30.1.07

I missed her one month anniversary

My dear Baby Girl. You have been here for 6 weeks already. The first month went by so quickly, I missed the day completely when you became a month old, I was busy doing something. Your Oma had just arrived and we were doing something and your one-month anniversary slipped by. Sometimes I feel this little twinge of panic at the back of my heart like I’m missing your baby hood. I am so busy, even with help I am busy, maybe busier because of it, and time slips by. I realized the other day that I’ve not sat and held you much at all since that first week after you were born. I’ve nursed you, a lot, I’ve carried you around while I walk, while I grocery shop, while I take care of your brother and sister and talk on the phone. You sleep next to me every night, curled in the crick of my arm, but my attention is always elsewhere. The moments when we look in each other’s eyes seem few and far between, and there are so many others to hold you as well. I’m imagining some of it I’m sure, because I know I’ve held you and done nothing but look at you. I rarely see the top of your head without kissing it, my lips pressed against the sweet softness of your fontanel, inhaling your scent. I laugh at all of the funny faces that you make, and you make many. But the panic remains, lurks there in the background, the feeling that you’re growing up and I am missing it.

I know now how quickly I can forget how tiny you were, what your face looked like, the floppy sweetness as you snort and sigh and snuggle closer, the muffled squeaks you make while sleeping. I am always shocked to look at pictures of your brother and sister when they were younger. They look so different, so small so chubby, their faces so indistinct compared to now and I wonder, “When did they change? How did I not notice that happening?” I know I will do the same with you, and I want to remember.

We’ve nicknamed you Vizzini.* Partially because your hair has all fallen out on top and you look like you have some male pattern baldness, but mostly because of the way you scrunch up your face and give us the old one eye and we imagine that if you could talk you’d be shouting, “Inconceivable!” or “Ever hear of Plato, Socrate’s?…Morons!”

You have gained some chub on those scrawny little legs of yours now; your bottom now looks like it has cheeks on it instead of the little bird type of scrawny you were when we first saw you. You can lift your head, and you’re very excited about what your legs can do. (Which isn’t much by the way, we’re only putting you on when we fly you into the air in response to every little knee bend, you can’t really jump yet, but we “don’t want to (feel) discouraged.”) Your eyes now look blue most days, though I thought they would be hazel for a while, they are pretty and bright whatever color they are. Whenever you open them to examine your world the Boy and the Girl drop what they’re doing to run over to you exclaiming, “Look mom, the Baby’s opened her eyes, she’s awake.” It’s very exciting for them to imagine you looking at them.

The Girl is not a bit jealous of your place at my breast. The other day she came into our bed for a while in the morning and fell asleep. When she woke up you were nursing and I caught her peeking over my shoulder and smiling at you; a sweet angelic smile, her entire face alight with wonder as she watched you nurse. And then she smiled at me too, and my heart melted into little puddles that trickled out somewhere, maybe into the milk. You inspire that kind of wonder in your family little one, transforming, reverent wonder. Your siblings find you miraculous and I think that I agree.

Welcome to our family little girl, we hope you like us too.

*Points if you can tell me what movie it’s from

26.1.07

Small Joys Friday

I love to watch my children wrestle with their father, and I love to watch their father play with them. It’s as though the man I know and fell in love with emerges from within the tired shell that walks in the door, covered in fatigue and the dust of labor and life. Sometimes he’s too tired to do anything in response to their joyful greetings besides collapse into a chair and let them take of his boots. But often there is this moment, when they jump on him and say, “I want to wrestle with you daddy,” or start attacking him with their pretend swords, when it reminds me of that moment after a baby who is struggling takes it’s first breath and the grey is suddenly chased away and replaced by a healthy pink. It’s an instantaneous transition when life suddenly floods were nothing was before. I watch the life suddenly flood into the Genius Husband and just as suddenly his hand snakes out and fastens on an ankle and his hapless victim shrieks with glee as they struggle to get away while he tickles them. They can spend an hour there on the floor, the children attacking with boldness and he deflecting their attacks with ease and pinning them down, teaching them to figure out how to escape from the many holds he subjects them to.

