Thursday, December 20, 2012

it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

This is the most exciting Christmas I can remember. Having a baby really brings the magic back to the holiday, that's for sure! Although Emerson won't remember her first Christmas, it fills me with so much joy to see her discover all the sights and sounds and scents of the season. Not to mention, I am filled with dreams of Christmases to come—Santa Claus, baking cookies and making gingerbread houses, listening for reindeer on the roof, my daughter's tiny voice singing Christmas songs. 

We got our first Christmas tree ever this year to celebrate this new beginning and I found myself so swept up in the moment—running around the Christmas tree farm snapping pictures, downloading Christmas music as we unwrapped all the ornaments we've been collecting but have never used, lighting holiday-scented candles and shouting about how badly I need some hot chocolate with marshmellows. It certainly took my husband by surprise who is used to  the Scrooge-version of his wife. Admittedly, I have never liked holidays of any kind (I know, I know, it's awful) so this is definitely a new beginning. 

As into Christmas as I was this year, I wasn't exactly on the ball when it came to getting our first Christmas card as a family out the door. I just got around to putting together an impromptu photo shoot last week, which means my cards don't stand much chance of reaching people before Christmas. But, it was still fun nonetheless. 

I don't have much time for brainstorming ideas or setting up shoots like I used to, nor do I live in a house that provides much natural light for such occasions. Then I realized that I already owned some props, I just had to get creative with them. And our guest room does have some good light during the morning hours, but the light only touches the bed. Solution: use the bed. I threw down a little fake snow, hung some lights and tied ornaments to the headboard (thanks for the inspiration, Natalie!) and voilĂ !

Outtakes (which most photos end up being when you are photographing a baby):

Other holiday scenes around these parts:

Grandma teaching us all the ins and outs of Christmas trees


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

clinging to one

I've been debating whether or not to write about the terrible tragedy that occurred in Newtown last Friday. On the one hand, I didn't want to write about it, because I didn't know what I could say that so many others haven't. But, on the other hand, I haven't felt this struck by a news story….maybe ever. This just felt different. It felt different because Alex and I grew up in Connecticut and lived less than an hour from Newtown until about a year ago, because my father-in-law lives only minutes down the street from Sandy Hook, because I have so many teachers and administrators in my life (including my husband, sisters, cousins, friends and myself at one time), because there are many kindergarten-age children in my life that I immediately thought of…..because I am a parent. And so, I decided I need to talk about this if I want to make peace with it at all.

When I was pregnant, I read this quote on the bathroom wall of my midwives' bathroom every month/week: "Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." And it terrified me. "How will I be able to handle that?" is what I used to think every time I read that wall. I am emotional and fearful and full of anxiety without a child. I struggle unendingly with a sensitive heart that cannot bear the sight of cows standing in the cold without blankets, or homeless people who are all alone in the world, or orphans without parents to love them, or horses that are in pens I've deemed too small, or or or. I cannot bear the news so I usually do not read it and never watch it. I cannot bear so many things that sometimes I completely shut down. Or cry. And now, I have to deal with my sensitive heart walking around outside my body? I have, at times, found myself wishing I could stuff my baby back inside my belly….where she is safe, where she can't fall while trying to walk, where no one can hurt her feelings (or body), where she is always warm and embraced and soothed, where she and my heart are right underneath my nose always.

But, she is her own person. And I am her mother. And I have to be strong for her. One of the first lessons I learned as a mother was when Emerson was about a month old. She would sometimes cry without explanation, as babies do, and I would be a mess and in pain until she would stop. It was so hard for me to see her in distress and not be able to take it away or prevent it. And then one day, I realized that it is not within my power to shield her from every wound life may inflict upon her. It is within my power to hold her hand and simply be there, loving her, through it all. (In more serious circumstances, I would, of course, take a bullet for her and do anything to protect her, but I won't always be able to.)

