Friday, February 23, 2018

18 Months

When Noble turned one, sitting down to write turned into a war of attrition. Commandeering a laptop is the least aggressive tactic in her arsenal of course, her needs are met simply by squalling for them in a tone I can't seem to resist, escape or ignore. For all the plans I made to teach her patience via delayed gratification, I continue to choose the convenience of giving in to her whining. Rigorous conditioning, strictly executed.

Noble's technology has been advancing swiftly - when's she's not scooping and spearing with cracking dexterity at mealtime she's climbing disturbing heights and pointing to eyes, ears, and noses whenever prompted. Exclaiming things "too hot" and "ball," finger painting, scribbling with and occasionally resisting chewing crayons are only recent developments, her gait has been gaining grace and agility since her birthday, and so has her sense of direction. Notable charms include the intimacy she shares with her toys, the way she naps against her dad's chest, the miraculous transition she's made to sleeping in her queen sized bed and the delight at her forward-facing passenger experience. She's 28 lbs. of arm-numbing need, with little patience and an enduring self-assured right to breastmilk.

At 17 months we decided it was time for Noble's parents to do a little less parenting, and wrote a check in exchange for scheduled naps, crafts, socializing and two snacks a day, five days a week from 8 to 3:30. Now, we go to the gym every day, take in a matinee when the mood strikes and take outrageous naps when time permits. I've cleaned bathrooms, done mounds of laundry, prepped for meals, meditated,  r e a d     a     b o o k and spent whole hours trying on clothes. I've turned off the engine only to exit the car seconds later hands free, and have no idea where my diaper clutch is. Clearing the clutter of the last year has renewed my sense of identity and revitalized my role as a parent. The week before she started day care she picked up a mean case of Hand Foot and Mouth, which checked my decision to surrender her to all those runny noses without any more prophylactic than her morning vitamin. Fevers and quarantines were managed, and when the blisters began to clear and her glow returned, we were reminded why we'd paid the enrollment fees; Noble belongs with her people.

Met with her infectious smile, her tiny, lovable comrades gather around to welcome her every morning, but a life among her peers has left its mark. In two weeks, she's been bitten four times, but we're confident she's working on diffusing tensions over Lego disputes without violence.

It's been six months, here's what you missed:


It's pigtail country around here now, and the terrain is adorable.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

12 Months: Noble On Parade

As many wise women foretold, Noble started walking on her birthday. 20 pounds. 30 inches tall. Having trained for weeks with a couple steps to her credit, nothing could have prepared me for such a confident wobble. Tears at the ready, I was so thrilled and swollen with pride I had a hard time reacting in a way that wouldn't frighten her. A walking baby is visible proof that the project I've been working on for the last year does in fact have legs. Chubby, silken legs.

If you don't see the video above,  please follow this link for your four free minutes of a baby becoming a girl. We've watched it. Highly recommended.

To celebrate, we lunched at the restaurant where my water broke last year, but made a much more obvious mess under the table with whimsically dropped grains of rice. We took her to Little Land, where she hugged, clawed and socialized with her peers until nap time. Endorphins pumping, I gave her the keys and turned the A/C fan to full blast. "Take us home, you beast."

Back at home I baked a batch of dense, sunken, vaguely-flavored v/gf cupcakes and invited her tiny bestie Wiley, aged two and a half, to guide her through the birthday proceedings. I served animal crackers and berries so he would have something to feed her, (a favorite party trick) and filled the pool to maximum capacity. The dress code was after-five/garden party. Noble chose a pink tankini and navy blue bow for her hair, which stayed put for a record 2 hours. Bill wore disco shorts, Wiley none.

Turning one was a success. The toughness of her first cupcake was just toothsome enough for her tender teeth, and kept her busy for a nice long while. I put her back in the pool when she'd spread her frosting as far as it would go and scrubbed her clean with a bit of ball moss. I often stop and wonder what her life would be like if we'd stayed in the Northwest, picking fresh berries, hiking and visiting all the parks and islands and shores year round. To compensate I've been encouraging unlimited leaf sucking and stick tasting until the mosquitoes start to swarm. We spent a few days in August visiting Seattle, so she could meet her great uncle, big trees, mountain vistas and her newest passion: the beach.