The Boy and Girl often go to each other’s defense. When one is in a strangle hold the other will start beating upon their father yelling “let go of my brother/sister” in an ineffectual attempt to come to their aid. At some point it escalates and the kids will run and get their play swords and knives and come running to the attack. The girl has no idea how to use a sword; she thinks the act of holding one in front of her ought to be enough to conquer her enemy. She will point the sword at her opponent, put her other arm straight over her head, and declare, “I’m a princess.” When the boy pulls out his sword, the GH will retreat in mock terror to our bedroom, and grab one of his real knives or swords (He collects them and knows how to use them thanks to a lifetime of martial arts study.) and then I will see the kids in screaming laughter come running out of the bedroom as he, with a look of pretend fierceness on his face comes at them with a weapon raised threateningly. Then he will spend a while fencing with the boy and teaching him how to wield a knife. Eventually the fun will come to a close. Someone will be hurt, or the GH will get tired, or it will be time to eat, or time for bed.

I sit and grin and laugh my way through the entire event. For a moment I have my husband back without the constant tiredness and sadness, and my children have their father, and our house is filled with joy.

25.1.07

A strange journey

This morning in the early hours of dark o clock, which is early down here in the south where the sun in the winter still visits us before breakfast time, I dragged myself out of bed, put the Baby in the sling, waited outside in the frigid, though not frosty air, and boarded a bus. I was responding to a summons as imperious as any royal summons could possibly be. Arrive at 8:00 am on Jan 24, 2007, bring with me this paper and proper identification or I would not be seen. If late I risked the loss of any future audience with said governing body and eventual banishment from the kingdom. I have already spent a lot of time and money in hopes of being granted this appointment so I carefully prepared.

The bus only comes once an hour. In this land of rampant consumerism dominated by freeways and parking lots, not enough people use public transit to make it practical for the bus to run with any more frequency than that. I watched as the college students boarded in hoodies and scarves, all of us waiting for the morning sun to break through the chill and warm the air. Down here, this is the way the poor travel, those who are unable to afford a vehicle, and registration, and insurance, ride the bus. The Baby woke and I fed her while she lay nestled in the sling safe from critical and complaining eyes that may have chosen the ridiculous path of offense. We were eyed by one or two people but most were unaware that she was having her breakfast.

The half hour on the bus, whose route wound tortuously closer to than farther away from our destination, over and over, finally brought us to a mecca of civilization, other wise known as a Lowe’s, Staple’s, Smart & Final complex complete with mini strip malls on either side, storage units, and a 24 hour drive thru window at the Jack in the Box. It was hither, to a small blank storefront sandwiched in between a Mexican restaurant and Subway, that I had been summoned. Even though I was more than 15 minutes early, there were three people in front of me also waiting for the “privilege” of becoming known by this great power. I stood in the line now forming in my jeans and sweatshirt with my tiny baby, flanked by two tall beautiful and impeccably dressed Hispanic women. I wondered briefly if there was a dress code and I had failed to read the summons correctly.

I stood and listened to the murmur of hushed conversations float gently in the air around me, mainly in Spanish. The Baby began to fuss in her sling. The Asian man with the red passport spoke English with an American accent to the Slavic man behind him.

At 8 o clock the door opened and the eager supplicants were greeted by a man in a uniform worn by the guardians of the state who required us to present our identification and summons before allowing us to gain entry. With great deference those in front of me addressed him as Sir virtually genuflecting as they presented their papers. Those with cell phones went running back to their cars to deposit them for no cell phones were allowed to pass through this magical door.

