Monday, January 27, 2014

The Very Real Urge to Hibernate

Negative 24 when we woke up this morning.  59 inside the house.  Brilliant blue sky and the cold glaring down. 

You are in much better spirits, bouncing happily in your exer-saucer, opening your lips for spoonfuls of pear puree, trying to turn the knob of my nose to open my face, etc.

I am not in such good spirits.  Somehow, your father coming home from the trip felt like it should be the end of a difficult month.  But it wasn't.  The temperature is still disturbingly low.  I'm still wearing only grungy, highly washable clothing items (since you're still a snot lord).  I'm in a rather unhealthy cycle of caffeine to get me through the day and alcohol to reward myself at night.  I should have taken you walking today but somehow lugging the stroller in and out of the car, lugging my shoes and your diaper bag in and out of the car, and then circling on the grey track for the twenty minutes you allow me before beginning to fuss seemed like too much energy, too much work.  Especially because on each go-round we pass the row of treadmills and stair-masters and the co-eds with bopping ponytails and i-pod budded ears, sweating off the fat free ranch dressing they had with lunch.

Instead of walking we went to Target.  I filled the cart with boxes of Kleenex and organic baby prunes and 9M fleece sleepers from the clearance rack.  I bought a latte from the Starbucks inside and pushed you in circles and hated being the suburban mom with a Starbucks buying crap out of boredom and desperation at Target.

I feel huge and ugly and sluggish.  I feel a very real urge to hibernate.  I can almost taste how beautiful it would be.  To bed down in a nest of fur, to sleep uninterrupted until the pull of birdsong and the clash of tulips woke me in the spring.  To be gone from it all, temporarily. 

I know, too, how ridiculous this is.  Our house is warm.  We have money and jobs we love.  Kids we adore who came to us without much difficulty.  We feel safe outside after dark.  We don't fear persecution.  We have community and computers and chocolate hearts in red tinfoil.

You still despise tummy time.  You look around for a few moments and then you lay your cheek on the ground, defeated and lifeless.  This is how I feel today, sweet boy.  As though someone has put me in a position that requires a kind of strength I'm not yet certain I possess.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

On the Mend

When you woke at 11:30 and 3:30 and 5:30 last night you were congested but your head also held the clamminess of a broken fever.  And though the whites of your eyes are still tinged pink and your eyelids still webbed with red veins, you are much more yourself today.  When I put you in the bouncy chair you hung there fairly listlessly, as though you were to be dragged under by some kind of current presently, but you tolerated existing in an upright fashion without being held.  Your nose only needs to be wiped every five minutes instead of every thirty seconds.  In short: you are on the mend.

Last night we ate spaghetti and meatballs by the fire.  After you went to bed, Gak and I took turns reading to Thisbe from a Magic Treehouse book:  New York, the Great Depression, a unicorn.  After Thisbe went to bed, Gak and I tried to come up with a title for my book.  We put concrete nouns from the book in one empty popcorn bowl and abstract concepts in another; then she would pull out a scrap of paper and I'd pull out a scrap of paper and the result would usually be tremendously stupid:  "Cougar Remediation" or "Yurt Grace" or "The Sacred Toaster" or "Remote Roofalanche."  Other than giving the narrative a final read and finishing up things like End Notes and Acknowledgements, I'm almost ready to send the book to my editor.  And maybe this is why the title is so psychologically difficult, because it's the last thing I get to control before the memoir is out of my hands. 

Then again, I wrote the memoir in the first place because Holden is such an impossible place to describe and I wanted to give it a try.  So, to try to sum up the place and my journey in the place and the style of the writing (poetic-funny-edgy-religious!) in a few words (that also work as appropriate search terms on Amazon!) feels impossible.  It's like trying to name your baby a year after her birth.

Anyway, today was filled with more skating, a new board game, a luxurious hour for Mama at the coffee shop and then the Long Wait for Daddy's return from Man Camp.  The Long Wait was preceded by the Long Drive.  Bright sun, sinking temps and the wind gusting faster and faster meant that some portions of 35W resembled the inside of a cloud, some resembled a haunted house with fog machine, some a mountain ridge (clouds rolling over the back) and some parts the sudsing portion of the car wash.  Meanwhile, my wiper blades were stuck in a vertical position, further obscuring the already hazy view.  And since the roads were bad everywhere, the Man Bus was about 90 minutes late.  As another wife described it on Facebook, the polar vortex of weather approaching Northfield is nothing compared to the polar vortex of the wives waiting for their partners to return.  You and Thisbe were ecstatic to see your father.  I was rather proud that I didn't hurl any loose objects at him as he entered the house.  But he had a great time.  And I am glad he had a great time.  And I am glad that you are well again.  KNOCK ON WOOD.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

We Get Knocked Down / But We Get Up Again

Sickness still.  You were awake from 2:30-3:30 last night.  Then up again at 4:30 and 5:30 and finally, 6:30 when we came downstairs and watched the sky lighten through the trees.  By that time your face looked like a mucus war zone, flecks of snot crusted all over your cheeks, mucus glistening in your eyebrow. 

