Friday, July 31, 2015

this moment: little hearts

THIS MOMENT: a Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember.

I found heart-shaped sea glass and this heart-shaped shell within two hours.
I think the ocean wants me to stay.


I can see the toddler my baby is becoming.
It wrecks me and it is the greatest thing I've ever seen.

'this moment' idea from natalie over at natalie creates.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Anything But Ordinary: #WholeMama Prompt

Every day, something like 350,000 babies are born.

One way or another, they come into the world - through unmedicated or medicated births, C-sections planned and unplanned. They'll arrive in hospitals and at home, sometimes in a midwife's living room or in a pool, in bathtubs or in beds. They might be born within four walls or out under the stars or in the shade of a tree. Mothers, with their partners by their side, or their mom, a sister, maybe three local women or best friends... or sometimes, heart-wrenchingly, no one at all.

The babies are born.

It's an utterly ordinary experience.

While you are carrying your baby, there are over three hundred thousand other women walking around on Earth who will have a baby the same day you do. Odds are good that a large percentage of you are touching your stomachs to feel the little kicks at the exact same second, each of you standing in a very different place - in Norway or Kenya, Malaysia or the United States. A few of you, in your very different lives, pause at the exact same second when a little foot jams itself up your ribcage so far you feel it in your throat.

You lie awake at night while your baby does the rumba next to your lungs and somewhere, in China, a woman tries to straighten her back in broad daylight while her baby does the same.

It is, at its heart, completely ordinary.

There are over 7 billion people walking around alive today, and each of them was born, under very different or very similar circumstances, whether in joy or in tragedy or in both all mixed up together in hurt and love and horror and loss. I know women who have given birth to stillborn babies - on that day, something like 15,000 women around the world were doing something that should be the heart of joy and became instead the depths of grief. They each felt utterly alone as they simultaneously entered the worst kind of sisterhood.

It's ordinary, giving birth - even the tragedy of the loss, in the grand scheme of history, is essentially ordinary.

It doesn't feel ordinary.

It feels like life itself, and life is anything but ordinary. The knitting together of cells that reproduce with dizzying speed, dividing and dividing and dividing, feels sacred, even as your hips hurt and you're bumping into cabinets with a gigantic stomach that doesn't look pregnant yet as much as it looks like you've been eating too many burritos.

It feels like Genesis.

Let there be life - and also toenails.

To be home to stem cells declaring themselves to be a liver, a spinal column, fingernails or shinbones is to be creation walking,. You are the advent of life itself while you daydream about taquitos and jalapeno potato chips or cry because you can no longer see your toes. The way those first movements feel like air bubbles just under your skin, then they begin to feel like some little fish swimming in there, then you realize your baby is attempting to use your lungs and kidneys as their very own bounce house - is to feel the result that came from simple cellular division.

The potential inherent in Something inside of you telling something else, "You will Be."

When you stop being able to get out of bed without assistance, there are thousands of other women who are also discovering complex leveraging systems in order to stand, too. Thousands of women with swollen feet and aching joints and learning that "glowing" just means "so soaked in sweat that you feel like you've become home to endangered wetlands rather than a child".

Hundreds of thousands of women every day are waking up to the day they will meet their newest child face to face, hear the strangest hoarse little cries. Look into little eyes for the first time, maybe feel the impossibly fast birdlike heartbeat under palms spread across a chest only just learning to breathe, and realize that they will never, ever sleep again.

Or maybe they won't feel that heartbeat, hear that voice. Maybe something will go wrong.

That will be shared, too.

The extraordinary, ordinary truth of motherhood is that even the miracles and the tragedies are shared.

We carry each other, even though we will likely never meet.

As a backlash against what is likely the overexposure of so many mothers in the internet, we are often told to stop dwelling on motherhood, that having a baby isn't really anything to be proud of, "millions of people are having babies all the time". Stop navel-gazing about it, nobody cares except other moms maybe and not even them. That it's essentially meaningless because it happens so often, so constantly, because it's a thing it is assumed people will do, so it's not that important, it's just a thing you did.

Well, that's true and it isn't true at all.

Becoming a mother is just a thing I did, the way that becoming a father is just something Jason did one day when he and I had a baby. The day of my daughter's birth is just a day, one she shares with 350,000 other babies. People she will grow up and grow old alongside without actually meeting more than the tiniest fraction of them.

That day is one I share with 350,000 other mothers, around 700,000 parents who met their baby the same day I met mine. I was just another woman and Jason was just another man meeting just another baby.

Just an ordinary day.

