Thursday, September 8, 2016

DEAR EVERLY RAE: HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY




You are my sunshine, my sweet wildflower, my heart.

You have changed me.

As I got you ready for bed last night, I found myself doing everything more slowly.  Taking my time as I washed under your sweet double chin, making sure all the lotion was rubbed into your back, listening to you "read" me a story.  The minutes were pulling me ahead again, and I already knew what was on the other side.  When I tiptoed out of your room and closed the door, I would be finishing a chapter of our story.  The most wonderful, difficult, magical chapter of my story and just the opening chapter of yours.  Two stories intertwined, but also growing branches that pulled away from each other.

I cried as I changed your diaper this morning, because I couldn't picture the skinny little newborn who used to lay there and stare up at me.  It was like trying to remember the melody to a song as you listened to another song.  Impossible.  Instead here you were.  This happy and chunky 1 year old who wiggled out of my hands.  I know next year I'll cry because you'll be too big for the changing pad on the pack and play I keep in our room that only is used as a catchall for clothes now.

But away from your wonderful current self, I remember.  I remember your hot breath as you fell asleep after I nursed you.  I remember you screaming in the car and then only quieting down when I sang you your favorite song, "Beautiful Dreamer".  I remember the first time we locked eyes as the doctor placed you on my chest.  That, I will always remember.

And as crazy as it seems to me that you will be running and talking this time next year, I will hold these images of your first year so dearly.  You were mine this year.  My permanent shadow who needed me so completely.  And while you'll still need me in the future, it will be different and always changing.  And that's ok.  The one thing I want you to know is how fiercely I love you.  Now and always.

You are the happiest, sweetest, most inquisitive baby.  Our favorite thing is when you hold up something you found.  You are so very proud of yourself as you make sure we all see your new treasure.  You give your love freely, and I love when you clamber up my shirt and clutch on so tightly when you're worried I may put you down.

You wave and give high fives.  You clap your hands whenever I say "Yay Everly!"  You say "mama" (kind of to me) and whisper "bye-bye" just as people head out of ear shot.

You love being cuddled.  Every night when you get home from daycare, you waddle up to your toy dog and slap it's back, signaling that you want to sit on it and us to pull you around the house.  Which we do, because it makes you so very happy.

You get into EVERYTHING.  The cabinets are your treasure boxes that surely hide something amazing.  We gave you a toy remote control, which you like ok, but you always go after the real one given the chance.

You are walking more and more and love the new freedom.  We know when you're tired, because you try to stand but then drunkenly fall down and resort to crawling.

You're eating more and more table foods and meal times take an hour.  Your favorite food to feed yourself is peas and your favorite food for us to feed you is applesauce.  You cannot get enough applesauce.

You still have no teeth(!).  I worry sometimes that there aren't any teeth in there and that we'll have to get you baby dentures.  Every time you fuss at night, we assume it's teething, but then no tooth pops out.

You have very little hair.  So the no hair and no teeth thing trick me into thinking you're younger than you really are.  Then I pick you up, though, and remember that you're huge!  You're already wearing 18-24 month clothes.

You love to giggle and be tickled.  You already have a great sense of humor and know how to get us laughing.


I wonder sometimes what are those things I want to tell you, to make sure you know, to help you as you find your way.  In my 20s, I did a lot of reading with a single purpose.  I wanted one truth that would explain everything.  That's a tall order, but what I did find was a passage in a book that made me see value and adventure in my seemingly ordinary life.  The best advice I have for you is to stay in the present.  Appreciate the fleeting moment for what it is, without focusing on how the past was better or how the future will be brighter, because guess what?  Today is a day you'll one day look wistfully back on as "the good old days".  I know that as I cry about missing your newborn days, years from now I'll cry about missing your toddler days.  It's so much easier said than done, but a wonderful reminder that you don't have to do anything extraordinary to have an extraordinary life.  Just open your eyes to the incredible world around you.

If we could have remembrance now
     And see, as in the days to come
     We shall, what's venturous in these hours:
     The swift, intangible romance of fields at home,
     The gleams of sun, the showers,
     Our workaday contentments, or our powers
     To fare still forward through the uncharted haze
     Of present days. . . .
     For, looking back when years shall flow
     Upon this olden day that's now,
     We'll see, romantic in dimm'd hours,
     These memories of ours.

--"Romance by Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer


No matter how old you get, you will always be our sweet baby girl.  Happy 1st birthday, Everly.  You are so very loved.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

THE FENCE



Those weeds that used to tangle in and out of our back fence are finally starting to reemerge.  Most people would bemoan the fact of their perseverance, but not me.

