Saturday, July 23, 2022

Zoe's First Camping Trip

"Tet, tet!" said Zoe, as we watched Daddy pitch the tent. "Mooooon!" she sang over and over, after we pointed out the moon in the early morning sky.  She'd seen the moon in books, but never in real life.  "Cowd!" she exclaimed unprompted, as fluffy white clouds far bigger than the ones we see at home rolled over our heads.  "Ma-ma!" she announced, when we lifted her to see the mountains.  "Tic! Tic!" she chirped, as she squatted to pick up the sticks all over the ground.  "Ba-ba!" was her declaration, when she found a particularly smooth, thick stick that looked exactly like a banana in her eyes.  "Cone-cone," she echoed me as I pointed out the pinecones.  "Cone-cone! Cone-cone!" she squealed, as she pointed out more and more.  Then, she toddled away, tripping here and there before squatting down to inspect something new.  

Monday, May 30, 2022

Going By So Fast

I've been trying to write an update after Zoe turned one year old, but I think that as Zoe gets older, it's definitely harder and harder to capture the mothering experience and her life experiences.  Over the last few months, I've documented snatches of things here and there mostly during times of transition, but honestly every day could use a post of its own.  Things are happening too quickly around here to keep up--where do I even begin?  Also, I'm still a mess on most days and it's such an effort to get to work, back home, and in bed on time, much less make time to write a post.  But I guess that's what the parenting life is like... it's a mess.  And through the mess, we laugh, we cry, we grow, and we could never dream of taming it.  I guess I had thought that by now I'd be more "together with it," especially since I'm finally getting a full night's rest and no longer breastfeeding, but I'm realizing that it's always going to feel like a game of catch-up.  It's a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual experience that is perpetually humbling and requires so much patience and presence.  It's a lot!

Before Zoe turned one, we put together a photo book of her first year of life.  Every month, we diligently did a photoshoot with the same prop and edited photos consistently.  We were low on sleep and befuddled much of the time, but at least we could keep track of her little milestones.  The days were filled with firsts: first stroller ride, first tummy time, first bath, first manicure.  When asked, we could respond confidently with how much she weighed (down to the ounce), the foods she'd tried, the amount of times we'd trimmed her bangs--every detail was fresh and clear.  Now, I can barely remember what month she learned how to roll over or when she began to sleep six hours straight.  We can't even keep track of how many teeth she has or how many words she knows anymore.  Our phones now remind us of memories from this day last year with Zoe in them.  Wee little frowny Zoe!  It is pretty crazy how her life is becoming so much more complicated, and how it feels like we can barely stay on top of her developments now that she's "so old."  She's been through transition after transition this year, becoming more and more "adult" and less and less like a baby.  Transitions, though triumphant, are always hard for me because I find myself feeling wistful of the younger days, when everything about her fit so neatly into my arms and my memory. 

I go through the motions of parenting her every day, but it has hit me that none of it is as permanent as I had originally thought.  Today, I woke up to the sound of her high-pitched voice, babbling to the acorn and the fox that she sleeps with.  I check the baby monitor to see what time she woke up while waiting for her milk to warm up.  When the timer rings, I will have just finished brushing my teeth.  I take a gulp of warm water and screw on the top of her milk cup.  I no longer test the temperature of the milk--she's old enough to endure a little burn if it happens.  I pad down the hall and open the door to Zoe's room.  These days, she's been standing in the bed, ready to greet me.  She will say, "Milk," as soon as she sees the cup in my hand and become excited as I open the shades and turn on the light.  I unzip her sleep sack and pull her out of the crib, expertly avoiding strain to the inflamed tendons in the thumb side of my left wrist--"Mommy's thumb," a.k.a. DeQuervain's tenosynovitis.  Her feet flail a little bit as she allows me to pick her up, her little hands wrap around the back of my neck and her hair tickles my nose.  We sit down in the rocking chair and she guzzles the milk through the straw as I hold the cup for her--she doesn't need me to, but I do it anyway.  Then, we change diapers and put on her socks, orthotics, and shoes.  A fresh bib is clipped around her neck, and then she's on the floor making a mad dash for either the toy shelf or her book shelf.  She pulls something to play with or read as I sneak out with the empty milk cup, into the kitchen to fix her some food and to prepare my lunch.  At this point, I still have not brushed my hair, made my coffee, or taken my morning dump, but this routine is a major improvement over what it's ever been.  I think it'll only get easier, too, as Zoe becomes more and more independent.  Technically, she could be ready for some changes such as taking milk cold or having it with breakfast in the high chair, but in a way, we all find peace in this sweet little routine and want to hold onto it for as long as it makes sense to.  In a few weeks, I'm not sure what mornings will look like.  All of it is so, so temporary--both the happy moments and the hardships.  It all makes sense, why I feel the urge to just give all of myself to motherhood and stop thinking about where I fall short in other aspects of my life.  It's not permanent.  True, I will be a mom forever, but I'm now in a season of motherhood that is not here to stay.  And I can hold onto things like warming her milk and cuddling her in my lap for a drink, but it's not all up to me, either.  She will decide one day that she wants to move on, just like how she did with everything else leading up to this point.  It both breaks my heart and makes me smile. 

