Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008/9

Every December 31st, I can't believe it's here already: the changeover from one year to the next. It always seems to have flown by. Until I sit and reflect on the year, and then the months are miles away, barely visible in the distance...

In January, I turned 25. Life was a blur of snowy winter outside and eensy-babyness inside.

In February, one of my closest friends and Westley's honorary aunt came to visit. I learned a new "game."

In March, I quit my job.

In April, I met a fabulous author/blogger/woman, and signed escrow papers with a baby on my lap.

In May, Westley was baptized. I freaked out and stopped going to church for a while.

In June, Westley got a tooth, and I got sick. And then I got sick again. (Westley still hasn't been sick. Not ever. [Knocking on wood like crazy.])

In July, I spent Tuesday afternoons in a moms' group. Worst decision I've made so far as a mom.

In August, Westley started talking to me in actual pre-words that I actually understood! I started singing a lot more.

In September, I quit caffeine, because I am a masochist.

In October, Rob took a week-long vacation, and I wondered if I'd ever have a real job again. Like, the kind that comes with the occasional week-long vacation.

In November, Westley fell into the coffee table and cut his eyebrow. He hasn't stopped bumping and bruising himself since then (which I guess sort of makes up for the never-been-sick thing).

In December, Westley turned one. I felt sad most of the time and wondered if it's possible to suffer from post-partum depression more than a year later (Rob said, "I think that's just regular depression."). I quit caffeine for real. My sweet little boy walked towards me.

In 2009, I will take more pictures of my son ... I will speak kinder words to my husband ... I will eat less and exercise more ... I will think kinder thoughts to myself ... I will figure out what else I want to be when I grow up.

See you in 2009! Happy New Year, all!

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

First Steps

Westley took his first steps on Christmas Eve.

"Aww! Who did he walk to?" my mom asked.

"Umm...no one." I was sitting in the armchair, and Westley walked from the footstool to the couch. Two steps, lurching forward. I didn't even realize what he'd done until he made contact with the couch seat cushion and gripped it hard with both hands. Rob was in the bathroom.

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Five years ago last Friday, Rob and I met face-to-face for the first time. I was wearing some horrible pinstriped jeans, and he was wearing a polyester canary-yellow tie. We both dress a little better now.

We had been writing back and forth for three weeks, sharing dumb jokes and movie recommendations. I was at school, hating Shakespeare. Rob was high on flu medicine and watching romantic comedies. The trip idea was strange and sudden, a major leap forward in our bizarre, not-yet-established-but-oddly-serious relationship. He would be spending the week after Christmas with me and my family while I was home for winter break. We'd spoken on the phone once--briefly--when my mother and I went to pick him up at LAX. I was more nervous than I've ever been in my life. When he got close enough to say hello I forced myself to take two steps forward and hug him. To see if he was real.

We slept in the same room, in twin beds separated by a screen that used to belong to my grandmother.

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After taking those few first steps, Westley took a break on Christmas and didn't walk in front of anyone. Then, on Boxing Day, the walking was back. He bounced back and forth from Rob to my mom, lurching forward like Frankenstein's monster. He walks really well as long as he can hold an adult finger in each hand, but his independent walking is difficult, an unpleasant necessity to keep from falling.

He was toddling around the living room with my mother's assistance as Rob and I were getting ready to leave for the evening.

"Bye-bye, Mommy! Bye-bye, Daddy!" my mom said on Westley's behalf before offering him an explanation. "Mommy and Daddy are going to celebrate their anniversary."

"We're going to try to remember why we liked each other in the first place," I clarified.

"Exactly!" My mom often takes my jokes semi-seriously. "That's important, because without the two of you, he wouldn't be here!"

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Rob and I have lots of anniversaries. The day Rob first wrote to me, the day we first met face-to-face, our first date, our first date that felt like a date, our wedding anniversary, our actual wedding anniversary, the date of our marriage blessing... We could probably come up with one for every month, if we worked at it.

The first meeting seems like the most important date, to me. Meeting Rob changed the shape of my path and the direction of my thoughts. Having a partner, someone I could be comfortable with, was suddenly a possibility instead of a fleeting dream. It was exciting and terrifying, and I was sure I could never make it work. I wasn't sure I wanted to make it work, even after thinking it wouldn't happen.

But, as we spent time together, it turned out that we really could like each other. And we could mess up with each other and take each other back. I could fall forward in some pathetic walking-motion, and Rob would be there to catch me.