It was a day on Earth where I and three hundred thousand other women had never been so tired, so abjectly and completely exhausted in our entire lives. All of us breathed that fatigue as one person. All of us, one way or another, were mothers in a new way that day - whether with the first child or the seventh or the tenth. It was a day where three hundred thousand husbands, wives, midwives, sisters, mothers, partners, and lovers listened to us cry that we could not do it and held our hands or our legs or our hair while we did.

700,000 people looked at each other and whispered, "We will never sleep again."

Sure, it was ordinary.

Three hundred fifty thousand women will sing babies who are exactly one week away from their first birthdays to sleep in over six thousand different languages in the 24 hours that comprise July 29th.

Utterly ordinary.

Anything but.

Whole Mama

Today's post is my third while participating in the #WholeMama linkup. You can find the linkup for this week's theme, "Ordinary", here on Esther Emery's blog. More information on what #WholeMama is all about can be found here. My other posts as part of the linkup or just inspired by the theme are SpacePrayer, and A Supermom is a Sleep-Deprived Mom.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Kindness of Strange Grandmothers

 A post on Stress and Stars blog: The Kindness of Strange Grandmothers

I won't say I depend on the kindness of strangers. I'm no Blanche Dubois, Naive Southern Belle of Classic Theater Fame - although I'm going to guess at least a few people reading this have no idea who I'm talking about.

That's okay, I spend a good portion of my day staring blankly at people who reference various commercials or TV shows or even musicians. I used to know these things, I swear.

Now I just throw out weird literary references like smokescreens and then make my escape.

While I'm generally cautious at best with strangers (especially strangers who feel like they can knock on my door and expect me to actually answer it, I'm looking at you weird guy who offered to powerwash our house), I have been known to rely heavily on grandmothers.

This is a basic truth of life - everywhere you go, there will be grandmothers. Those grandmothers cannot stand idly by while someone catches their death of cold out there or hasn't had a snack in four hours or needs to comb their hair a bit more often, young lady.

A couple of months ago, Jason and I were fighting off simultaneous strep throats because the universe hates us and neither of us has been exposed to daycare germs since we were daycare kids twenty years ago, and we ran out of chai.

In our house, this constitutes DEFCON 3 - it's definitely cause for alert, but not quite alarm (unless one of our cars breaks down and we have to go whole days without chai, in which case we definitely start sounding the sirens of imminent disaster) and it was imperative that I hit up a store for more that day on my lunch break.

Near to where I work is a little Indian grocery store. It's actually within walking distance, which is nice, since it let me pretend to be a more physically active person than I truly am. "Oh, me? Just walking to the grocery store. That's right. I walk places. On purpose."

Although, this being late May, it also wasn't 93 freaking degrees by 10 am in the sunlight. If we were to run out of chai today, I'd drive, because sunlight is bad and I seriously spend four months every year asking myself and everyone around me why I was insane enough to move to the South in the first place (then spend fall, winter, and early spring basking in 65 degree temperatures and answering my own question).

Now, the chai we normally buy is cheapo stuff from Walmart - the chai from this blog post, actually - and is one of the cheapest available at about $2 - $3 for a box of twenty tea bags. I was hoping to stay within around $5 for the new box, and thought hitting up the Indian grocery store seemed like a good idea.

When I walked into the grocery store, I found I was asked by literally every single person there if I needed help with anything today. I'm not even talking about just employees - everyone wanted to know if I needed anything. I clearly appeared to be lost.

I said no at first, content to just kind of browse around. I like to see what's available from different parts of the world - Jason and I are known for randomly bringing home gigantic bags of Japanese sesame crackers, for instance, and I have more than once bought boxes of green tea ice cream and then wondered aloud for a week why I can't seem to stop eating green tea ice cream.

A post on tea, trust, and the kindness of strange grandmothers - on Stress and Stars

Eventually, once I had started looking for the tea itself, a tiny grandmother who was pushing her cart around nearby stopped me to ask what I was looking for.

"Well, we're out of chai-" I started to reply, when she grabbed my arm in one hand and pulled me around the end of the aisle to point at the very last aisle, the one I hadn't actually made it to yet.

"What kind of chai?" She asked, waving her arm towards shelves stacked high with every form of tea you might imagine people in India had ever even dreamed about maybe considering drinking. "You like the ready-to-drink kind, the powder? You just add hot water, the milk is already in it." She was absent-mindedly patting my arm. I am not the kind of person who likes to be patted on the arm by strangers. I attempted to gently move away without her noticing. It didn't work.

"We... don't like the powder, we use looseleaf or bags."

"Ah," She said, with a smile. "You will buy this, then." She plucked a box off the shelves without even looking at it and handed it to me with the sense of a woman who is the main authority within her own life and would not be argued with.

The box she handed me was Wagh Bakri brand, a huge dark red box with a smiling woman on the top. The box said it contained 100 tea bags. The price was $6.

