Is this anything?

So, yes, still a hiatus, but I dared myself to finally hit publish on a draft that I’ve been sitting on for a month or so now. Be warned: Poetry ahead.


I’m going to send this far afield of what I usually post.

Way back when, I was the high schooler who secretly wrote a lot of embarrassing poetry.

Every few years the urge bubbles back up. Today was that day and I was feeling a lot of incomprehensible feelings about motherhood. I’m going to save this in drafts for awhile because while it feels cathartic now, I’ve always been of two minds sharing what I write. One of those minds craves the potential for any feedback whatsoever. The other mind dies of mortification at the very thought of anyone else ever reading it and feels so vulnerable it would sooner see me strip naked and walk down the street reciting my social security number.

So maybe you’ll see this, maybe you won’t, but here it is:

Buzz

A dog’s tongue across an empty bowl
I have nothing to give
Plaintive eyes and a resigned sigh
There is no time for long walks now

I am overcommitted
Wounded and wordless in the aftermath of
that commonplace miracle
with each new soul
I buy myself time
From the second you writhed into the light
I began to shrink again
each desolate night I still find myself
humming with life
and sustaining this new one
A hive of bees in my breast
Milk or honey?
A symbiosis in these still hours

You shit marigolds
I shush shush shush
not in admonition
but instinct
to simulate that nest of rushing blood and muffled music
where you were
dividing and growing in the red dark

I buzz with potential energy
You hang on for dear life
And how dear is it

A box of mementos I meant to organize and label
The mylar balloon
And the footprints and the
purple lightning etched on my thighs
Will not keep the memories fresh
Nor slow the pace of your eventual leaving

These days will fade and feel
like they had been someone else’s
Turning magazine pages in the waiting room
and wondering when it will begin

From my grandparents’ ashes
My garden grows
And we write our own rules
though we still follow theirs
The ruts in an old road catching our tires

She came to me in a dream
disappointed as ever
I will not be let down
I will press my shoulder to the door
and shove it all the way open
Displace the hard-packed earth
Let the sun shine into the dark corners and
throw seed to the birds

Is this anything?

Looking ahead

Bird Watching with Dad
Bird watching with Dad

As I get older, I’m coming to peace with the fact that my ambitions and energies seem to come in cycles. Sometimes I feel like an open book with an insatiable appetite for information and interaction, and other times… I just want to shut out the world and turn my focus to my immediate surroundings and my innermost thoughts.

Which is to say, blogging doesn’t feel like a priority right now. This has been a great outlet for expressing my feelings and marking milestones on my journey through the first year of motherhood, and it will, I expect, feel like that again in the future. Right now, though, I’m going to ease off the pressure (purely self-inflicted, I don’t pretend to think I have a rabid fan base that will sink into despair without regular updates) to post consistently and just let this place be unless the inspiration strikes me. I haven’t had much time for self care lately, and while blogging has often felt like self care, it isn’t lately, so I’m going to give myself a break.

The Baby will turn one year old in just a few weeks. Here, in no particular order, is a list of thoughts on the current state of affairs in our house and that impending occasion:

  1. The Baby is walking, and has been for a few weeks. Each day he grows more steady on his feet. Yesterday, he took a stumbling run.
  2. The days of cosleeping are over. We moved his crib into his room, and with the help of a comfortable rocking chair we should have bought months ago, we’ve been helping him get accustomed to this new routine. I could have probably continued some form of cosleeping, but The Baby clearly sleeps better on his own now. I have mixed feelings of relief and sadness, but mostly I feel tired.
  3. Teething continues. So tired.
  4. Try as I might, we’re just not good at stopping to savor the “firsts” like I thought we would. Baby’s first Thanksgiving was nice (he loves eating), but it’s not like I could really sit there and marvel. Mostly I just chased him around in a crowded, non-baby proofed house and spent 300 hours frantically cooking. (We attended The Husband’s family’s Thanksgiving on Thursday and hosted Franksgiving, a.k.a Friday Thanksgiving, at our house the day after.)
  5. The Baby has started hugging–his stuffed animals, the cats, and of course, his favorite people. Getting an exuberant hug from a baby is about as good as it gets.
  6. This weekend, we’re off to get a Christmas tree. I’ve been researching how to babyproof a tree for awhile but I feel like we have an exceptionally skilled baby when it comes to the eating, knocking over and destroying of things he shouldn’t touch. I’m looking forward to his first Christmas (and birthday!) but trying to temper my expectations with the realities of caring for a one-year-old.
  7. Still breastfeeding; learned I can eat an entire pumpkin pie all by myself (not in one sitting, but still.)