Luckily, we drove up to Minneapolis yesterday so Gak and Ampa are lightening the load considerably: offering Thisbe long baths and pink goggles, holding you for considerable lengths of time in the steamy bathroom, throwing in two different loads of laundry today when you vomited over your PJs, Mama's PJ's, your blanket, the couch, and the easy chair.  We were all pretty worried about you this morning.  I spent some time Googling meningitis and cursing Man Camp.  But after Tylenol and a nap you perked up a little.  Ate without puking.  Offered a few smiles.  Showed a demonstrable interest in a squirrel wind-up toy.  Swatted at my hair.  And then, after an hour, promptly fell back asleep. 

On Wednesday and Thursday and Friday I was pretty chill about the whole baby-being-consumed-by-a-virus thing.  We even (rather stupidly) let you observe your sister as she attempted to ice skate yesterday.  Gak held you (bundled considerably) near the edge of the Linden Hills rink while Thisbe struggled to stand and then move in ice skates.  Being Thisbe, she refused to use the plastic ice trainer (that kids can hold on to and push in front of them while learning) and instead fell and fell again, yelled or cried at me when I tried to help her, and glowed triumphantly when she managed to shuffle across the thirty feet of ice between where we started in the middle of the rink and where you and Gak were watching.

Then we came home and sat at the small table and drank hot chocolate from tiny plastic goblets.  We built a fire and Thisbe unrolled a beach towel in front of it and Gak and Thiz and you and I ate Davanni's pizza and salad with marinated artichoke hearts while the snowflakes kept sweeping down outside.  It was quite lovely.  (Tempered a little by the concern today that my Norwegian, laissez-faire attitude about babies and winter weather has given you pneumonia). 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Snot Camp

Daddy throwing a pot of boiling water into the frigid air to demonstrate how it turns into snow and vapor.  Only this is before the water has left the pot.  But you can see his puffy Man Camp parka.

You're still sick, poor sweet boy, and we've been living in the land of your snot for the past few days.  Thin, watery snot, thick green snot, snot laced with threads of blood, saline-crusted snot on your cheeks, hard brown boogers gumming up the insides of your nostrils.  We've been using the Nose Freda (a device with a tube to literally suck the snot directly out of you--no, the snot does not get in the suck-er's mouth) and of course cloths and Kleenexes and wipes.  The worst is when you're too clogged up to nurse so you take a few gulps and then release the nipple, panting and gasping, before trying again.  Your fever comes and goes.  When it seems to make you miserable, we've offered Tylenol, but--though you still smile and fiddle with objects--you look wan and watery-eyed and off kilter even with the medicine in your system.

Grandma Dot came for a visit yesterday.  She walked and bounced you while I worked at Blue Monday and then she did Ariel puzzles and played Legos with Thisbe.  We ate soup with ground turkey and tomatoes and kale, dense multi-grain bread with brie, baby carrots, and tangelos for dinner.  Heart-shaped chocolates and pistachios and cocktails after the kiddos went to bed.

This morning Daddy left for Man Camp.  Well, I think he left.  We dropped him in the parking lot of the Quarterback Club; half an hour later, when we drove by again, he was still standing there.  Daddy and twenty other men, big puffy jackets, hiking boots with laces untied, skis like piles of kindling.  All of them standing around, drinking coffee from chrome-bright insulated mugs.  They are all supposed to be on a bus headed north.  They are supposed to ski or snowshoe with mammoth packs on their backs to cabins with very few amenities.  Where they will bond?  Or sing invented, drunken verses to Kum-Ba-Ya? Or where the combined scent of their body odor will form a mythic and terrifying beast?

Your father has been working his butt off.  First his book manuscript, now J-term.  Almost every night he spends at least two hours on further grading or prepping after you and your sister have gone to bed.  So he really deserves this weekend.  Deserves to get away from papers and thinking and sinks filled with dirty dishes and snotty noses and student e-mails and relatives and familial meltdowns.  He deserves to get to burrow into a sleeping bag for as long as he likes in the morning, to pump frigid air through this chest, to slice clean tracks into the snow and to hum Aquavit down his throat late into the night.  But I'd be a big fat liar if I didn't also mention how his departure is tainted with just a little bit of jealousy.  Or, a lot.  Given how often you're still nursing, I couldn't leave you for 48 hours right now, and even if we could work it out somehow I wouldn't really feel comfortable doing so.  Still, it's hard to see him go off like some sort of untethered individual.  Someone who can hover through the next two days thinking only of his own needs.  Whose fleece, while likely reeking of sweat, will be free of baby snot.  Who will get to have uninterrupted conversation after uninterrupted conversation.

