nearly every week

The way Lux blew off my requests for help, and yelled at me in the park that evening. Then, when I explained there would be no ipad during quiet time tomorrow as a consequence, she said “you’ll forget you said that.” The way she didn’t blink when I then told her she was going to bed early. Joan, wide-eyed in the face of her audacity, but huffing and nodding her own disapproval at my decrees. How Lux had declined to use the bathroom fifteen minutes earlier but now she had to go, thus we couldn’t stay out in the golden light any longer.

I was annoyed at myself for once again taking her at her word that she didn’t need to go, and now the result that I had to pick Alma up off the green grass where she’d been lolling in the soft evening light, the sun casting just enough shadow over the side of her face.

I texted Joe that they would absolutely both be in bed by 6:30. So there! I said to myself. It’s so sad, we’ve worked hard, and yet, here look: raised such terrors, I said to myself. Dramatic texts are a trademark release of mine. After we got home, I asked them to help me tidy the apartment, they refused and I said they were welcome to sit in their room then. Behind their door I heard the contented murmurs of duplo-construction and shared blocks. I relaxed at bit in the silence and felt–perhaps they hadn’t been that bad? Thinking of my text to Joe, I realized I had probably exaggerated my case. When exactly had it started to feel like too much? 5pm on the dot? Nearly all of it was an ivy of reactions tethered to their fatigue, a tiredness I had been fully aware of, a soft vine working slowly across our day.

I remembered that morning unexpectedly seeing Lux flit by my door at 6am, nearly two hours before she’s usually up, already in a princess dress with a crown on her head. She was playing some game that involved secrecy and light steps, and I was only awake because Alma had woken up. Then Lux woke Joan up to join her, an hour or so before Joan would have woken up on her own. Soon I saw them both flitting by, Joan blurry and barely tracking what was going on, but devoted to the imaginary heist, dazed as she was. 

I had left Alma on the bed next to Joe and went for a run in the perfectly cool morning air. The world for thirty minutes was cheerful running music and a steady chain of joggers keeping lines on the sidewalk along the river. I came back certain that the thing to do was for all of us to head straight outside. But it was two hours before we got out, between feeding Alma and doing the breakfast dishes, after they opened a package of saltines with their scissors, cheerfully munching and chatting like old friends at the golf club lunchroom, absentmindedly scattering half the contents in the form of crumbs on the floor—a ready picnic for the ants I’ve been trying to keep at bay.

Finally we got outside before lunch. Then everything was so beautiful and finally sunny after a week of rain, the park grass seemed cleaner and greener than ever—the gazebo, the coffee shop, the merry-go-round, the playground, everything beckoned—that we stayed out too long, deep into nap time.

On the walk home Joan sat down on the corner of an intersection and mumbled to the bricks that she couldn’t walk anymore. I smiled sympathetically and shrugged my shoulders at her, what I could I do? I couldn’t carry her. I sensed a message in the glances of the people skirting our scene: how’s she gonna handle this? She’s carrying a baby and now the little one is sitting on the ground. Naturally it did no good for me to repeat aloud that this was why I had said we shouldn’t go to the playground after all. Nonetheless I too murmured it to the bricks, and the girls looked at me, mystified at my evoking a conversation from an hour ago—nearly ancient history! If I had known that going in—why had I let it happen? Why hadn’t I insisted we head home when I knew the time was right? Because it was so beautiful out, Lux was begging to go, and I loved the idea of the girls running and climbing for just a few more minutes. Finally Joan hopped up and started walking again,and we made it back.

a photo an hour

morning7am Alma is up after waking at 11pm last night and 3am this morning. I bring her to the kitchen so she doesn’t wake Joe up, and make tea, one lump sugar, for myself. It’s already snowing, and looking up from our windows, the flakes look enormous.

7:15 Joan appears, sleepy, cuddly, and anxious for cereal. Once we sit down together, she doesn’t eat and just wants to talk. Joe finishes her bowl after she abandons it twenty minutes later.

8:30 Lux wakes up like a languorous lion in the afternoon sun. For the millionth time I note to myself that this time next year, she’ll already be in school. For better and for worse, I think.

