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. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

No Longer a Visitor, Not Quite a Resident



When we finally pulled off the ferry, it was 12:04am, the close of a very long day of travel--our last since we'd packed up our boxes over a month before. The baby was asleep in the back, our bag of snacks significantly depleted, wrappers and diapers and hair ties and sweatshirts strewn about the car wherever they fit. In the midst of long term travel there is organization and chaos that ebb and flow in unpredictable ways. At 12:04am, all that mattered was sleep.

Three days later the sun that we have basked in for most of the summer has turned to rain. The sideways sheets seemed light when I first went out for a run, but when I came in a half hour later the water was dripping off the bill of my cap and the edges of my sleeves. I was soaked, but I was home.

Living out of a suitcase for weeks at a time can be freeing in some ways, minimizing choices, offering the option to up and go whenever and wherever you please. Right now, all we have fits in a vehicle: a few suitcases, a stroller, a car seat and a couple backpacks. And while we count on the generosity of parents and friends to supply necessities like beds and kitchens, I can't help but wonder how I'll greet the onset of "stuff" when we inevitably have a place of our own. 

I haven't lived in one house for longer than three years since I was in elementary school. And though I have found myself jealous at times of friends who lived in the same house their whole life, I also appreciate the time to clean out and start new, purging the excess and living out of a suitcase for a couple months. 

For now, we're settling in, figuring out what it looks like to live in this place where I have only ever been a visitor, looking for friends and activities and the pieces that will make up this new life. And in that way moving doesn't only just clear the closets, it wipes a schedule clean as well.

---

This afternoon baby girl and I went to the library, and I filled out the requisite information for a temporary card. Then I perused the aisles, car seat in hand, looking for my one allowed item to check out for the day. The selection was meager, about what is expected for a small town, island library, the quiet broken periodically as the librarian announced computer openings to the waiting patrons. Outside the rain came down sideways, wind whipping against bright colored rain coats and hardened faces. 

When we got home the house creaked with the gusts of winds, the white caps rolling on the ocean inlet, the boats coming in and out of the harbor rolling with the heaves. My five month old baby lay on the carpet, skin washed out by the grey light, thighs think and creased, eyes fixed on my every move and sound. She alternates between strict focus and playful giggles as she makes sense of my voices, my expressions. 

I have a feeling I will look back on this time with a nostalgic glow, not remembering the awkwardness of having not enough long sleeved shirts, or a baby growing out of her clothes before we get the next size out of storage, or a town that seems to know my story before I even know a first name. This holding pattern that we are in is as awkward as it is freeing, and is unique in its own way. For now I seek to embrace it all: the unorganized chaos, the small town that is a bit of a stranger, the baby that loves to be near me all the time.

Soon enough, it will all be a memory.

Ferry nap time was a bit of a challenge: who wants to sleep when your parents are right there?!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Looking Forward, Looking Back


Taken that first year at the campout...

Three years ago I got off a plane, slept a few hours and ventured off to a camping trip with Curtis’s future coworkers. There was a lot of rain, a lot of dogs and a lot of people whose names needed to be learned. I left the next morning overwhelmed and covered in smoke, and spent the next two months finding a job, buying a condo, and relocating every week or two to housesit at a new location. It was exhausting but it was the next step: first undergrad, then medical school, now residency.

This was the last step.

Three years later, I watched as a new class of interns awkwardly conversed around the campfire, learning names and pecking orders, while spouses and significant others discussed job options and housing. It turns out that the graduating class had perhaps the most in common with the incoming interns, discussing future jobs and moves to new houses in the city or outside the state. The end of June is a time of transition, for both the new and the old.

---

Today is moving day at our house, and a team of men armed with loads of paper, black Sharpe markers, numbered neon green stickers and cardboard boxes showed up to pack all our belongings and ship them off to the island where Curtis will be working for the next few years. We were grateful to have people to pack us, as nervous as it makes me and my controlling tendencies. Having a baby has changed a lot in my life, and my ability to let go is perhaps one of the largest shifts. It has not been an easy transition, but it certainly has been necessary.