I'm glad for your father.  He needs this and deserves it.  But deep inside the yawning maw of January, I need 48 hours to be an untethered individual too.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Captive Body, Catapult Brain

Sky can't decide what it wants today.  Clouds a filmy pashmina with blue breaking through.  You woke snotty and irritable this morning.  Temperature of 102.4. By mid-morning Tylenol had brought it down to 100 or so.

But we skipped baby yoga.  And Nanny Barb cancelled on us for both today and Friday.  So there's been a lot of stillness here.

We sat in the rocker for a long time.  Looked out the window.  Brown oak leaves skittering across the snow.  The snow itself pockmarked, dead plants like spindles poking through the crust.  Three pine needles on the white window sill.  The skein of a spider web pressed to the pane itself.  A crusted yellow scab of something on the knuckle of your left pinky.  Below your fine hair, patches of cradle cap like tiny drips of wax. A glass jar with a few forgotten jellybeans: four purple, one yellow, one white, one pink, one black.  The cold sound the jellybeans made against the glass.  The endless wiping of trails of slime--onto a kleenex, onto a burp cloth decorated with turquoise elephants, onto a baby wipe, onto the collar of my hyacinth fleece.  Your temple against my jaw.  Kisses along your hairline.

Then, in the other part of my brain, there are the things to do, to consider, to remember, and this place feels like a lottery ball, whooshing ping pong balled numbers in a perfectly contained storm.  An index to finish for one book, a title needed for another.  Two courses to plan.  A manuscript to check for errors, for the incorrect use of CAPs, for facts and images communicated correctly, cleanly.  Texts to send to friends.  The Chicago Manual of Style to master.  E-mails to send about courses and birthday parties and childcare.  A grocery list and three important thank you notes that need to be written (Becky and Charlie, one is coming someday, I promise). The logistical detritus of the everyday that whirrs and whirrs, that will not be still.

We are a slow chaos, Matteus, a kind of half-paralyzed tsunami.  We are two striations of cloud colliding in the equivocating sky.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Consistent or Die

Yesterday I was sick and failed to blip.  Luckily, Grandma Gak showed up to care for you.  During the time she was here you slept for 2.5 hours.  Then I brought Thisbe home from school and Gak juggled the both of you, starting up the Little Mermaid soundtrack and helping to anchor the corners of Thisbe's tent forts while simultaneously bouncing your snot-faced little self.  Gak took Thisbe out to dinner and gave her a bath while Daddy took on the complete care of you after a fairly grueling day at work.

Today I feel much better but the temperature has plummeted: negative 22 when we woke up.  Cold coming through the plaster of the walls and around the edges of doors and windows.

I carry you on my hip now more and more (rather than facing you directly out front) and your new hair is coming in soft and blond.  Sometimes the day feels like a series of attempts at posing you, like a Gumby figurine: feet down and hands out in the exer-saucer, prone on the floor with toes raised, legs dangling and fists in mouth in the Bjorn, knees bent/elbows tucked nestled into the crook of my arm, C-curve of spine bent over your own toes while sitting on your bottom, and finally the dreaded cobra pose of tummy time.

You are happiest when you have your sister to watch or when an adult bends over you during a diaper change, a face inches from your own, eyes to eyes, full turning of attention into you.  You become more yourself during these moments--you babble more, you laugh when I nibble your fingers, you pinch gleefully at the skin of my cheeks.  You become differently alive under a direct and focused gaze.

And I guess here I should insert something about how with computers and cell phones and televisions and i-pods and our culture's shrinking attention span--woe is me!--that we don't spend enough time offering this gaze, this kind of looking, to our children.  And that's probably true.

But what I find more disturbing is perhaps how rarely I turn this gaze toward anyone else.  There's something about looking at you, Matteus, about looking at any baby, I suppose.  I am waiting for an emergence, for tiny changes and shifts.  I am expecting growth, am eager to be in awe of the tiny glimpses that show me who you are becoming.  I understand, of course, that it's not realistic to be this dotty with love for the barista at Blue Monday.  Indeed, I could probably get a special restraining order of some sort if I waited around for too long, trying to hold her gaze with the expectation that her true self would emerge.

