{2014} looking back

After quite an unexpectedly long hiatus from blogging (and almost all internet in general), it’s difficult to know just where to pick up again. The last three and a half months were blissfully spent enjoying one another and our final days in New York before the move to the midwest. We toured the south, visited with each set of grandparents at least twice, traveled to seven different cities, spent quality time with great grandparents, ran a half marathon, had our first weekend away (sans baby), packed a moving van, unpacked a moving van, celebrated a birthday, then jumped right into holiday mode and made feast after feast for family get-togethers.

I wish I could have juggled blogging too, but I didn’t have internet half the time and I didn’t really care. My 2014 resolution was a one word mantra (actually two words), Mindfulness and Presence. In the midst of the bustling journey it felt best to honor the mantra. I immersed myself in our move and our adventures and feel more alive because of it.

I chose a new word for 2015, but first things first. It is the season for reflection, and now that the stream of life has slowed its pace somewhat, I shall take the time to do just that.

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Since his birth we’ve been writing anecdotes about our trips and sending Rivers a postcard from just about every city he’s ever called home for the night. In early September, Jonathan surprised us with a trip to Cape Cod to see the cranberry harvest. It was one of those trips that is planned out just right, but in practice does not unfold at all the way it’s expected. The cranberry harvest turned out to be mostly baby wrangling in a sandpit, and thoughts of whale watching were dashed when we realized that more baby wrangling (on a boat for four hours!) might actually kill us. We opted for ice cream instead.

The trip didn’t unfold the way it was expected, but the way it should. We hiked, dipped our toes in the ocean, met a drag queen mermaid, climbed the pilgrim tower, learned some Spanish lingo from toddlers, adopted grandparents and saw an old narwhal tusk.

I’d return in a second!

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Gray cedar siding. Cape Cod could be described by this photo alone.
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 The very last day I used the baby carrier, on the cranberry tour. See how well that went? Rivers nabbed a friendly, sharing child’s camera and was off like a true tourist.

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The final blooms of fall, captured by Jonathan’s eye.
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Trying to figure out how to get the the beach.
(Check out the family in the background with the amazing, inflated beach wheelchair.)

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It took this kid about two seconds to persuade his adopted grandfather, Mr. Robert, to escort him to the beach. He ran right up to inspect the wheel then raised his arms for a “pick up.” Jonathan and I were flabbergasted. Mr. Robert’s family happily snapped about six photos before we managed one. capecod4

Just as quickly as he befriended his way into a ride, he waved goodbye and raced off. capecod11

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The obligatory family photo on the beach, the effort before the perfect edit.

yours truly : a typical morning

 

Dear R-

It’s cliché to say that having a child has completely changed my life, but not an exaggeration in the least. It’s hard explaining this to my former people, the carefree and child free. Take this morning for instance. Not three minutes into the breakfast Rivers began choking. For a kid who inhales food without actually utilizing his teeth most days, choking isn’t unusual. My heart has skipped enough beats that I no longer panic. Almost every meal we have to remind him to “gobble, gobble, nibble, nibble, munch, much, scrunch (like a dinosaur),” a reference from his storybook.

We gave him a minute, then because he was still struggling, Jonathan took Rivers over his knee and firmly patted his back. The culprit came back up, along with a spatter of breast milk, oatmeal and un-chewed apricot chunks. Without skipping a beat, Rivers jumped down from his father and attempted to devour the mess all over again.

When I was fourteen years old and expecting my youngest brother, a neighbor allowed me to hold his newborn son as practice and asked if I would be ready for the baby. I said, “Of course, I’ve raised puppies. How much different could it be?” Our neighbor looked perplexed and took his son back. Clearly I was not on his babysitter list from day one, but another fourteen years later I stand firmly by my word. Babies are like puppies, they need plenty of food, love and exercise, a little guidance when it comes to the potty and a good parent who will step in and keep them from eating the most disgusting things off the ground!