When we first moved in to our house, some said we should get rid of it all.  "It's just a ton of weeds back there!" they exclaimed.  But to me, those weeds overtook a boring chain link fence and transformed it into an illusion of isolation within a sprawling suburb.  It created a "best of both worlds scenario" for our house--close to the hustle and bustle of the city but also a semi-private retreat.

A few months ago, someone new moved into the house we share that fence with.  At least I assume the home had new owners since the house had a lot of people coming and going.  But the true giveaway was that our once lush weed barrier turned brown overnight and then disintegrated from sight.  Now I could see a dog roaming around through the links and a woman trying unsuccessfully to restart her lawn mower.  The illusion had unraveled along with those vines.

First I got mad.  A great many pictures had been taken in front of my weed backdrop, transferring us from a backyard to some sort of forest retreat.  I'm not saying I want to barricade myself off from our neighbors, but it is nice to pretend  that we have a little privacy even though we're surrounded by a grid of houses.  But I let it go.  It seemed silly for our first talk with the new neighbors to be about our disappointment of them getting rid of the weeds.  Wade, for the record, was a fan of the clean landscape.

And then yesterday, I smiled.  I watched Everly while she stared out the big window into the backyard.   I was about to teach her how we don't bang on the glass with puzzle pieces, but my "no" turned quickly into a "no way" as my gaze settled on to the newly formed greenery slowly but surely climbing that back fence.  The setting sun had turned the weeds a soft golden color.  I guess some things have a way of fighting back.


Friday, July 8, 2016

A BYE-BYE THAT SOUNDS MORE LIKE HELLO




"Say bye-bye to the bunny," I urged.

"Bye-bye," she whispered in the sweetest voice as she stretched out her little arm and clasped and unclasped her hand towards Mr. Maisy, the same way we had been showing her for months.

Funny how her goodbye sounded more like a hello to a whole new chapter.

But this wasn't her first word.  I'm counting it as her second.  Her first word will go down in the baby book as Mama.  Actually, it's more like Mamamamama.  But still.  Close enough.  It happened on Father's Day.  As Wade kept telling her to say Dada, she started (and kept saying) Mamamamamama.  Sweetest words to this tired mama's ears.

And now she's scurrying after us as we walk around the house, pulling herself up on my leg, and clapping at herself after she mimics the gestures to "Itsy Bitsy Spider" while I sing.  She's my little shadow....who has quite a mind of her own.

How did we get here?  She's 10 months old today?  I've only posted her 1-6 month photos, so surely we can't have jumped ahead in time this far.

But alas.  Here we are.  Halfway through the summer and more than halfway through this little one's first year.

Tonight I'll take her 9 month photos, because I've gotten into a bad habit where I take her monthly photos on the last day of her technically being in that month.  And I just realized I already missed it by a day.  Close enough.  I'm going to have to up my timing, though, and take the 10 month ones in a few weeks.  That will get me back on track.

Now there's a first birthday to think about and also push out of my mind.  It's too soon.  I have so much more to document.  It makes me wish I would have kept the momentum up in this space, to have written down more in the moment, but then I was either busy enjoying the moment...or sleeping.

We've taken Everly on three road trips so far: to Chicago to surprise my sister for her birthday (the big 4-0), to Iowa for a reunion with my family (man, it was so wonderful to see everyone in one place), and back again to Iowa to see Wade's family (in our new van--the most comfortable ride there is).  Each trip we think she'll like the car more, but each time she proves that she hates being confined for more than 15 minutes.

I think about this space often.  I think about how hard I worked to cultivate it into something I felt proud of.  At times I feel ok letting it go, but there are other times when the thought of not having this outlet feels like a failure.  Like I'd be letting go of a piece of my pre-mother self that I'm not ready to do.  Not that the two are mutually exclusive, but sometimes it feels that way.

I have a few drafts of posts with pictures from moments that have gone by.  I overthink what I should say.  If it's thoughtful enough, funny enough, worthwhile enough.

Enough with enough.

It's not time for bye-bye quite yet.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

THE OTHER SIDE OF 40 WEEKS




















When I was pregnant, 40 weeks was my finish line.  My end goal that drove me through each nausea-filled day.  I was simultaneously impatiently rushing head first to last September, while also dragging my feet as the clock pulled me along with each passing minute.

On the one hand, I couldn't wait for the 40 weeks to be over: I'd feel like me again, get to eat/drink whatever I wanted, and most importantly, I'd get to meet my little girl.

But on the other hand, life as I knew it was changing.  Forever.  There were no take backsies or redoes.  This change was permanent.  What an amazing reason for my world to change, but still, I fretted each day as to how I would handle this wonderful and imminent disruption.