But oftentimes when I listen to adults, I am listening for information.  For the flight time or the punch line.  Or I am trying to get the emotional gist of the story to offer appropriate expressions of compassion, horror, disbelief, humor, etc.  Sometimes I miss seeing the person because I'm too busy listening to what the person is saying. 

Sometimes I fail to recognize, too, that the adults around me, including those I think I know the best, are also changing.  There's something about becoming a parent that makes me feel called to stability.  The gurus of parenting advice admonish adults to be firm ground.  Unmoving, unshakable, static.  The steady sun for ceaseless orbiting.  Consistent or die.

As the child of divorce, I understand this advice.  Certainly parents are the main builders of the world their children dwell inside.  But I wonder if mid-life crises, if adultery and expensive cars and gambling addictions are born of feeling consistency as a call to sameness, as directive to shun or ignore our own need for growth and our own desire to mark that growth outwardly somehow.

Or maybe there's a part of me that, after shaking a rattle in front of your face for hour after hour in the sub-zero temperatures of early January, wonders if I am changing at all. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ha Ha Manhattan

Well, sweet boy, both you and your sister were feeling better today.  Well enough that we could go for a walk in the glorious sunshine, everything turning to slush and sparkle.

But mostly it was another quiet day.  We danced to Elton John.  Thisbe decorated a paper bag cover for her Bible.  It now has fake jewels across the front and says "Thisbe" (you can decide for yourself what the implications of that might be).  Your sister ate numerous bit of bagels with melted butter; you unenthusiastically swallowed a few spoonfuls of pears.  I tried to tempt you into rolling over using a Little Mermaid glow wand.  Thisbe dressed you in sunglasses and a baseball cap and spun the exer-saucer in circles.  She stood on her head on the couch and scissored her legs while Daddy and I counted slowly to eight.

There's bread pudding in the oven.  I didn't have rum so I soaked the raisins in a combination of whiskey and Heering.  Daddy is at a planning meeting for Man Camp.  On Friday he's skiing off into the woods of Northern Minnesota with 20 other men, a bunch of alcohol, and likely no deodorant.  I'm watching Bridesmaids on TV, definitely one of my top favorite movies of all time. The women are on the plane on the way to Vegas right now, one of the best scenes in the film.  So instead of saying anything of note I'm going to pour a drink and laugh.  Because sometimes it's important to choose alcohol and hilarity over meaning and purpose.  You'll learn this in college, if not before.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Speaking of things one can't control...last night your sister woke up at 2am, spewing vomit all over her bed.  I held her and rocked her on the floor while Daddy changed the sheets.  Then, an hour later, we did it all over again.  Then you had to be fed.  Then Thisbe puked.  Then you had to be fed.  Then it was time to wake up and it felt like someone had poured a bag of glass behind my eyes. You are fighting something too, Matteus.  Red eyes, snot-faucet nose, rheumy cough. Poor kiddos. 

We were supposed to have the Holden students over for brunch this morning.  Instead, Daddy took you and the egg casserole up to campus and tried to talk to the lovely students while you fussed.  But just before he left, I was trying to get the casserole out of the oven and he was trying to get you in the car seat and Thisbe started puking all over the floor and suddenly I was holding a puke bowl with oven mitts while Daddy tossed towels in our general direction and you shrieked with your hat covering your face.

But generally, we had a quiet day.  After you boys left, Thisbe took a bubble bath and then we played with princess figurines in the bright sunshine reflecting off the four inches of new snow (well, we kind of played.  every time I had a princess do something, she'd tell me why that was wrong and take the figurine and make her do something else. see previous post).  We read books and colored on the couch.  With yellow safety scissors she cut out her drawing of a car climbing a grassy hill.  You both took long naps.  I made chili.  Daddy took notes on creation theology or eco-deities or something.  I read Fraces and Bernard and ate hard boiled eggs on the couch.  We watched Robin Hood and The Tale of Desperaux and The Emperor's New Groove and did load after load of laundry.  I went for a short walk.  We read more books and tucked Thisbe into bed and sang "My Bonnie" together.