All through the day, I find myself grasping for memories and worrying that I'll forget how now feels.  I know that it is impossible to turn back the clock, and that notion scares me because I struggle in dealing with loss and regret.  That's why sometimes it's hard to rejoice in change when everything goes by so fast.  One day I was breastfeeding her still, and the next day I was not.  Zoe will soon be walking and I will miss hearing the sound of her palms pattering and knees knocking against the floor as she crawls all over the house.  I'll be excited when she can speak in sentences or sing a song, but how I will yearn to hear her choppy little vocalizations again. So in trying to deal with those mixed emotions, I've jotted down a few things during times of change as one way of preserving the moments.  Sometimes I wish that I had written more down, but I know that I can't realistically expect every single thing to be recorded, and that part of the magic in watching a child grow is in the way that it happens so quickly.  Also, it is hard for a nostalgic person like me to say this, but perhaps being fully present to absorb the pricelessness of those moments is more important than having the ability to go back and relive them later.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

We Turned One

Zoe's one!  She's so old now and still so very, very young.  She's suddenly this little person with a mind of her own, with an acute awareness of the world and with a red hot sense of agency.  Yet, she's still taking life a day at a time, experiencing every ounce of the present, with very little concern for the past or the future.  Of course, she had no idea on the morning of January 26th that she had woken up on such a momentous day, and she will likely not remember the smash cake or the balloons.  But we're not just celebrating for her sake--we're celebrating us!  In those many endless, exhausting days and nights last year, it really felt impossible to picture where we'd all be in a year.  On this day, we can proclaim that we somehow made it through 365 days of this crazy thing called parenting.  I am filled with elation and disbelief that we made it through all of those uncertain and frustrating times.  It's kind of like that feeling you get when you're surveying the view on a clear day upon reaching the top of a peak after a long, grueling hike.  

In some ways, I wish that I were her.  How great it would be to experience life in that way, carefree and with no expectations.  In thinking back to the period of time when we could literally count out her age in days on our fingers, I realize now that life indeed did feel that way.  Though things were tough back then, there was a sort of purity to that toughness.  We were such a fragile, yet united family of three.  Together, we were so lost, and yet so determined.  Everything felt so new and every moment so profound.  Our dependence on each other was so basic, yet so deep.  Now, as Zoe gains a year of experience in the world, we've gained a year of experience as parents.  Like her, we're still inexperienced, and yet much wiser than who we were.  We're still babies in the parenting world, but we're a lot more clear on what our parenting values and practices are now, and we're more willing to take risks and ignore conventional advice, much like an overconfident toddler would.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

She's Not a Baby Anymore

She's not a baby anymore, and yet she is.  She doesn't speak, she doesn't walk, she doesn't pee in the toilet or feed herself with a spoon.  But she claps her hands when we say "yay," she points to things demanding to know what they are, she tries to imitate our words, she intentionally does things that she knows she shouldn't do.  She knows her daily routine and has her own preferences and expectations...and an opinion when those are not met!  She wants to look at the pictures and hear the story rather than just taste the pages of a book.  She is aware of her limitations and isn't as foolhardy as she used to be, though sometimes she can be so stubborn!  She is eating lots of table foods and growing a lot less interested in breastfeeding.  The things that can always make her happy are baths with Daddy and large pieces of meat--Daddy saves her the best cuts.  She loves to cheerfully announce to us that she is awake and ready to play every morning, and at night, she falls asleep peacefully and takes long naps through even the loudest family gatherings.  Who is this girl?  Though we've had almost a whole year of getting to know her, we still have no idea who she is and who she is going to be.  