"Is it any good?" I asked her, a little hesitant. This was less than half of what I normally spend per tea bag for the cheap chai I buy at Walmart or Publix.

The woman patted my arm again and said reassuringly, "It's all we drink in my home. My children, my grandchildren all drink it." Her smile faded slightly and she looked suddenly very serious. "It's what you will drink, too."

She took the box out of my hands and placed it in my cart.

"You'll buy this. It's the best chai," She said it matter-of-factly. There was no room for debate.

I wished her a good day and I bought the chai.

Of course I did. The grandmother told me to.

Never mind that she isn't my grandmother.

She's somebody's grandmother.

I also bought a bag of spicy potato sticks for a snack on my way out the door. This earned a disapproving snort from the grandmother, but I could handle this tiny, somewhat teenage rebellion. I half expected her to chastise me for ruining my appetite.

Roll your eyes at the unsolicited advice if you will, but I have found it to be a simple and concrete truth in my life that when a nearby grandmother offers advice on food or drink, that they really do tend to know what they're talking about.

I've also found it's not worth arguing with them, because they're right and both of you know it and honestly it just saves everyone time.

It really is the best chai, by the way.

You should always depend on the kindness of strange grandmothers.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Things I Do To Myself

You see the red mark on my forehead?

That's not a shadow.

It's not like one of those marks you get from sleeping on something that take a bit to go away.

That, my friends, is what happens when you cut a spicy green pepper and remove the seeds without gloves, then reach up to scratch your forehead when it itches.

After a moment, your forehead begins to feel hot.

Then it starts to burn.

Then your husband comes home from picking up your daughter from daycare and he says, "Have you looked at your forehead, honey?"

At which point I declared that I would no longer be leaving the house until it was gone.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Whole Mama Prompt: Space

Today's post is my second while participating in the #WholeMama linkup. You can find the linkup for this week's theme, "Space", here on Esther Emery's blog. More information on what #WholeMama is all about can be found here. My other posts as part of the linkup or just inspired by the theme are Prayer and A Supermom is a Sleep-Deprived Mom.

#WholeMama Prompt: Space on Stress and Stars

There are days I just want some space.

I'm not exactly an introvert, but I'm not an extrovert either - I love parties of six people or less, I love having brunch out with a friend, but get too many people in the room and you'll find me in the corner curled up with a book, steadfastly existing inside my own head. I like it there; I know the landscape.

The map of other people is one that is much harder for me to follow. Those directions I never trust - I'm always convinced I've said the wrong thing or mucked up the plans.

I've been a reader all my life. Books are safer than people, and I've been friends with them longer than any one human being.

Having a child has been a rough change, an overnight shift from going through a book or two week to this new place where I basically just threw myself a mini-celebration because I actually managed to finish a library book and only had to renew it once instead of the two or three times the rest of them have taken. The important thing is, I finished the freaking book, and I even remember most of it!

I get all full of myself when I finish a book now. I pick up Lauren Winner's new book Wearing God, which I've been eyeballing for weeks now, absolutely convinced that I will definitely have the time to read it.

We take our victories where we find them these days.

I find my space where I can get it, too.

Space right now is the hour between Audra going to sleep and when Jason and I need to go to bed (if we know what's good for us). It's time I spend saying as little as possible, drinking tea and trying to get a chapter or two out of a book before my eyes stop staying open, playing video games or just staring at nothing. It doesn't refresh. I don't really feel better the next day. I still wear down and wear down and wear down until the idea of leaving the house and actually interacting with someone voluntarily sounds like it would take more energy than I could ever have.

Sometimes I make plans for breakfast or brunch or lunch with friends and I'm afraid I may just lie down and take a nap in the street.

With our plans for multiple children, I know what I'm in for; I grew up with older siblings and I know my mother felt some days like the demands were never-ending. I feel like that, too, and I only have one who can't even talk yet.

She also can't really play very well by herself. She needs us to invent the novelty that keeps her interested in the things around her. The games she plays mostly involve trying to smash one of her toys into another, slightly different toy, or discovering exactly which places in the room we don't want her to get into and then making elaborately planned attempts to get there. If I make the terrible mistake of trying to read while she's awake for fifteen seconds, I'll find her halfway down the hall, making a beeline for the dog's water bowl in the kitchen.

When she's sick or just had her shots or didn't sleep well or any other number of things that throw off her cheery smile and have me home from work with her, she'll whine every time I put her down all day long until I'm ready to tear my hair out. How can a child so expertly whine when they don't even have language yet?

I hold her anyway.