I am grateful that by 6:45pm you were both asleep.  And I am grateful that neither of you are too sick (KNOCK ON WOOD), nothing that has us fretting (YET) or wondering if we should call the doctor (YET), just the kind of sick that made us all slow down today, the kind of sick that made me remember to be patient with you and kind to your sister, the kind of sick where holding you close or bringing your sister Sprite and scratching her warm back seemed like all either of you really needed.  It was a blessing to get to the end of a day and feel that I'd offered enough.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Control in the Block Room

Your sister has been having a little bit of a tough time lately.  Even at school.  A few days ago she had to be taken away from the art table because she was so adamantly instructing every other child about appropriate color choices.  On the following day she was so intent on directing the exact pattern of a game in the block room that she ended up in a face-off with the teacher, arms crossed over chest, back against the wall, full-on dress up garb, refusing to move.  Teacher Sarah took her to the kitchen area for a quiet conversation.  She told Thisbe that the only person she really needs to worry about is herself.  That all of the other kiddo will worry about their own selves.  And then the teacher said (and this is what kills me), "Thisbe, we just want you to feel happy inside" at which point Thisbe broke out into huge, heaving sobs.

It is hard not to feel this as a huge fail in the parenting department.  In part because our daughter so deeply needed for someone to tell her that her happiness was important.  And in part because the whole control thing?  Well, I am definitely the don't-splash-the-bathwater-all-over-that's-too-much-paint-on-the-brush-at-one-time-why-don't-you-wear-different-pants-it's-cold-out-sit-down-while-we're-eating-please-don't-stand-on-your-head parent.  I really, really love control.  Or the appearance of control.  Or rather, not attempting to control things causes a great deal of anxiety for me. So when Teacher Sarah suggested that Daddy and I model the kind of behavior we hope Thisbe will enact I thought: "Duh" followed by "Shit."

Letting go of control completely, while a nice thing to do on a beach in Marin, high and wearing a howling wolf T-shirt, isn't really reasonable as a parent.  I guess it is if you want your child to write a memoir called "The Glass Castle" later on, but most parents try to control some parameters for their kiddos in order to keep them safe or to teach them something.  I mean, car seats and cribs are fairly "controlling" devices I suppose, but most of us agree they're necessary.  And I don't always know what separates unnecessary (crazy?) control choices from pragmatic ones. 

But I suppose that all of this, what Thisbe is learning, what I am trying to learn myself, is preparing us for everything that happens to us and to those we love over which we have no control.  Like how over on the other side of town our friend David has been diagnosed with cancer.  David, who is the husband of our wonderful friend Jennifer who died last fall.  This diagnosis feels unfathomable, awful, completely out of control. 

When I asked my wise friend Trish "what do we do in the face of something like this?" she talked about sacramentalizing the ordinary.  And maybe this is an important act because control is so caught up in our own will and desire, our own vision of how things should be.  And it's easy to spend all afternoon with your back against the wall in the block room, wishing with all your heart that the world was behaving differently.  But then, of course, you miss the world as it is.  And you miss getting to join your friends in the game.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Sofa Table

Today you and I and Grandma Gail traveled bravely to Lakeville to the Hom superstore to look for a sofa table.  I feel like a sofa table is the kind of piece of furniture that you aren't even aware exists until you turn 35.  But now that I am indeed 35, I go shopping for sofa tables.

Heavy white sky and snow wisping across the road.  Everything else a brittle brown stalk or a downtrodden building.  Everything glum.  Unwashed hair.  Sweet potato smeared on the collar of my fleece.  You in blue stripes and Dot's knit booties.  Gail in her white poof hat and Ugg-ish boots.  And seemingly no one else in the Hom superstore.

You found the Hom superstore fascinating.  So many colors and textures.  Furniture everywhere like hulking leather beasts.  Lamps with dangling faux crystals, rosemary-eucalyptus candles, throw pillows with birds or swirls or silky white hair.  And when you grew bored of the newness you simply bent your head forward and focused on sucking the front of the Baby Bjorn.

I found the Hom superstore exhausting.  I think because when you walk into someone's home there's always a moment of adjustment; you take in the color of the rug and the placement of the furniture and the texture of the blanket thrown over the back of the couch.  Spaces have a sense of presence and though I realize we're never consciously thinking about what this or that knick-knack MEANS I do think that we're absorbing the aesthetic somehow.  So I find walking through 50 different staged living rooms in the span of 15 minutes to be rather overwhelming.

I did however love the expression on the showroom employee's face when she leaned over the couch on which Grandma Gail and I were sitting and came face to face with my naked boob.  She immediately backed away as though she'd found a scorpion singing Raffi songs but then you could see (SEE!) her think "I should act like this is no big deal, right?  Right.  No big deal" and then she came back toward us and mumbled something about "were we finding everything" at which point you stopped nursing so you could watch her and she got a full glimpse of my nipple hanging out of the side of your mouth. 

We did not buy a sofa table.  And when we got home and I showed Daddy the pictures we'd taken of possible candidates, he sweetly but condescendingly told me that those were really console tables, not sofa tables at all.  I guess that makes me 34.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Half a Wow Sound

Feeling a little blah today.  So I'll be quick about it.

