Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Outside the Box



My daughter has learned a new skill this past week: the art of transportation. Now that she has mastered toddling around the house on her two dainty feet, she has her hands free. And what better activity than carrying items from one location to another? She is increasingly aware of where items belong—and where she can find them. Personal toiletries seem to be a favorite, and she loves that feminine products fit neatly in her fists, ready to be distributed throughout the kitchen in cupboards and drawers to be found at later dates.

At some point, operating in a world where items materialize in random locations around the house became expected. I’m not sure the day it happened, when the pitter patter of little feet and the sound of her shallow breathing as she concentrates on a specific task became noises that are so familiar, when the schedule of my day began to so effortlessly match the patterns of her naps, when grabbing hats and mittens for two people no longer required any more thought than gathering them just for myself. I don’t remember when I started emptying the dishwasher when she is out of the room, racing to place the contents on the counter before she has made her way over, because as soon as she hears the clinking of silverware and clangs of bowls being stacked she comes running.

Last week, I left her behind. I got on a plane with a couple dozen high school athletes and travelled to a track meet on the mainland, leaving her in capable loving hands—just not mine. The first 24 hours were glorious. I ate without breaking off small chunks to feed a pleading toddler; I fell asleep listening to sounds of sleeping bags rustling against sleeping pads, and awoke to the sound of an alarm clock instead of a cry. Yet after that initial break, where I remembered what it was to operate as an individual, I was ready to return. She has become such a bright spot in my day-to-day existence, and while she complicates the simplest of tasks she has edged her way into my expectations.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Separation

I remember the moment my daughter was handed to me, naked and caked with evidence of her dwelling inside me, with one eye wide open and the other stuck closed with the remains of my womb. I remember feeling the pulse of the umbilical cord, so aware of the short life that remained of this connection. In that moment I still nourished her completely; she was still completely reliant on my well-being. And then, in the haze of adrenaline and stitches and staring into her dark, attentive eyes, it was severed, and she became her own.

In the weeks and months that followed it was so difficult to envision her life apart from mine, because she didn't have one. On days we could coordinate schedules I would nurse her, drop her with Curtis at his office, and scurry quickly at the gym around the corner--mindful of the short window I had before she would need me again. At times she would settle into the carrier while he would work on notes of patients he had seen that day, and I would return to an infant wrapped against her daddy's chest, fast asleep. Other times I would return to find him circulating the office after hours, chatting with coworkers as he balancer her on his right arm, rocking her constantly, ever aware of her love of movement.

These glimpses of time I found beyond this nursing babe were fleeting at best, coming in spurts of an hour or so, requiring coordination and effort that felt at times so far beyond my exhausted self. It is hard to explain the contradictory feelings that come on so strongly in those early weeks and months: as suffocating as it felt to be on call for her needs all day and all night, as long as those days stretched into what felt like an endless abyss, the thought of being without her was equally as oppressive. The weight of parental responsibility coupled with the fierce attachment and bonding that happens invisibly and yet so strongly left me struggling to picture the time away that I craved.

Before I had a child I enjoyed my independence. I would happily spend free hours in the summer sunshine biking across the city in trails that wove under busy roads and along creek sides until reaching the ocean, or scaling one of the mountains hovering along the city's skyline with friends. I perused book stores, pieced quilts and experimented with new recipes. I made bread from scratch while listening to audio books. And all of these things seemed to fade into oblivion when the little one arrived, compromising everything from having a full night's rest to accomplish unnecessary tasks to having the hands free to accomplish them. She was attached, and I had to adapt, whether I wanted to or not.

Changes that felt so extreme initially predictably became normal. Outdoor adventures came with the consideration of whether a stroller or backpack could be accommodated. Babysitting that accommodated long outings was cherished, and glimpses of our former freedom allowed retrospection of how far we both had come. Our lives were changed.

And then one day this intense attachment seemed to shift. I am sure that it was gradual, just as it was with her stretches of sleep, just as it has been with the additions of food to her meals. Yet it is hard to see this shift when you are in the midst of the haze that is living-with-a-baby. All of the sudden, she is ready to stop nursing. She can stay with others for hours at a time with minimal preparation on my part. And for as happy as she is to see me when I walk through the door, she would have been okay if I'd stayed away even longer.

After a year of such an intense connection, it feels odd to have such an easy separation, one that came with so little ceremony when compared to her birth and the severance of that pulsing cord.

I realize this is only the beginning, that nearly thirteen months finds a baby still terribly dependent on someone to provide for the most basic of needs. Yet, in a way we have marked our first step of separation since birth, a separation that will continue as she grows and matures and learns how to exist in a world all on her own.

In the days and weeks that followed birth I daydreamed of being free again, of having time to myself to exist and explore and be as I was for the years before she came along. Now I know that that person doesn't exist in the same way. For no matter where I adventure, what projects and plans I pursue, I will always wonder where she is and what she is experiencing. Though we are destined to be separate, though she will inevitably be on her own, I cannot imagine ever being completely free of her. I doubt I ever will.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Settling in, Surveying the Terrain

Taken as the sun was setting, at around 3 in the afternoon, leaving the day's high temperature at about -6.

We have found a routine around here, with some stumbling and some intentional scrounging. It is a funny thing to have so much change at once, as I am sure I have mused about on here too many times these past 11 months. One of the side effects of that is that even though my baby is almost a year, I am just now determining some sort of structure to our day. Sure, we have had structure every now and then throughout the last year, but this structure was short lived and evolving as quickly as our living situation.

Now we have a home, a car, a laundry room, a treadmill, and I can't depend on anyone to have dinner on the table when Curtis is working if I don't do it myself (one of the best benefits of the four month communal living situation we had with Curtis's parents). We also have a child that sleeps ten hours in a row on a regular occasion, stacking a three hour nap on top of that after an early morning feed.

Yes, life is good on so many fronts. There truly was a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

With that said, as much as I love routine, too much of "the same" and I begin to go a bit crazy. Babies, after all, don't offer a lot of variety--certainly not as much as teenagers in the classroom do. Our days revolve around diapers and soft finger foods, outfit changes and naps, games of chase on our hands and knees, and quest to find the small ball that has inevitably ended up under the couch, again. I find myself looking for variety in my daily search for new recipes to assemble in the evenings, a sort of challenge in an otherwise pretty simple day. Baby girl and I make a trip to the grocery store, typically a welcome outing, where we check our PO box, inevitably run into one or more people we know, and stop on several occasions when a small expressive face catches the eye of even the most hardened looking fisherman. 

These days we look forward to the sunrise coming a bit early each day, to the month of February not breaking records with rainfall as January did, to Curtis taking a few days off this month, and to the new tricks that we observe with our daughter on a regular basis. We have so much to be thankful for. We have so much to look forward to. 

The rare occasion when she transitions from the crib at Grandma and Grandpa's house to my shoulder without waking up.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Snipits: Challenge and Gift

Asleep on my lap, a rare reality for our little one, as we moved into our new home.
{nov 5}

When I was pregnant with our baby girl, the movie Skyfall premiered in theaters. Radios played the soothing theme song for weeks, and the tune even made an appearance in my prenatal yoga class, the Thursday night relaxation delight that relaxed for a brief hour a body that was growing heavier by the week. 

After my daughter was born, I began to play that song in the car whenever she was losing her mind; crying and screaming uncontrollably, she would be soothed by the rhythmic lullaby while I was reminded of a time when life was a little more simple, a little less tense. And somehow, at the end of the song, she--we--would be a little better.

{nov 17}

After five months of living in a suitcase, I cautiously get excited for any change from the status quo. Part of me is thrilled that we are due to move into our own space in the next week--I love the idea of having my own space, my own kitchen, and the next size up of baby clothes--but part of me feels like an extended vacation is ending. Living in someone else's home, with few belongings allows for a simple existence, a gift as much as a frustration.

As we approach a closing date, I feel a bit of pressure to "finish" any project I can before the end. After all, productivity with a highly active baby is limited at best, and I know that unpacking and reorganizing our new residence will consume all my free time for the next several weeks.

{tonight}

She sleeps for now, silence ringing happily in my ears after what proved to be a trying evening. Exhaustion emanated from her eyes tonight even as she smeared bananas in her hair in between shoving pieces in her mouth. She is stubborn and darling and exhausting and precious and daring and persistent and delightfully interactive--all at the same time. 

We live in our new home, a precious space we feel blessed to call our own, and though unpacking goes much more smoothly when an active nine month old isn't attempting to ingest and tip over everything in sight, we make a little progress every day. More importantly, every day she is a bit more comfortable in our new space, with belongings she hasn't seen since she was three months old, a bit more willing to play independently--as she has been apt to do in the past--because the place is her own. 

I find myself trying to jot down moments to store them away in something a bit more concrete, because my memory has faded from it's pre-baby capacity, a reality I refused to admit for months but now cannot deny. I still play Skyfall when the agitation in the car builds to ridiculous levels; she still relaxes a bit when she hears it. The truth is she loves listening to music in general, babbling and kicking her legs as we sing together in church, giggling and laughing when I sing to the radio at home with her as my only audience. 

I love the moments I have to myself in the evening, to reflect on our day, plan for the week, and clean up the remnants of the latest chaos. And I love that it only takes minutes after she has gone to bed to miss her smile and ways her eyes brighten when she's excited. She is equal parts challenge and gift, neither piece quite as satisfying without the other.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Perspectives from Babyland


This morning I watched the sunrise with a clear head and a rested body, courtesy of eight hours of sleep that had only been interrupted once by my lovely baby. Though she slept eight hours straight at seven weeks old, her sleep patterns seem to reflect what is true of much of life of babies: constantly changing.

This morning I watched as several local runners tested their fitness running across town, up the backside of the mountain and down the front. The air was crisp; their breath was visible. Completely unrelated to my newly well-rested state, the itch to train a bit more has been present the past couple weeks. Whether working full time and coaching beyond that or staying at home with an infant, I like to have a fitness project to call my own. I am starting to set my sights on a race or two in the spring—still six months out.

This evening I finished projects, pureed baby food, folded laundry and ran errands. I had forgotten how much I could get done with a decent night’s rest. I am remembering what it felt like to make it to six at night without desperately wishing that I could call it a day and go to bed.

This evening I realized what perspective seven months with a baby can give you. How quickly she has taught me that the world continues with a messy kitchen, a full laundry basket, and eyes that droop with fatigue. How quickly I have learned to just be with her, to just sit and watch her explore, to just roll around on the floor with her, my number one goal just to make her smile.


These days I am nothing short of exhausted, but most days I am also incredibly content. I would never want to stay in baby land forever, but for now it hits the spot.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

New Discoveries



The sky was dark when we left the restaurant this evening, a dinner celebration for a birthday completed. And as we walked out through the gravel parking lot, we noticed the eerie moving of white on the water: a large flock of seagulls rested on the rhythm of the waves, silently glowing in the orange reflection of the cannery’s light.

Curtis and I both commented on the odd collection of birds, clustered dozens upon dozens in this small section of water, floating effortlessly as water moved through the straight. There are sights and smells you get used to in a small fishing town: extra tuff boots for all occasions in all sizes, the heavy scent of smoking fish lingering throughout town during the fall salmon run, discussions of fishing vessels past and present, and the legacies of the owners and routes that match them. Yet even with all that seems typical in a small town with a predictable rhythm, I still find much that is unexpected.

In the city there is often talk of what is coming: a new business or road, an upcoming concert or show, improvements and adjustments and plans for the future. In the small town I sense a greater appreciation for the past: people that have worked and lived and invested for years in an industry, a town, these people, how the present has come to be

As we have searched for a home in the past few months we have realized the alternate identity each home has. A house is not known by its address, but by its previous owners: present or not in the community. The house we are currently in the process of buying has had two different owners, who I now feel like I know quite well—despite the fact that I have never met either of them. I know their names and the families. I know the circumstances of their departures—happy and sad. I know the people that considered the lot before the home was built, and ended up not getting it. These are not just names on a contract here, they are coworkers and employers; they are potentially future friends. 

I know that when we move into this house, it won’t be ours for a while; it will still be theirs. I will describe the way to get to our home, all the while waiting for the inevitable recognition, “Ah, yes. You live in the Jones’s old house.” But eventually it will be ours, a part of our story in a small island town where so much is predictable and so much more is unknown. And so life continues in this place, where tonight I reveled for a few moments in the wonder of seagulls resting on the ocean for the evening. Tomorrow I have no doubt that I will discover something new, hear another story, learn a bit more of the history the makes up this place. And in learning the story, I will be that much more at home.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

New Rhythms and Landmarks, or The Smell of Home


Yesterday the sun came out, catching the waves with blinding wrinkles. Six windmills atop the local mountain stood still, and we even noticed the faint presence of bugs--a rarity in a place with almost constant wind. 

Curtis was off for the day and the three of us ventured out to walk downtown, perusing old shops he remember from his childhood and new shops that weren't familiar at all. It is an interesting experience to revisit the place of your childhood when you have been gone for over a decade. Sure, we have visited many times and spent many weeks here over the course of the last several years. Visits don't reveal the intricacies that have changed, details that reveal themselves over time.

I find myself in this inbetween state these days, not a stranger to the island and yet far from a local. When I am referred to a shop or a destination, I can often picture the locations, yet I'm not sure how to get there. And this is where I have noticed an interesting trend: many locals have no idea what any of the street names are. They don't need to. The library is across from the fire station and next to the hardware store. The trail head is next to the Nazarene church around the corner from the veteran's building. 

While I learn the lay of the land in a new place, Curtis learns a new rhythm for a new job. To finally be free of having to check all your work with a superior can be as terrifying as it is freeing, and when this solo decision making is made in front of acquaintances and friends, the stakes can feel even higher. 

Today in the midst of a lull of the afternoon baby and I sat out in the fresh air and sunshine, the salty, fishy smell of the sea crisp and clear. "This is the smell of home," I whispered in her ear. And so we continue to settle in, learning the offerings of the local businesses, the locations of landmarks, and collecting the ripest salmonberries as we wander our way.