Back to the quote—I have thought of it a hundred times since I first read it. Every time I look at my child's face, another piece of my heart leaps out of my body and into a world that is unpredictable. The events of Friday provided a shocking, incredibly painful example of the things we parents cannot control. There are now twenty sets of parents (really more than twenty, because the adults that died have parents, too) whose hearts have been broken. And there are hundreds more parents that are now faced with the task of holding their children's hands through this frightening, scarring ordeal…..parents whose hearts hurt for the memories and fears that Friday will leave their children with for the rest of their lives.

Then there are the rest of us who hurt because we feel the interconnectedness of all human beings, of all parents, of all communities. We hurt because we have children (or have children in our lives that we love) and are filled with the anxiety of this troubled world that we cannot protect them from. We hurt because losing our own children creates unfathomable pain deep inside us. We hurt for those that did lose children on Friday. We hurt for the fear those children must have felt during their last minutes on earth. We hurt because we know teachers or are teachers, and cannot bear the thought of our husbands or wives or friends or neighbors or relatives or coworkers not coming home at the end of the day. We hurt because people died. Babies died. And adults who were someone's baby once, too. We hurt because this doesn't make sense, because there are so many questions, because it's just plain NOT. FAIR.

Here's the thing—I am glad that I don't have to send my child anywhere yet. But, I will someday. And when that day comes, I don't want to be crippled by the anxiety that terrible things may befall her. So, I cling to one. One love for one people, in the hopes that we are not lost as a species, that we can heal, that there is still so much light and love and good in this world to pull us through the dark times. Because, without that hope, I will spend the rest of my life clinging to one. One child (and her siblings). One uncontrollable pit of anxiety. And that's no way for any of us to live.


Monday, December 17, 2012

seven months of Emerson

On 12-12-12 Emerson turned seven-months-old (I know, I'm a little behind in posting this and it's not my finest piece, but the holidays are a comin' and my mind is jumbled). 

The past month has been an explosion of milestones. The week of Thanksgiving, Emerson started to crawl (across the room instead of just one or two steps), she popped her first tooth, and then a second, she started standing, she started eating solid food, and she became even more verbal (we're still waiting for her to grow some hair, though;). All I can say is hallelujah! I've mentioned that life with Emerson has been quite challenging the past month or two, and I had a hunch the entire time that she was gearing up to make some major changes in her life and that she would remain frustrated until she did. I had no idea it would be this intense and so much all at once, but it sort of makes sense given her personality. So, it was milestone central up in here for about a week and now Emerson is the biggest bubble of joy—smiling and laughing and singing (cutest thing EVER) all day long. Her little big spirit is so enchanting, she commands attention. When in a silent room, she begins to sing and talk to all the strangers around her. Needless to say, she's becoming much more of a person than a mysterious baby creature.

I will note that while Emerson is much happier these days, it's still not easy. Because, is it ever easy? I've been relieved (at least temporarily) of whining patrol and soother of constant woes, but now I'm on safety surveillance all day long, doing what I can to make sure my crawling/standing little wonder doesn't severely injure herself. And I'm still not getting much sleep with all the tooth popping going on around here.

Also highly notable to me as a mother, is the fact that my sweet baby is suddenly very independent. She still needs me and wants me all day, but things have definitely shifted. I have become very emotional (yes, more than usual, if that's possible) and hugging her tighter than before (when she lets me) ever since she started to crawl. With mobility comes distance….between us. Right now, that distance looks something like me sitting on the floor while Emerson plays by herself. Every so often, she looks back at me to make sure I'm still there— she gives me an enormous smile and once I smile back (aka, confirmation that all is right and safe in the world), she continues to play. At first, she would only crawl in circles around me, not daring to move more than an arm-length or two away from me. But, as the days wear on, she's more confident, more adventurous, and her strong body takes her farther away from me. Sometimes she seems to just want some time to herself. And other times, she wants to be a part of anything and everything I am doing. She crawls all over me, gives me wet kisses and puts her tiny hand on top of mine while I do whatever it is I'm doing (she likes to help). She's my little mini, standing next to me with a huge smile and I just know she feels a little bit more like my buddy and less like my baby now. As nostalgic as I am feeling, though, I would never want to give up the moment I am in to go back and have her be a tiny baby again (okay, maybe just for an hour), because I would miss the person I am spending my days with now. She's not just a warm, snuggly bundle of cuteness, but a person. A really awesome person. And I get to hang out with her all day. Our bond is too strong now to ever want to trade it for anything. 

