Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dancing with a Baby in the Belly

I found a cd today entitled "Dancing with a Baby in the Belly". I made it when I was pregnant. It was a great mix of 60's and 70's cheesy, happy songs- like Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and Happy Together. I used to spend hours dancing in the shower to it, sure that the baby inside of me could hear. I wondered what she would look like, how she would sound, what kind of personality she would have. I haven't listened to that cd since I was pregnant. And then I found myself today, 2 1/2 yrs later, listening to these songs and dancing with the most amazing and beautiful child in my arms. I could have never imagined her... or our life as it is.

I had been so terrified when I was pregnant. I was so sure that I could never be a good mother. I had so long been lost to my own failures and short-comings that the indaquecy I felt at having to live up to something for the sake of someone else was overwhelming. I knew it would be difficult, immensely hard, challenging, but I had no idea that it could or would be happy as well. I hadn't even considered it. But here I am, over 2 yrs in, completely overwhelmed by the goodness of my life, of being a mother. We have a happy home, a life full of music and laughter and play and learning and sharing, of walks and meals and treats and snuggles. And I am not a perfect mother, by any means, but I am a good mother. I never knew I could possess or share this much love but I do.

My daughter is an amazing creature. I don't know that I can ever fully appreciate the capacity of her soul. She is bright and happy and observant and friendly. She remembers things and people and songs. She makes everyone she meets smile. She makes me smile. Even at 2, she is intuitive and compassionate. She feeds bugs and tries to hug squirrels. And she still keeps me up at night but I can only attribute that to her insatiable zeal to experience every single moment of life possible to its very fullest. She is nothing like the baby I had imagined when she was still growing in my belly. She is so much more, with her blonde curls and wide eyes and belly laugh that is so delicious it makes my heart hurt, with her certain voice and independent manner. She is joy. And though I was terrified for the first 6 months of her existence, which is how long it took for me to become convinced that she was real and she was here to stay, I realized that for the first time in my adult life I was and am truly and genuinely happy. I have experienced a love and contentment that I never thought I deserved. It has opened my heart and brought with it so much healing and goodness into my life.

I am nothing close to that uncertain and terrified girl who danced to the Beatles with a belly full of baby almost 3 yrs ago. That baby has changed my existence. I am now a mother, a woman, defined, secure, loved and loving. And though this is not what I imagined the good life to look like, this is the best life possible.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sephira's newest favorite thing...

is taking walks to the grocery store behind our house. Weird... I know. She puts her baby doll in the doll stroller and pushes it all the way to the store (a sizable distance when you're 2) where she then gets into the "car" shopping cart. She buckles herself and her baby in and I push... around and around the store. Up and down the aisles. I only feel a little awkward pushing an empty cart around a grocery store. Especially as my daughter alternates between "beep-beeping", shouting out hello, and singing at the top of her lungs to everyone we pass. Maybe she just likes the attention? These trips are turning into a daily thing and I'm starting to get to know familiar faces. I've also noticed the patterns of shoppers on certain days. Moms on Mondays and Wednesdays. Guys in the evening... especially midweek. Elderly on Thursdays. I wonder if this is intentional. If somehow these populations manage to consort on this.

It's a bit therapeutic though. I've always found grocery shopping relaxing (except when baby is having a nervous breakdown). The tidy rows of items stacked and categorized restore my mind to sanity. It's like my little oasis of order in a world full of chaos.

The advantages to this:

1. exercise in an air conditioned environment
2. don't have to pay a gym membership
3. don't have to pay a sitter
4. it's a social and fun experience for s
5. if I get thirsty, I just have to migrate to the water aisle

The only problem is that it's a LOT of walking for S. I just can't seem to find a way around it. She so looks forward to it and I can't find a good reason to help her understand why she shouldn't walk... she LOVES pushing her baby stroller. But the more she walks during the day, the less she sleeps at night. :(

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


We went to dinner at the Quarry last night. There's always a piano player on the baby grand in the corner, which Sephira loves. Last night, he serenaded Sephira to Elton John's "Your Song"- It has gone on the top 10 favorite moments of my life. The look on her face as she sat enraptured without a word or movement through the entire song was indescribable and completely delicious. She gets music. It's in her. It is what conceived her and I know it will be a major part of her life. That's girl's gonna make some music!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Once upon a time

The internet can be so very intrusive sometimes. We never know what we might get when we log into that world of e-mail. This is how I found myself so very disgruntled this evening, staying up past my bedtime thinking about a life I once lived. Sitting unabashedly in my inbox, was an invite from a long forgotten friend of a long forgotten time, to their newest website. It was one of those contemporary artsy sites sporting their latest works. This was a friend from art school, a fellow photographer. Even writing that seems so foreign, like it could somehow be a lie. Did I really go to art school? Did I really once spend hours contemplating the difference a millisecond could make on the lines of someone's face in the shadow of the morning sun? Art school…. it sounds so very… wordly.

But as I opened up this web page, peering skeptically at the little boxes that previewed the albums of photos, I noticed a face that looked oddly familiar, oddly like my own. It was mine. Me from another time, sitting on a worn mattress in dark room, looking sullen and forlorn and a little bit abandoned. I looked that way of course because I was supposed to. I think we were exemplifying the stages of relationships… I'm not sure where the shotty mattress fit in, nor do I remember who the guy was sitting on the other side of the bed. I had only met him once, the day we took those pictures. But all that is besides the point. What baffled me was the emotion that this one little image contained for me, all bound up in it 3 by 5ness waiting to suffocate me with memories long since forgotten. It had been a fun time. An uncertain time, as I was just beginning to discover how to truly have fun without completely dismantling myself. But what surprised me most was the sudden ache I felt to have that time again. To wake up on a cold morning, snuggle deeper under covers and go back to sleep. To sit by the kitchen window with a cup of coffee and think… for hours. To walk around the house in complete silence. To walk around the house full of people, friends and strangers, talking and talking.

I looked at the rest of the pictures on the site. The same people still doing the same things. The same couples together. There under a light post in the snow. There at the kitchen table in the morning. There in the backyard together.

I imagined these people, these couples, waking early in the morning to frost covered windows, wrapping their arms a little tighter around each other, pulling the down comforter around their ears and murmuring affection as they fell back asleep. I imagined them staying out late at enviable music shows, holding hands as they walked towards their house at the end of the night, music still ringing in their ears, blissfully weary from the evenings events. I imagined them at dinner parties, undoubtedly having fantastic conversations about nothing and everything and everything being nothing. Someone would pull out a deck of cards and dinner would run into breakfast and brilliant ideas would be conceived which I would most likely get to see someday on their fabulous new website.

I was jealous…. jealous of the freedom and jealous of the fun. I missed that life.

I missed it even though I remembered that I hadn't really been happy. Not that happy. I had still felt awkward and unconvinced that this was where I was supposed to be. I had felt like I was only floating on the surface of that very imaginative and colorful and disorganized world. I walked around with feet in two different universes, neither of them home. I would have rather been talking politics or perhaps conjuring up some irrefutable method to save the world. I had been keenly aware that I still hadn't found a purpose of my own. I woke up every morning wondering how I would make good use of the rest of my life.

I guess the good news is, I don't wonder that anymore… at least not the same way. If I do nothing else, I still will have made good use of this life.... it just might not make the cover of TIME magazine.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

ISO... sleep

It's 10:15. I'm greedily consuming my last few minutes of alone time much like my daughter eats ice cream. I should be in bed considering that I've been blurry eyed and sleep deprived for so long that... well... for so long that I can't even find a clever phrase to compare it to. In case you don't believe me, allow me to demonstrate. This morning I dropped off a book that I had borrowed from my professor. He wasn't in his office so I left it on his desk. A few hours later I received an e-mail...

"thanks for returning the book... I was surprised to find a rather large sum of money tucked into the book when I picked it up to return it to the shelf. I can't imagine anyone would want to give me a tip (ha, ha), and even if one did so wish, I could not, in good conscience, accept."

I seriously think he thought I was trying to pay him off (though I don't know why... I swear I got a good grade!). I must have tucked the money for our bills inside the cover on my way out the door. The sad thing is that I didn't even notice it... mostly because things got so hectic this morning that I never got around to paying them... for yet another day...

But onto my reason for this reoccurrence in the battle over sleep. After a year and a half of no sleep by my very strong-willed darling, I had finally achieved the unimaginable. She began sleeping through the night... in her own bed. After several months of her wonderful new sleeping habits, I began thinking she was big enough for her big girl bed. So about a month ago, I turned her crib into a toddler bed. BIG MISTAKE. For instance, the other night, around this same time I hear this muffled choking sort of sound and peak into the hall to see my bewildered daughter blinking in the light... in her arms are her blanket, pillow, cuppa, baby eliza, one dress-up shoe, and a pacifier that she has never used but insists on keeping in bed with her. Her cry is one of confusion- not completely formed and a little spastic- most likely because she is still trying to figure out what is going on. She had fallen asleep in my bed... I had sneaked her back into her own... she HATES that. She drops her cup and as she bends to pick it up loses eliza. It all goes down hill from there. I usher her back into her room which results in a full on foot stomping tantrum. So we go through the whole bedtime routine (short version) and I leave the room. Approximately 30 min later I return to shut off her music, assuming by the silence that my daughter is sleeping peacefully in her bed... which I quickly realize is completely empty. I glance around the room... almost panicked... has my 2 year old resorted to running away already? I peak into the hall... empty. And then it occurs to me... yep... there she is... sleeping peacefully in MY bed (surrounded by blankie, pillow, cuppa, shoe, eliza, and pacie of course). I sneak her back to her bed again. Hhmmm.... a few hours later... I'm finally sleeping... deeply... when I here that same chokey sort of cry. She's stumbling into my room. I can hear objects thudding to the ground as she progresses. I can't think at this hour, better yet go through the whole deal again so I do what every determined mother would do... I drag her into my bed and immediately fall back asleep. Of course, when she's in my bed she wakes up almost hourly for misc causes. Sometimes it's to beg a nurse, sometimes she needs MY pillow (her's no longer being good enough), or cheerios (is she really hungry?) and sometimes simply to have a detailed conversation about her friend Lilly moving to CO or the peas that the real baby Eliza ate for lunch. Sometimes she is simply convinced that it is morning and time for me to "getoutbed mama"... at which point I do have to get out of bed and take her to the window to prove it is still night though it still takes another 1/2 hr to get her back to sleep.

It's quite hard to tell if this is due to the pain in her body or her mere two-ness. But she's certainly learned quite rapidly how to use this disease to her advantage. This morning when I informed her that she could not have fudge bars and licorice for breakfast she let out this perfect Audrey Hepburn wail, grabbed her right leg and squealed "ow ow ow". Absolutely convincing ... except that the disease is in her left leg. Ooops.

I honestly think that the real cause is the simple fact that MY DAUGHTER IS A MANIAC!!! Can I just sum it up to her insatiable love of life... at ALL hours? We are both suffering the effects so horridly that come late afternoon we can be found huddled in a heap on the living room floor sobbing out our miseries amid the mess that becomes my house when I am too exhausted to tidy it up. Which tells me that I am going to have to stick this out and get her back in her bed sometime soon if I want to have any hope of returning to normalcy.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Two year olds can't really tell you when they're in chronic pain. At two, reality is changing so frequently that anything lasting more than a few days is quickly assimilated into the norm. It becomes a fact and they simply adjust and keep moving. I feel a little foolish now to have so easily assumed that my child's frequent melt-downs were merely a part of the terrible two's... something we had managed so well until recently. I attributed it to the summer heat and starting pre-school and not getting enough sleep. Sleep was definitely an issue but what I didn't realize was that the thing keeping my daughter up at night, tossing and turning and calling out my name, was the slowly disintegrating bone in her left leg.
Legg-Calve Perthes Syndrome is a form of necrosis in the hip. The blood supply to the joint becomes interrupted, eventually causing the bone to die. There is no way to stop it and not much to be done to fix it. Once the bone dies, new cartiledge will grow and hopefully, eventaully reform comfortably in the hip socket. The doctor says that if all goes well there will be a good hip one day... not a great hip but a good hip. Little is known about the disease. The duration of each phase is unpredictable, lasting anywhere from months to years. My daughter didn't start limping until a week ago but by then the entire head of her femur had already dissipated. The doctors actually seemed pretty impressed by how little she limped or even complained.
I had watched her three days before the diagnosis, trying to keep up with her friends as they ran around at a birthday party. It was the end of the day and she was tired and her leg seemed to be out of communication with the rest of her body. My stomach had butterflies... the kind moms get when they know something isn't quite right. People were talking to me but all I could do was watch my little girl as the realization that something was terribly wrong took hold. She had started complaining of pain a few months previous but I had concluded it was probably just growing pains. I had actually been proud of myself for not over-reacting and calling the doctor right away. That is the last time I will ignore my instinct just because the doctor makes me feel a little silly every time I call.
A few days later I would be standing in the x-ray room blowing up rubber gloves and trying to convince S that it really is fun to have pictures taken of our bones... no matter how still the strange people make us hold. I'm no x-ray technician but even I could tell that something was amiss as they stuck the film over the light. The right bone was a solid chalk white color, just like the ones I had shown S a week earlier in the mock doctor's office at her birthday party. The left one however was much darker, giving it the feeling of being hollow and the top was blunted and didn't match the right leg. At that moment I was sure it was leaukemia or some other deadly disease. In this respect I am incredibly thankful. All in all, it's not very bad. My daughter will live. My daughter will be healthy. My daughter will even continue to walk. She just won't do it as well as she might have otherwise. This isn't really the part that bothers me.
What bothers me is the idea of something inside of her dying; the idea of a pain that I can't reach and a disease that I can't stop... not for any amount of medicine or exercise.
Before her leg will get better it will inevitably get worse and there is nothing I can do to prevent that. I will not be able to predict how the bone and cartilage will reform. There is no way of knowing whether she will limp for the rest of her life. Suddenly the limitless sky of the future seems to have become a tiny bit... limited. And not that I don't believe she can overcome anything or become whatever she chooses; I'm sure that she can. But suddenly it's a consideration. The vagueness of the disease combined with her young age leaves me feeling a bit under-prepared. There is simply no plan of action.
It's interesting beginning to understand the permanence of a thing like this. My initial reaction was to feel the tender sort of fulfillment that a mother feels when her child falls ill. Not that we are happy to see them sick but we are happy to be the one to console them. It is the part of mothering that re-asserts they are our own and this is our role. We are needed. We slow down, we snuggle up, we make them smile, we are reminded of how grateful we are for them. The first day I popped in a movie and made us a nest. I cooked favorite foods and read favorite books (it didn't help that she simultaneously developed an ear infection). I wanted her to rest. I wanted her to be off her feet. I imagined her hip taking a break and breathing a sigh of relief.
Then I realized that we couldn't stay in bed everyday for the next 5 years. She would eventually grow sick of chicken soup and ice cream (at least the soup)... and I didn't know what to do. How do I step out into the world with this little bird and her broken wing? Suddenly everything seemed frightening again, like the day I brought her home from the hospital... fragile and precarious. Dropping her off at school meant I couldn't watch her every action. What if she fell off the slide? The fragile bone was very susceptible to breaks. What if someone knocked her over? What if she simply falls? And today she insisted on walking nearly a mile, pushing her "Baby Eliza" in her mini stroller all the way. Part of me wanted to insist she stop and carry her the whole way. But part of me knows that growing her spirit is just as vital as growing her body. I do not want to make her feel weak, disabled, sick. I do not want to constantly remind her of her limitations. I do not know which of the two is the lesser evil.
Tonight at I watch her toss and turn in bed, asking me to hold her every five minutes (which she rarely wants once asleep) I wonder if I didn't make the wrong choice.. She moves her leg constantly, trying to alleviate the ache and find a comfortable spot for it, and I suddenly realize how long she has been doing this. How long has she been in pain while I've been putting her in time-out for acting up? Gggrrrrr....!!!
It's funny, but she hit her head last week and I had in that moment been completely convinced that I am not at all equipped to handle any sort of physical crises. I mean... I've never taken a class on this stuff (ok... being first aid certified doesn't count... it only works on other people's kids). It's the decisions that actually get me... I simply shouldn't be making them on my own. To hospital or not... to call dr or not... ice or heat... etc. I'm a mess! I'm simply not ok with choosing the wrong one. Not when the thing that matters most in the world rides on the outcome. To let her run, walk, leave my sight? Frankly, the idea of staying in bed for the next 5 years is sounding more appealing by the minute!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

What's all the fuss about?...

... is exactly what the look seemed to say that my daughter gave me this morning... as I squealed at the top of my lungs "guess who's birthday it is?" It is 8 in the morning and I am practically shouting. I can understand her perplexement as excitement is rarely an emotion expressed in the AM... except when my daughter helpfully hands me my bedside glass of water and ends up dowsing my head or the bed. This generally illicits a bit of shouting... among other things... But to the birthday question she looks at me blankly. She has no clue what a birthday is though I've been trying my darndest to get the message across all week. "Ja-Ja?" she responds. Ja-Ja is what she calls her cousin Jayden, who is 5 weeks older and knows exactly what a birthday is. Jayden actually hasn't stopped talking about my daughter's upcoming party for the last 3 weeks. She rattles through her list of expectations... cake, presents, ice cream, as though she is an expert on the subject (2 year old party crasher perhaps?). Sephira however is content enough with having pancakes for breakfast.

Suddenly I feel like a fool. It's a growing suspicion that will be continually re-affirmed throughout the day. I'm really beginning to realize how little 2 yr olds actually care about birthdays... and how silly parents are to not realize it. I feel even sillier as I am rushing her out of the house with threats and bribes simply to get her to attend her own party- which as she has no concept of the word, she may possibly be starting to believe that it is a sort of purgatory 2 yr olds are sent to as atonement for all their previous 24 months worth of misbehavior.

Oh the party...

"B" has let me know that she is headed to location 1/2 hour early to decorate. There is not much more I can even say on this point... just know that I am rolling my eyes... much like a 12 yr old. And this is where things get a little awkward for me. Upon arrival to the "party room", I feel completely assured that I have made the right decision for our particular family. The party table is neatly set with individual place settings, craft materials in place and ready to go. Another table is neatly arrayed in misc juice box flavors, snacks, undecorated cupcakes, party hats (construction hats for boys, crowns for girls), presents, party favors... it goes on and on. A very odd sensation comes over me... sort of how you feel in 11th grade when you're looking at the popular girls at school, and though you're certain that you would never want to be like them, you strangely find yourself feeling like you're missing out on something you're supposed to be a part of. This is how I felt as I quietly placed our humble bag in the corner and slunked (slank? slunk?) out of the room. And though "B" was all smiles, graciously greeting me and wishing my daughter a happy day, I couldn't help but feel there was something more I was not quite catching onto. I had however observed that while party mom was busily preparing party room, party girl was nowhere in sight.? But onto it the party... my child played and played and played and even though I had never managed to convince her of that nap before we came... played some more. At this point I feel like a complete idiot. Why had I EVER thought it would be a good idea to shell out $60 (out of $120) for a party room? I could have spent $8 for 2 kids to play and we could have eaten our cake on the sidewalk! Outside on Main St. , the streets were closed for "chalk it up" ... a day where everyone in the town decorates the sidewalk with chalk. Bands were playing and I was certain she'd have been just as thrilled. Not to mention that she had spent the morning begging me to take her to the "wa-wa" which means the river where she loves to play. But NO... mommy had already paid a deposit.

An hour and 15 minutes later it was our turn for the "party room." Out shuffled "B's" group, decorated totes and hats in hand as they headed off to play. Meanwhile, I am dragging my child into the room, trying my best to convince her that she really does want cake (actually I made peach pie... peaches were on sale... SHE'S TWO!... leave me alone!) and that it will only take a few minutes. And this is where the afore-mentioned awkwardness turns to a straight up nausea though not by anything I am able to directly put my finger on. On the table in the corner are 3 goody bags- one with my daughter's name and 2 with her name and the word "guest" below it. For her guests? Ok... thoughtful... kind. Behind that, a polished silver pie cutter has been placed atop my little peach pie. Hhhmm... And in the corner, a pile of presents... with my daughter's name on them... I say presentS... as in plural... as in many. At this point "B" enters the room to retrieve some forgotten item. I ask her "did other people get Sephira presents? That was really unecessary." She looks at me with a triumphant smile on her face, "no" she replies, "We did. She's just so SPECIAL to us, we couldn't help it" and she whisks out of the room. I am nauseated. My happy thoughts are are fighting to be heard. Did she think I was depriving my child? Does she consider me a bad mom for not heaping "stuff" all over my daughter? If there's anything that irks me more than mean people who are outrightly rude, it's passively mean people who never actually say what they think but spend countless hours contriving ways to let you know how they really feel. But they're always smiling when you talk to them, making it very hard to ever pinpoint if actual meanness is taking place or if it's all in your head!!! I'm so seething mad at this moment that I'm having a hard time remembering all the good lessons I just learned. I'm having trouble caring whether I can be civil to B later in public.

Of course my daughter loved the pink princess dress-up costume that "B" got her and refused to take the silver high heels off for nearly the rest of the day. I'm grateful that she at least held off on the tiara and the wand. Those who know me know how hard I've tried to stave off the pink and the princesses in my house. It may be an inevitable part her future... I don't know... but I"m not trying to set her up to think that it is her mandatory role as a little girl. But what can I do. My sister bought her play make-up and she spent at least 1/2 hour standing quietly by herself applying it to her forehead, hair, and arms (also pictures to come.) She actually growled if anyone came near her. Oh, and she didn't even touch her homeade organic peach pie.

By the end of the day, I had a very happy but very tired 2 yr old. I was out $60 but I had learned enough to (hopefully) get through the next 16 birthdays. I packed up my little girl, with her orange and pink face and her fluffy new skirt and headed to dinner. As we were seated at the pizza place I finally relaxed and breathed a sigh that we had made it through the whole experience. It was then that I heard a familiar laugh and looked up to realize that we had been seated across from none other than..... B.