I carry her on my hip on circular walks around the yard, or we lay down on the couch and I stare at TV shows I forget within five minutes of them airing while she rests, ready to pop awake and angry the moment I move around to get comfortable or dare lay her ailing self down in her actual bed.

I let her rest her head under my chin, her ear over my heartbeat, while I catch a few furtive paragraphs out of my newest book when she closes her eyes.

On a normal day, I come home from work and pick her up from daycare, or Jason does. During her afternoon nap, Jason and I cook and do chores like we've lost our minds, working as fast as we can so that when she wakes up we're not risking another might-burn-the-house-down-frying-chicken scenario which I may or may not deny ever happened.

She wakes up shortly after our dinner time, so we feed her and bathe her and play with her and get her into bed and then spend another ten minutes picking up the tornado-like path of toys, catalogs she's torn to shreds, and discovering the interesting possessions of ours she has somehow managed to get into despite them being blocked by the heaviest furniture in the house.

Then, she's asleep, or at least in her bed talking to her Rexi and Riff Raff and Holly Bear. She's in bed, and it's that hour between her bedtime and ours, that's where I have to claw back some space in my head.

Even if it means I don't talk. Even if I just look at nothing, or the TV, or a book or literally anything at all that doesn't require me to move or interact with it in any serious way. It's not really enough - I still take the occasional Saturday or Sunday morning, disappearing for a couple of hours while Audra's home with Jason. I sit in a coffee shop or have breakfast with a friend or just wander aimlessly around our city's downtown and I do nothing at all. I wonder how I'm going to get through the "why" stage if I can barely handle the "suspicious silence" stage.

I do nothing, in these moments out by myself or just alone with Jason while Audra stays with her grandparents, that I don't absolutely feel like doing.

No small body curled against my own. No following around insistent little hands discovering every single plugged-in cord in the whole house. No little girl demanding a drink and then smacking the cup away two seconds later.

I will go a whole two hours without saying the words, "Are you supposed to be doing that?"

Then, on my drive back home, finally feeling like a human being and person, full of things I've learned or conversations I've had, I start thinking about how nice it'll be to have another baby.

I daydream idly about newborns, and having another one, and introducing Audra to her new sibling and all the wonderful soft-focus parts of navigating life with two children as opposed to one.

Then I make it home, and four hours later find myself mournfully hitting "renew" on the library's website while my daughter smacks me in the face with her sippy cup.


Yes, I totally want to do this three more times.

... I can read Lauren Winner's book when they go to college, right?

Whole Mama

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Whole Mama Prompt: Prayer

When I was little, I used to say the same prayer every night after I got into bed.

No, it wasn't "now I lay me down to sleep", the Lord's Prayer, or anything else anyone had already written down for us to memorize. I would never have had the common sense to save myself the extra effort that way.

Every night I would wait until the room was completely dark and quiet and I thought nobody else was awake to hear me, and would ask that my family be okay, that my friends be okay, and that my enemies be okay, too.

I was six. Who prays for the health of their enemies at six years old?

I didn't have enemies!

Unless you counted the creepy older kid from three blocks over who used to harass us or run over our stuff with his bike, although he was less than enemy than he was kind of a simple fact of the universe that we were forced to endure and avoid.

It still seemed important to wish the best for these antagonists who had yet to exist, in case I suddenly materialized them one day.

Eventually I started adding in a quick request for forgiveness at the end. I had a lot to ask forgiveness for, and it simply seemed to save time to just ask to be forgiven for all of it, rather than taking the time to list it all out. I'd never have had the time to sleep, otherwise.

I think I made a point of asking for forgiveness for me and for my enemies.

I was really concerned with making sure my enemies were taken care of.

(By the time I was eight, of course, I kind of did have actual enemies. Although in my defense, my whole class at school was basically a murder mystery waiting to happen.)

Those rote and routine prayers were pretty comforting at the time.

My prayers have changed up somewhat since then. Praying now is a little more... in the moment.

Now you'll hear less 'forgive my enemies' and way more 'Please God, tell me she didn't throw up in her crib." or "What do I need to do to get her to take a freaking nap today?". Sometimes we shake things up and add in "Please tell me there's a reason Jason got fired at 8 AM on a Monday morning the day after we get back from vacation and it's not just a cosmic joke to pile on top of everything else this past year."

The answers have changed, too.

The answers back then used to be mainly that I would wake up feeling a little easier on myself and the world, my six-year-old self feeling a little less worried. The truth about anxiety is that you're never not worried; it's a spectrum with no beginning and no end. When I began to research anxiety disorders - and was professionally diagnosed with mine - I found that it isn't an 'adult problem'. In retrospect, I've been prone to irrational fears and worry since I was very little, indeed.