We celebrated this year by going to see You Can't Take it With You. It seemed sort of meaningful, since it's one of the two plays we've both performed in (in different productions, of course). Neither of us remembered it very well, but I thought that it was especially fitting for the anniversary of our first meeting, since Rob met my family at almost the exact same time he met me. However, we're not the new couple around whom all the chaos revolves any more. We're the married couple, living in the midst of the craziness as we contribute to it with our candy-making and xylophone music and printing press and floundering attempts at ballet.

Of course, we've moved ahead of the characters in the play. We've gone ahead and had a baby, and he will soon be running circles around us.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

He's a Kid, Let Him In

My house has been filled with cookies for the past four days. Rob has been baking up a storm. In fact, he's baking right now, as I write this. It's out of control.

Tonight we had dinner with my parents, and brought--what else?--cookies for dessert. Westley watched us eat them quietly, and I broke off a piece of mine before he thought to reach for it. As I handed him the brown-sugary half moon, I realized that he'd never had a cookie before.

"That's a cookie," I told him.

He took a big bite and made a "what the--?" face and looked at Rob.

Rob did what he always does when Westley takes too big a bite of something soft, and offered him a sip from the little juice glass of soy milk my mom always sets out for Westley.

"There ya go, dude! Milk and cookies!" my dad realized excitedly. "Now he's a real kid."

As though to celebrate his sudden real-kiddedness, Westley took his cookie piece, dunked it in his little glass of soy milk, and took a bite.

This is not a learned behavior. I'm almost certain that Westley has never seen anyone dunk a cookie. I don't dunk cookies (all those soggy crumbs in the bottom of the glass? Bleh!), and Rob waits until Westley goes to bed before breaking out his favorite ABCs. I can only assume that this is instinct. My father is more correct than he realizes, and that cookie-dunking knowledge is an important developmental milestone on the road to true "kid" status. Westley is becoming a kid. He already blows raspberries. I should be the lookout for other kid-essential skills.

When he pops his cheek, I'll know for sure.


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George Carlin has been gone for six months already, and I still miss him.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snowed In

When I woke up this morning with Westley sucking fervently at my chest in his sleep, I heard someone rustling around in the kitchen/living room area. Rob was home, because he couldn't back his car out of the driveway. The steep incline was frozen and slick underneath several inches of newly-fallen snow. You can't go to work if the car slides forward when you put it in reverse.

I've never been snowed in before. I'm from Los Angeles. My idea of winter involves wearing long sleeves and a hat (maybe) and remembering to close the windows at night.

I've lived in Seattle for over three years, and I'm still not used to winter here. Which is totally weird, because I went to college in Western Massachusetts, which can get pretty effing freezing, especially at night. I think I thought of snowy winter as a temporary situation. Four years is not a long time in the grand scheme of life, so I never really learned how to cope with winter. My only warm boots have a three-inch heel.

I had no idea what to do with myself today. I put on said boots and pushed Westley around the neighborhood in the stroller. Westley looked like a little blue snowman in his secondhand snow pants, jacket and mittens (which my mom found just yesterday), and I got cold long before he did. Only his nose was chilly when we got home; the rest of him was toasty warm. I let him push the stroller around the living room for a while, and he played with my exercise ball, and then there was nothing to do. I overate. Rob baked cookies. I sat and watched the snow for a long time, and felt like I was a long way from home. I've written about this before: nothing makes me feel odd and out-of-place quite like snow.

Rob says that these cold, cold winters are unusual, that it didn't used to be like this when he was a kid, that this is climate change. But he remembers listening to the radio for information about school closings due to snow. I only experienced one school closing growing up--due to earthquake.

Westley will grow up with snow. So did my mother, who was born in Denver, Colorado. I'll have to get her to teach me how to do this. (How do you get a toddler to keep his hat on, never mind mittens?) I guess you just make it as warm as you can: light the fire, pile on the blankets, make enchiladas for dinner. You drink tea and decaf coffee and hot cocoa and pet the cats and plug in your tiny table-top Christmas tree. You read board books with the baby and give him two baths and make out with your husband during nap time.

You sit and watch the snow, thankful to be home.

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I'd love to post a picture of the Winter Wonderland going on right outside my door, but my camera is busted beyond repair. Apparently, my little Canon point 'n' shoot could not stand up to being sat on by my 22-pound son.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Suck and Run

For a while there, it looked like Westley was going to wean himself. I, frankly, was happy to let him do it, because...well, breastfeeding hasn't been the easiest thing for me, and for a while there I kinda really HATED it, actually. (I know breastfeeding is supposed to be lovely and bond-y and mother-baby-communication-y, but it just didn't work that way for us. That's probably the makings of another post, though.) I was all ready for Westley to wean. He's one. He's eating tons of food most of the time, and has almost no interest in nursing in the evenings. When Rob and I were away on our mini-vacation, Westley was more interested in eating breakfast than taking the bottle of pumped milk that I'd left with my parents.