Back to my morning- in no time at all the mess was mopped. Rivers finished the remainder of his fresh oatmeal more carefully without any hiccups and went off to play. Jonathan left the room to find a yoga video on YouTube, so that we could stretch together before I needed to leave for work. I began cleaning the kitchen when I realized that I could only hear Jonathan. Maybe the only thing worse than a child making too much noise is one who makes too little. Ha! He was quiet because, after vomiting most of breakfast, he was still hungry so decided to open a container of cat food snacks and help himself. Are babies really that different from puppies?

Trying to explain that the cat food was strictly for the cats somehow got lost in translation. Judging by his reaction, he may have thought I was saying something about the existence of life  coming to a complete halt right then and there. Maybe true happiness is locked in cat food and I’m just missing out. I don’t know. What I do know is that he looked me square in the eyes and let out the most horrifying scream. I felt like I was in a wind tunnel, my hair flowed straight behind me and I needed to squint my eyes.

“EXCUUUUse me?” I was firm, but not angry. That’s when his tears started flowing and he started grabbing himself. It was potty time, not time for mama to be upset over losing part of her hearing or even to turn the moment into a lesson. We raced to the mini toilet with minimal mess. When he finished, we looked back toward his spot to see that a bit of pee had not deterred one of our cats at all. The fur ball was munching on a couple of wet pieces of cat food left on the floor. In the crazy cycle of events, it finally clicked for Rivers. Translation complete.

Jonathan and I were able to finish our morning, the whole fifteen minutes of it, with a baby free yoga routine. Rivers was too busy feeding the cats by hand. The routine Jonathan chose was short but intense. Emotions from the morning-worry, confusion, frustration-came flowing out, but not without some difficulty. When the video finished and I sat in child’s pose, on my knees with my face and chest to the ground. Rivers bounced over, stretched his belly and chest along my back and wrapped his arms firmly across my shoulders in a hug. Then moved to face me, picked up my head with his chubby hands and kissed me.

I’m coming to realize that, while some individuals instantly feel immersed in the sorority (and fraternity) of the insane (aka the parent club), others accept their membership over time. I’m one of those. I loved being child free and I sometimes envy the majority of my companions who still are. I’ve tried to talk about my life beyond my son, but it is becoming more difficult each day. How can I possible explain my morning without including him? And how can I possible explain it to a child free individual without initiating a look of terror and sympathy? I can only laugh at the thought. I’m glad to share this story with you. My hope is that it will bring a smile to your face, make you nod in agreement or even laugh.

Yours truly-

kissface

 

the little space captain

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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.
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52 Rivers: a weekly photography project

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After our baby shower, which seems like forever ago now, I was determined to put every gift to good use. Even an overstuffed fuzzy pillow with beady eyes and sad slump that inspired us to deem him “drunk teddy.” Teddy became Rivers’ weekly companion and growth comparison for this 52 weeks photo project.

What began as a whim, developed into unyielding dedication and ended with smiles. We thought we were just charting his growth, little did we know so much of his personality would shine through, until we started comparing the photos week by week. Of course it would! We just didn’t think about that when we started with a limp, confused newborn.

This project reminds us of when he started crawling, when the first teeth arrived (the amber necklace appears) and when the second set of chompers followed (causing the necklace to disappear), when we needed props to keep him still for the two seconds it takes to snap a photo and when Teddy became more like a friend than a cushion.

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

six more weeks

snowboyThe groundhog saw his shadow, so that means six more weeks of winter. Or did he miss it? I’m never sure which is which, but judging by the storm we received yesterday and the one we’re expecting tomorrow, I’m pretty sure winter is nowhere near over. As long as we’re not into negative temperatures I’m fine with snowy blankets. I’ll take 29 degrees and six inches any day over immediate frostbite.