You continue to strain under the effort of trying to push solid foods through your body.  When I feed you, you continually re-open your mouth for more but each time I insert the food you greet me with a face that looks like you were expecting chocolate and instead I'd spooned in mackerel.  Something like this:

Though clearly, as this picture reveals, I continually try to coax you into a more effervescent experience of food my making faces like this as I feed you:

Luckily for both of us your sister Thisbe has enough carbonation within her to send Exhaustion, Boredom, Non-Plussdom, and their Blah-pets to internment camps in Rhode Island.

Today we were supposed to pretend like she wasn't wearing fancy clothes and then, when she whipped off her robe (that's actually a prayer shawl), I was instructed to let my jaw drop and make about half of a "Wow" sound at the pure fanciness of her clothes beneath.  "Wooooo":

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


More and more you are reaching forward, out, away from yourself.

Uncle Nels is giving Thisbe a bath.  A great gift especially considering that tonight is one of the few nights Nels doesn't have to give his own daughters a bath.  He also went with Grandma Gail to watch your sister dance today.  Apparently she was especially excited when it was her turn to pretend to be a rock.

We vacuumed today.  We put Thisbe's spring coats in the basement.  We cleared books and Thisbe's drawings and car keys and cell phones and manila folders off the dining room table and set it with blue Fiestaware plates.  We ate baked potatoes with garlic slivered into the middles.  

You tasted pears.  You produced your first solid, grown-up poop.  You touched the piano keys while Grandma Gail played and sang to you.  You shoved the nose of a stuffed reindeer as far into your mouth as possible.  You gleefully raised your legs and brought them down over and over again, little exclamation marks punctuated into the carpet. 

I read over Jim's words today, his essay in our book that will be published in May.  I was supposed to be looking for errors but I kept thinking about him.  How different it is to read the words now, when he is on the other side of them.  How nice it is to hear his voice; how awful not to have his presence.

I read Thumbelina to Thisbe at Blue Monday.  I drank the rest of her hot chocolate on the way home.  I unfolded a blue fleece that came in the mail.  I listened to a message from my best friend (her child's first birthday, saying good-bye to people she loves, an upcoming move, a massage to look forward to)  I listened to other friends talk about illness and doubt.

I almost titled this "The Most Boring Post in the World," not so much because nothing interesting happened today, but because my brain doesn't seem to be working well enough to draw any significance or insight from the seemingly unremarkable.  But then I thought of Jane Kenyon's poem "Otherwise."  I remembered that I will be on the other side of these words someday too.  And, sweet boy, maybe someday mine will be the voice that you are longing to hear.

More and more you are reaching forward, out, away.

Monday, January 13, 2014


Today is warm again.  Blue ceiling of sky with clouds impishly scattered here and there, the kind of sky you might play badminton beneath.  Or croquet.  If the temperature was above 50 degrees.  Or you had grass instead of snow.  And no children.  And five or six chaise lounges scattered over your veranda.  Upon which cucumber sandwiches and iced tea were being served.  Presently.  And someone wearing a waistcoat said something to someone wearing a diamond brooch.  Etcetera.

Thisbe and her friend E had an afternoon tea party yesterday.  Thisbe insisted on candlelight and flowers.  There were also goldfish.  After tea was served the ladies fell into their usual quibbling so I told them I'd be listening from the kitchen and I would just be SO SHOCKED if I heard kind things passing between them.  There's nothing two first born children like better than compliments from an authority figure.  They like it better, it seems, then actually playing with one another.  For the next half hour I just heard loud voices from the other room saying things like, "WOULD YOU LIKE TO READ THIS BOOK WITH ME?" "OH, YOU CAN HAVE THAT FIRST" "THANK YOU SO MUCH THISBE" "YOU CAN BE ARIEL" "NO YOU CAN BE ARIEL"  Every five minutes either Thisbe or E would come into the kitchen and I would have to feign large amounts of shock at the manners being displayed.  It was a little bit like listening to a very, very bad skit for college freshman on the dangers of drinking or sleeping around. "AFTER THREE BEERS I FEEL SO DIZZY" "WHY DON'T YOU LET ME DRIVE!" "I HAVE A CONDOM." GREAT!  LET'S PRACTICE SAFE SEX."

Today you got to spend some time with Grandma Gail in the morning while I worked on page proofs for a book at Blue Monday.  After your second nap (the joy of 45 minutes!) we walked up to St. Olaf and I said things to you in all caps to keep you from falling asleep in the Ergo. "LOOK AT THE TREES.  MATTEUS.  ARE YOU AWAKE?  WAKE UP.  WAKE UP."

