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It’s been so long since I’ve done a list here, and yet listing is one of the things I do best!

Things I have read that have stayed with me:

…. my friend Shari’s blog post on teaching and Zeitoun.

…. my friend Addie’s blog post on Last Tango in Paris and the lifelong damage it did to Maria Schneider.  I can’t stop thinking about Addie’s points.  How awful to have your most humiliating moment bring lifelong notoriety that dominates even your obituary.  How desperately sad.

…. the list of 2012 books to look forward to.

…. Ryan’s post on the difficulties of Christmas with a special needs child, and how important it is to be understanding.

….this story about Gilda Radner and Bill Murray, from the Old Love tumblr.

…. this quote has been rolling around in my head, especially the bolded part (my bold), even though I’m not sure I would agree with the quote in its entirety.  Found on the OnBeing Blog, which I love:

“Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we’d be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe.”

Franz Kafka, from a letter to Oskar Pollak dated January 27, 1904.

A New Year

Matthew received Bose noise-cancelling headphones for Christmas, which as anyone who has ever lived in a small home knows, is quite the gift.  This is especially amazing for me as I have a horrible inability to be able to concentrate on things if there is a TV on in the room- and there nearly always must be for Matthew’s work.  Yet, voila! Headphones! And I can listen to music and watch YouTube videos and procrastinate even here, in my writing.

2011 was in many ways the year of Archer.  The year of readying for a baby, the year of immersing myself in his sweet baby smell and getting to know him as a person and myself & Matt as parents, and the year without sleep.  Tomorrow he is 8 months old, and as always, it seems as though he has always been here, and still I cannot believe he is so big!  Maybe it’s not really that it seems that he was always here, but rather, in looking back, I see that he was always on his way.

I have been thinking on 2012 all day, today, day one of the New Year.  Andrea Scherer, of the Superhero Journal (one of my favorite blogs EVER) and co-founder of Mondo Beyondo, has a practice of picking a word for each year.  What is my word for 2012?  I’m not yet sure.

This photo, by Parker Fitzgerald (via Design is Mine, highly recommended blog)

* This column on hazing by Charles M. Blow.

* This new tumblr (to me), Old Love.

* This hilarious post on Love Actually, and all of the reasons to hate- and secretly love- it.

* Great things to be learned from Home Alone on how to be alone from the awesome magazine I’m slightly obsessed with, Rookie.  All the teenage girls and beyond in your life should be reading it.

* This story on Martin Ginsburg, his love of cooking and the cookbook Supreme Court Justice spouses published in his memory.

 

Priorities

I used to have long pauses in my blogging and then not know how to begin writing again, how to explain all that happened between the dates and how that had shaped where I was now and what led me to start writing again.  Sometimes I would try to do a brief recap, and sometimes I would jump in with both feet.  There’s a quote out there about how no one wants to read the traditional ‘sorry for not writing more, I’ve been so busy’ blog posts, and I think that’s true.  But sometimes I think it matters where you’ve been while you’ve been quiet: whether you’ve been lost in your own head, or too consumed by the world to have time to process anything.

Archer is seven months old.  He is such a light in our (Matthew’s and my) world, and I suspect some of the other worlds around in him as well.  I try to remember these days the best I can and repeat to myself, “The days are long, the years are short.”  I kiss the bottoms of his smooth feet, and his neck under his many chins, all of which taste like apples.  I drink in his laughter and smell his head.  How could I have known I would love being a mother this much?  How could I have known this was everything I have ever wanted and did not know the name for?

I am holding on until the holiday break, and there are not enough hours to do everything I want to for Archer’s first Christmas season.  I realize other women like being working moms, and perhaps I would (more) if I had job I was fully passionate about, but I really just want to spend my days at home.  I have visions of the kind of mom I want to be, the things I want to do Archer and the future, hazy as-yet-unconceived ghost children, and so many of the things I want to do are small, everyday things, and yet I worry I will not make the time if my anxiety continues unchecked.  I worry I will not remember what I actually want to be doing and will only be consumed with thoughts of dishes, laundry and unvacuumed floors.

I do not know if this is only tied to working (which is when my anxiety began to really take on a constant buzzing of anywhere from 8-10 on a 1-10 scale), or extended exhaustion, or if this is postpartum depression mixed in with my usual… condition.  Or perhaps I’m just hormonal right now as well.  I feel like I have all of these thoughts in my head and no where to PUT them.  I feel like there is so much pain or suffering in the world I’m raw to much of the time, and single stories won’t leave my mind.  Should I list these thoughts?  And yet part of the reason I don’t is that I know there is someone out there, somewhere, likely to be offended or hurt, and that is the last thing we need more of in the world.