The sound of tape tearing and cardboard being manipulated echoed as music played from meager phone speakers. Everything from sweaters to applesauce to well-played board games and unused paper towels were put into boxes while we watched. When the baby was awake she alternated between playing on the floor and taking it all in while we peaked in on the workers, winning smiles with her eager eyes. When she got tired she slept in a bed we made on the floor of our bathroom, tucked away from the chaos that was surely exhausting her.

At the end of the day we had a hike with friends planned, a good way to let off stress and enjoy the amazing weather that we have continued to have this month. There is much we will miss about this place where we live, but the people we are leaving behind definitely top the list.

Tomorrow we will begin our lives as they exist in suitcases and duffels, a nomadic existence that will last for several weeks until we find a place to settle once again. And by that point I’m sure our itch to get away, relax and visit with friends and family will be satisfied, and we will be ready to have a place of our own once again.

Here’s to the journey: enjoying each step for the lessons and joys, embracing the times of rest as much as the times of labor, appreciating all we have and that will come in the future.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

On Eyes and Change


I realized today that my daughter’s eyes are almost the same color as my carpet, a grayish blue that brightens in sunlight. We spend a lot of time on the carpet these days: talking, rolling, arching, smiling and scooting around. She likes movement; she likes activity.


She always has.

People often notice her eyes because of her alertness; she is nothing if not aware. My first look at her after she was born found me looking into open eyes, and in the hours following her birth she was awake—defying the nurses as they talked about the sleepy newborn period that seems to happen the first 24 hours.

---

“You don’t have to like them the first two months; most people don’t.” This nugget of truth was relayed to us by Curtis’s coworker, who was told it by her pediatrician when she had her first child. “I thought I knew what tired was because of residency; having a child brought me to a whole new level.”

It’s interesting to begin looking back on the progress we have made in fifteen weeks. It is even more interesting to enter the world of parents who rejoice over arched backs and eye contact, who take note of head control and head shape, who think that sleeping until 6am is worth celebrating.

Yesterday she started to play with toys. She grasps her tiny fingers around edges and moves them to make noise. I am not sure if she truly grasps the cause and effect of the experience, but she is intentional all the same. She thinks. She acts. She is a little human that has already grown out of stack of clothes, infant swaddles and the smallest notch for the seatbelt in her car seat.

So much has already changed, and yet her eyes remain the same: piercing, focused, aware.

Curtis and I often wonder how the characteristics she possesses now will play out as she gets older: will she always resist sleep? Will she crave activity? Will she always be so aware and alert and observant? There is one thing we can count on: whatever stability seems to become predictable will surely change. For now we rest in what seems to be her normal. Tomorrow? I guess we will see when we get there. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Work and Play




Denali was out in all her splendor Sunday, seemingly glowing in the heat with a pinkish hue that was out of place in midday sun. We’ve had two weeks of glorious temperatures in this state: 70’s (and sometimes 80’s) with full sun. I keep waiting for a rainy day to accomplish mundane indoor tasks, but the forecast still is not cooperating.

And so this week, ready or not, I need to get down to business.

We have reached the end of this journey in medical education: twelve years post-high school of training and hoop-jumping. In two weeks Curtis will be finished, and we’ll be moving on to our next post: a real job in a small town where “everybody knows your name”. It should be interesting.

In the mean time we’re packing up shop here in the city, cleaning out drawers and cupboards and organizing bags of clothes for hot weather and cold—because by the time we unpack the whole summer might be over.

Thankfully, despite the details to sort through during the week, the weekend proved a nice respite: hot temperatures, long bike rides, and refreshing swims in the lake. As I squinted against the reflections of the sun on the water, I realized I haven’t swam outdoors in Alaska since high school. Even then, most of those swims were dares, or feats one participated in because you weren’t going to be the wuss that stayed on shore because it was “too cold”—even though it clearly was. Yesterday I swam because the sun was hot and the water was perfectly refreshing. I paddled around in my parents’ canoe, tipping it multiple times with Curtis and my brother, climbing in and out as we drifted with the current provided by nearby boats and jet skis, forgetting for the time being the responsibilities left on shore.

This, Curtis and I decided later, is the nonsense we don’t always get to partake in as adults; this is the frivolousness we miss when life gets too serious.

