Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Snapshot, Folded, Frozen in Time...

 This picture was taken a few days before Hannah was born. I had taken the last month of my pregnancy off from work and had no trouble filling my newly liberated hours. I baked, and made frozen meals for after her arrival. I got Hannah's room in order, and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned our house. On the Friday before she was born I became wrestles and went for a walk.

It was a windy day and the clouds hung low, sailing across the sky like marshmallow sailboats. I stood there at the end of the pier taking in the horizon. The cranes stood in the distance like mechanical giraffes, and sailboats skated across the water with grace as lady liberty stood watch. My mind was clear. My life was about to change I was very much aware. However, I was experiencing a momentary stillness only felt one other time in my life.

Nineteen years earlier, though I was only 17, I felt the same fleeting wisdom as I watched a blizzard consume the view from my 8th story apartment window. I was warm and dry on the other side of the glass, but life was about to seep it's way in to my adolescent world and, for as long as I stood at that window, without fear or excitement, I knew it. I was at peace with it.

The Friday before Hannah's birth, it only took me a moment to recognize what I was experiencing. When past, present and future reside so close to one another that you can feel the knife poised waiting to cut a line between them, and for only a moment, you can dance on the edge of its blade. After twenty minutes I walked home, I was no longer restless. I can remember little else from that day, only that two days later, Hannah was born and sure enough, my life changed. 

I feel blessed for both of these moments. Even more so that I was wise enough the second time around to take a picture. This is only a snapshot, but I will forever remember both of those women, standing brave before the threshold of life and all of it's joys, it's disappointments, and all of its beautifully unreined chaos. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Defining Romance

Some people would like you to believe that once you have children romance is dead and that spontaneity is out the window. Don’t believe them. While it is likely you will have to repress a few impulsive urges, that does not mean that you can never enjoy an impromptu romantic afternoon or evening. Babies take naps, so do toddlers, older kids have music class and sleepovers, and they all thankfully have a bedtime. In fact, allowing for romance post child requires that you embrace spontaneity with a fervor like never before. It requires a whole new level of ingenuity, ardor, dedication, and lets face it, a few hours of lost sleep. 

I have never been a fan of The ‘Romantic’ dinner. The candlelight, the soft music, the strawberry shortcake for two, the whole thing just seems absurdly premeditated. As if romance were something calculated. I happen to know that Fancy Valentine’s Day prefixes are the antithesis of romance. Nothing can ruin the wild nature of prospective love more then sitting in a room full of other hopefuls trying to approximate the very same thing. While you can aspire for romance, you can’t plan for it, and you certainly can’t buy it for $85 a head with a complimentary glass of Prosecco. Romance is organic, uncultivated; it grows out of adoration; respect, and desire, spontaneity is what sets it aglow.Sure, strawberries and Champagne with a loved one is special, but I’ll take getting caught in a rainstorm then warming up with a hot toddy with them any day.

For Ben and I, a romantic dinner usually includes cooking together, though sometimes we cook meals for one another. Much of the time it involves us geeking-out on how the food turned out, what we would do differently next time, and waxing about future cooking challenges. Sometimes we will choose a bottle of wine to go with the meal or make a cocktail and other times not. We never plan these romantic dinners, so it hard to say what they will involve and its hard to define what exactly makes them romantic. They pretty much just come about on their own, Hannah goes to sleep easily, the meal just comes together, we are both ready and willing to un-wind. What I can say, it that, now that we have Hannah, there is one ingredient that we can pretty much count on in order for us to have a romantic dinner, and that’s a baby monitor.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Beacon

They say that routine is important in a child's life. What they don't emphasize enough, is how important it is in a parent's life. Some weeks, being the parent to a toddler is like an all-day-party filled with munchkin giggles, baby-body-slamming sessions, brave new stunts, and my favorite, tiny people goofy dance sessions. It's hard to top the heart swelling you get when you hear your four month old belly laugh for the first time, or watch her first sovereign steps, or hear her crazy ramblings slowly focus into language. Routine is a major factor in these moments, but more important, is the roll it plays in the most desperate days and nights of parenting. Some weeks, it seems that each day gets better then the last and you wonder, what did I do to deserve all this? My last week, was not one of them...

On Monday morning, prospects looked good. Hannah and I had a week filled with sing-a-longs, playgroups, swimming for me, and toddler yoga for her. Later in the week, Hannah had her weekly date with Grandma and Grandpa while Ben and I went out to dinner with our friends My Linh and Andrew, and Friday I would be heading out for my first solo trip in a long long loooong while. On paper, it looked great. But as all you fellow parents and life livers know, things don't always go as planned.

Monday Hannah was fussy from teething, but we worked through it. I went swimming while she tore it up in childwatch. After she went down for the night, I cooked some food and went to bed. At 3am I woke to nausea, and stabbing pains in my abdomen. The stomach virus hit me harder than it hit Ben, and I was very lucky that he was able to watch her the next two day as I stumbled around the house trying to will myself into a vertical position and failing miserably.

The beginning part of the week was shot, but that certainly didn't have to effect the remainder of the week. By Thursday I was feeling much better, though still battling a massive headache. Determined to move on with my week, I rested during Hannah's nap, and before setting out to dinner, downed some Advil and slathered my temples and neck in tiger balm. 20 minutes into the bus ride I was feeling pretty good. 25 minutes into the bus ride, I got a call from Ben, My Linh and Andrew's babysitter was sick; Dinner was canceled. I bet you it was the stomach flu, I though bitterly, at least I still have my weekend.

12:30 that night I woke to Hannah crying. After 20 minutes of listening to Ben try and coax her into sleep, I joined him in battle. Every attempt and every tactic was met with tears. She did NOT want to sleep. She played and cried off and on for the next 5 hours. After checking her out, the pediatrician told us that it sounded like a gastrointestinal development that happens around this age and can result in crying episodes due to intermittent pain. Though it was unlikely to happen again, there was a chance it could. As much as I was looking forward to needed my weekend, I just didn't feel right leaving either of them. I canceled my weekend plans.

Needless to say, Friday afternoon was a low point. On a normal week, taking care of a toddler is like driving up a mountain road in dense dense fog. On a good day it's impossible to see more than 2 feet in front of you. During a rough week, routine is imperative because it provides landmarks. These landmarks cultivate balance by punctuating chaos with satisfying meals, fulfilling activities, and oh so needed down time. Suffice it to say, Hannah and my routine for the week had been completely decimated. It had been close to a week since I'd been swimming, Hannah had grossly exceeded the amount of hours she would normally tolerate in the house, meals had been missed, and hours of sleep sacrificed. We were both grumpy and in a desperate need of some sort of beacon, though neither of us had the energy or inclination to search for one.

That night, Hannah Slept. Ben and I slept as well. Saturday morning we all had breakfast together and headed out to the Y for family swim. Hannah's restless legs chopped through the water like tiny propellers and her giggles echoed off every surface. I did some laps, and by the end of the swim we were all starting to feel as though we had found the first landmark back to routine, to normalcy, to a good night sleep, and to buckets and buckets of giggles.