When baby Lisa went missing from Kansas City, I couldn’t turn away from the news.  (She, or her body, has not yet been found.)  Matthew asked what he could do for me, and I said to remind me to pray.  To meditate on wishing comfort, safety, and peace for others is the only way I have found to have some small measure of peace for myself, and to try to put a matter too big for my small hands into the trust of God and the universe.

Sometimes I still wish I'd named my son Neil Patrick Harris

In watching our DVDs of “How I Met Your Mother” the other night, one of the interactions struck me.  Ted was telling Robin that when you date someone, it’s like taking a course on them and continually amassing knowledge of that other person (and that when you break up, there is a trove of things you know that are no longer useful), and I realized I’ve had the same thought about becoming a mother to Archer.  Day by day, I’m continually learning about him and what he likes and does not like, except I’m having to learn it in a different way than I’m used to.  He can’t verbally tell me what he wants, so I go by trial and error, or intuition, or fumbling through possibilities clumsily until I hit on something that- quite by accident- is exactly right.  And so many of these things would have been easier if I had just done what works for him from the start instead of trying to do what I think I’m supposed to be doing.

At this very moment, he’s sleeping soundly against my chest in the sling while I- ta da!- have both hands free to type, and he’s been sleeping for more than an hour.  It’s not new knowledge that he’s a cuddler or will sleep forever on a person but wake in five minutes when you lay him down.  He’s been this way since he was born.  Still, for the past few weeks I’ve been railing against his will and trying to get him to take a long nap in his crib or bassinet or basically anywhere not on me.

A Snuggler From the Start

I’ve thought he needed to learn to sleep on his own, and I’ve constantly tried to solve the problem of why he won’t stay asleep in his various beds: maybe there’s too much light, maybe there’s not enough noise, maybe he’s becoming unwrapped or dropping the pacifier.  I’ve worked on making the rooms darker.   I’ve turned on the bathroom fan and the white noise app on the iPhone.  I’ve swaddled him again, put the binky back in his mouth, picked him up and rocked him back to sleep only to lay him down again and have him awake again.  I’ve ordered books on sleep habits and wondered what was wrong with my child that he would only catnap.

This entire time I’ve been resisting the truth: Archer sleeps much better against me (or Matthew).  This is what he likes, and perhaps on some level, what he needs.  And so I’ve broken out the sling today and have stopped worrying about where he is supposed to be sleeping, and let him sleep where he actually will nap.  Right now it seems so simple but it hasn’t been at all.

It has occurred to me before that I should make a list- or take notes to continue with the class analogy- of all that I’ve learned about Archer and keep adding to it as we go along, but I haven’t done so yet NAMELY BECAUSE I’VE BEEN DUMBLY WRESTLING WITH AN OVERLY EXHAUSTED BUT TOTALLY AWAKE CHILD WHO WON’T SLEEP LAYING DOWN.  Never is it more clear than now that I do need to be writing down what I have learned because I am very likely to forget it in moments of desperation or sleep deprivation.

A boy who knows What He Wants- clearly a Taurus

Here is what I know about Archer:

  • He is insanely snuggly.  He would prefer to be held to just about anything and loves to burrow into a chest.  If he is upset, there’s nothing better to do than swaddle him and hold him close to you while taking deep, slow breaths, as he’ll start to match his breathing to yours.
  • He likes baths, so if he is crying in one, it is because the water is too hot.
  • He is happiest right after eating- especially if he eats while only half awake and then wakes up with a full belly.  This is when he does most of his smiling and laughs (yes, already!), and I often feel bad that his grandparents sometimes miss these moments because they leave while he eats so I can nurse him privately.  He’ll be really happy and alert for a bit and this is when it’s awesome to spend time talking to him because after about 20 minutes he’ll quiet down and be good to sit in the bouncy chair or start fussing and be ready to go to sleep.
  • He loves to be sung to.  There’s a lot of Barenaked Ladies and Beatles in our world, but any song will do.
  • He will stop fussing half of the time if you are calm and happy and glad he’s awake; he too will realize that it is okay he woke up.
  • He has fallen asleep on both walks we’ve taken with him in the Ergo, but he’s very quiet and alert when outside on the swing.  Nature seems to soothe him.  Either that, or I’m giving my child heat exhaustion.
  • He loves to look up.  At my parents’ house, he made best friends with the wagon wheel light fixtures and would coo at them.  Here he looks at the ceiling fans and skylights.  His Popa (Poe-pa), my dad, bought him a constellation turtle, and it was the perfect gift because he’ll look at the lights on the ceiling when he’s awake at night.  (It’s also the perfect gift because it provides just enough light for me to maneuver at night without having to turn on a lamp.)
  • He loves his hands.  He has always loved his hands, and would prefer to sleep with one by his face (if only he didn’t whack himself with it and wake himself up).  His hands are also totally reflective of his mood- if he’s got his hands open, he’s relaxed; if they’re fisted, he’s getting tense or upset.