Friday, December 31, 2021

A Merry and Magical Ending of 2021

The holiday season was simply magical. Though COVID is still around, things were as merry and bright as ever with Zoe here. We set up the Christmas tree, hung up personalized stockings, took Zoe around to see the lights, dressed her up in holiday garb, had a massive rib roast, and played Christmas music every day. We even went snowshoeing three times!  Zoe has also grown so much.  We’ve had to lower the crib and upgrade her carseat, both changes that we didn’t see coming. One day, we saw her pulling her mobile down onto her face and that settled it.  One day, Wes found a deal on the carseat of his dreams (lol), and before we knew it, Zoe was no longer in the carseat that she rode home from the hospital in. On top of that, Zoe learned to crawl and has just made mindblowing developments in her communication skills!  It was officially our first Christmas as parents, and it was truly an intimate and joyful one.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Our First Thanksgiving with Zoe

We celebrated Thanksgiving right before Zoe turned ten months old!  On this day last year, she was no more than a shadow on a sonogram, a rumbling wave in the pit of my uterus, a ray of hope during a difficult year.  I can't believe that time has gone by so quickly--here she is, sitting before us and gnawing on the wrong end of a turkey leg gripped in her greasy little hands.  The house is full of laughter and different languages being spoken in various accents.  We're all surrounded by loving uncles, aunts, and grandparents.  Cousin Maddie bounces a ball while Zoe watches in wonder before rolling over in giggles and spit bubbles.  The countertop is once again filled with the usual decadent Thanksgiving dishes that the Wongs like to make.  Assorted mugs cheerfully dot the dining table.  In place of what used to be our coffee table and accent chairs is a sprawling foam play mat surrounded on three sides by Zoe's fortress of a baby gate.  After a year of social distancing and living in the unknown, we couldn't be more grateful for this lively atmosphere.

The timing of Thanksgiving was so good this year--Zoe has reached the ripe old age of nine months (ten months tomorrow!) and she's been naturally sleeping through the night for the past five nights, napping for over an hour at a time, and eating solids foods.  She also doesn't crawl yet, so she's pretty low maintenance during her awake time, too.  Therefore, I actually had the time and energy to make a few things for our feast: shingled sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, cornbread, and honey whipped butter.  Okay okay, I used a box mix for the cornbread and a store bought pie crust, but I finally did something in the kitchen that was more involved than washing pump parts or making oatmeal!  On that note, I cannot be grateful enough to Wes for having been simultaneously the cook, the cleaner, the laundryman, the yard guy, the tech troubleshooter, the product researcher, the baby supply manager, and the family entertainer through the past year.  He's been the best househusband and Daddy.  We're very fortunate as a family to have everything we need and to have the means to provide for Zoe so easily.  To our parents and grandparents, I am thankful because if it weren't for what they did for us when we were children, it wouldn't be this way for our daughter.  

I had the week off from work today and was able to spend these precious few days just focusing on soaking in the present and what we have.  Maternity leave was rough because those first few months postpartum are so hard.  I tried to appreciate it as much as I could, but at times it was just hard because of how all-consuming it was for me physically and mentally.  After returning to work, I've been super busy and often feel like a chicken running around with my head cut off, but I somehow have more energy to pour out to Zoe when I get home because it's like switching on a totally different part of my brain.  Still, that "mom guilt" gets to me and I always find myself craving more time with her after she falls asleep for the night.  So this weeklong break in my work schedule has been a great way to reconnect and sort of relive those days when I was home with Zoe 24/7.  I've realized that things are so much easier now, partly because she's more mature (and allowing me to sleep!), but also partly because I have come to accept what my role is in life now without feeling sad about what I've left behind.  During one of Zoe's extra long naps, I sat down and reorganized some old things that I had kept over the years--cards from friends, handwritten journals, small mementos saved from various trips, awards I had won.  It was an unintentional act of self reflection that came at a good time.  Through these windows into my ten-year-old and twenty-year-old self, I saw how my current mindset took shape.  I never quite knew why I'd held onto all of these bits and pieces, but I'm glad that I did.  A part of me also hopes to move past placing so much value on words of affirmation and tangible prizes.  Admittedly, adults need a pat on the back from time to time, too, but as a mom (and a human), I am seeing that true fulfillment is attained only through how much I believe in myself to be doing a good job and not through forms of external validation.