Saying those same words out loud (albeit in a don't-wake-up-my-sister whisper) every night helped me fall asleep without worrying about how I'd messed up that day in kindergarten or whether or not my best friend actually liked me or why kids in class seemed more interested in making fun of me for reading than in doing it themselves and if that meant maybe I shouldn't read so much, either. (Hint: It didn't mean that. It never means that.)

I think that was the answer, in the end - that I could feel the knot in my chest, which has been basically my first and most constant companion in life, untangle itself for just a few minutes every night. I felt the same way during my favorite hymns on Sundays.

The answer to my prayers now is a whole different unraveling.

It's my baby, fighting off the latest stomach bug she picked up God knows where, curling her head under my chin after finally drinking enough for me to stop worrying about dehydration. It's the first time she wakes up happy and not crying in two days. It's when she is in my arms and holds hers out to Jason not because she wants him to take her, but because she wants us to have a family hug.

It's watching a child who could barely be cajoled into playing with her own toys one night scoot with determined speed to get her hands into the dog's water bowl the next.

I hope I can teach Audra (and, hopefully, her eventual siblings) to pray that way. Not to even really expect much out of the words in terms of a tangible reward, but to say them as a way of removing those things that otherwise weigh us down. As a way to unravel the knots of the anxiety. It's a conversation that doesn't have to move mountains every time - maybe just a few grains of sand.

The answers to my prayers are the moments that I realize I haven't worried about anything for ten whole seconds. A minute. Fifteen minutes. Even an unheard of whole hour of feeling pretty much at peace after a prayer.

I find myself sneaking into her room after she falls asleep, just to lay my hand very slightly on her back and feel it rise and fall with her breathing, and whisper a few more prayers on her behalf.

Of course, then there's the time 'sneak into her room' means 'attempt to sneak into her room, trip over the wipes box that is somehow in the middle of the floor, accidentally kicking it into the wall with a bang that the neighbors probably heard three houses down.

Those whispered prayers were probably the most fervent of all.

(This post was written as a response to the #WholeMama prompt "Prayer" for this week. The other post I've written using their prompts is here. Find out more information, and read posts by other bloggers on this week's prompt here.)

Whole Mama

Sunday, July 12, 2015

11 Months

Okay, so it's about a week late, but... here are some things about Audra Grace at 11 months:

- We are up to seven teeth. Seven! The last two were pretty rough. Since they came right in the middle of a vacation where her schedule was totally off, I can't really say if the roughness was really tooth pain or just her reacting to lots of travel time and the stress of it all. Who knows. But seven teeth!

- She loves tomatoes. Loves. She will pick up a slice of tomato and suck all the insides out of it, leaving this sad sort of tomato-rind husk behind. It's... really weird to watch. She had a BLT for lunch with us yesterday (except I took out the bacon, because I think it would have required too much chewing). She took the bread, lettuce, and tomato apart and basically ate them separately. She was a big fan of the Duke's mayonnaise (as all Southern girls should be) on the bread. She left tomato rinds and bread crusts for us. We finished up with a smoothie she was pretty fond of, too.

- Favorite 'tricks' - she likes to clap and applaud when we say "Yay!". Also high fives, bouncing along with any music or song she can hear, and seeing how fast she can get her hand into the dog's water bowl before I can stop her.

- She discovered the joy of cabinets. Hilariously, the only cabinets she is interested in getting into are the ones under the sink where all the dangerous chemicals and cleaners live. Thankfully those are also the only cabinets that lock.

- We literally could not keep her Monthly sticker on her long enough to get a single photo where it's just... on her. We had to settle for Simba and then for sticking it on a part of her back she couldn't get to. Stickers (and the adhesive on them that she is convinced is a delicious and rare delicacy) are simply too fascinating to be allowed to remain where we put them.

- We have a pretty nice sleep-and-wake schedule going. Two hours or so awake, about an hour or two asleep. Two hours awake, an hour or two asleep. Now, this is only on weekends - she takes exactly one nap at daycare, and it's never very long. But as soon as we're home on weekends, she settles into this really great nap routine. I'm sure it'll only last for a few weeks at best, so I'm enjoying the times of peace and quiet while they last.

- She is head over heels in love with Riff Raff the Stuffed Giraffe - a Gund Brigsby toy that has lived in her room her whole life and she didn't notice until about a month ago and now they are utterly inseparable. He sleeps with her, and she snuggles him in and will hug him close to help her fall asleep and during unpleasant wake-ups. He badly needed a wash during our visit to Illinois and it became apparent that we might need to plan for his eventual wearing-out. So I went on Amazon and bought the last two they had remaining. They're on their way to our house right now. (Of course, shortly after I bought "the last two" they suddenly went from out to "2 more remaining" again and suddenly went from the $12.99 I paid for them to $14.99. So, you know. Amazon is tricksy that way.)

