Tuesday, October 23, 2012

11 Months


Guess where I am?!  Over 10,000 feet in the air on my way to Arizona for work.  I suspect right now you’re beginning your morning at daycare, yogurt in your tummy and playing alongside Thomas, Abigail and the other babies.

Your dad and I are having the time of our lives with you: every week you dazzle us with something new.  You absolutely adore music.  We signed you up for a music class at daycare every Tuesday, and your teachers are tickled by how much you dance!  You sway and bob your head to the beat and bat your arms: you shake maracas and bells and twirl scarves.  You love anything with a strong beat and constantly shake your head to the jazzy scat that plays from your Leapfrog toy table.  The other night we put on house music – a nice club mix – and we had a dance party in the living room.  Well, after all of this dad ordered a whole set of baby instruments from Amazon (I think for him as much as for you), which I believe you’re receiving in the mail today!  Can’t wait to see the concert when I get home.

Your therapy is going well, and you are making small (but marked!) improvements.  We try to work with you every evening on tummy time and your transitions (you still don’t quite know how to get from laying to sitting, from laying to rolling, and from sitting to crawling).  You still refuse to crawl and scoot everywhere now; we’re supposed to dissuade this – and most of the time we do, putting you once again in the crawling stance to develop your stomach and arm muscles – but sometimes you’re beaming as you scoot from one toy to the next and we don’t have the heart to fight you.  Some days your head tilt is quite noticeable, and then I won’t notice anything for days on end.  Your neck range of motion is good as you’re building those neck muscles slowly but surely. 

What I love most about going to therapy is watching you in the waiting room.  I’ve noticed this too at daycare when you’re in the “drop off” room with older toddlers: you lock your eyes on those older kids and are positively enraptured by what they do.  It’s almost as if we can see your little mind working overtime figuring out what these “cool” older kids are all about.  In the waiting room you whip your head from left to right so you don’t miss any of their antics.  Many of the kids in the waiting room are very curious and outgoing and come up to you and ask your name.  We tell them “Annie” and one boy said, “You don’t look like an Annie!”  You just continued to stare at him in wonderment, watching as he jumped around the room and hung on to his mother’s legs.

Daddy loves walking with you: he holds your hands and you take wobbly steps.  Our therapist chastised him, though!  She said you need to learn your basics, first, and to concentrate on building those stomach and arm muscles!  Of course, your father didn’t listen and still continues walking around the living room with you.  You love it, too, and you both mimic each other’s grins as you put one foot in front of the next.  You’re also “cruising” around our new square ottoman; you love the thrill and the challenge of rounding those corners.

I’ve noticed you’re more vocal with your displeasure.  You do a particularly loud shriek when your diaper desperately needs to be changed (the last time in Wegman’s when I needed to finish shopping, and girl, you were not pleased!), and another shriek when you are dissatisfied.  Although you’re willful (which we love), we are still constantly impressed on how you take your colds in stride.  You sure have a lot of poise for someone with snot running down her little nose; I think you get that from your father who refuses to admit he’s sick unless he’s absolutely bedridden. (I’m a different story!)

We’re trying to transition you to more finger foods and two nights ago I made you a big plate of little cut-up carrots, string beans and shredded chicken.  You tried it but weren’t impressed and then swept the contents of the plate onto the floor for Penny.  Well – we tried.  Sometimes you love finger foods, but it’s touch and go.  We’re trying to introduce more as we heard you’re picking up and stealing food from the other babies at daycare!  The other day I was sitting on the floor with you and Penny and you both stopped what you were doing because I had a banana in hand – both you and the dog go bananas for bananas!  So we all sat there – the three of us – and shared the fruit.

You still adore Penny, and although she’s such a sweet and gentle dog, she’s not one for playing.  You scoot over to her and she promptly gets up and moves to the other side of the room.  You frown and I think she just doesn’t know what to make of you, but she always bounds out of the house excited to greet you at the end of the day, showing her love by jumping up and licking your little toes.

