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.

In previous years, we'd spend Thanksgiving Day hustling around the kitchen, cooking and tidying in preparation for guests.  This year, I've been forced to master the art of planning ahead and breaking projects up into manageable chunks.  Honestly, I don't know why it never occurred to me before becoming a mom!  It was nice to wake up and know that the pumpkin pie was already done and the yams only needed to be tossed into the oven because of course Zoe was constipated and grumpy that morning, of all mornings.  Feeding a disgruntled baby spoonfuls of blended dragon fruit, pureed prunes, and water wasn't exactly the way I had envisioned the start of our holiday!  Fortunately, she passed a nice bowel movement before her first nap and was able to sleep comfortably before the first guests arrived.  She was greeted by her eight-year-old cousin and auntie Debbie when she woke up at around 10:00 AM and got to try some musubi and played on the floor with us girls.  Then, she went down for another nap right before the rest of the family arrived and slept peacefully through our raucous meat-carving and merrymaking--makes me wonder why we bother to speak in hushed voices while she's napping on a regular basis!  

Wes's dad made the turkey and stuffed it with "butt rice," another Wong family tradition that Wes recalls from his childhood.  Wes made the prime rib (haha, had to get up at 2:00 AM to take it out of the fridge while Zoe and I slept!).  We also had a huge ham that Wes's dad insisted we needed and a bunch of side dishes.  What a spread!  

Zoe woke up just as we were all finished with eating.  Now, it was her turn to dig in!  We love seeing her blossoming palate and fine motor coordination skills!  Watching her eat is so entertaining.  She had a whole audience while she was trying to figure out how to get a taste of her turkey leg.  Despite the distractions, she did really great!

She saw the drumstick approaching, she immediately locked eyes--target acquired.  It was love at first sight but she didn't know what she was getting herself into.  The size and scale was a little bit too large for her tiny little hands.  She was puzzled.  Right-side up?  Upside down?  Sideways?  Wait... why do the heavy lifting when she could just bend down and take a bite?  

We also offered her a tray full of various sides, including the mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, a piece of broccolini, grilled squash, shredded turkey, and the piece de resistance--a tiny slice of Mommy's pumpkin pie.  She went for the pie first, but frowned as it disintegrated in her hand.  Quickly, she moved on to the mashed potatoes.  They were fun to touch, but not interesting enough to eat.  Ah, but that broccolini!  That was by far the most captivating item on the tray.  She explored it for the longest time and then finally moved on to the sweet potatoes, which--whoa!--were a little spicy!  Finally, she chewed on a piece of turkey meat for a while.  It must have been great fun for her, not to mention seeing and hearing everyone's reactions while she made her way around her plate.  

By the time everyone had left and Zoe was in bed, we were both drained.  Thank goodness for the dishwasher and leftovers!  But what a heartwarming day it was, full of memories to look back on and to treasure forever.  Zoe's first Thanksgiving was so fun, and although it's so hard on our hearts to see her grow up and get more independent, it's also so exciting to anticipate what she will be like in the years to come.

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