For now, adult tasks and decision making prevails. Packing, checking duties off the list, before taking a few weeks off to mark the breaking point before we enter yet another phase of life where Curtis is no longer a student. Hopefully all this growing up has no correlation to our involvement in good-old-fashioned fun. Because this weekend reminded us both how much we love it.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Breaking Free




When I was a child I would challenge my siblings to tie me up, after which I would try to escape. I enjoyed the challenge, a physical brain-teaser of sorts that gave me much satisfaction when conquered. It would appear that my daughter has the same propensity for a challenge. Different types of swaddles, different sizes—she slithers out of every one. She may not have the strength to break through the Velcro, but she wriggles until her hands and arms are free and near her face—where she has always liked them best.

She has always liked to have her freedom to move, getting frustrated when she is restricted. While many babies like to cuddle close, she likes to face outward. While some newborns love to be rocked, she quickly tires of sitting in one location. She rolled over at five weeks, a feat that left me a bit concerned—after all, an immobile baby is easier to keep track of. And after three months my mom has commented on several occasions how much she reminds her of me—a child (and adult) that has rarely been content to sit, and really prefers to move.

Part of me looks forward to her gaining mobility, as much as it will turn my world upside down. I wonder if she will get less frustrated when she is not so restricted. Regardless of my theories, she’ll grow and mature and move sooner or later. She’ll outgrow her swaddle and then her crib and slowly but surely develop her independence.

Yet, as she grows, I gain a little more independence as well, leaving her for an hour or two with Curtis or one of my sisters so I can go out for a run, a bike ride, or anywhere by myself. Perhaps my desire to break free is one I haven’t out-grown. While I love my baby dearly, and wish at times she were more content to just cuddle close, I am glad she likes to get out and about—because at the end of the day, I do too.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Underworlds and Unknowns: Life After Three Months






The men of the family taking a dip in the lake...note the ice floating off shore...

Summer has arrived, with daylight and light jackets and a baby that occasionally sleeps through the night. My sister-in-law once remarked that the first three months of babyhood happen in a fog. While I tried to convince myself that I was perfectly lucid while existing on two hour naps between feedings and crying spells that come and go for seemingly no reason at all, the reality is that I don’t remember plenty.

It is hard to believe that three months has passed. At the same time, life-before-baby seems like a lifetime ago.

I ran a race this past week, a few miles I pounded out faster than I have in months, a half hour reminiscent of life before. These days I am in awe of the human body: the way mine has changed so drastically, and slowly returns to normal; the way my baby has doubled in weight in a few months time, never to return to the less than six pound miniature being she was when I met her.

---

Lately an underworld has emerged before my eyes: groups and facebook pages and conversation topics that unite this group that I have become a part of—mother of young child(ren).  I spend my days filling my time intentionally: going on walks, wandering grocery store aisles, circling the kitchen table with a crying a baby in my arms, cooing over the changing table while the freshly diapered gal grins with a smile that seems to cover half her face. Sometimes the kitchen gets cleaned; sometimes the laundry is put away. A lot of times clothing and dishes are strewn about until a well-timed nap coincides with me becoming fed up with the mess. Sometimes I hardly recognize the person I have turned into.

Yet there is solace in this underworld, confessions of failed expectations shared on wooded trails behind strollers. I could talk for hours about schedules, sleep patterns, eating habits, and developmental milestones. I have learned a whole new language that I didn’t even realize existed.

Three months. She smiles, and gurgles, and follows me with her eyes as I walk away. She calms when I hold her, and sucks on her fist so loudly I can hear it across our condo—even when the door to her bedroom is closed.

It’s hard to beat the way her eyes light up when she spots me—near or far. Attached, yes. But I’m doing my best to appreciate it; after all, it won’t last forever.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Slow Moving Sun

Just when it seemed spring had forgotten about us, we had a day like yesterday: clear, blue skies sparkling on a vibrant ocean, eagles soaring and diving after carcasses, crisp strong winds trying to blow the shell of winter away.

I couldn’t get enough of being outside: a run, a walk, time spent rocking my baby on the deck, her face shielded from the bright, warm sunlight while mine couldn’t soak it in fast enough. Small commuting planes took off and landed as we watched, their engines accenting the quiet of their absence. While the ravens perched on streetlights and tall spruce, the sun moved across the sky.