More than anything, though, I can't believe we are on the other side of six months. Up until this point, I felt like my baby was still a baby. Now, it feels like one year will creep up on us before we know it….perhaps that is because Emerson's development has picked up speed rather than the slow, less profound milestones of those first few months. We're on a crazy, fast moving train over here. Sigh.

Monday, December 10, 2012

life in motion

Emerson started crawling on Thanksgiving (across the room rather than just one or two steps). Where was I with this announcement? It's the biggest milestone we've experienced and yet I haven't been posting my pride and nostalgia? Here's a video to make up for it:

Emerson was obsessed with learning to crawl the minute she figured out how to get on all fours. It took her about six weeks to actually master mobility. But, the minute she could, she was already on to the next thing: standing. All this girl wants to do all day is stand. She can only do so if she has something to support her, but she's all one-handed, barely holding on with this little smirk on her face like she's showing off. And she will pull herself up on just about anything—furniture, the side of the bath tub, open drawers….she even grabbed my LIPS once and tried to use them for leverage. She has been very strong and physical from the beginning. I guess I shouldn't be surprised by all of this….but, I wish she'd slow down.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

this is our life: on the lesser of two evils

It's late morning and time to give Emerson a bath. I sit her down on the bathroom floor and get all her supplies ready—wash cloths, cotton balls, lotion, hair brush, shampoo and body wash—all while singing our usual song: It's time to take a bath, take a bath, take a bath. It's time to take a bath, take a bath, take a bath. Emerson squeals with delight as she watches me fill her tub and sing. This girl loves her baths. And soaking mama with splashes. And drinking soapy water. Bath time is the best.

As the tub fills I take Em into her room to change her diaper. I unlatch the diaper and then wait for the inevitable flow of pee I know she's going to unleash once diaperless. She always does this. Is it the cold breeze on her lady parts? Is it the freedom from a life shackled in binding diapers? I don't know. But, I caught her in the act this time. Haha! 

I take Emerson back to the bathroom and plop her into the tub. I look down at the water and it begins to turn yellow immediately. Not twenty seconds in and she already peed in the tub. Obviously, this happens all the time. She's a baby. It's not a big deal, but personally I can't stand the thought of bathing my child in her own urine, so I always empty the tub and fill it back up. I pull Emerson out and put her on the floor while I put some fresh water in the tub. Nobody likes being wet and cold, but Emerson never seems to mind when I do this because I turn the heat in the bathroom way up when I bathe her and have her towel ready so she's nice and snug.

I put Emerson back in the tub. She pees again. Twice in a row? Hmmm. This has never happened. I feel horrible pulling her out of the tub again, especially since she's playing and having a great time. She's slightly displeased, but sits quietly waiting on her towel. Okay, now we're going to have a bath. Or, so I think.

Again, I put Emerson in the tub. I look down and see something I've never seen before. At first I think she's peeing again because the water is turning yellow between her legs. But, then. An explosion. It looks like a boat propeller is being started under the water. Particles are flying left and right. I'm being further initiated into parenthood. I've been dreading this moment, knowing it would happen eventually. I soon realize that Emerson is pooping in the tub and because she's a breastfed baby, her poops are basically liquid, which means there is no containing it. The entire tub is filled with brownish yellow water with random bits of who knows what floating every which way. 