Once inside I received a number and found a place among the rows and rows of chairs, all facing one direction. In front of us were desks and tables and a few machines. A harassed looking greasy haired woman in casual sport clothing prepared cloths in a pile upon a table folding them one at a time. One at a time, in a quiet orderly fashion we presented ourselves at the front desk. My documents were stamped in red and scribbled on and returned to me. The baby had been breastfeeding as I was called so I stood and went forward with her still latched on in the sling, I was directed to sit down in a chair facing the rest of the room. So I sat and nursed my baby in front of a room full of people staring at me, but most of them probably didn’t know. After playing the avoid eye contact game with everyone for a few minutes, the greasy haired woman took me and my papers over to a computer attached to a machine that sort of resembled a photo copier. After typing in the information she took my fingers one by one and rolled them across a glass surface as the image appeared in the computer screen above me. Five minutes later the federal government was in possession of a complete set of my fingerprints, with which to determine whether I had a past I have not divulged that involves criminal activity and to keeps tabs on me with from this time forward.

I stepped out of the office into the now warm day. The smells from 10-15 restaurants blended in my nostrils, the large store facades greeted me, I was one step closer to joining the civilization which has created such homogenous chain marketplaces, to living the American dream, I was one step further along in the process of obtaining a Green card.

Soon I will need to visit a doctor who will determine whether or not I am the carrier of any infectious diseases like AIDS or TB which will prevent me from obtaining resident status and require my deportation, and I will have injected into my body substances that I don’t want in it and worry about the way they will affect my infant’s health as I nurse her. If I were a citizen I would not required by law to be vaccinated, but as an alien I have no such right. My application to remain in the country where my husband and children have citizenship will not even be considered unless I produce a vaccination history. Why is it that I feel I must lose so many of my personal freedoms to remain in the land of the free?

23.1.07

Small Mysteries

There are certain laws by which the behavior of all things is governed or at least described. We have the law of gravity that has something to do with mass and density and things attracting. There is the second law of thermodynamics, something about all patterns breaking down and increased randomness. (It’s been a while since first year physics ok.)

Slightly less well known are the laws that describe what goes on here at Chez Carrien.

For instance, for some reason that I’m certain science will want to discover at some point, the Genius Husband, who does not shave daily, and does so on a completely random schedule unknown even to himself, can be counted on to decide it must be done on any day that I decide to wipe down the bathroom counters and polish the taps. I can always expect to find poorly cleaned up man stubble sitting in the freshly polished crevices. If I have cleaned both bathrooms the same day it is even reasonable to expect that he may begin shaving in one bathroom and find it necessary to move to the second one in order to finish the job. Since my bathroom clean up is entirely irregular mostly motivated by the feeling that I can’t stand to walk in and look at the grimy surface one more time, the strange link between these two events is something that is indeed mysterious.

Not unique to my house by any means is the observed tendency of small children playing quietly to suddenly scream and cry and argue and start bleeding and need to pee and poop and wake up and discover they are hungry and need need need the moment a parent starts to talk on the phone, even if said parent has surreptitiously snuck into their bathroom with the phone and turned the fan on before making the call.

Also observed in my house is that the odds are extremely high that at the most critical moment in a complex meal preparation all of the children will suddenly need to climb my legs, climb on stools to “Yook at it” and jeopardize not only the meal but life and limb as well.
A peacefully sleeping infant will awaken at the exact moment that her mother either, is stepping into the shower, about to begin a workout, or about to begin meal preparations or eat. As long as her mother only contemplates doing these things, the Baby will continue in peaceful slumber, it is only the moment when she gets up to do them that is so disturbing to the rest of the infant sleeping several rooms away.

Finally there is the law that states that the desire of one child to sit on Mommy’s lap will be directly proportional to the desire of another child to also exclusively possess said lap. This desire will be inversely proportional to the current availability of said lap and therefore nearly always results in tears.

These are the mysteries that inhabit and govern my small universe. some day perhaps science will discover for me why such things are. Until then, I will continue to ponder.