“Time moves slowly,” I was told by friends who had babies before me. It’s a truth that I understand better now that I am in the caretaking roll myself. At the end of the day I can often list no other activities then holding and rocking a baby. Yet in this slow pace I notice much that I previously might have missed in the chaos of busyness, even if it’s the distinct cry of the raven or the arch of the summer sun. 



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Golden Moments



On Sunday as I sat in church, it looked like slushees were being thrown against the window. Thick, wet, dense snow blanketed the city as the wind tossed it against anything standing in its path. It’s spring, so they say, but the signs have been elusive.

As I sit and type I’m in my running clothes (in hopes of an outing soon enough), listening to the whirl of the washing machine, bracing against signs that our little one has woken prematurely from her nap. I have an hour (at most?) of time to be productive—and I’m paralyzed. What should I do with these golden minutes: Eat lunch?  Sit on the deck and watch communiting planes land on the water sparkling in today’s glorious sunshine? Straighten up around the house? Read? Work on a quilt I started almost a year ago and desperately needs to be finished?

These days a moment of quiet—where my first inclination isn’t to sleep—is rare, a small glimpse into the way things were not so long ago.

This morning she and I went on a walk, a necessary activity when rain and snow are not whipping against the windows. I was happy to shed my gloves when I realized my hands wouldn’t freeze without them, happy to push the jogger up and down the hills of the neighborhood, lost in conversation with my walking partners as I kept one eye on the sleeping baby—lulled by the rhythm of the sidewalks and the fresh sea air.

Every week that passes brings me further into this new territory, new identity as mother, caretaker of this miniature being that requires so much. The 3am wake up calls, so harsh in the first weeks, now feel familiar. As I finish feeding her I relish the expressions she makes as she stretches her arms before settling herself to fall back asleep against my chest. Though I too am ready to climb back into bed, I find myself lingering as her breathing settles, as her smell washes over me with such familiarity.

This new normal has become so familiar, so welcome.

This golden moment will soon pass: quiet, sunshine, indecision and all. And with it will come the other pieces of my day—familiar and rewarding in their own way. In the mean time, I will go check on the crying baby, who has decided an hour is far too much to ask.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Instant Distraction (or Productivity Monopolized)


In what has quickly become six weeks, life has taken on a completely new rhythm. My days feel busy and yet empty at the same time. Yesterday when I picked Curtis up from work, I felt compelled to recall all the events of what felt like a monumentally productive day: "I washed the sheets, and I unloaded the dishwasher, and I made myself lunch..." only to realize the list that felt GIGANTIC was actually quite short. 

Yet, that didn't steal my satisfaction; instead, it only cemented what I have quickly come to realize...I can easily spend all day, just taking care of her. Everything I accomplish above and beyond that feels like a bonus these days.

I made it to a track meet recently, and had a wonderful time showing off my daughter to all sorts of students and parents and athletes. So many people have shared in our joy since her birth--bringing meals, sending gifts, writing notes in thoughtful cards. Going anywhere with her strapped to my chest brings a smile to seemingly everyone, strangers as much as friends. There is something about a small, bright-eyed baby that brightens the gloomiest day, and make the mundane special.

I suppose that's how my days pass, pausing a moment and sometimes an hour while she practices rolling over (already), tries out her newly discovered voice, and elicits the most ridiculous faces from me as she smiles and attempts to laugh. Soon enough, she falls asleep again, while I run around trying to prioritize my productive minutes until she wakes--ready to monopolize my day a bit more.

There are days when I can't wait to hand her off to Curtis the moment he walks in the door, but mostly I hand her off to him, and proceed to stare at her a while longer until be both crash at the end of the day from exhaustion (and then start over again tomorrow).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

New (Unrecognizable) Self, New Life


I have tried to write on so many occasions since our little one made her appearance. There are multiple unfinished drafts, interrupted by a myriad of moments that are mostly unpredictable. 

She has changed our lives in so many ways, and as we adjust to these changes I find myself more and more at peace with this new rhythm I find myself in. Breaking up my days into 2-4 hour segments of feeding, soothing, and attempting productivity is a drastic change from life before baby. Yet, there is something beautiful about permission to stay in bed all day, watching a vulnerable new human grow and become more aware--sometimes right before my eyes. 