So I thought Westley was weaning. But he's really snacking.

I'm no longer the dairy, but the human sippy cup. Throughout the day, Westley will indicate that he wants to nurse, usually by pointing to or patting the nursing pillow. Sometimes, if I'm sitting, he'll pat my lap or try to reach up and grab my chest. I'll pick him up, get him and myself and my clothes all arranged, and then he'll nurse...for about five seconds. Then he rolls off my lap and cruises or crawls away for a few minutes. He waits until I've hooked my bra, fixed my shirt, and moved the pillow out of the way before he comes over and asks to nurse again. This goes on for a good chunk of the day, if we're at home. He doesn't do it in public, which is a blessing because he's fast, and when he rolls away from me and does his little waltz pose before flipping feet-first onto the ground, I'm totally exposed to everyone.

It was cute the first couple of times he did it. Suck, suck, suck, "Whew! Thanks, Mom. Just needed to wet my whistle. Bye!" But this has gone on for more than a couple of weeks now, and it's starting to grate on my nerves a little bit. It's surprisingly tiring, and all of that latch on, latch off business gets uncomfortable fast.

I think this must be a side-effect of being on the verge of walking. Westley is so busy all the time with growing and learning things, it's too much trouble to lie down to eat. I wonder if One Step Ahead makes a beer hat for babies: two bottles on either side with a long straw and a breast-shaped mouthpiece.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Bad Day

This was the first really bad day we've had since Westley turned one. For a week, it was like he'd received some memo on the whole baby/toddler changeover and had decided to take the whole thing very seriously. He was handling the routine very maturely, and was even downright angelic at times.

I'm not sure what changed, but it started today at 3:45 AM. He woke up and wailed. He's added another dimension to his crying--before he launches into his mournful sobbing routine, there's a loud shriek, almost like a scream. It sounds like someone's choking him. Rob was able to soothe him, and he slept for a little while as long as Rob didn't make any attempts to leave the room.

It was the perfect beginning to a perfectly awful day.

When Rob brought Westley to me, Westley wanted to nurse forever--I was sore and starving when he finally detached from me and crawled off the bed. He cried when I closed the bathroom door and took his pajamas off, and wouldn't eat the two bites of baby muesli into which I had mixed vitamin powder and fortified almond milk. I got in a fight with my mother, who actually sent me to my fucking room, like I'm a fucking child instead of a mother to my own child...

It took forever to get the boy to nap, and when he did nap he slept so long we were late getting out of the house and I forgot to pack soy yogurt for both of us. There was rain, and traffic, and nowhere to park, and nowhere to change a diaper when we got to Rob's office for lunch. Westley cried and fussed in the car on the way home, and dumped his emergency, non-perishable snack that I keep in the car all over himself. More traffic. The bridge was up. Construction and more traffic. Westley was crying, doing his choking-shriek, and I screamed at him. It scared him and he cried harder for a while, until we turned down the hill and he seemed to know where we were.

He played on the floor, and I tired to read but he grabbed my book and lost the page. Finally, I gave up and just sat, and after a while Westley cruised over to me and patted my lap to be picked up. I held him, and he crawled up my chest and just rested his head on my shoulder and relaxed. He shifted his position after a while, and I watched his eyes go from wide awake to sleepy-but-alert to Closed, Gone Dreamin'. I held him for five minutes before putting him in his crib.

Rob called while Westley was napping to say he'd be late home from work. There was an emergency, they needed him on a project. I wanted to cry--I really needed him home, our day was in a state of emergency--but I remembered that Westley was sleeping, and that he'd fallen asleep on me. Westley was over it already. I was feeling like a bad mother for yelling and fretting and not being able to get my son to take his vitamins, but Westley was fine. He was probably toasty warm and dreaming about walking.

I told Rob it was fine and that I'd see him when he got home, and then I made black bean soup for dinner.

I can't stay mad at Westley, even on the baddest of days. He never stays mad at me longer than a few minutes, and then he's on to the next thing. He so lives in the moment. I want that. I had chalked today up as a bad day before we were even home from lunch. But my son came and asked to cuddle with me while I was still being miserable about living with a one-year-old boy instead of a perfect little gentleman. He raised my crappy-ass day up into something beautiful in a matter of minutes.

No day when my sweet boy falls asleep on me can really be that bad.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

A Year and Amazed

Dear Westley Oliver,

You are one year and five days old today.