Now I'm in bed, laptop on my lap, opting for caffeine and a gooey butter cookie and blip-writing rather than taking the nap that my body would prefer.  It's been 45 minutes since you closed your eyes and I hear a cooing coming from your room.  You're testing the quieter registers of your voice, craning your neck to watch those sound slide through the bars of your crib. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

In and With

Last night Daddy and I drank a little too much.  This is never a very wise idea but it's even less wise when you have a five-month-old at home.  Lucky for us, Grandma Gail came to the rescue this morning and entertained you and your sister until 8:30 so that Daddy and I could enjoy our headaches in the daylight instead of the darkness of 7am.  But it was wonderful to have a night out, for the music to be loud enough to drown out voices and work its way into the shoulders and ribcage and hips.  Nice to shimmy.  Everyone disembodied a little in the packed crowd, close enough to exist only from the breastbone up: the hair, the eyes, the neck.  Frozen busts melted into motion.

We gave you over to the nursery workers for the first time today in your red Choo-Choo vest and brown knit pants.  You sucked on your knuckles and watched the other children orbit and send off sparks.  Your sister wore a dress my grandma made for my cousin Emily.  White with blue smocking across the front, tiny blue dots on the collar.  Thisbe paired this short-sleeved dress with a brown long sleeve shirt underneath (for warmth), lavender tights, and silver shoes (Grandma Dythe would have been mildly appalled).  During communion Thiz dropped her silver ring and then climbed beneath my chair to try to find it.  In the process (lavender legs in the aisle) she tripped about half a dozen people en route to the bread and wine.  She also knocked over my coffee mug.  I hissed at her.  She cried.  I held her on my lap.  We sang "Go My Children With My Blessing." A photographer snapped pictures of the acolyte on tiptoe extinguishing the baptismal candle.

It was baptismal remembrance Sunday so while Thisbe was in Sunday school Daddy and Grandma and I sat in the sanctuary and heard a little bit about baptism.  In the Small Catechism Luther says that the water itself isn't powerful on its own; its the word of God in and with the water that gives it the special mojo.

I like the phrase "in and with," the idea that God is both inside and beside us, internal and external, present and presence; God washing up against both sides of my skin.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Slough of Maybes

You were awake from 4:00-5:00am last night.  We aren't sure why.  Maybe because we got home late last night and your sleep was broken.  Maybe because you are learning to say "buh," lips forming a tight line and brow furrowed to send vibrations through that seam.  Maybe because you are trying to very hard to roll from your back to your front.  Sadly, you don't seem to realize you need to turn to your side first.  Instead you dig your heels into the ground and arch your back and shriek.  When you're in a better mood, your favorite new trick is dancing.  While on your back you move your top half side to side as though you were trying to scratch off a lottery ticket with your shoulder blades.  You wiggle your hips and kick your feet at the same time and look very much like a happy John Travolta doing Jazzercise.

We've just returned from sledding.  I made hot cocoa with steamed milk and Thisbe ate tapioca pudding with thawed berries on top.  Grandma Gail sat beside her in the breakfast nook and whisked soy sauce and peanut butter and sesame oil in a glass bowl for the pork fried rice she's making tonight.  The St. Olaf hill was slick today.  We haven't had fresh snow for ages and the snow we do have has hardened into an inhospitable crust.  The temperature was over 30 degrees and there must have been 50 people swarming over the white.  Dark bodies in snow suits turning slowly front to back as the sleds descended.  Figures trudging up the sides of the hill, over leaves and shards of broken sleds and cardboard rectangles.  We watched a girl sled directly into an adult male's crotch.  Thisbe got to ride with me and with Grandma Gail and with Daddy and even with you.  I thought that Daddy strapping you to his chest and then traveling at high velocities down a hill was unwise--but he and Gail thought I was being a sissy and so you went.  Your facial expression barely changed;

I don't think the sensation of sledding was much different to you than the sensation of being swung into the air or saddled on a hip or jiggled on our thighs.  Par for the course.

Tonight Daddy and I are actually going out on the town; drinks with friends followed by a band's CD release party.  Maybe I will wear something that isn't made of fleece and doesn't have snot smeared across the shoulder region.  Maybe we will talk about something other than nap routines and the Montessori philosophy and teeth breaking the gum line.  Maybe we will dance.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Balmy With a Chance of Kale

Balmy today and moist.  Thick covering of white clouds and pinpricks of sleet on the windshield.  Your sister clung to me at daycare today, didn't want me to say good-bye.  I know kids are growing all the time, but Thisbe is at an age where I feel like her physical being is trying to unfold.  Her face seems to be re-shaping itself: her cheeks are thinner, eyes more hollow, upturned nose is more pronounced.  And she takes great care of certain aspects of her own physical care.  She's insistent about dressing herself; prefers dresses that twirl, leggings over pants, screen printed Ariel and cheetah patterns over more humble hearts or stars.  Today she emerged in her favorite outfit: black dress with silver heart and plaid pink attached tutu.  Her hair was plastered to her head with Jergens de-tangler, her special "hair cream" that she applies with the Hello Kitty brush that chimes as she pulls it through her hair.

After meeting with my independent study student I took you to the ECFE baby shower where we got free gifts and reminders of who to call if you're developmentally delayed.  I drank hot cocoa out of a styrofoam cup and you looked at your wavery reflection in a rattle and I watched the babies who are six months old: their ability to maneuver on their tummies, their plumb-lined postures, and their slower, surer movements.  And you seemed smaller and less certain, your desire and will not yet completely hinged to your actions. 

You've been asleep since we got home and I've been puttering.  The lights are off and it's dim and quiet.  Crow cawing outside.  Whirr of the computer fan.  Kale and sausage and tortellini soup for lunch.  Grandma Gail arrives in a few hours so your father vacuumed this morning and wiped the salt stains from the porch floor.  I've cleaned out the refrigerator (hunk of brie, tub of hummus, sweet potato casserole, white face of half an onion and the pocked face of half a pomegranate, watery black bean soup) and soon I'll strap you into the Bjorn and we'll straighten the duvet and put my sweaters into bins and collect the glasses scabbed with red wine.  Then maybe we'll go up to the track at St. Olaf and walk and walk in circles until you arch your back and strain your neck for home.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Before These Boobs Were Yours

This morning striations of blush and bruise across the 7:30am sky.  Five degrees felt balmy, felt like occasion to remove my hat, to back the car out of the driveway without letting it choke out a little warmth first.

This morning, after I folded laundry and wrote a grocery list and you manhandled a number of rattles, shakers, crinkle books, and stuffed dragons, we went to Econofoods.  In addition to purchasing the usual items we also bought a violet orchid (thin little neck thrust out plaintively), two bags of Reece's peanut butter hearts (thank GOD the Valentine's display is already complete), and a Disney princess helium balloon.  These items we delivered to Daddy's class because today or a day like today is our kind-of anniversary.

We don't remember the exact date I walked into Daddy's classroom eight years ago, but it was at the beginning of January term.  Only eight years ago Daddy's class was in the basement of Boe Chapel and I didn't know what Daddy looked like.  I only knew that when I asked my brother John whether the prof teaching his interim course was "young, single, and attractive" that John answered "maybe" and so, en route from Minneapolis to Iowa City, I stopped by St. Olaf and sat next to John around a seminar table and waited for his maybe young, single and attractive professor to walk in. 

I knew the professor's name was Peder and so I was expecting someone with white blond hair and translucent-pale skin, someone thin and wiry (I say "so" as if that expectation made sense though clearly it did not).  Instead a gorgeously handsome man entered: relatively thin but not wiry, with dark hair and shocking blue eyes.  He was wearing a suit coat and tie (when you hang out in bars with male poets it's easy to forget this find of apparel exists) but a few of his dark hairs were standing on end.  The put-together-but-a-little-frayed-around-the-edges aesthetic was quite appealing to me.  And he started to talk about Nietzche and he scribbled words on the board that looked both smart and cryptic simultaneously.  I remember he abbreviated Christian as "X-tian" and I remember he handed out color copies of works of art and broke the students into groups and asked them to assess what Nietsche would have thought about the images.  Or maybe Kierkegaard?  The content is a little fuzzy.

I do remember doing what any intelligent, empowered, feminist, MFA candidate woman would do when faced with an attractive man she knows almost nothing about: I leaned over the table, pretending to look at the artwork but really squeezing my boobs together so the sexy man might see what I had to offer beneath my tasteful but low-cut shirt.  Your father claims to have absolutely no recollection of the milkmaid fantasy I was trying hard to suggest.  Instead he remembers that at the break in the class we talked about Holden Village and Lutheran Volunteer Corp. and all the people we knew in common.  He claims that is was our shared interests and values and blah blah blah that intrigued him. 

And there is more to the story, of course.  But that's the beginning of the story of your father and I.

Today there was no decolletage.  There was a nursing sports bra and an Eddie Bauer sweater and a down coat and cargo pants smeared with salt from the road.  There was my thinning hair (thanks, birth!) pulled back in a sloppy ponytail and my glasses and the pale skin of early January.

Your father, however, looked pretty much the same as he did on that day eight years ago.  Only today he was holding you in his arms.