22.1.07

Blogging Keeps Me Sane

When the Baby was 10 days old the Genius Husband went back to work. The Baby would sleep most of the morning away as newborns usually do, and as a result and I could get breakfast and school out of the way before she woke up. That was until one morning recently when I slept in a little and she woke up a little early and I found myself with an infant that needed feeding and two small children that needed feeding and trying to do it all at the same time. The Boy wanted a fried egg, and I thought to myself, well that’s faster to make than porridge and since they were really hungry it sounded like a good idea. That was until I remembered that however handy a sling is for nursing and baby holding while getting things done, hot oil next to tender newborn baby’s head is not such a great idea. But I had already promised eggs, and as anyone who tends to children knows, changing your mind is not an option unless you have nerves of steel, being a little bit deaf helps too so you don’t have to listen to the wails of disappointment. On this particular morning my nerves were anything but steely, so I nursed the Baby, and bought some time with apples, and oranges, and bananas.

Finally she was done nursing and I put her down in her seat, knowing that I only had a few minutes before she cried to be picked up since she was still awake. As the eggs finished cooking, sure enough she started fussing and so I started hurrying to get things on plates. As I tried to transfer the first egg from the pan to the plate, a sizzle of hot oil jumped out at me and landed on my hands. I am a big baby about grease burns, something that the Genius Husband likes to remind me of as he, with his calloused work hardened hands, flips tortillas in a pan with his fingers. I flinched and screamed and jumped involuntarily dropping the egg on the floor in the process.

At this point the wailing from the baby reached that particular pitch of frantic desperation that means pick me up NOW. Yelling at the Girl to stay out of the kitchen as they both gawked at the spectacle of spattered egg yolk and oil in random patterns on the linoleum, I slipped and slid my way around them to pick up the Baby.

Now I had a screaming baby in one hand, breakfast about to burn in the frying pan, a slippery gooey floor and two short people climbing over each other in their burning desire to see and experience it all.

With the Baby firmly tucked under one arm, face down, I turned my body so that it was in between her and the stovetop and keeping a distance of an arms length between me and the pan, I quickly transferred the rest of the eggs to plates. Just as the last egg slid off the spatula and onto the plate the Baby belched and vomited breast milk all over the floor, though first making sure to get it all over my hand the side of my robe and my toes. I was now trapped between the slippery egg mess on one side and the mucousy vomit goo on the other yelling at my children to get back as they ran to examine the new puddles.

Some how, and I don’t remember how, I got the mess cleaned up, the Baby quieted, my feet wiped off and the children seated and eating. With a sigh of relief I turned to my water bottle and took a swig. That’s when some water went down my windpipe and I choked, and spewed water all over my freshly cleaned kitchen floor as I sputtered and coughed my way to drawing breath again.

All I could think as I wiped up the mess was, “I so have to blog about this.”

19.1.07

Friday again.

Wow, so the people who read here, at least those of you who delurked, thanks, are a really articulate smart bunch of people, at least if your comments are anything to go by, and I’m not saying that just because you all said nice things about me and complimented my children. I find myself half afraid to write anything else, perhaps in a fit of self-consciousness. This place has become for me what my journal used to be, only knowing that someone else might/will read it forces me to be more articulate, and keeps me motivated to keep writing. I had no idea when I started this how cathartic it would be.

Anyway, thanks for leaving those comments, it feels good to know I’m not alone in cyber space. I’m kind of awestruck that Mary, who is very smart, (You have to be smart to be a physicist don’t you?) would link to Notes from the Trenches and me in the same post since she is so very widely read and I’m well, not so widely read and think she is awesome.

So I humbly bring you all the latest edition of Small Joys Friday, which I have neglected for a while.

Children playing peacefully together in a rich and complex world of pretend inhabited by fantastic things.

Blue eyes framed by dark lashes above rosy flushed cheeks, especially smiling and multiplied by two.

Helping the Boy learn to read his first words this week and watching joy break across his face as he caught on.