- At her early first birthday party in Illinois, Audra was completely uncertain about the smash cake. She touched it sort of delicately, made a face at it, smeared icing all over herself, but really never got much into the 'smashing' part. Apparently my daughter is too much of a delicate flower for that. Although she was still a delicate flower who required a really good bath afterwards, thanks to green icing in her eyebrows.

- She pulls on a cable. We tell her no. She stops, looks at us, contemplates whether or not we really mean it, and tries again. We tell her no again. Repeat ad nauseum until we give up and pick her bodily up and move her away from said cable. She whines for about twenty seconds and then tries to crawl to the dog's water bowl. We tell her no. Repeat earlier process.

- Between newer clothing I've bought off and on since her birth, hand-me-downs, and the clothing she's given as gifts, my daughter owns approximately 2 million articles of clothing in her current size(s). Luckily, she ruins them so quickly she's going through like two to three outfits a day, just like her newborn days. So at least she gets to wear everything? And my washing machine gets a workout! Everyone wins.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Caution: May Cause Infant Insanity

When we were visiting my family in Illinois, we had a choice when it came to Audra's sleeping arrangements; they had apparently saved a crib that was last used approximately fifteen million years ago (this might be hyperbole) or the toddler bed that my niece grew out of but used all the time before she became some kind of seven year old willow tree child who keeps getting taller no matter how much I try to convince her to stop.

We picked the toddler bed. I had nightmarish images of her somehow collapsing the whole built-by-the-ancients-of-thirty-years-ago crib on top of herself in the middle of the night, because that is totally a rational thing to be worried about. The toddler bed seemed safer - lower to the ground at least, which is almost the same as safe.

Even if she did manage to take it apart with Magic Baby Powers, she'd only fall a few inches. It seemed better, somehow.

We laid out the futon mattress we were sleeping on onto the floor and pushed it right up next to her bed, surrounding the corners of hers with soft pillows between it and the wall, to hopefully keep her from realizing electrical outlets exist.

Wednesday night, we went to settle her in for sleep. We gave her a bottle. We gave her another bottle when the first didn't work. We finally gave the hell up and just went to bed ourselves, hoping she would take that as a clue.

It was dark.

Jason and I laid on the futon, trying to put her to sleep by example.

It was quiet.

Audra Grace seemed suddenly to realize her situation.

And she lost her freaking mind.

She'd never realized such beds existed! She had entered some sort of magical Fairyland for Babies!

The rails didn't go above her head! She could just sort of flop over them like a dead fish (which she also doesn't know exists)! There was even an opening towards the foot of the little bed she could literally just fall out of and land on top of my legs!

It. Was. Amazing.

So amazing, in fact, that we spent the next two nights trying desperately to keep her in it.

We'd give her a blanket from home to snuggle - she'd throw it off and wiggle like mad or bang her hands into the railings as loud as she could.

We'd give her Holly Bear - she'd toss Holly Bear onto my face at 2:30 in the morning and start trying to stick her fingers in the outlet that she somehow just psychically knew was behind the pillow.

We gave her Riff Raff the stuffed giraffe - she hugged him close, cooed lovingly so we would let our guard down, and then promptly threw him over the side (not onto my face, for once) and used the distraction to make her own break for the opening near the bottom.

She thrashed around like she was trapped in some kind of parental net, managing to stay inside the confines of the bed and still wake me from a dead sleep by hitting me...

You guessed it.

She hit me in the face.

She would lay just about any way except up-and-down like the bed plans for. She tried horizontally, with one leg hanging out the opening. She tried to flop her whole body over the railings. Or she didn't lay down at all - just sat right up and clapped happily, sang, or shouted at us. Sometimes she cried, just to shake things up!

We ended up having to take her into the futon mattress with us and hold her until she would finally drift off, and then move her as gently and silently as possible to the toddler bed. Even that didn't work every time we tried it.

At one point, after roughly an hour of attempting to get her to stop dead-fish-thrashing for even ten seconds, we turned to each other in a moment of blissful silence, wondering if maybe we would finally, finally get some rest ourselves.

"She is definitely not ready for a toddler bed," I whispered to Jason in the dark.

"She's obviously gone mad with power," he replied.

We closed our eyes. It was, at last, silent in the room.

Then a little voice from the corner said, "Da!"

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


So yesterday was just a super day for us, right?

I mean, I know we were pretty surprised.

This came with essentially no warning, other than those signs those of us who have worked the service industry learn to sniff out. Once you've seen it done to someone else, you can kind of see the signs when they decide to turn it on you. While he and I had become suspicious, we were still caught off guard.