I hope at some point I can record all the thoughts, so fresh in these first few weeks, that come when one  instantly become responsible for someone so needy. For now, I'll leave at this: I just love her. In my sleep-deprived, greasy-hair, scattered-thought self that is sometimes unrecognizable, I still want to keep her and the chaos she has brought to our lives.

It's a beautiful thing. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Conquered: Conferences + One Long Week


I awoke this morning to the sound of the bedroom door shifting against the frame, the air having been disrupted by the opening of our front door down the hall. I was slightly confused, as I could hear Curtis in the entry. As much as I aimed to sleep long beyond 7am on a day off school, I have never been good at such feats. And even then, now that I knew I could catch Curtis before he left for work I was hopelessly awake.

I padded down the hall, eyes squinting against the light to find him suited up with his biking gear, a shield against the cold, snowy elements he bikes through to work on a daily basis. And in his excitement he could barely wait to show me the Valentine's day present he had picked up for me this morning: frosted cinnamon rolls and whole grain blueberry muffins from a local bakery. After he left I settled back into bed with half a roll that was still warm from its recent baking, content with my nutrition-lacking breakfast and the satisfaction in knowing that I had made it through the week.

This year Valentine's day just happened to be the school day I dreaded all year. It was day two of conferences, the second of two twelve-hour days where the first four hours are teaching and the last eight are spent meeting with parents in scheduled slots shared among multiple teachers. The instructors play musical chairs, meeting with parents and students available while keeping an eye on who is still waiting, and who might leave if not attended to soon. Day one of this process is exhausting; day two is an exercise in endurance and stamina. Months ago when I discovered I was pregnant I did the math to discover I'd be weathering this exhausting process on the cusp of nine months of pregnancy, and I immediately began to dread it. 

By Tuesday night I was convinced I couldn't rest enough. Curtis tried to reason with me that staying in bed for 14 hours might not actually make me that better off if I was miserably restless and missed my brother's basketball game, a choice I might tearfully regret later in the midst of surge of hormones. In the end I agreed with him, and was almost relieved when Wednesday finally started and Thursday followed quickly on its heals. I was exhausted, as expected, at noon--with seven hours to go. It was a long afternoon with several families that didn't show and a few dry spells where no one was there at all. At one point I conceded to my exhaustion and rested my head on a table--and then realized how ridiculous I looked. Sure, I may have a gigantic belly, but teachers don't put their heads down when they're ready to give up, at least this one doesn't.

Last night Curtis treaded carefully as we discussed our plans for the weekend. All plans seem like too much after a week like this one; no schedule is open enough, with gaps for naps and downtime endlessly available. He encouraged me to not think about it until tomorrow--when I had sleep, a day to do as I please, a day to rest every moment I wanted. But when I am past tired no amount of sleep seems like it can ever satiate my exhaustion, a reality I readily admit may be a problem when this baby decides to make an appearance. 

Yet, he was right. This morning as I was greeted with the fruits of an early morning trip to the bakery and a long, solid night of rest, the world looked like a better place. Knowing that I'd conquered my dreaded foe, conferences while fully pregnant, was pretty satisfying as well. Sometimes little victories are worth celebrating, especially when they correspond with little holidays. 

A blooming belly shot from last week, at 34.5 weeks, and a card I found months ago.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Soundtrack of a Memory

Taken that summer in 2004, during a weekend visit in July...

Yesterday evening as I lay in a final, resting position in my prenatal yoga class, I was transported eight and a half years. A song from the soundtrack of Amelie came softly over the speakers, a song off an album Curtis gave me three months after we began dating. It was a parting token as he headed back to our home state for the summer, and I stayed behind to compete in post-season races. After three months of dating we were poised for almost three months apart.

It was a dark evening in May when the gift was given, and the sky was on fire with a spectacular show of lightening. We parted at the Amtrak station, a cheaper form of travel to connect to Chicago and much more friendly to the college budget than airfare, which to and from Alaska is bad enough. I would come to cherish the handwritten note that accompanied the cd he left with me that evening, handwriting that would become all too familiar with three months apart. Though we lived in the same state, few of our friends could truly understand that it still meant 300 miles separated us--he on an island, me on the mainland.

That album with its somber according tones and haunting piano would be a soundtrack to that first summer in our relationship, filling the gap between phone calls on calling cards, emails on occasion and the cherished letter. I haven't pulled out that cd in years, and hearing the familiar tune nearly brought me to tears with all the time that it represented.

Nearly nine years later I see wedding pictures on the wall, hear the sound of Curtis cleaning the kitchen down the hall, feel our baby kicking and shifting within my stomach. It is funny to look back and realize that I had no idea on the rainy night in May just how life would turn out. It has been a journey with its fair share of challenges, but also a generous amount of joy. And as we celebrate our relationship this Valentine's day, because of the anniversary it marks more than the Hallmark holiday, I find myself nostalgic once again. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Out of Focus



A month past solstice, the sun rises at 9:42am and graces us with almost seven hours of daylight. Monday morning Curtis and I were out skiing when the sky came to life, the wispy clouds radiating in dark pink and then orange, eventually glowing with the white brightness of the sun. The ski trails were covered with a fresh dusting of snow that came Sunday afternoon. The groomer had been by in streaks throughout our trail of choice, leaving fresh corduroy paths along divots left from many weekend visitors. The lights on the trail flickered out as we progressed, having finished their duties through the dark hours of the early morning. 

We practically had the trails to ourselves, save the two moose on the back half of the trail, munching distractedly on the empty branches, enjoying the lack of snow as it makes everything that much more accessible. 

Weather has come in unpredictable streaks as of late. Sunday's snow was followed by a comfortable Monday morning sun, a week of warming temperatures topping at 45 on Thursday afternoon before plummeting to -15 by Saturday morning. Fifty degree temperature swings bringing little snow and melting what delicate amounts we have seem to be the norm for this winter, a season that seems to be slipping by quickly.

We speak of schedules a lot these days, jockeying around Curtis's few days off to maximize their potential, unsure of when we might need them with a baby's unpredictable arrival--and yet scheduling them with our best guesses. An out-of-town rotation in April seems like ages away, I commented to Curtis yesterday over dinner. Life will look different then--a different I don't yet fully understand--and yet it's less than three months away and will be here very soon.

In the mean time I carry markers around in my mind, milestones to check off as they arrive:
Seven weeks until the due date.
Six weeks of school until the end of the quarter.
Four weeks until I am officially full term.
One week until research papers are due.

Beyond those measurements everything seems out of focus, unpredictable and new, uncharted. 

---

The students ask a lot of questions these days, perhaps aware of impending change in their routines, what they can count on, what they expect based on the past six months. For months it was as if my ever growing stomach didn't exist. Sure, they stared, shamelessly at times, but they didn't comment, didn't ask, didn't wonder aloud. 

Now they do.

"How many weeks are you?" A girl will ask. 
"Do you know what it is?" Another will comment. 
Lately I've taken to joking with them: "A puppy," I'll reply to confused looks--until the unsuspecting student realizes the joke and the surrounding students all have a laugh. 

When I missed a class period for a last minute parent conference, a student commented that he thought I may have gone into labor. I suppose I should get used to such over reactions to any change from the usual. They know one day I'll disappear--perhaps without warning. I suppose I can't blame them for having that be their first assumption whenever I appear to be missing.

As I prepare my maternity leave lesson plans I find myself compelled to record routines: this is how I check out computers, this is how seat assignments work, this is the expectation for beginning of class conduct. In truth, my substitute can establish new routines if he desires, making a classroom that he will run for several weeks his own. Yet I suppose my protective sense wants there to be as little change as possible; perhaps that is me preparing myself for a life that will never be the same.

---

The full moon came out last night, lighting the sky as it faded to night: blue, to lavender, pink clouds and eventually darkness. These cycles seem to symbolically remind me that time will continue forward, one day after another, whether I'm grading or giving birth. There is comfort in that. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Rain, Rest, and Reestablishing Normal

It has been a wet weekend. Our (practically) snowless winter has not been dampened with the arrival of much precipitation in temperatures in the thirties--which meant rain and slush and melt. Eventually it will all return to frozen--this is still January after all--and when it does the water-covered ice rink that is my neighborhood will simply just be ice.

Leaving town felt good this weekend. I didn't bring papers to read or grade, and if Curtis brought medical journals or board studying materials he never pulled them out. We slept until we woke up (disappointingly early, and certainly before daylight), weathered a small earthquake at 3:30am, and watched my brother play basketball while chatting with friends. There was little in the way of schedule, virtually nothing on the agenda, and when drives to and from became slow because of weather there was no reason to fret--there was no where else we needed to be.

Unlike the laziness of rural Alaskan highway, there is so much to be done at home. There are taxes to be prepped, baby "stuff" to organize and purchase, lesson plans to be completed for maternity leave, and endless decisions to be made about the future. Normally I'd revert to attack mode and check items off the list one by one. Currently I'm in sleep mode, often choosing between a thirty-minute eliptical session or making dinner before officially running out of energy after work. 

Life is changing. It some ways I feel very ready, but in others it is taking me longer to adjust. And just as rain in January feels like a mockery of what winter is "supposed" to look like, I feel like my exhaustion and need for (what feels like) excessive amounts of sleep and rest has made me different from who I am "supposed" to be. Yet I am the person that created those expectations, and probably the only person disappointed when I don't meet them.

Change is a slow process, and while some shifts will come whether we're ready or not, this new rhythm we are approaching--and in some ways already experiencing--may not feel normal for a while. In that way the rain feels quite fitting. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Settling Back In


Morning sunrise, just before 10am...

Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised to find prenatal vitamins this morning, stashed in the Christmas gift from our neighbor--a nurse-- who recently discovered our growing addition. It's easier to mask a seven month belly when you prance around in your husband's down coat--since mine haven't fit for over a month. And since I typically only encounter our friendly neighbor outdoors, she rarely sees me without my generous outer layers. 

Today has been a day of cleaning out: laundry from our trip to the island, gifts from both Christmas and baby shower that need to be organized and put in place, suitcases to be stowed in the upper shelf of the closet for a few months while we settle in for what will be one of the biggest transitions of our marriage. I keep waiting for that nesting instinct of which everyone warns--this push to ready the home for baby's arrival. Instead I find myself capitalizing on moments of energy to sort and clean and organize, and taking naps in the in between.

Next week I return to school, to novels and research papers and grading. The hiatus was well needed, and while I mourn the loss of the generous rest my body frequently reminds me I need, I look forward to my final several weeks in the classroom. It is a place I love, some days more than others, and I will miss it even as I move on to other great adventures.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Abandoned Schedule


The clouds were thick when we were finally airborne, two attempts, two delays and one day later. Such rituals of trips to and from the airport as weather shifts in waves become normal in rural Alaskan travel. We may have streamlined travel across the largest state with airplanes but we still don't control the elements; they haven't been domesticated.

Curtis and I haven't been to the island since we got stuck there an extra 48 hours this fall, a three day trip for coaching turned to nearly five due to the grounding of an entire airline's fleet in violation of TSA requirements, leaving hundreds of travellers stranded statewide. This trip, it seemed, would not be any simpler.

The first trip I made to the island was Christmas break 2004. Curtis and I had been dating for ten months and a three-day visit for me to spend time with his family was scheduled. After weather delays I finally boarded the small plane, becoming motion sick soon after as we bounced across the ocean, weathering the winter wind. When we had nearly reached the island the captain announced we'd be turning around. The plane ahead of us had landed, but the icy runway had made for a treacherous finale to the flight--one our captain did not want to gamble on. So back we flew to where we'd started, hours spent with little to show for them but an upset stomach, my three day trip cut to two by treacherous conditions. The next day's flight couldn't have been more anticlimactic.

Life on the island always moves slowly once we get there, with each day littered with one or two activities, rarely attached to any kind of schedule. We eat when a meal is ready, sleep when activity subsides, and venture out when neighbors beckon. And in that way the weather, the isolation, the haphazard nature of travel fits. We arrive when we do, and leave when everything works out. 

This year we passed around a cold shortly after arriving, making a five day stay feel like just long enough to recover. Returning to the city often jostles the system a bit, especially when it coincides with a return with the end of a break from school. I often find myself asking what the rush is, even as I seek to maximize my efficiency and productivity in my return to "normal" life. It's good to remember, through weather delays and sickness and days out of town, that value in a day is not measured by items checked off a to-do list.