Laying next to the Girl at night before she goes to sleep. Wrapping her in her baby blanket because it makes her feel special to remember that she was the new baby once too.

Having my mother here to help because she is the only other woman on the planet who does things almost exactly the way I do when it comes to housework, and it’s restful to spend time with her and listen as she reads to the kids.

I saw my ribs again this morning for the first time in months, it gives me hope for seeing my pre-pregnant wardrobe again sooner than later.

The sweet aching tightness that comes when I think of my baby and the milk lets down in anticipation of her need.

Sleeping with a tiny person nestled against me and listening to her hiccup and sigh as she sleeps.

Looking at the Genius Husband all downy and disheveled from slumber before he gets dressed; pretty, in a very masculine way.

Finally framing and hanging some pictures that I’ve wanted to put up and grateful for the time to do it in.

These are the things that brought me joy this week. Anyone else want to join me?

15.1.07

Why are you here?





It's time for some gratuitous pics of my kids, because they're cute. I've gone back and added pics to a few previous posts as well, including a picture of the horsey cake for Lisa.

So there was a lot of drama here last week and I missed national delurking week. But I really would like to know who you are and why you read this blog. I figure it's not because I post cute pictures often, because I don't. So tell me why you're here and a bit about yourself. If you want, 'cause it's not really delurking week any more, but I'd still like to know.

11.1.07

Together at last


This was taken just after the Baby was born, and the Boy and Girl met their sister for the very first time. Happy Love Thursday everyone.

9.1.07

Taking out the garbage

There is a certain poetry to a person who brings with them the external symbols of the relationship you share. Take my dad for instance. Every time I move I leave things behind, things that I don’t want any more, things that I leave specific instructions to others to keep if you want and if not throw it away. Every time my dad saves most of it for me in case I change my mind and want it later. I have handed things to him saying. “Here, this is for you I think you’ll like these.” I get a phone call a while later, a year maybe two, and he asks me if I wanted those or if he can use them. He is the keeper of all of my excess baggage, the returner of things I never expected to see again, the cause by which things of my past continue to make their appearance in my life, the orchestrator of revisitation.

This time was no different. He arrived with several things in a box that I didn’t want and don’t need, I’ve survived a year without them, they were in a box labeled for the dump, but he “rescued them.”

When I pointed out that he keeps forcing on me things I no longer want he replied that I had better start throwing them away myself, because he is unable to. He’s right, both about my old blue saltshakers and my measuring cup that’s missing a handle, and my bits of hurt and expectation that I keep waiting for him to deal with. There are some things that I continue to hold onto or hold against him, hoping he will at least admit to the wrong doing, or make the first step, or just change and be different in that area, and it’s not going to happen, and I can’t keep handing him my junk to throw out because he’s unable to, and it just keeps coming back with him to haunt me.

Thanks everyone for your comments and well wishes and prayers. I don’t know most of you, but it means a lot to me anyway that you would care about a strange girl with a lot of issues. So far the visit is not bad, the kids are entertained and I’m not feeling too stressed out. I’m fighting down little twinges of fear and sadness whenever I see the Boy giving my dad a hug or having a close moment with him. Fear because I don’t want him to be hurt, and if he doesn’t get attached it’s easier for me to protect him, and sadness because I don’t feel any of that closeness with my dad anymore, and haven’t since I was very small. I’m walking a bit of a tightrope, but so far I haven’t lost my balance.

7.1.07

God help me. My dad is on his way.

I got a phone call yesterday morning saying, “I’m leaving today, and I’ll be there in a day or two.” That was all the notice I got to prepare for his arrival.

He’s talked of coming to visit this year, and how it probably won’t happen for reasons that are various and random, and I have truly thought I didn’t care. My exact words during our last conversation before that were “I don’t care, come or don’t come, our door is open. But just so you know mom is coming on the 14th and I know you don’t like being anywhere near her.”