My little work trips, and daycare drop offs, are getting harder as your personality blossoms.  I think your father said it best with, “She’s just the coolest person I know.”  We can hardly believe your big one-year bash is less than a month away.  Happy 11 months, Annie – we love all of you: your shrieks, your (almost) toothless grins, and your ceaseless wonderment as you begin to explore this big, wide world in front of you.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Staying in the picture

Some things on my mind: 

Have you seen this? The Mom Stays in the Picture 
It's gone viral and the sentiment is a beautiful one: Moms, hand the camera to your spouse, your friend…a complete stranger and join that photo with your little one. Your hair/weight/nose (insert any other physical neurosis) is fine. Be with your son/daughter. Stop being the invisible hand that's raising them. I read this and the very next morning asked Matt to take a photo of me breastfeeding Annie. I had just gotten out of the shower - hair still wet, no make-up - and the photo is nothing special. Our bedroom is messy (as it always is), and the angle, and the lighting, or any of it, isn't particularly touching. But now (two weeks later), only in retrospect, did I realize that that morning was the last time Annie breastfed. I knew it was any day and the next morning - a Monday - we were rushing out the door so I asked Matt is give her a bottle. And the same thing happened on Tuesday, and then Wednesday through Friday. I am not a crunchy, earth mama, and I never thought breastfeeding took me to a higher plane or any of that self-righteous hooey, but…with all sweet things that end, there is touch of sadness. A little emptiness in our rituals. I loved breastfeeding, and now our little girl is growing up. 

This essay also made me think long and hard about the heaviness of raising a daughter: about body image, about acceptance, about lambasting against everything pop culture implores you to pluck and tuck. Like many women, I've walked a curvy road toward acceptance of how I look, particularly when it comes to weight. Many times I'm fine with how I look, and then a see a recent photograph. And I sit there and think, dear god, is this how I look? I've married a man who tells me I'm beautiful almost every single day, and on most days I brush it off. What a thankless job Matt has. Having a baby has shed me of many of my insecurities.  Also turning 30.  I'm so very happy to be in my thirties.  Mainly, I know myself better and I've liked what I've built.

Take last week for example: I turned down a job offer.  This is not something I do often.  Lordy, I am NOT the girl who has job offers.  It was closer to home.  It was more responsibility.  It came with an office (that's huge, right there, as my career trajectory - as of now - is strikingly lateral).  It was more money.  But...there was a "but".  It never felt right and I had the nagging suspicion I'd be stressed out.  Turning that down was the most adult thing I have ever done.  Realizing I don't have to always clamor for the next best thing, and I don't have to define success on anyone else's timeline.  Right now I need to be treading water right here.  It doesn't mean I don't want to make a move.  Maybe something else will come along.  Perhaps not.  We'll make do.  Coming home to Annie solidified that decision for me.   Which takes us back to the whole thing of having a little girl, and the baggage that accompanies being female in our society.

I always told myself I would never let Annie see me frowning in a mirror, or muttering, "God, I look awful in this."  None of that would touch her in our house.  None of that would be a part of our lexicon, because lord knows, she'll get enough of that at school, on television, and everywhere else.  

I picked up More magazine before boarding a work flight two weeks ago to Michigan.  I know, I know: the magazine for women "of a certain age".  Ha.  My friend Danita - who has impeccable taste - said it's really not all that bad and she enjoyed it, so there I was, devouring it (another thing about being in my thirties - Glamour is way too young for me now).  More is composed of essay after essay and the magazine - for being a glossy one - has meat.  One of the essays that made me stare out that plane window long and hard was about a mom, who, ruminating on this very thing - having a daughter and the navigating the aches and pains of acceptance - decided it wasn't a black and white issue, and she would let her daughter see that.  She'd sit her daughter down and say she has good days, she has bad ones, and many days are in between, and you may not always feel beautiful, but you are.  And I held onto that message: the authenticity of it, and the acknowledgement that this is a much deeper issue that a Dove "Love your body" campaign can deliver.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, other than like any other parent, I want so very much for Annie.  I'm finishing this post on her 11-month birthday, and as she rounds the corner to one, nothing seems impossible as I breathe her in and watch her beginning to navigate the crooks and corners or our home.  She scoots around the house exploring drawers and dust bunnies, shoes and books.  If only it could always be this simple. 

Below are some photos from a morning at the pumpkin patch last week.  Can a baby be obstinate and stubborn?  Because this child refused to smile the entire morning and let us know - very openly - she was not a fan of pickin' pumpkins.  (Nevermind she was all giggles later when we went out for lunch.)  I tell ya!  

Annie is willful and doesn't shy away from sharing her opinion...we see this face a lot!  (And I love it.)

A very kind guy took about 10 family portraits.  Sadly, this was the best one.