There are two types of people when it comes to snow, those who hibernate and those who revel in the outdoors. Jonathan usually takes to cozying up on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate, while I make it my job to pry everyone out from under afghans and into wool jackets before the sun melts my playland. One upside to my partner being away this week is that there was no steaming cocoa to distract me from my mission. No partner to tell me not to plop the baby in the snow because it may be too cold and wet.

Shhhhh… don’t tell.

I handed Rivers a small snowball, just large enough for him to cup in a mitten-capped hand. He plopped the entire ball into his mouth like a giant jaw-breaker, and judging by his grimace, immediately regretted his decision. Not the least deterred he roamed the landscaped walkway and picked up clumps of snow, either by mouth or mitten. He’s a winter baby by birth and by heart. We may have another reveler in the family.

manicured man

©fourwoodthinking

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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.

the heartache of returning to work

©fourwoodthinking

My eyes are red and still slightly damp from tears. My sinus is inflamed from the collision between my nose and a baby’s head that occurred several days prior, but today’s crying doesn’t help. These emotions are a mingle of excitement, confusion and pain. The abrupt bursts are seemingly unending. I’m suffering from a first world problem, which makes me feel worse. Out of the blue, just as I began thinking, just thinking about going back to work, I was offered a job. It’s a good fit, so I accepted. Once I began the victory dance around the kitchen, my son crawled in, grinning ear to ear. Seeing him, my heart grew two sizes and then shattered all over the floor.

Why did I just negotiate to leave him?

The plan was never to be a permanent play-at-home mama. Having a child never dampened my desire to have a career. When he was barely two months old I returned to the pastry kitchen, practically running to get there the first day. It was like having a day off compared to at-home parenthood.  The work seemed less taxing and it was amazing to converse with other adult again, but something was missing. The same joys of accomplishment I’d once received were no longer evident. Jonathan and I juggled parenting and work, but ultimately it was more finically feasible for one parent to stay home consistently. I happily returned.

Certainly no other position has been more strenuous or challenging. The past seven months have drastically widened my appreciation for parents who drop outside careers to raise kids. While friends complained about the muck they dealt with in their jobs, I dealt with literal muck in diapers. My boss was unpredictable and needy just like theirs. The only difference is that I could never honestly vent about him without garnering strange looks. I love my son unconditionally, but only the sweet older lady at the sandwich shop has understood. “I bet some days you feel like you could sell him to the lowest bidder.” Absolutely! But today isn’t one of them.

Today I hold him and cry. And cry. And cry some more. Empathy is lost on the baby. He reacts with hysterical laughter followed by a joyful slap to the face. Perhaps my mood is intense because the change is sudden. Unlike the previous time, I don’t have two months to mentally prepare. I have a week. This time it’s not temporary. Jonathan is transitioning toward a full-time tattoo career.  Since it’s client-based and clients can be unreliable we will be once again share outside jobs and child care.

My partner is an amazing father and our son’s whole face lights up in his presence. I’m a blessed individual who doesn’t have to worry about the competency of my child’s caregiver during my absences, or about applying for a job because apparently they just appear. I’ve been blessed (although sometimes I felt cursed) to have spent such an immense amount of quality time with my little dude. He’s old enough to play independently and request daily doses of alone time. He doesn’t require my particular attention as often. It’s a good time to go back to work. I want to go to work. I know these things to be true, but my heart still aches. Who knew it would be this hard.

pastries & bones

This Friday I am veering from the traditional {this moment} to post the promised Halloween photos. Last week I posted the dragon get-up, which I couldn’t resist, considering his nickname last year.  Also with the thrift store find, we made our own. What do you get when mama is a pastry cook and dad is a tattoo artist? A baby s’more and a baby skeleton. How could we resist. In just a couple years he’ll have an opinion about his costume, so for now we’ll squeeze in as many as we can. And of course we couldn’t resist the collaborative family costume.

Excuse the somberness in the family portrait. We attempted the serious look for our characters (from Labyrinth), but it doesn’t suit us. Pointing at the camera and smiling is always best.

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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.

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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.