and on the baby's heart rate. At one point I tried to tell her that I was involuntarily bearing down and was that okay? As soon as I said it, though, I was sure the words had come out all wrong. But she understood me, and said it was fine. I feel loopy, I said.

(Later we looked up the drugs that were in the shot she gave me: Stadol, a synthetic opiod, and Phenergan, a sedative & hypnotic that also goes by the street name "zazz," which is an entirely accurate onomatopoeic description of how I was feeling)

So I would fall asleep in the scant minutes between contractions and wake up at their peak. They were still pretty hard, but no longer mind-bogglingly so. I stared at the lights on the ceiling and clenched my hands into fists and flapped my lips furiously to get through each one. I don't know how J slept through it, but I'm glad he did.

Soon enough, the midwife came in to check on me again, and announced she was drawing me a bath. I was still feeling a little out of it from the drugs, but the bath was lovely -- spacious and deep and warm. I continued to doze off, and was even having bizarre little lucid dreams. I would wake up saying something that made perfect sense in the dream, only to realize no one had any idea what I was talking about. Once I said something about having to do horse lips 8 times a day, another time I said something like, "don't have anything better to do..." I tried to explain that I was talking about someone else, not me. Funny.

The next time the midwife checked my cervix, I was dilated to 8cm. I could hardly believe it -- this was the part I thought would be so hard, and here I was floating through it in a warm bath and nonsensical dreams. I was still bearing down periodically, and after a little while the midwife suggested that I try a few pushes in the tub. J got his bathing suit on and joined me in the water, where I tried bearing down purposefully a few times. I wasn't quite getting the hang of it, so the midwife suggested I try some pushes on the toilet. I did that, too, but after a couple we moved over to the bed. That was really where I envisioned pushing the baby out, rather than in the tub.

I was fully dilated, but had a little lip of cervix still in the way. The midwife pushed it back during the next couple of contractions as I pushed through them. By the third one, the lip was back and I could really go for it. My contractions were not coming as often as they had been, but I was still trying to breath through them -- and therefore breathe through the pushing -- as I had been. The midwife told me to hold my breath and push, to really force all my energy down and out. It was pretty scary, actually: this was really it, no turning back. Maybe I wanted to ease into it a little bit, not go too fast, but the midwife coached me to give it all I had with each contraction. "It's going to feel really wrong," she said, getting the baby into the birth canal.

With contractions spaced out a little more, and being beyond exhausted, I kept falling asleep between them, and then I'd wake up and see the midwife and her assistant and my mom all there in front of me, quiet and patiently waiting... I felt a little guilty somewhere in the back of my mind, like, Oh! Dozing on the job! J somehow materialized at my side with a bowl of honey and fed me a few spoonfuls, just to give me a little energy.

I was sort of incredulous that the midwife wanted four or five good pushes with every contraction, but I realized I had to make each one really count. She told me to push into the "ring of fire," which was also scary, but I was so grateful for her guidance. I had no concept of time by then, so it all seemed improbably fast... soon she was saying the next push would be the widest part of the baby's head. Is he crowning? I asked, amazed. Yes! said J. How did I not know?

During the next contraction, I pushed out his entire head, and the midwife encouraged me to keep going -- "one more for the top shoulder, now one more for the bottom shoulder" -- and suddenly he was out, and on my belly, and squalling and sticky with blood and vernix. I put my hands on him and held him immediately, and made a raspy attempt to laugh or cry or moan... but my voice was completely shot from all that had come before. I was glad he was crying so mightily, his little lungs opening up and his skin turning pink -- I was astounded, really, to see him outside of me at last.

He had dark hair, just like I knew he would. He latched on to my breast right away, just like I knew he would. I was ecstatic. I did it.



*

Thursday, April 3, 2008

bliss

What we're calling "blissed out milk face":



Birth story in the works...

*

Sunday, March 30, 2008

welcome to the world



Auden Pascal Danely

born Saturday, March 29th, 2008, at 5:14am, after 27 hours of labor
weighs 7lbs 12oz, measures 20in...

He's gorgeous; we are humbled.

*

Thursday, March 27, 2008

at last!

Halleluia, it's time!

It's 8am and I've been up since 2:30 with contractions coming about five minutes apart. J and my mom are taking turns keeping me fed, hydrated, and comfortable. We'll head to the birth center when things speed up a little, but for now we're home and this pace is manageable and everything feels fine.

I'm so relieved that this is it at last, the waiting is over. (Has it only been a week we've waited?)

Now the real work begins...

*

ha ha

If you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans.

All the magic spells we've been casting have not enticed this baby to enter the world on anything other than his own time. I am still pregnant.

Today we went to the birth center for a non-stress test and a measurement of the amniotic fluid. All is well, baby is active and in plenty of fluid. He just must be really really comfortable. The good news is that I am dilated 1cm and baby is fully engaged. I walk every day, which seems to bring on lots of Braxton-Hicks, and when I'm not walking I'm squirreling around on the yoga ball which also seems to bring them on.

I've exhausted almost all my "labor projects" -- you know, those time-consuming projects that are supposed to occupy a distracted but not totally miserable laboring lady -- including baking, cleaning, and archiving three years worth of letters from J's grandpa to his grandma during his stint as a merchant marine during WWII. He wrote to her every day. Sometimes twice a day.

Still on my list of things to do: iron all of J's shirts. No kidding. I'll probably get to that tomorrow.

I've been on a roller coaster of fretting and then letting go, ad infinitum. My mind is a hallway of mirrors of mental chatter, ranging from the merely obsessive to the curiously morbid -- why didn't anyone warn me of this trickery? My main objective is to come up with things to do every day, so that I'm not mired in the incredulity of not yet having a baby.

But letting go of expectations is much easier said than done. Or at least, it seems to require being done again and again, as I discover expectations hidden within layers of what I thought was letting go (as in: maybe if I fully let go of my desire to have the baby today, that will trigger my labor to start). I've been trying to bargain with god.

Yesterday my mom and I walked out by the Gliderport near Torrey Pines. We watched people coasting their big U-shaped gliders on updrafts from the ocean, some solo and some with passengers, all agile and graceful. Man imitates bird. We sat and watched a while, because we both wanted to see how they take off and land. We saw a couple of aborted attempts, and then finally one guy just walked to the edge of the bluff and stepped off, his vessel immediately lifted on gusts from below. It caught my breath -- how terrifying and exhilerating it must be to fly, to trust your wings and the air beneath them. How simple it looked.

Later on, I imagined that my letting go has to look like that: stepping away from what I think has to happen, and into the current of what is already there. This is faith.

*