I remember your fifth day on the planet (your one-seventy-third birthday) as a few photo-sharp moments surrounded by blur. It was the first time you left the house. We took you to the doctor's office. ...And where was he born? "At home." A year later, it actually feels like home. Mostly because you're in it. We're a family now, hot-cold-just right, like three little bears in our basement apartment-cave.
I was always pretty sure I'd have a child some day, but I never imagined it would be you. You are a little punky-pie, a cuddle-bug force of nature ready to blow my house down with your joy and energy. You've been that way since you were inside me. One evening when I just sitting quietly, only a little pregnant, I had it flicker through my mind that you were my son. I put my hand below my belly button and some tiny, joyous vibration said, "Hi, I'm a boy!" Later, I dreamt about uncovering my tightly swaddled baby boy in the middle of a giant bed. I didn't know what to do, because I didn't think I was ready for a son. But it didn't matter, because you were ready for me.

You were born on Saturday morning before the sun came up, and then it snowed.

I couldn't believe that I was your mother. I didn't feel how I thought a mother is supposed to feel. Instead, I felt a huge force, pushing down on me and grounding me to the earth. I had to be strong. I was incredibly, entirely responsible for a precious life--your survival, happiness, everything--and I was afraid of what would happen if I did something wrong. Especially since I didn't know yet what "right" was for you.
But you wanted to be with me anyway, and you forgot about the times that I messed up. You always take me back, and I feel so blessed. Because you're the coolest little man I know. Really. There are lots of people that I love, but I'm CRAZY about you and only you. Sometimes I just have to hug you and hold on as long as you let me, just to remind myself that you're real.

Now I look at you and wonder if it's really been a year. It went by so fast, like everyone said it would, and sometimes it seems like you're moving faster than I am. I've been counting the months since you were born--because baby-time goes in months--but I feel like I miscalculated something. Nine months seems about right, but twelve? Not possible. You were just a tiny baby, swaddled and propped up against my legs, weren't you?

But when I think back over the months with you, all the holidays are accounted for, and all of the birthdays and anniversaries. It really has been a year.
I'm incredibly different now from the person I was before you were born. In fact, if you knew the person I was, I don't think you'd like me very well. I never charged down supermarket aisles, making race-car noises for my shopping cart. I didn't make nearly enough silly faces. I only occasionally noticed neighborhood dogs, or pointed out the many colors of things, or blew raspberries. Your delight reminds me to stop and be delighted, too. You've taught me so much about slowing down, being patient, experiencing joy. I know now what it means to cherish something.

I just don't know how I got so lucky.

MaMay used to tell me that I would understand when I had a child. It was never anything specific that I would understand, and it was almost a threat: "Someday, you'll be the mom, and then you'll understand." I hated that. How could it be that there was some secret knowledge only parents got? But I think I'm starting to understand, now...
I wanted to write you this letter on your actual birthday. I've been thinking about writing it since you were brand new. I wondered what I would have to say to you when we'd been together for a year. Now, I'm just so overwhelmed by everything that has changed in the past twelve months that it all seems too incredible to have actually happened to me in real life. In real time.

I think I'm always going to be a little bit behind you. I'm still getting used to the idea of this time, but you're owning being one year old. You love it! You're on the verge of walking and talking. You know the kitties by name and even try to play fetch with Ursula. You love to be outside; if you could be outside all the time every day, you'd be so happy you wouldn't know what to do. You want to touch everything, see it up close and find out how it works. You love to push buttons. Almost all music makes you dance, but you bounce up and down in time with Grandad's classical picks.

I'm contantly trying to catch up with you and all the things you can do. Sometimes you move so fast, and I'm afraid you'll get hurt before I even realize what's happened. I know I can't always protect you, but I'm going to keep trying to match your pace, because I don't want to miss a minute of you, duder. Besides, if I'm a little bit behind you, you know I've got your back.
Happy birthday, my sweet milky-milk monkey-breath.
Loving you bunches-and-bunches-to-the-moon,
Your Mommy

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Birthday Eve

Because it's a leap year, Westley's 365th day on the planet came one day before his actual birthday. Which I guess makes it okay that we celebrated yesterday instead of today.

Rob's parents hosted, which was a little odd because their house is full of expensive electronics and clean carpet, and is not especially baby-resistant. Vegan cupcakes took over the dining room, and there were balloons. Oh, there were balloons...


Of course the balloons came home with us, and when Westley saw them this morning, his eyes lit up and he said, "Ooooooooooo!"

A very happy birthday, indeed.
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