8:45 Joe leaves for work. He’s taking the train instead of biking because of the snow.

9:40 We read several Richard Scarry stories on the couch while I nurse Alma. There is a brief standstill when Joan refuses to trade the middle seat when it is Lux’s turn to hold the book. Pondering her sullen mood I remember neither of them have eaten breakfast yet. We decamp to the kitchen for them to eat together.

beach_scene
 11 While I’m doing the breakfast dishes, an elaborate beach scene has been set-up involving at least twenty items from their room. Fortunately other areas of the living room are still clear. I put Alma on the floor to listen to their storytelling.

I begin making Ina’s Weeknight Bolognese for dinner.

doctor12 I was thinking about offering lunch but the girls are still completely engaged in their game. Beach has turned into doctor. I pick up Alma and wrap her up for her nap.These days I never expect her to sleep more than 30 minutes, but at least she always wakes up refreshed.

pasta

12:10 I remember the simmering pasta sauce and check it. Smells so good I want to eat it immediately. Thank you God for sending Ina Garten to this earth.

art_room

12:20 They’ve moved the doctor’s office into the art room. So now it is silent in the kitchen, which is a nice treat. Walking past with a pile of clothes to put away, I hear them sing “blah blah black sheep.” Lux leads the song and Joan repeats everything she says, a half note behind her.

I’m all for art projects but as far as today’s room-tidy-tally the living room is super messy, their room looks like a elephant went through and knocked everything to the floor, and the art room will definitely be trashed. But I’ve still got my room and the kitchen!

12:30 I put on water for hard boiled eggs for the girls and find a leftover burrito in the fridge. I sit on one of the girl’s chairs since my chair is still part of the beach scene in the living room and page through a New Yorker. I used to read this magazine cover to cover but now I just pick one or two articles to keep up with each week.

Alma

12:40 Call to the girls and ask if they’re ready for lunch. “I’m still finishing my monster.”

If I could take a selfie right now, it would be me leaning against the doorway frame of our room, listening to Alma grunt and settle, trying to decide if she’s going to fall back asleep or is up for good.

1pm Hop online and look at my sister’s beautiful recipe for tabbouleh. I want to make it for my friend this Friday. Frown. Why did she sub in quinoa for bulgur?? I’m definitely not doing that.

But I will take this tip about adding sliced almonds.

Hunt for Lux’s ballet stuff in her room. Find some half eaten jelly beans. Possibly this is why “the kitchen mouse” as we call him has been seen headed to their room lately. I discretely bundled up a bunch of things to throw away as I walk out, hiding them behind my leg as I walk past the art room. I set all her ballet stuff by the door.

lunch

1:15 I finally tell the girls they have to stop playing and come eat. The hardboiled eggs are perfectly done, nine minute eggs, but of course neither of the are eating “the yellow parts” these days and miss the beauty of that. Fortunately I am eating them!

I make a cup of tea so I have something to keep me seated with them while they eat. Too often I hop around the kitchen when they’re eating, which doesn’t make for good conversation or time together.

outside
 1:30 Take a photo out the window and begin to get ready to leave with gusto. Strew the girls’ coats and boots in front of the door so they understand what’s expected and don’t try to pull out their “cozy” coats that are useless at keeping them warm.
1:45 Wake up Alma and nurse her. Pull on her wool sweater, socks, booties, and hat. I put on my ergo and clip on the winter-weather cover that my friend Lisa gave me. It’s fleece lined and will keep her toasty without a bulky jacket.
2pm Take the elevator downstairs and make it outside as scheduled!
outdoor_cover
 2:01 Take first steps down the sidewalk and realize Lux forgot her backpack containing her ballet shoes, and somewhat mysteriously, a stuffed turtle. Walk back to the lobby and send Lux up to get the backpack. Joan demands to stay in the alley by herself, which is fine with me.
2:10 Ten minutes later. Joan? I call out. I see a sliver of her hat tip through the doorway into the garden. “Everything ok?” I call. The sliver barely nods, then disappears again. I guess everyone is enjoying their alone time right now.
2:15 Fifteen minutes after she first went up, Lux reappears. “I realized I had to go to the bathroom!” Count myself lucky I wasn’t there for the removal and reapplication of her coat, snow pants, leotard, tights, and undies.
walking
2:40 As expected, eating snow and stomping snow is really slowing us down. But the snow is so darn beautiful! I decide that even if we miss class, it was worth it for the long walk alone.