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll be back once I’ve recalibrated a bit. In the meantime, hang in there and happy holidays.

Looking ahead

Hey new mom: Neglecting yourself? Schedule a photo shoot.

Blah blah blah, it’s been awhile. As I mentioned in my last post (and like every post, because I like to complain-brag about being the busiest mom everrrrr, even though I’m not, and complaining about busyness as a mark of superiority is just about the worst)… I’ve been hustling. Writing freelance articles. Babysitting once a week for a friend. Painting the living room. Clearing away storm damage. Flossing, occasionally. Fantasizing the plot to the novel I’ll never write write someday. Oh yeah, and coparenting The Baby with my superhuman husband.

So let’s skip over that part where I whine about not having enough time to blog and just check in about more interesting things.

Mandated self care

I’ve been following a local (we’re nearly neighbors) photographer on Instagram for awhile and scheduled a mini session for last weekend, something I’ve been wanting to do for months, which meant I had to address the growing list of sad, new mom atrocities going on with my personal appearance.

I schlepped The Baby out to Old Navy for a quick low-budget shopping session, as my day-to-day uniform, without fail, is a stretched-out V-neck tee from Target with a pair of shorts. Or jeans, if it’s not 80 degrees out. Or workout pants, if I’m taking a walk.  Since becoming a WAHM, my wardrobe has shrunken considerably and nothing I had was up to the task of making me look autumnal, maternal and sophisticated enough to warrant the cash we were shelling out to capture this moment in our life.

I wound up getting a dress, a cozy cardigan, and (of course) a baby sweater and pants.

Old Navy floral cami dress
This dress.

I also got my first haircut in 11 months. The previous salon encounter was a week or so before my baby shower. I was teetering into “enormously pregnant” territory and ended up getting a bob, which I opted for because my hair was greasy AF from pregnancy hormones. This time around, I left it long because it stays ponytailed at all times lest I lose it by the handfuls to my grabby, grabby monster baby.

Being really awkward at haircuts is sort of my thing. I get them really infrequently so I never have a go-to hairstylist to catch up with, I know nothing about hairstyles so my description of what I want is usually unhelpfully vague (and generally limited to an angled bob, or the light trimming of a very long, grown out bob), and I do almost nothing to help move the conversation along.

I’ll answer any question I’m asked, but it always feels weirdly intrusive to ask questions of the person I’m paying to groom me, so the usual back-and-forth of a conversation ends up being a lopsided exchange that fades into awkward silence. Helpful hint for fellow awkwards: Just have a baby, and get a stylist who also has children. The only lull in conversation this time around happened when she was blowdrying my hair.

I didn’t even feel particularly embarrassed to discover I had grey primer (wall primer, not makeup) on my face as I checked out my new (very conservative trim of a) haircut. Because motherhood makes it easy to utterly give up puts everything into perspective.

Finally, for the first time since a friend’s wedding last June, I painted my nails. (I was pretty paranoid about chemicals during pregnancy, so other than that one time, I didn’t bother. Also, I almost never bother to begin with.)

sad-manicure
My manicure as of yesterday, because the house painting never ends.

Yeah, this is about as low of a bar as I could hurdle in terms of personal grooming, but it’s higher than the bar I’ve set for myself for many months now, so I consider it a success.

So, new moms if you’ve been neglecting yourself terribly, put a non-refundable deposit down on a family photo shoot. You’ll take care of yourself if the alternative is spending money to forever memorialize your frizzy split ends, stained shirts and unibrow!

That’s it for tonight. The Baby is turning nine months old in a few days (what?!) I will be back soon, if for no other reason than to report back on how many babies he succeeded in poking in the eyes at tomorrow’s lap-sit story time at the library.

lilly-handmade-chocolates
People watching and eating some chocolate

Oh! One quick P.S. The Husband, The Baby and I traveled up to our old neighborhood to have brunch and indulge in a little wine and chocolate, c/o a raffle we won for donating to a friend’s Kickstarter. So there was some legitimate, non-mandated self care in there, too. Don’t forget to make time for eggs baked in cream, truffles and a stroll through your favorite city.

Hey new mom: Neglecting yourself? Schedule a photo shoot.

Pear overload

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone! Happy 28th birthday to my little brother (and to my mom, and to all the other mothers who are or have taken the name of this holiday quite literally to mean welcoming new babies to the world.)

This weekend we did a whole lot of cutting up fallen trees and felling damaged trees from the crazy storm that swept through our property. One very sad casualty was the 100-year-old apple tree right off our back porch that was crushed by a rogue locust tree the guys cut down. Their guide rope snapped and the tree ended up just brushing our gutter, but annihilated the apple tree. It was on its last legs, propped up with an old post, but we were hoping to keep it alive another season to try to graft it. It had been planted by my great grandfather.

Anyway, as it’s not particularly safe to operate a chainsaw with a baby on your back, my contribution to the storm cleanup this week was trying to preserve the windfall of pears that had been blown from our trees in the storm. They were slightly underripe when I picked them up off the ground, but at the same time almost universally bruised or cracked from their fall, so it was a race against the clock to get them processed.

I took zero photos and have no recipes to share with  you. The Baby has been napping for two hours (!!!) and is due to wake up any second, so here’s just a short list of things I made with the pears:

  • Pear sauce! Just like applesauce, but with pears. Organic and with no sugar added, this makes a great baby food. And the cooking helps soften and sweeten the harder, greener, most underripe pears. I froze a little under two gallons of it and with the other gallon or so I made…
  • Pear sauce bread. I adapted this recipe  based on what was in my pantry, using only whole wheat flour, not bothering to grind the oats, using plain full-fat organic yogurt rather than sweetened Greek yogurt, and using pear sauce that still had pretty big chunks of not-too-mushy pears in it. I also didn’t add in any extra fat (coconut oil or butter) since the yogurt was full-fat. I just adjusted the amount of yogurt so that the batter was the appropriate texture/wetness. It turned out pretty good, like really dense bran muffins but moist because of the pears. We’ve eaten two loaves and there are two in the freezer.
  • Pear pie with a bacon-grease crust and oat crumble topping. (This I made with the riper pears without pre-cooking them.) I’ve been straining and refrigerating our bacon grease for awhile now, and while I’ve done some vegetable sauteeing with it, I needed to use it up and have been considering it for pie crust for awhile. I did a little Googling and ended up just sort of eyeballing the flour-to-bacon-fat ratio with a tiny bit of ice water. It didn’t roll out great, but it ended up with a surprisingly nice texture. It definitely had a hint of bacon flavor, but with the pear filling, it was good! I adapted this recipe for the pie filling/topping.

All in all, I was able to save about 10 pears that were undamaged and could ripen and be eaten raw.

So that’s been my weekend. I find myself getting a little overwhelmed during harvest season, not wanting anything to go to waste but also not wanting to spend all waking hours blanching tomatoes and making pepper jelly (another thing I did this weekend), but it does make winters nicer to have access to this stuff, and it sure helps our budget while we’re living on one income, plus whatever I can earn freelancing.

I’ve got a little pear sauce left. Anything else I should try to make with it?

20160828_183257
The pears – after the storm, before I cooked them. (Or, in most cases, before the deer ate them.)
Pear overload

Impulse parenting! Or, my big sleep training mistake and the subsequent crushing guilt

I am writing this on my phone from underneath a baby who will. Not. Sleep. Unless he is latched on and nursing. It is nap.one of the day, following a bedtime that pulled the rug out from under him and left the entire household wrecked.

As I mentioned, The Baby is rocketing through milestones quicker than a greased weasel down a waterslide  (that idiom could use some work, sorry). Anyway, his naps have been shit and I am usually a defeated husk of my former self by Thursday afternoon when I don’t get naptime reprieves. Yesterday I listened to the Sleep Training episode of One Bad Mother, and while I’ve in the past concluded my baby is a tension increaser, crying it out feels cruel and I want to help him gradually transition to sleeping in his own crib, this episode filled husk-me with new hope. Jodi Mindell sounded so reassuring, so convincing. And the host described a sleep training experience of a night or two of brief crying followed by blissful crib sleeping forever and ever, amen.

I didn’t realize it, but the reptile brain that had taken control of me decided, “Hey, you haven’t had time to look further into this or hatch a plan or even let The Husband know you’re considering this, and The Baby is obviously going through sleep regression that makes things 100 times harder than usual, but maybe you should JUST DO IT.” I think the last vestiges of logic snapped when I saw The Baby on the video monitor, standing in his crib about to trip in his sleep sack. His development was outpacing my plan for gradual adjustments.

After a few minutes of him crying (while The Husband looked at me with a look of confusion and concern), I went in his room, shut the door behind me, stripped him out of his sleep sack, spent a minute rocking him, then put him in his crib and settled in to try to help him cry himself to sleep.

I had no clock with me. No plan. I just tried to keep repeating comforting words (“Night night, baby. Shhhh, shhhh. I love you. I’m here. Time for night night.”)  While rubbing his back or tummy. I’m sure he couldn’t hear me, though, because his cries turned into wails and shrieks and coughs. He kept standing and reaching for me and I kept trying to lie him back down and help him settle.

There were a couple times it seemed like he was winding down, but he always wound back up. Yet the more he cried the more on the hook I felt: If I didn’t see this through and help him fall asleep in his crib, I would just have let him cry himself into hysterics before reinforcing the sleep associations I was trying to break. I would have tortured him for nothing.

At one point, poor The Husband cracked open the door to try to figure out what in the hell I was doing and I waved him off angrily.

Finally, after what ended up being about an hour and fifteen minutes of sobbing that still was nowhere near subsiding, I took a quick bathroom break to gather my thoughts and see if my absence did anything to quiet Baby down. It did not. And The Husband was outside the bathroom door with a look on his face that made me feel terrible. I told him I was going in to “end this.”

Which meant I went back in, picked up my tear-soaked kid, rocked him in my arms and put him down asleep, or at least 99% of the way there. I had tortured him for nothing.

Feeling so defeated, I tried to explain my extremely half-baked idea to The Husband. He was upset and yet far more forgiving than I would have been if he’d unilaterally and impulsively tried to do what I had done. I had been high on the hope that this experiment would work.

Or at least that the crying jag would have worn The Baby out and he’d sleep a few hours. But no, after less than an hour he was back up, as usual. The Husband rocked him back to sleep, and when he woke up 10 minutes later I took him to bed and hoped he could absorb my apology through osmosis. We both slept soundly.

I know my biggest mistake was not going in with a plan. And I know there are tons of proponents of the “gradual extinction” method of sleep training who will tell me to climb back on this horse but to saddle up better first.

BUT GUYS. There are so many theories about babies and sleep! About cortisol and negative sleep associations and SIDS! Experts contradict one another at every turn of the page. I’m so tired and so full to the brim with mom guilt I can’t rationally evaluate all the options. Everything sounds hopeful, bit when I’m face to sopping wet face with my difficult sleeper, words on a page don’t feel like they have any power at all.

Ugh. I don’t have a tidy conclusion, let alone a solution, to this episode of The Baby’s Sleep Saga. I need some time to regroup. I need to strategize with The Husband. I need to take a nap myself.

Impulse parenting! Or, my big sleep training mistake and the subsequent crushing guilt