Saturday, December 3, 2022

Grateful for this Time

As I am sitting in front of the computer right now, Zoe has her back turned to me, standing at the water table and pouring water from a scoop held in one hand into a funnel at the top of a tower.  We used to do water table play almost every day over the summer, but she never was able to reach the top of that tower.  Some of the water spills and splashes down from around the top of the funnel and some of it flows out of the funnel tube in a stream and activates a small wheel, which quickly turns, carrying the water down to a tipping scale, which flips the water onto another spinning wheel.  Zoe watches this happen again, and again, and again.  She sometimes turns to look at me over her shoulder, saying her signature, "Wooww!" or "Uh-oh!", and something random, like, "Wash your hands!" and "That slide!"  She is fully in the moment, immersing herself visually, auditorily, tactually, proprioceptively, and emotionally in the repetitive, yet ever-changing task of scooping and pouring water from one container into another.  The tower tips and she asks for help, but then lifts it back into place by herself before I get there.  "You did it!" I say.  Leaves drift down from the trees as a light breeze blows through our back yard.  Zoe has not noticed this, or has she?  It's so fascinating to me, how much she picks up on, without our realization.  She whirls around and says, "Maaamaaa! Zoe!"  while looking at me, with a big smile on her face.  She must have thought of us while experimenting with the water.  She bursts into song, "Baby Shark, doo-doo-doo-doo!" without turning around, enjoying the bouncy melody playing inside of her head.  These moments are so simple, yet so intricate when I sit down and truly observe and notice all of the moving pieces.  Like water flowing through the parts of the tower, there is cause and a rippling effect to everything.  Everything that has been intentionally and unintentionally poured into Zoe, spins and mixes and comes out in ways that are totally unexpected and wondrous.  I am so grateful to be able to witness it, as her mother.

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.