Oh, the Wonder of Hands!

  • He’s a fairly happy kiddo by default, so if he’s crying there is usually something fixable whether it’s to change the diaper, burp him, wrap him up and let him go to sleep, or feed him.  Whichever it is, he usually knows what he wants and will settle once you take care of it.  Just about the only thing that cannot be fixed is the hiccups, which vary from annoying him to downright ticking him off.

It’s amazing how much he adores me- and is thoroughly taken with his daddy- even as I’ve been slow to figure out that it is me who is the one supposed to be doing the learning.  Archer already knows what he needs; he’s just waiting for me to listen.

In the meantime, he’d really like to just take a nap already and stop being put in a bed.

I used to think of myself as someone comfortable with quiet, or at least certain kinds of it.  What a delusion!  I avoided quiet when I lived alone by always having music playing or a DVD in (I didn’t have cable); I often chat with the cat or dog while I putter about the house, or I try to talk to my husband all the while knowing he is in a different room and likely cannot hear me; and I am easily irritated by a ticking clock when it is the only sound I can hear.  I realize all of this now, as I have never so appreciated quiet as I do now that my son has arrived.

I find myself turning off the DVDs that are normally on in the background, or hitting pause on iTunes, and taking moments to let my head clear whenever he is sleeping.  I listen for his breathing.  I might have done anyway this as a mother, but I know I am especially attuned because we were so focused on it during his first few days, and then in the days after even when he was finally home from the hospital.  Was his breath coming too quickly?  Did it sound labored? Would he slow his breathing on his own?  And always the fear, even now, that he might stop.

So when he breathes slowly and deeply in a restful sleep (rather than his fitful catnaps), I savor the sound and offer up a small prayer of gratitude.  In the chaos of early motherhood, and inability to accomplish anything except caring for my child, I have found a way to meditate as I used to with yoga.  It’s no longer my own breath I focus on in these stolen moments, but when I open my eyes, I’m centered enough to rejoin the world and all of its noise- including a babe awaking.

My Archer

It has been so long since I have written here that I hadn’t even yet written about being pregnant (though I was about 7 weeks at the time of my last post), and now I have my 7-week-old son sleeping beside me.  Actually now he is trying to wake up beside me, and as I soothe him back to sleep, I am reminded of how grateful I am.  But now I feel as though I’m starting to come out of a deep haze I’ve been in since the last week of April, and I am trying to work my way back to putting my life into words.

There were lots of reasons I didn’t write about being pregnant.  I started off thrilled to discover the news, and yet terrified of telling the world.  I wanted to hold it to my chest to ward off pain in case anything happened.  It had taken so long that I couldn’t quite believe it was true, and then couldn’t believe it would continue to be true and not a brief, fleeting possibility of a being.  I couldn’t fully revel in the joy as some part of me believed it would be tempting fate.  Matthew was openly thrilled and didn’t understand my hesitation and slowness with sharing.  After a few weeks I started to have “morning sickness” (though mine was in the evenings), and so sickness and exhaustion consumed me, and I did not write.

But mostly, I did not write because I did not know what was coming.  Now I know it was my Archer.

I’ve realized I want to remember things from those 39 weeks when I shared my body with my child, and I am trying to process the birth and his early days in the world in NICU.  I may have to work backward to work forward, I have decided, and these stories will come in snippets as I am able to put two hands to the keyboard.

Until all of the words work their way to the surface, however, these are the things I know at this moment: I have a son, and a family, and it feels like this was always meant to be.  I’ve truly never been so content.