Just shy of 40 weeks, I wasn't left to wonder anymore.  I dug my heels in harder as the pangs of labor began to intensify.  But as I pushed Everly into the world, I realized I was also pushing myself to assume this new role.  My mom told me the next day that she saw me become a mother as I held Everly for the first time.  That sweet observation from someone whose opinion I value so highly has remained with me.  Sometimes you need others to believe in you so much that you begin to believe in yourself.  To let the confidence work its way from the outside in.

And all of a sudden, it seems, another 40 weeks has passed.

But this side of 40 weeks looks so much different.

These 40 weeks weren't spent anticipating, they were spent experiencing.  I wasn't focused on an end date, I was focused on each day, each moment within these 40 weeks.  I spent these 40 weeks memorizing a face, figuring out how to make a new little human feel happy and safe, how to make my current self feel happy and safe, how to be more patient, that it's ok to feel like crying, that it's ok to cry.

These first 40 weeks of Everly's life were the best 40 weeks of my life. 

And you know what's funny?  Now I find myself digging in my heels all over again.  Not because I'm scared this time, but because I want to stay in these moments a while longer.  I can feel the passage of time pulling us forward.  It's causing Everly to grow soft strands of hair that barely cover her bald head, to grow a little (sassy) personality, to grow up. 

I was surprised to see the app on my phone tell me Everly was now a whopping 40 weeks.  I hadn't counted anything in weeks for a while.  No more how many weeks pregnant are you or how many weeks old is she.  Instead of it being a day marked with fanfare, it passed just like any other wonderfully ordinary day.  It did make me stop for a moment, though, and think back on how far we both had come and how much there is to look forward to....with no end goal in mind.





Saturday, May 21, 2016

FIRST MOTHER'S DAY




Ah, Mother's Day.  That one day a year where moms everywhere get to sleep in as late as they please and leisurely go about their day, right?  Right??

Alas, the bubble I had been living in the weeks leading up to Mother's Day quickly burst when Wade and I found ourselves spending multiple hours (ack!!) trying to get Everly to take an afternoon nap....so we could take naps.  The day had started out fairly close to my expectations...

Wake up leisurely to the smell of breakfast in bed.  Ok.  I still had to get up early to feed Everly, but she did nod off again for a little bit, which was nice.  And there were pancakes.  Good ol' Mickey D's hotcakes, which were delicious.

Arrive at church early enough to give my mom her special flower.  I had envisioned arriving early to church to give my mom her lily for her to wear, but characteristic for us, we were 10 minutes late.  This lily corsage is a tradition my grandpa started many years ago.  I'm not even sure exactly when it began, but I have memories of the doorbell ringing each Mother's Day before church and then my mom walking back into the kitchen with a beautiful smile and a beautiful flower pinned to her shirt.  It was a quick delivery on his way to his own church service, but it started the day with such love.  The first Mother's Day after my grandpa passed away, I noticed there wasn't a lily pinned to her sweater as in years past.  It was another raw reminder of the void he had left.  The next year, I went to the store a few days before Mother's Day and picked out a lily corsage for my mom.  I've been doing it every year since.  This year I even picked up one for myself:)

So while I didn't get it to her early, at least we were able to be twinsies for a few pictures.

Enjoy a picnic lunch of KFC.  If mom isn't supposed to be burdened with cooking, what do you do?  Cook ourselves?  No way.  Grab some KFC and eat outside is the best idea.  It was raining, though, so we enjoyed our KFC inside.  Everly was pretty fussy, and I complained to my mom how I had started to realize how moms don't really get a break, even on Mother's Day....while she was busy clearing the dishes herself and getting me more water.  The irony wasn't lost on me:)

We used to sneak into my parent's room and pilfer through my mom's drawers and then wrap up her old scarves and jewelry as her Mother's Day "gift".  She always acted surprised, but I'm sure it just added another thing to her to do list: put away all the crap my kids took out of my drawers.

I have to say that Everly is already proving to be a good little gift giver.  She (and Wade) gave me this awesome jogging stroller!  Now I'm going to be able to run everywhere with my little babe by my side and all that baby weight will come melting off, right?  Right??  Or is that another motherhood delusion?



The day before we went to see my little niece shake her booty in her first dance recital.  She was A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E.  We went back to my brother's house afterwards for a pre-Mother's Day celebration and also to see their new tree house.  This is far from the one we had as kids, though.  It's got a roof, patio that multiple adults can stand on, two levels, a slide, and POWER!  Yep, they should rent that thing out through Airbnb.

Yep, we're both wearing golden pineapples.  If being a twinkie with your baby is wrong, I don't want to be right:)

Seeing the love between Everly and her cousins melts my heart.  I remember when these little tykes were babies and now they're playing with my baby.  It's very surreal and wonderful.

I'm so lucky.