These things happen.

The best thing you can do is sit down, have a strategy meeting, and start figuring out where you can tighten the belt.

Jason's Funemployment Day 2: Jobless Boogaloo involved job applications and conversations with parents and mowing the lawn (despite the lawnmower insisting on breaking twice, and Jason managing to get it back together with twine, genius problem-solving skills, and maybe a little bit of a prayer both times), making delicious dinner, and taking Audra to daycare a little late since she insisted on being up at 4:30 and therefore going down for her first nap around 7 am.

We're doing pretty well, I think. I guess I feel like a 'currently' is in order.

Right now, we're:

Learning: Not to rely too heavily on plans, since they have a way of going all cattywampus just when you need them to stay steady. This may rock that five-year plan we were so proud of having together.

Wearing: Pajamas before 9 pm because why not. Seriously. Give me one good reason why not.

Reading: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, a chronicle of what you might call America's greatest migration - that of her own citizens, black people trapped in the post-Civil War, pre-Civil Rights South. The truth of the Jim Crow laws, their abject cruelty and how they hemmed in the everyday lives of hundreds of thousands of people, is something you don't really learn about in school. It's something people don't talk about. And I am diving headfirst into this intense book. It reads almost like a novel - Wilkerson looks primarily at three specific people, a woman and two men, all of whom escaped the Jim Crow South to varying levels of success in the North. It's an incredible book. I have trouble putting it down, although it's a bit of slow going. Highly recommended.

Also Reading (Because there's never just one): Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons, the blogger behind Brittany, Herself. I don't read Brittany's blog - I've read entries here and there, but my friend Liz, she of the 'just randomly thought of you and bought you this gift and it magically is the perfect thing for you right now' bought this book for me as a gift. I'm only a few chapters in and it's painfully hilarious - hilariously funny but also sort of painfully true to small-town experiences when your shape isn't exactly what people consider 'ideal' and you have trouble knowing the difference between smart and sassback. She's really, really, really funny - but be warned that you'll be knee-deep in cursewords and some pretty serious TMI. It's... kind of what she does. Also highly recommended - this is a book you could sit by the pool or the beach and laugh until your sides hurt and other people are staring and you won't even care because they obviously don't know the true happiness that is this book.

Cooking: Last night I was craving soup, which is basically my rock-solid staple because I can throw together an amazing soup with literally two cans of beans and sheer determination if you make me. So I decided to make Garden Chili - a basic chili with ground lean beef, a can of fire roasted tomatoes, kidney beans, and some pattypan squash and sweet potatoes we had on hand. We also were able to throw in a few tomatoes, some okra, a spicy green pepper, and even about a cup and a half of fresh pinto beans from our garden! It was a very cheering meal. Add some avocado slices and chopped up cilantro and it really did the trick. Tonight Jason heated up some Mojo Chicken from Publix, roasted some baby asparagus, and we had horseradish potatoes on the side. So... we've eaten very well, is what I'm telling you, for having had to cut our food budget already.

Stress-Eating: Taquitos and chocolate from the QT gas station by my workplace, a place I badly felt the need to visit at about 9:30 this morning for no reason other than wanting to stress-eat taquitos. They were my worst craving during my pregnancy and apparently they're my new comfort food. I suppose that's... better than nachos...? No?

Watching: The last of Good Eats on Netflix, Sens8, and... whatever else. I tend to watch a lot of David Attenborough documentaries, as that man could make a dung beetle crawling along a desert floor sound like riveting television. But right now I can't focus well enough to do much of anything unless it's work or video games.

Working: In fits and starts of absolute concentration, followed up by something akin to static in the back of my head keeping me from thinking about any one thing for longer than ten seconds. I'm just worrying too much. It's wonderful to have my job be a place I can go to get away from my stress, though.

Growing: A pile of tomatoes spread over five different plants, most of which have yet to become ripe, okra, cucumbers we keep forgetting to pick, basil that has gone to seed, three kinds of spicy pepper (jalapeno, serrano, and one called 'garden salsa'), Amish pie pumpkins, pinto beans, and fresh sweet corn. We have two pumpkins right now, one starting to finally become orange and the other still a beautiful mottled green.

Hoping: For some kind of merciful twist of fate that turns this into Jason's Unexpected Vacation, rather than long-term budget-scrunching. It's good to be hopeful, right?

Planning: Audra's first birthday party. I have to figure out the cupcake situation. It's... it's going to be a situation.

Loving: My family, this 'us' we've made, the three. Tonight Jason and I just sat and played with Audra and her new birthday presents from our wonderful, generous friends and family up in Illinois. She pushed her new baby doll stroller around, with a toy lion and fake rocks from her new dump truck in it, cooing happily. It was perfect. She is perfectly our daughter. (Her newest crib-friend is a stuffed dinosaur her cousin D made her at Build-a-Bear. I caught her talking to it. She's clearly in love.)

Praying: Well... always.

But maybe a bit more often right now.

Monday, July 6, 2015

You'll Never Guess the Punchline

So last week, Jason and I packed Audra up and drove to Illinois for a brief vacation.

- We had to really cut things short so that Jason could be back at work Monday. Since we had an infant in tow, it didn't make sense for us to try and pull off the drive-it-all-in-one-day plan, so we did half on Tuesday night after Jason got out of work and the other half the next morning, staying at a hotel in Kentucky overnight.

- I was running on ten hours of sleep in two days thanks to Tooth #7 and a bad hotel sleep. Audra wasn't sure what to do with the big hotel bed and tossed and turned through most of the night.

- We tried to stop for lunch halfway at a Steak n Shake, only to find out that Indiana thinks "take exit 39 to eat here!" meant "take exit 39 and then drive six miles through winding small-town roads to eventually discover it after losing twenty-three minutes of your life!"

- My parents just bought a new house for the first time in thirty years and it was amazing to walk around and look at the new place coming together. Audra was able to play on the floor with new and interesting toys and see her cousin D again (who she just completely adores and is head-over-heels in love with).

- Thursday, after yet another night of bad sleep (that's 15 hours of sleep in three days if you're counting), we rolled out of bed and drove up to Iowa to see my friend Sarah's baby Henry, who you may remember from my Mother's Day post this year. Baby Henry is home, and I just couldn't get within four hours of Iowa and not get all the way up there to meet him! He was a lovely little thing, still hooked up to supplementary oxygen (but even that should hopefully come off very soon) and very much the newborn five-week-old he should be... all sleeping and eating and mama-snuggling. Audra stayed home with my sister and D (who no longer wants a baby sister after watching Audra all day, so I like to think we're a learning experience), so we could at least spare her that much car time.

- Friday, we had Audra's Illinois-family birthday party. She was overwhelmed by the people and the presents and all the fun, and did lots of snuggling in peoples' arms. I got to see family I hadn't seen, in some cases, in a year. I wasn't sure where to turn or who to speak to next. It was absolutely wonderful, and my parents' new house was the perfect place for it.

- Somewhere in there, I lost my wedding ring in the bedroom we were sleeping in at Mom and Dad's old house. I have no idea how, or why. I have a very clear memory of taking it off before sleep, and I haven't seen it since. All I can do is shrug. It's there somewhere.

- Friday night there were fireworks.

- I had been certain Audra would be terrified of the loud noises; she startles easily and lives in a pretty quiet house, since it's just her parents, her, and the pets. Instead, she was in love. She watched with fascination, smiling, occasionally cooing softly to herself. She played with glow sticks and stayed up way past her bedtime, was able to play with my cousin Beth's daughter S and then was sort of overwhelmed by a cadre of three random older children who regaled her with glow sticks and chatter and then were gone just as quickly as they had come. Altogether, she enjoyed herself thoroughly.

- Saturday, we went out to see my grandpa at the farm. He'd gotten to see Audra a little bit, but not really without it being crowded and with other people sort snagging her attention. Audra is named after my late grandmother, and so there's definitely a little bit of a connection there. She loves my grandpa, for all that she hadn't met him before. She held her arms right out and was all smiles for him. A cardinal flew around us at one point, so I like to believe Grandma was there to be amused.

- After that, it was a super quick two-hour visit to a Fourth of July party that is sort of a tradition in our family. We were able to see my brother-in-law for the only time of the visit. We wibbled and wobbled over having Jason call in for Monday so we could stay another day and actually relax for fifteen minutes, but Jason felt like that wouldn't be fair to the other employees who needed time off that week.

- We got back in the car.

- Dinner that night and lunch the next day were both spent at a Cracker Barrel, that reliable bastion of southern food, friendly servers, and whole families full of babies all around us. We finally made it home just before dinnertime to meet our friend Liz who was bringing back our dog from his weekend stay at her home.

- Bedtime was rough for Audra, who had not had to fall asleep by herself for nearly six days at that point. Eventually, though, she went down.

- Jason and I woke up today and I had to take him in (he'd left his truck at work so I could pick him up before we made the trip in the first place). Since we were running so early, we had bagels at our favorite bagel place, chatted a bit and enjoyed each other's company, and I dropped him off at 7:46 with nearly fifteen minutes to spare before he had to be clocked in.

- At 7:53, he called me. "So, we really should have stayed the extra day," he said.


"Because I don't have a job anymore."