I stay calm for my child on a daily basis, especially when freaking out might cause some sort of complex for her. But nope. I can't do it right now. My baby is sitting in a sewage tank. To her, of course, she's just in the bath tub so she continues on with her bath time activities. Number one is kicking her legs as hard as she can, which normally means she playfully splashes the heck out of mama while mama giggles at her cuteness. In this instance, however, she is splashing poop all over me. And I just showered. I open my mouth in a gasp of horror, and she splashes poopy water….into. my. mouth. I start to scream. I cannot help myself. Emerson looks at me like I'm crazy and proceeds to put her hands in her mouth, rub poop into her eyes, and drink the bath water. I scream even louder. I'm completely losing my sh#t. I'm sweating on account of the heater being cranked all the way up. I want to take Emerson out of the tub to stop all the poop eating and poop splashing, but SHE'S COVERED IN POOP. HOW DO I GET HER OUT WITHOUT TOUCHING MORE POOP? I cannot figure out a plan of attack. This is when I call for Alex. Thank God for Thanksgiving vacation, because, otherwise, I'd be dealing with this one on my own. 

At this point, Emerson starts wailing. She can handle a lot of things, but watching mama freak out is not one of them, especially when she knows she is causing the upset. Alex comes upstairs and rescues a red, screaming Emerson from the poopy tub and attempts to calm her...without touching her. Emerson poops some more on her towel. I go into panic mode and start spraying every cleaning spray I can find in the tub, scrubbing furiously and cursing the fact that I buy non-toxic products. I need some chemicals up in this biatch STAT. And listening to poor, cold, wet Emerson cry is making me even crazier than I already am. 

After a good scrub down, I figure the tub is clean enough for another bath so I put my baby back into some warm water. 





I'm just cursing at this point. Cursing and shaking from the stress of every surface and person in the bathroom being poopified. I mean, my hands are literally shaking. And Emerson is melting down as I pull her from the tub for the fourth time. I scrub the tub once more wondering why this initiation into parenthood must be so thorough and unfair. I actually would have preferred a solid, formed poop floating in the tub over what is basically diarrhea being splattered in my face, and Emerson's face, and coating the sides of the bath tub. The fact that I'm even having this conversation in my head about wishing for solid, formed poop is just upsetting, but that's what it comes down to in parenthood. There are so many gross or less than ideal encounters on a daily basis, so which would you prefer? Which is easier to clean up? Which can be contained to a smaller area? Which poses less health risk/disease potential/injury? Yes, I'll take the solid poop, please.

I finally get Emerson into a (somewhat) clean tub and quickly wash her before any further excrement decides to leave her body. I have beads of sweat trickling down my face and cleavage, my hair looks like I just journeyed through a rain forest on account of all the humidity in the bathroom from hot water and a hot heater, my face is bright red and frazzled. Emerson looks a bit traumatized and can't bring herself to splash or play in the water. She just sits there as I silently soap her up and rinse her off. She cries as I attempt to dry her and put her lotion on. 

I spend ten minutes snuggling and nursing Em, and then hand her off to Alex as I inform him that I'm going to need a solid half hour, alone, in the bathroom to decontaminate and recover mentally. Alex retorts, "what would you have done if I was at work and you had to deal with this all by yourself?" I'm nearing a panic attack just trying to imagine it. I say nothing and close the bathroom door, defeated. 

Later, I google "what can happen if my baby drinks bath water that she pooped in." 

This is our life.

Monday, December 3, 2012

no sleep til….emerson goes to college

Wow, I've totally been failing on the blog post front lately. Sorry, dear readers! It's pretty safe to assume that when I fall out of a regular posting routine, Emerson is going through a phase (or six, back-to-back, or maybe all at once). I mentioned earlier this month that Emerson's fifth month of life was by far the most taxing. Well, that trend has continued on through the sixth month (and we're still going). Holiday traveling also made for an extra batch of chaos round these parts. 

Anyway, I just wanted to post something, anything to get myself back in the groove. Though I'm crazy tired already, and it's only Monday, I promise I will post this week. I hope you're still out there, readers!

One final, random note: I seem to be compiling a soundtrack (to motherhood) in my head—random songs pop up in the midst of my craziness that seem to fit the moment perfectly in some general (or sometimes specific) way. Here's today's: