birthday number 2, take two

Someone was quite eager to get started. Before daddy even lit the birthday candles, Rivers was rehearsing for his shining moment. Having waited patiently for over a week to devour his birthday tart, until his cold disappeared, he was certainly practiced in the art of extinguishing a flame with the first breath. Too perfected for his mama to capture the reflected glow of the candlelight and his efforts without a relight.

Maybe we’ll do trick candles next year to slow him down a bit.
Daddy allowed Rivers the honor to (attempt to) cut his birthday dessert. And with the pie cutter in hand, he created a smiley face instead. “Eyyyyyeeee. Heaaaa.”

A few weeks prior to Rivers’ birthday I was racking my brain with what to do for his cake. His daddy’s birthday is not even a full month prior. Two winter birthdays can put a bit of a damper on creativity, especially since there is relatively no fresh (local) fruit, and this season they both needed to be gluten-free.  Good thing I have two chocoholics in the family!

Sometimes I don’t know if Rivers fully understands me when I speak to him, but during a brainstorming moment I asked if he would like a peanut butter-chocolate tart. His entire face lit up, eyes widened. He nodded steadily and calmly, letting the weight of my question sink. That settled that.

 

lessons in trust: a breastfeeding story

Two months ago, one ordinary morning Rivers decided to wean himself. For the last few weeks we’d been down to one breastfeeding cuddle a day. The fact that it was only once daily made it quite painful for me physically. My body was regressing back to its former sensitivity, the pre-suckling baby sensitivity. He was 22 months at this point, so when he decided to skip his “bop bop” breakfast, I really didn’t mind. Maybe I was a bit relieved even.

The next morning he skipped again, instead following Daddy straight into the kitchen for oatmeal. He never requested our time together later in the day, and I never insisted. This went on for a couple weeks, then suddenly it was as if he remembered I was there, or really that my “bop bops” were there. But by then my breasts had shrunk. I was dry and my breasts far too sensitive to oblige. I could only hold him close, a winter sweater between the space that once held his head to my chest. Our relationship had evolved and we could not reverse time. We both cried a little, because change is tough.

My journey as a mother would not be complete without my breastfeeding experience and it’s absolutely not because of the actual act. The act itself did not complete me. In actuality I never felt the bursts of bliss that some mothers express. The experience for me was a lesson in trust. I had to trust the tiny person who knew more about breastfeeding than his new mother. I had to give him time to find his way, allow him to be fussy (to do the on again, off again dance), to hang on me All. Day. Long. during teething periods or growth spurts, and eventually allow him to do gymnastics on my face when he still requested breastmilk even after he was on a steady diet of solids. I had to trust my body. I had to trust that I was giving “enough,” because the moment I became anxious about it, my flow would begin to diminish. I never gave extra, but I trusted myself and I always had just enough for my single baby bird.

Before his arrival I had set a flexible goal of breastfeeding for one year, but by the time the first month passed I was in such pain that I had to exclusively pump for two days while Jonathan bottle fed. The first time I bottle fed Rivers, I wept terribly because he was so fussy, determined to wiggle his head into my fuzzy robe and get at the real thing. I kept thinking, if I make it to month three and this is still painful, I’ll quit. Month three was fine, but the pain crept back by month four, then disappeared again for good until recently when our days slowly dwindled. I had to trust that, like any physical exercise, my body would adjust and my nipples would toughen. They did.

As we neared a year, and Rivers became more physically active, he seemed to nurse less and less. I almost thought our days were over, but my instincts told me otherwise. If he refused me, I pumped. Nothing worth keeping ever came out of the sessions, but I kept up the activity to keep the milk glands active just in case. I trusted my instincts and sure enough he was back to nursing like clockwork.

Sometime after Rivers’ first year, a female farmer at the greenmarket unabashedly asked if I was still breastfeeding. It turned out that she had practiced extended breastfeeding with her son through his early toddler years and swore he never went through the terrible twos because of the practice. Her produce partner teased, “Oh yeah, did he skip the terrible threes? What about the terrible fours, or terrible fives? Are you just going to breastfeed him till he goes through puberty?”  Though he seemed to be doing this in a friendly manner I couldn’t help but remember a time when I reacted similarly (internally, thank goodness) when a coworker told me she’d been breastfed until the age of three and even had memories of it. When my mother in-law first told me she’d breastfed both her children at least two years my eyes bulged a little. My mother breastfed, but extended breastfeeding was definitely a new term for me. I learned much more about it when I realized our journey was not over on Rivers’ first birthday. I talked to and read stories from other mothers and trusted that they were not crazy or smothering, but simply balancing the needs and wants of their child with their own instincts and boundaries.

After the first year of breastfeeding, the second came easily. We were practiced at the dance, and quite a dance it could be with a toddler! I could envy the farmer who took care of her son’s “terrible twos” by shaking her breasts. I wouldn’t mind doing the same as Rivers enters that stage of his life, but if I hadn’t learned to trust that we would both know when our time was truly over, then I wouldn’t have learned anything at all.

06.13

 

the little space captain

spaceman1

He’s totally outgrown his spaceman phase, so finding these on my computer this evening made my heart melt. No one ever showed him how to do this, just one day he started marching around the house with blurry bag vision. We called it his ‘space helmet.’ No worries, it’s not plastic, but a stiff vinyl, and he was never unsupervised. And now it’s back to holding toys.
spaceman2 spaceman3 spaceman4 spaceman5 spaceman6

food face photography

foodface-huhfoodface-fork foodface-seriousfoodface-hurrayfoodface-angryfoodface-duckfacefoodface-smile1 foodface-smile3 foodface-smile4Eat and socializing. The dinner table is about the only place I can photograph my little one without being barraged for the camera. I can’t sneak a picture of him doing anything else without distracting him and inciting a fight. All the photos turn out fuzzy anyway, as if I were trying to capture Bigfoot on film. Unlike the mysterious Bigfoot, I can entice this little fuzzy creature with food. He’s like his mama.

Check out the “artwork” in the back.

 

 

some things never change

©fourwoodthinking

Ten, nine, eight, seven…

We’re counting down the hours before papa’s return. To be more precise I am counting down the hours. Upon informing Rivers that his father would soon be home he replied by shaking his little noggin and humming “Nonononono.”

He provides the same answer when I ask for a kiss. In this entire year I’ve yet to receive one, but I’m quite sure he made kissing noises to my girlfriend, as she left our apartment yesterday afternoon. I’d never seen our child so ecstatic about a visitor. He’s usually quite friendly, but he practically leapt from my arms before she was even through the door. He always loves to see her, so her presence in combination with the last day of our papa-less week made him all the more exuberant.

I realized this week more than another that it’s okay we don’t live close to grandparents. It would be much easier surely. But our NYC family (friends) know when and how to provide support too. I’m so thankful for individuals who dropped by, or allowed us to crash their place for a few hours. Every recess from each other made our time together all the more special.

As Rivers takes his finally nap, before his bearded playmate appears, I’m enjoying a hot cup of jasmine and finishing a little story that seems all too fitting. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twenty Days with Julian & Little Bunny by Papa. A short journal of the author’s time with his five-year-old son while his wife and daughters were visiting grandparents. It’s such an honest account and demonstrates the complex and simultaneous feelings of gratefulness and annoyance that come with being a parent. A hundred and sixty-odd years later, some things haven’t changed. Probably they never will. 

 

 

 

 

and one to grow on

©fourwoodthinking

Everyone warned us  how children “grow up so quickly.” Jonathan swears they were right, that it feels like yesterday when I was laboring our son into the world. For me that is not at all the case, or it hadn’t been until this week. The in-between birthday parties week. The week that started on his actual birthday, back when he was still a baby, before he learned to toddle to our outstretched arms, or throw up his hands and say “ahhhh-done” at the end of a meal.

Uh, what?

What happened to my baby and who is this new kid?

I’m pleased we decided to throw a party the weekend after his birthday.  We went back and forth for the longest time, but in the end we realize our son is a social butterfly. He vies for the attention wherever he can get it, from our friends to strangers on the subway. If only I carried a cup, I’m sure his college would be paid already.  The extra week between celebrations gave him a grace period to learn a few steps to impress his guests. A crowded room full of adults cheering him along as he walked and no camera out to catch the moment. I don’t know which part of that is more impressive. First steps certainly, but twelve smartphones all tucked away is also surprising. Talk about living in the present moment! I was so engaged in conversations, catching up with friends, that I didn’t even think to photograph the cake with the birthday boy before it disappeared! Not that it would have mattered. I think he took one bite from someone’s plate before he darted off to play with (another baby) his buddy.

I’d been looking forward to the first cake smash since day one. Luckily I had a couple test cakes stored in the freezer. I cut the size slightly and frosted it for a photo op the following day. Unlike the snowstorm that dumped all over us during the party, the sun beamed through the kitchen and granted a pleasant glow to the morning. Like it was meant to be.

It’s almost impossible to take photos of this guy nowadays. Everything is a blur unless he’s eating. The one activity where he sits and focuses. Funny though how perplexed and grumpy he appears when he’s focused. ©fourwoodthinking ©fourwoodthinking ©fourwoodthinking ©fourwoodthinking

©fourwoodthinkingRecipe coming soon!

 

manicured man

©fourwoodthinking

©fourwoodthinking

©fourwoodthinking

©fourwoodthinking

©fourwoodthinking

The job of nail clipping the baby has fallen to me, since his papa is deathly afraid of clipping more than just a nail. When Rivers was an itty bitty newborn Jonathan would file his nails very delicately. That’s when Rivers stayed put. Now he has places to go and “kiti-kats” to torment. There’s no time for the file.  Considering the way little one’s nails grow, we’re clipping every couple of days. I’m so used to the routine, the grumpy faces, the wiggles, the stretches and the moaning, I didn’t even notice Jonathan was taking photos one morning. What a pleasant surprise when I unloaded my camera card to find these.

observation & journal entries

painting

Stretched out along the hardwood floor, belly down, with unbelievable yearning he somehow makes his way to the cats’ water bowl. He’s slashing around like a victor and I’m utterly perplexed, because I’ve been watching him the entire time and still don’t understand how he made it from point A to point B.

Sometimes I think of myself more of a scientist than a mama. My technique in raising a child is observation. I never aspired to be a scientist, it just sort of happened. One day I noticed that the same way he focuses on the specks of grape skins in his fruit puree, I study his physic, expression and mood. We both look so closely and attentively.

One mighty blow and popsicle debris litters the hallway. His expression seems to say, “I wonder why it did that,” while I am left wondering, why did he do that? 

Watching his chubby little fingers grasp at a wad of cat fur in a forgotten corner. Thank goodness, it has yet to enter his mouth. But his face is lit up as if he’s found the greatest treasure on Earth.

goat yogurt/beans

I placed a plastic bowl of veggie puree in front of him and moved away to wash dishes. He looked up at me with a sweet mix of desperation and earnest. Of course! He’s never witnessed us eating finger food. To feed him yes, but not ourselves. He had no idea what to do and was not the least bit curious about making a mess. It’s better not to eat alone anyway, and so I sat with him and encouraged him to help me with the spoon.

I have a routine; one large towel down, one bucket filled with warm water and bubbles, one small towel to the side and one wash cloth ready. This is how bath time turns into an hour-long pool session. He loves them and so do I. The mess is not sticky and smells…clean.

Peach season is the best! Above all the benefits, my baby smells so good.

He’s less enthused about holding his popsicle in his chair, so I leave him on the floor only to discover that he’s painting the walls with frozen fruit. And his pants. And if I am too close, he paints my pants. He doesn’t seem devious or even overjoyed, simply concentrated. It’s as if he thinks this is just another method of using a popsicle. If mama gets to close, you must paint her. That’s just what you do.

feet

He’s yet to crawl in any recognizable form, but he pulls himself up onto everything now. I fear for us all.

Standing for too long (and by too long I’m referring to just under five minutes) and he’s screaming in pain. His muscles are working so hard, there must be a burn somewhere. He refuses to give in. He’d rather scream and stand than sit back in the hand that mama offers to his toosh.

Jonathan tells me I should let the boy self sooth more often for my own sanity. Today I left him to his mat and toys as I prepared the beginnings for bread making. He never screamed, but the usual fussiness that attracts my observational eye was ignored in place of this new technique. After a little time, he was too quiet. I looked in the room only to have my heart drop. He was completely gone! Or so I though. He was behind the door, straddling the cats’ scratching post. The one unraveling rogue strip of twine was in his mouth like a straw from a cup, and his little hands were full of twine tufts. Needless-to-say I’m dumping Jonathan’s technique right after I repair the scratching post.

grass

Grass beware. My son wants a piece of you. A really, really big piece.

He’s eaten dirt, sand, grass, ocean water, flowers, leaves and bits of gravel. A little discovery is good. Today he attempted to lick a pole on the subway. Over my dead body!

His outburst are within reason, I’m sure. But they are beyond my feeble mind. It cannot be a wet toosh, because he has no diaper or hunger because he’s refused the breast. Could it really be as simple as being angry at the wooden spoon for unexpectedly flying from his hand and onto the other side of the room? How dare it.

He’s trained me well. Whenever I hiss to initiate urination for him, instinctively I have to go. It’s always the moment I give in and go that, upon my return, I find a fresh puddle on the floor.

Life is not about getting things done, but about knowing when to give in. To let go of the mess, the projects,  personal outlets and succumb to the present moment.

sunshine

You are the sunshine of my life.

in limbo

I began this blog with hesitation, worked through it, but it’s back. I avoided posting anything recently in an effort to organize my feelings and do what I think is best for our family, but I’m still in limbo.

This week I found one of my photos of Rivers reposted to another site without my consent. There were no tags, I just happened to come across it. I was flabbergasted. I don’t know why. These days just about anyone can take a screen shot, crop with an app and repost within seconds. Luckily the photo had been reposted by a friend, so a quick message and it disappeared, but my concern didn’t. In fact the hesitation and worry I had about beginning this blog cropped right back to the surface. If someone I love and trust would repost my photo without my prior knowledge, who else might do the same thing? Is this blog, or posting on any social network, worth risking the privacy of my son?

I’ve been reading parent blogs since I can remember, long before my own baby was even a thought in mind. It was a privilege to be invited to someone’s family, read about humorous moments, learn crafts and swap recipes for the dinner table. Starting a blog about my own little growing family seemed natural, especially considering our closest set of parents live about 650 miles away and I knew they would all like to see regular updates.  Reservations were present, but the benefits of chronicling our aha moments and connecting with fellow parents outweighed worry. In the back of my mind, I still believe it does. This space has forced me to write cohesive stories and thoughts about my motherhood experience because I know someone else may read it, unlike the jumbled single-sentence snippets in my personal journal. Should I simply put more restrictions on posting photographs?

I know parents who post daily snap-shots all over the internet, and I meet regularly with a mother who has never posted a single picture of her child, nor does she allow anyone else to do so. I respect both sides of the spectrum and believe both types of parents are equal in the love and protection they have for their babies. But I’m still in limbo. I don’t want to quit posting because someone burst my bubble. If I continue to post stories and photos, I may eventually face reposts by strangers. Then conversations will go from awkward to heated. Is it worth it? It’s tough to be a mother. I thought I questioned everything before. Ultimately I need to wrestle with this issue until a decision is reached.

Anyone have good advice?