waiting_for_the_train3pm As expected, the trains are delayed. Lots of people are waiting when we arrive, and we have to wait for ten minutes. Even more people are waiting now. When we get on, two people give up their seats for the girls and both girls immediately start to whine about not being able to see out the window from those seats. Given the twenty adults currently standing, I attempted to silence them with my eyes and mentally add train manners to the list of manners we are currently working on.

3:08 We get off the train. As we wait for the line of Able and Capable Adults to climb the stairs first, I briefly lecture them on the etiquette of train thanking and gratefulness. A guy waiting to go up the stairs says “y’all are the cutest thing I’ve seen all day.” “Yeah,” mumbles the grad student behind him. Thanks, man!

3:15 Three grand staircases later, we are on time for class. Confetti should fall from the ceiling to celebrate this accomplishment, but instead Lux gives us hugs and kisses and Joan and I just walk downstairs.

3:30 Downstairs in the dance hall lobby. Joan laments for the 6th time since Christmas that there are no free fortune cookies downstairs anymore. “Why no treats here today?” I remind her this was a Christmas thing.

3:45 Joan and I walk to the library nearby. I talk with my friend Melissa who is also waiting for her daughter’s class. Her sweet daughter Verity attempts to share a book with Joan. I look over to see Joan respond by sprawling on the floor like a dead spider, staring at the ceiling. Melissa and I continue to enjoy our conversation about kindergarten and upcoming 5k races. Fifteen minutes of adult conversation adds a lot to my day.

walking

4:30 Waiting for the crosswalk after the train home, the cars are roaring through the slush. The girls seem to often choose these moments to ask me elaborate questions, all while facing forward. It is impossible for me to hear them. I respond like myself in sixty years, yelling “What? What? You have to look at me for me to hear you!!”

Alma is over being in the carrier but it’s still going to take us 30 minutes to walk. Oh well.

girls
5:10 Home. I realize my feet are freezing from the walk. Joan is so, so proud that she isn’t cold. I had no idea she noticed that she is usually cold, but Lux and I are not. Today, she wins. I take the pan of sauce out of the fridge and put it on the stove. I add a pot of water to boil for the pasta.
quiet_time
5:30 The girls angle for what we call “quiet time together,” something that sometimes happens on days when Joan doesn’t nap, which means they both get ipads for 30 minutes (usually just Lux gets an ipad for 30 minutes while Joan naps). I settle onto the couch with dear Alma who has been so patient and is so hungry, and give them the thumbs up.
alma
6:15 Joe gets home, hooray! Bolognese is heated up. Pasta noodles are boiled. There is a box of white wine in the fridge. Dinner!
dinner

6:30 The girls eat almost nothing but talk animatedly to Joe about their day. It’s clear the after-dance snack of Milano cookies on the train has filled them up. Or maybe I just over filled their bowls? They both opt to eat a few carrots, Joe and I excuse them and enjoy our dinner. Alma sits in her little blue bouncy chair on the floor, smiling whenever someone looks at her. Or maybe she’s often smiling, but we just aren’t looking. The only time she cries is when she’s tired, hungry, or in a quiet room by herself.

7pm Joe motivates teeth brushing and pajamas to be followed by reading in their room. They are deep into the Chronicles of Narnia’s The Silver Chair, which is one of the ones I didn’t read as a kid. I disappear into our room with Alma to nurse her, swaddle her, and then I fall onto our bed listening to her fall asleep.

Note: I always enjoyed reading these types of posts back when I had just one baby and wondered what the future looked like. It feels strange now, almost misleading, to pick a day and write it up, because every day really feels so different. This was a day when I woke up feeling rested because I went to bed early, and the girls got along wonderfully, but the next day–Tuesday–they wanted to be in the same room with me the whole day, and I barely had a moment to myself!

Paternity Leave

The truth is I fantasized about Joe’s leave for weeks beforehand. The more my knees buckled under pregnancy, the more I dreamed of the Prince Charming arriving by white chariot/stroller. Was there any situation that wouldn’t be readily fixed by the addition of two handsome hands? I doubted it. All I had to do was have the baby, and paradise would arrive.

In the very last weeks before the baby came, I found myself deeply done with my current children. I’m not sure if that’s part of the rapid hormonal heart-shuffle before a new baby arrives but the way room in my heart was made for a new child was this: I became very satisfied with the extent that I had raised my current children, and I was ready to pass them on to better hands. Anyone’s hands, really, so long as they were open. Had a boarding school for preK called at that point, I probably would have sent them. “They love carrots,” I would have scribbled on the submission form as I cheerfully waved goodbye for a month, or six.

After Alma was born, of course, my true feelings re-appeared and I was overwhelmed with pride at how amazing and incredible they two were. Was it too much to say they were the best humans to ever exist? my addled brain wondered. No, it was not.

In a bizarre, nearly other-worldly, turn of events, Joe was able to take eight weeks of paternity leave from his job after Alma was born. It was the longest amount of time Joan and Lux had ever had with him in their lives. It happened as a result of Alma’s birth, but really it was a way for us to parent in a way we hadn’t before, and a window of time to regain our balance after the disruption of a new baby.

It absolutely flew by for all of us.

As I look back over it, a few thoughts occur to me about what we learned/loved/lost…

learned: stop the interrupting starfish

Have you heard the joke about the interrupting starfish? Ideally no, because the gist of the joke of is being interrupted. It’s a hardy-har-har refresher on how annoying that is. On paternity leave Joe and I realized we were raising a fledgling stock of interrupting starfish, and frequently we weren’t even bothering to correct them. We would look at each other over their heads, one of us biting our lip mid-story, and shrug. Most of our weekly conversation seemed to happen over dinner, at which point I was too tired to deliberately pause the interrupters, and anyway, my ear seemed more tuned to their pleas than Joe’s voice.

On his leave, because we were together so much more and noticed that the interrupting had become a serious and troubling habit, we got our game back. “Dad is telling me a story.” “Shhh I’m listening to Dad.” “Dad was talking.”

They still interrupt, but now they’re accustomed to us stopping them immediately, and there’s no eyes-wide-brimming-with-insulted-tears. Just finished conversations.

learned: the home office doesn’t work

Oh the home office. Long have I fantasized about the perfect life, with Joe somehow working at home, and interacting with the girls all day. It seemed so plausible and perfect. Then Joe actually did try to work at home and it drove us both crazy. I really couldn’t stand the sight of him typing away at the computer, headphones in place, as noisy chaos built around me. “Go ahead darling, get some work done.” Five minutes later…”Hello?! I could use some help here!”

And it made no sense to the girls. They couldn’t tell when he was working, and when he was open to being recruited for a game or going outside.

We quickly realized it was far better for him to be out of the space for a couple hours. And me handling the situation myself, chaotic as it was. I stopped day dreaming about home offices, and started appreciating all he got done while he was away. Then he came home, and I got to take a break.

loved: it’s just as blissful to coparent as you’ve imagined 

That said, when Joe was home with me, not trying to work, but home with me for more than just a weekend, it was wonderful. It felt like we had kids and we were dating again. We took shifts with the girls. They did adventures outdoors. I napped with Alma. We made lunch together. I said things like “I can’t help with that because I have no free hands, but Dad can!” We lounged over our coffee cups. We did errands with just one or two children at our heels. We got deep into conversations and cheerfully shushed the girls when they tried to stomp in. Yes, it was bliss.

loved: kids, they’re fun

What Joe experienced can be summed up as: kids, they’re fun. Joe got to experience the humor and joy of discussing the exact same topic from different perspectives for five days in a row. He got to catch spiders and bring them outside. Go for a walk and stomp on snow piles. Go to a museum, then go to a candy store on the way back. He got to memorize constellations and read good books aloud. The girls become less mysterious: he understood what they meant when they used their strange monosyllabic giggle language. He understood why they had an unexpected meltdown at 5pm, because he saw them sprinting back-and-forth at 11am, and having vehement disagreements at 2pm.

They become less stressful: they all three got to wake up late, leave late, and stay late because they were having fun, and none of that mattered because no one was trying to get anywhere anyway.

lost: and yet, even with all that help many things still went wrong… 

There were some nights when I become convinced that Lux and Joan had eaten nothing but candy and cookies for the last week. I tried to recall the last green thing they had eaten, and failed. Lux went to ballet class without her hair in a bun and she was the only lonely kid whose parents forgot it was Parent Watch week. I missed my six week postpartum check-up. I told my pediatrician I ordered a Vitamin D supplement for Alma and that was a lie. I still haven’t ordered it. Even though we were both on-duty all day, we often collapsed on the couch after bedtime just the same. The capitalist in me frowned at the fact that with twice the labor working at the same job, we ended up with double the exhaustion. “Bedtime” actually just means they are in their room with the door closed–still chatting, still playing, not tucked in whatsoever.

 

 

What to Pack for the Baby

infant_vacation

This is just a silly easy post to write! But it’s still useful to keep a list around.

What we packed for Alma for her six-week-old vacation: 

a sun hat (mostly useless, poolside umbrellas were a must)

a swim diaper (ended up keeping her out of the sun/water altogether)

two blankets (one warm, one light)

diapers (forgot wipes and bought them there instead)

single-use packets of formula, a bottle, two pacifiers

a warm sweater

two carriers, one nice, one form (see below for detail)

a scarf to drape for nursing privacy or block the sun or for warmth

fun summery clothing inherited from her sisters!

infant_vacation

I like to use a form carrier, like the becco or ergo, in airports. You can leave it on through security and my girls often napped in it right up until we sat down on the plane. They ask you to take it off before takeoff.

And I like to use a sakura bloom silk sling, especially in restaurants or going to events, or generally when I’m not trying to lift children/grocery bags/walk long distances.

Alma’s hotel sleep style:infant_vacation

Mostly she slept like this on our bed because I found the condo crib too deep to be useful–all that bending over and reaching! She is the first baby of mine who likes swaddles, this is my make-shift way of swaddling her. A week after taking this photo, I realized I could simply tie the aden + anais blanket and skip the binder clip altogether. At a second hotel I didn’t even ask for a crib, and used a couch cushion as her bed.

Flying with Alma, I remembered how delightful it is to fly with a baby that age, compared to say, a nine month old. They just curl up, nurse, and keep you company. Of course I had my corner seat to nurse in, with Joe and Joan as my bolsters (Lux was across the aisle, with strangers). I have nursed from a middle seat, with strangers on both sides, it is doable but it’s awfully nice to have a row with your people, if available.infant_vacation

No matter what seat you are in, bring one of those airline pillows that don’t actually do anything for adults; the ones you can buy in any airport gift shop. They work so well for infants. It is my favorite thing to rest her head on that instead of my balanced elbow or propped arm.

lullaby

Do you have a favorite lullaby to sing? Would you tell me its name, if so? I’d like to build my collection, write them all down on a post-it note and stick it over the couch. Quote more poetry. Hum more tunes. Alma May, born December 29th at 11:30pm deserves the very best.

alma_may

quotes from a few online essays I loved lately…

“My mom is nothing but love and comfort and happiness to me, and she found even the smallest ways to make us girls feel loved: turning down our covers at night, always playing music, or popping our towels in the dryer to warm them up minutes before our baths were over. Those are the kind of simple, happy memories I want my own kids to have of home.”

-Amelia’s interview on DesignMom

A few years ago, before we decided to start a family, I once feared that when a baby entered our lives I would somehow forget everything I learned about cooking because all my energy would be used to keep a tiny human alive and breathing. I’m happy to report this is not the case. In fact, I’ve discovered the opposite to be true. I’ve remembered how to cook, relying on the muscle memory of peeling and chopping and seasoning and putting meals together, gravitating to tried and true staples rather than trying new dishes with questionable outcomes.”

Remembering How to Cookby Nicole Gulotta

“Make coffee/drink coffee, inhale/exhale, walk outside/feel your feet on the earth, open the book/read the pages, get off the internet/be present in your home.”

Jodi, Happy New Day, Practicing Simplicity 

“So 2015. You seem like a year of sunlight extended hours and while I know the tan is worth it, you aged me with your lines of wisdom and your creases of grace. I look in the mirror and see so many things staring back. But mostly, a woman who is changing, a family that is growing, and a savior that is gracious indeed. ”

-Mary Beth, Wishing You Good Cheer, Rosemary Wild

 

 

lie low, sweet chariot

junkie

There’s a handy chart that appears in many of the age-defining slim volumes written by Louisa Ames Bates, a psychologist and parent-help-yourself-er. (“Your Two Year Old: Terrible or Tender” “Your Four Year Old: Wild and Wonderful” “Your Five Year Old: Sunny and Serene”)

It looks like this:

disequilibrium

A rather serpentine creature, this curvature of behavior fortune-telling has been on my mind lately as I watch both girls simultaneously hitting their half-birthday this month become something wildly infuriating and unpredictable, just every now and again. On a Tuesday evening, but not on a Thursday. A terrible Friday morning, but a wonderful Saturday afternoon.

I think all parents stop fearing that seemingly unpredictable creature: the public tantrum, once they consistently identifies its wingmen. Fatigue, malnutrition, overindulgence. They’re not really that unpredictable; thus the resigned look you may spot on a mother’s face at the grocery store. She probably knew going in that this would happen, but she weighed her odds and pressed on.

But instead there’s another unpredictable, one that is firmly tied-up in development, where you truly feel that the child you have this week is a different child than the one you had last week.

As an old myers-brigg junkie I can tell you that Joan is a feeler. Perhaps safe to say a sensory feeler. She processes everything she encounters by how it feels to her. We went to The Good Dinosaur over Thanksgiving. She must have burst into tears five or six different times. Almost every time I was mystified by what had upset her. “That boy wasn’t being nice,” she sobbed into my hair. “He misses, <sob> his family <sob>,” after the main character had said the same and sighed in a somewhat-downhearted manner. Not just reactions, but nearly instantaneous responses to what the characters portrayed on screen.

I honestly think her suppressed-weep outbursts may have improved the movie going experience for our fellow audience members, adding drama and depth to many moments they otherwise wouldn’t have noticed.

It’s not only the talking pictures though. I have looked over, mid-book to find her quietly weeping, like after the Wild Things asked Max not to go—so famously: “Please don’t go. We’ll eat you up, we love you so.” I emphasized to her, “Max is going back to his mom! For dinner!” which soothed her not at all. She reads the illustrated character faces like paragraph descriptions, catching the slightest odd or sad expression and drawing them out. If a character looks hurt, particularly if an animal character looks hurt or slightly frustrated, the alarm bells begin to ring.

Lux still remembers when I laughed so hard that I cried at the dinner table, because Joan was retelling an extremely not-sad-scene where Pooh had hurt feelings. She couldn’t get through the retelling because she would tear up and begin snuffling, mid-sentence. It was a nearly endless loop sequence of “He said that <sob>, he said that he didn’t like it <sob>” that went on for several minutes as I tried to nod sympathetically. I failed.

But this is the real live person, the actual psychological foundation developing of a side of her that I’ve been enjoying for most of her life, albeit in a more endearing infantile way–her sweet, tender, feeling nature. The one that makes her enjoy cuddling or big sweeping impromptu hugs. The one that prompts her to say “I love you all day and all night mama. I need you forever.”

And being aware of my more practical, um I’ll avoid the word “cold”, personality for awhile (ENTJ) it’s very helpful for me to know how different I am. To know how bizarrely cool and detached she might find my approach to the same stories, if she could put words to it. Of course she will eventually put words to it. I understand emotions but I’m not overcome by them. They don’t sweep me off my feet. In particular, sympathy, or the attempt of people to garner sympathy for themselves or their story, is always greeted at my mental door with a firm handshake of pragmatism.

I hope by the time she can put words to it, I’ve figured out how to convey how much I respect her approach (definitely not by collapsing into laughter at the dinner table–working on that!). And how lucky I feel to learn what I can from her rich, reactionary, arms wide open style along the way.

Third pregnancy is

third

Third pregnancy, first trimester is: I wake up feeling nauseous and it stays with me. I’m feeling so tired and overwhelmed by the girls. I feel like Lux must be bored with me all day, and has nothing to look forward to every day. I hate making food. The smells in the kitchen gross me out. The trash and the fridge both smell awful from a distance. I feel so tired at night that I’m sad. I’m so tired that I feel darkly about how the day has gone. Joan wakes up so grouchy that it immediately discourages me when I encounter her. I feel surrounded by women who are making things and creating; and I’m just making a baby. And feeling sick the whole time of it. And that’s how the sentence rings in my head: just making a baby.

but then, finally, second trimester:

Third pregnancy is your midwife telling you to just skip the next appointment.

is feeling a little dismal about the lack of attention you’ve given your body in between babies. Like it’s the closet that didn’t get sprucing last spring. Like it’s the shoes that are cracking when you really need them. They’re still yours, but you think maybe you could have treated them better.

is your friends who “are done” joyfully trying to give you everything and anything baby-themed in their homes.

is not thinking about being pregnant once all day, and then thrilling at a tiny kick.

is being happier about how your oldest reacts to the news than anyone or anything else.

is knowing more women who are fighting infertility than you’ve ever known. Feeling like the one with a sandwich in a room of hunger. Wishing you could share. Wishing you could fix it. Wishing pregnancy was infectious via hugs.

is wondering how soon I should ask our beloved sitter how she feels about three.

is grinning when you get an email from your doula because it’s the only thing you’ve done for this one of your kids in weeks.

is your four-year-old, at a dinner party, loudly whispering “your belly looks really big” at 16 weeks.

Third pregnancy is laughing at how clueless you feel about how much your life will change soon. And how it doesn’t matter.

photo by Lux
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exposure

sally_mann

I was so astounded by Sally Mann’s essay in the newspaper on Sunday. It seemed to touch on everything important–family, art, modernity, privacy. I loved that it arced back to when she published a book of family photographs in 1992, and then detailed forward to now, revealing so much about her experience. The act of publishing intimate details of one’s family life is dramatically more common now than it was then. But we’re all still wondering whether it’s a good idea, and if not, why?

Much of her experience circles around the simple fact of her children being naked and her photographing them that way. It beamed across the pages to me, as these days I am hard pressed to get the girls to put on more than underwear. I struggle to take photos of them that aren’t too revealing, and it feels over-censored to me, much of the time.

It was about presenting art and love to the world and getting a very mixed response.

And it was so beautifully written. I’m still thinking her writing about photographing her husband:

To be able to take my pictures, I have to look, all the time, at the people and places I care about. And I must do so with both ardor and cool appraisal, with the passions of the eye and the heart, but in that ardent heart there must also be a splinter of ice.

And so it was with fire and ice that Larry and I made these pictures: exploring what it means to grow older, to let sunshine fall voluptuously on a still-pleasing form, to spend quiet winter afternoons together. The studio’s wood stove was insufficient but he had two fingers of bourbon to warm him. No phone, no kids, NPR turned low, the smell of chemicals, the two of us still in love, still at the work of making pictures that we hope will matter.

I’m going to watch this old Art21 documentary (free, streaming online) with Joe tonight and request her new memoir coming out in May.

sally_mann_family_pictures_05

self directed

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Greetings from the planet In Transition. At last I’ve sketched out a map for this murky land, after all we seem to find ourselves here every six months. First comes palpable and nearly omnipresent frustration from your scholar. What worked in the past does not work for them any more, what they used to say yes to, they say no to, how easy they used to be pleased, and now for awhile, they are not pleased at all.

Then comes the actual change: maybe the physical dexterity, maybe the abilities that seem to arrive out of nowhere. Joan had been fighting her diaper for weeks, constantly taking it off, crying when I put it on. I began to dread anytime I had to change her diaper. Finally I pulled out the kid’s potty and started giving her jelly beans if she went pee on it. The allure of the treat and the physical ability fell into place like Mars sighting from the moon. Now I see she’s on some sort of self-directed potty training tract. Simultaneously, she learned to climb out her crib. “I practiced her and showed her how,” was what Lux told me. If I return to the room after putting Joan down for a nap, I find her wandering around instead of sleeping, quietly rearranging toys. The girls have been staying up until 10pm with this new thrill, giggling in each other’s beds, sneaking over to each other whenever we leave the room for more than five minutes. They both use the kid’s potty we keep in their room, trooping out to proudly tell us when they’ve used it. Joe’s and my uninterrupted evenings together seem distant and forgotten.

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And then, after the child has finally settled into their new state and acts as if days have always been such as this and they’re both sleeping and smiling again, then comes your exhaustion. A fresh wave hits right after you’ve bravely mastered the storm, after you’ve wisely let everything fly out the window, let all your habit doors bang open, the bits where you held on and simply tried to steer forward….and now: you’re tired.  But it’s over. And though your normal appears from the fog a bit more slowly than theirs, it will return again soon.

Fix-It

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I received an email titled “Our Fix-It Diaries” and thought: YES. Because it’s been the theme for the past few weeks. First, shoes to the cobbler to sew up and clean up. I don’t know how I manage it but I always pick the most pessimistic cobblers. “This is just a do-our-best and see what comes of it job.” “No, I wouldn’t count on that one coming out matching.” “I’ll fix it but it won’t last forever.” 

I recommend not calling a cobbler if you need a new campaign statement any time soon. Sweaters in otherwise good shape except for tiny holes that threaten to widen. I tried to leave a sweater to get a little hole stitched up at the dry cleaners and she told me I should just do it myself. I wanted to say but didn’t say, “Would you tell a male customer to do that?” Was there something about the way that both girls were clinging to my ankles that made me look at loose ends for something to do with my hands? Sigh.

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Packing away things. Pulling old friendly things out. Remembering how lovely it is to wear a warm sweater with jeans and no coat. The coat stage is coming, but the-just-sweater stage always reminds me of how you actually see sweaters advertised. You get to be warm and not look all buttoned-in. Whistling to myself the passing wish that I had a brand new winter coat and a brand new winter hat. What do we think is the best winter hat trend this year? I would say: mono-color with furry pompom on top. Yup. Forgive me if I’m officially 12 months behind trends. It takes me awhile to warm up to them. haha.

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There was a lull in the land where I forgot what I wanted to do during nap time besides stay utterly and absolutely silent. It’s ironic that I can’t find the words to describe how much chatter fills my day except to say that sometimes people stand near me for  minute or two at a street corners, waiting for the light to change, and then turn to me and ask, “is it always like this?” Yes sir, it is always like this.

I just sat here for three minutes trying to come up with a way to describe Lux’s vocal companionship right now… The image that comes to mind is this tank at the aquarium filled with sting rays that we visited last week. The sting rays have had their stinging-rays trimmed (“Just like your fingernails,” the guide crowed to us), and so denuded, circle the tank like a rapidly flowing tributary of soggy pancakes, bobbing up every ten seconds or so, to brush against your hand. If you move your hand too much they sense the vibration and slink off course ever-so-slightly, and then eagerly swim on, only to circle back a minute later. That’s the best visual my weak brain can muster of my three year old’s conversation in my life right now.

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So besides absolute silence for one hour which falls upon my ears like a soft flannelly manna from heaven–I had a breakthrough yesterday which was: bars of chocolate. I think I forgot about them all summer. And now: they are back! In all their faintly caffeinated glory.

Photos from picking zinnias and finding pumpkins at Parlee Farms two weeks ago. It was raining; it was glorious. Thank goodness for things like child-backpacks. I’m not exaggerating when I say this situation would have been a disaster if Joan had been wandering on her own in the mud. If you go, stop at Dream Diner on your way home.