Now he’s on his way. As I type he is making his way along the mammoth north south route that is the interstate 15, the Canadian snows have already passed beneath his tires and he is probably in the high desert somewhere near Nevada. I am freaking out.

If you read this blog at all you know that I have issues with my father, lots of them. I have for the most part made peace with him. I have chosen over and over to forgive him for the things that have passed between us, the things that have hurt me. I can see that he is also wounded, I can see that most of the damage that he inflicted was involuntary, that he does care about me, that he’s just also inept and broken. I can most of the time overlook the bad and appreciate the good in him, the way he tries to be helpful, the way he wants to be a good grandparent, the ways he has in the past few years lent his time and vehicle to help us out, I can usually tell myself “he’s trying” and that’s often enough for me.

Problem is I’m pretty raw right now. I don’t feel strong enough to deal with this. At the best of times I have to bite my tongue 100 times an hour just to keep from falling back into patterns that I want to avoid. His physical presence makes me tense; I walk around with my shoulders near my ears until he leaves. Random comments from him can make me come unhinged inside because of all the baggage that they attach to.

I hate that I feel this way. I hate all the ways that I feel. I still have a little girl running around inside of me who wants to impress him, wants to hear him praise her, wants him to love her, wants his blessing, wants to be able to feel safe with him. I have a teenager who hates him, who finds everything he does irritating, and who is full of bitterness and resentment still. She has not been able to forgive, or let go. Her armor is firmly in place and she's ready for a fight. Finally there is my adult self who hates these other two selves and is appalled by my lack of ability to control them. I hate that I still want and need from him what I have accepted that he will never be able to give. I hate the ugly words that sometimes vomit their way out of me when I finally snap from the stress of his presence and bite his head off because he asked me where my trash bags are. I hate that I can’t just treat him like any other person, that I overreact to everything, that I can’t let go. Essentially having him around makes me hate myself a little more than I already did, and I don’t know if I’m strong enough to take that right now. Most of all though I think I hate that I will never have a dad the way other people have a dad, that I will always feel more alone when he’s around than when he’s not.

2.1.07

Gymnastics, mommy brain style

I wrote this before I went into labor and was unable to post it, it's still something my brain is doing.

When the boy was born we very carefully buckled him into the center back seat of our little car and drove home from the hospital immersed in that surreal feeling that comes from just walking out of the maternity ward with a baby as the nurses at the station wave back at you. There were no papers to sign, no permission slips to fill out, they just let us go home with a person. That was one of the strangest and slowest drives we have ever been on.

When the girl was born and we finally left the house we strapped her into the middle seat again, because that is of course the safest in case of a collision. But then there was the dilemma of what to do with the boy. Did we move him to the side seat next to her? What if someone hit us on that side? What if we put him on the other side instead and got hit on that side? We could always put him in the center of that very back seat, we were now driving a minivan, but is that really safer, and would his two-year-old self protest the imagined exile?

Now we haven’t got a minivan anymore, we have exactly 5 seats. That means, when the baby comes, if we put the baby seat in the middle, both of the other children will be on the sides of the car, vulnerable to broadsides and telephone poles and flying glass? I feel like I’m juggling with their lives sometimes. Why is the baby in the safest place, is the 3 year old really that much more likely to survive in an outside seat than an infant? Am I playing favorites, transferring my maternal protectiveness from one to the other as they get older? The Girl is still so tiny, I don’t want her sitting somewhere less safe than she is now, but there isn’t really a choice, is there?

The solution to all of these mental gymnastics of course would be to realize that that middle seat isn’t really that much safer than any other seat and so I may as well put the baby there because it’s easier to reach from the front when they start fussing, but then I may go completely nuts and just not let them drive anywhere, ever, because without my illusion of safety I won’t be able to let them in the car.
I now understand why my MILly drives an SUV, besides the fact that she has 8 kids to carpool around and is therefore not one of those people driving down the freeway all alone in an 8 passenger vehicle complaining about the rising cost of gas.

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