I tried to warn her that water in the Puget Sound is a cold lover. Teasing you close as it laps and rushes, then slapping you fresh in the face with its icy smother. As she charged the surf again and again her gasping choked back sobs, and my feet were instantly numbed in pursuit. Back on land, she learned that sand is a warm friend full of secrets, and her appetite brought home extras every time we visited the shore. At home after I finished shaking it out of our luggage, I wondered if I should have bottled some. But saving things like that seems like a gateway to storing up fingernail clippings, and those don't really age with dignity.

Nine months of incubating and a year of feeding, changing, carrying, soothing, treasuring and soldiering on. I have regained almost all of my freedoms, -  not sneezing, coughing, running or jumping, - and have started to expand my imagination beyond raising a person. When we're alone together I try to leave her to her studies and experiments, and watch as she seeks and finds. Though her thirst for dirt is unquenchable, I'm comfortable letting her toddle out into the grass. The yard, serving ambrosia by the tiny fistful, is likely to be my best tool for weaning her from the breast, but we're taking our time. I thought I'd be more aggressive about weaning when her teeth grew in, but she's been surprisingly well-mannered. As long as I can provide a quiet, held space for her to relax and forget about her growing pains and spastic body and find a little peace for myself, I'll suffer the occasional love bite. And when she bites, how the love does flow.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

11 Months: Dear Noble,

Hi Doll. The approach of your first birthday has me wondering about what to make you to commemorate the occasion. A smash cake is planned, but if I really wanted to treat you special I'd dump out the vacuum cleaner on your tray. You like fizzies and savories, kombucha, curry, refried beans, berries, and are still honoring the same bowl of oatmeal every morning. You are the first to tell me if an avocado has been a day too long on the shelf, and never seem to tire of being in your high chair, eating whatever you're offered, charmed and amazed by the vessel it arrives in. You're favorite food in taste, texture and accessibility remains toilet paper right off the roll.

While we watch you stand hands-free for extended periods, the probability that you might take a step at any moment keeps us bug-eyed and enthralled. Other things that have caught our eye:

Turning on/off light switches
Pushing whatever you can move around the house
Pulling wet clothes out of the dryer
Unplugging cords from the wall :(
Wedging your delicious, thick thigh in the security gate
Threatening to pause Daddy's work day with the push of a button
Holding things in your mouth while you travel down the hall
Rifling through the trash
Licking the trash can
Eating dirt, mulch, rocks and clumps of compost
Walking in your walker like a person who walks

At a playscape you so delighted a little boy that he squealed at the sight of you, and you dissolved into tears. Yesterday you were sitting on your dad's lap while he was on a video call and startled so hard you lost it after he let out a loud laugh. I picked you up and you somehow maneuvered us both out of the room. When I'm holding you and absently stroking your back and you want to transform it into a nursing session, you move my hands to my shirt and pant expectantly.

Nursing is still a big part of our days and while I don't have a hard deadline to wean you by, I wonder where you'll get your teething comfort after my supply has left the building. At the end of the day after we've survived the dreaded pajama game, I shake up a bottle of soy formula and we nestle together on the couch. I am considering this our golden hour despite the raging sun at 6:30, because I can feel our glow. I recline in the corner of the couch with your cheek tucked next to mine, your body trapping my left arm, and while you deftly wield your bottle I wait, sizzling with satisfaction, sedated, wearing your weight like an x-ray apron. In the past I've struggled to call upon my happy place, to picture a sanctuary and hover there to reach a calm state. I don't know if I've ever been more vulnerable, wholly invested as I am and spacing out on the scent of your hair, but I've never felt this insulated or content. Thanks to this crushing love for you and your stillness I can fawn over tiny discoveries, like the downy blonde hair on your knees that grew overnight. Keep it up, Babe.

You're the best,

Saturday, July 29, 2017

10.5 Months: Noble's Dishwasher

A Poem To A Dishwasher, by a young and curious girl

at night I thrash
sleepless, desperate to plumb
perchance to splash
in your murky depths
to storm your heavy, burdened racks
I knock at your door and wait
hoping you'll lower your drawbridge
and cast your musk to the heavens

today at the art museum
Mother asked what gallery I should like most to see
"appliances" I gushed
she rolled me into European art
I rolled my eyes
I wondered about you
shut up at home and moldering
are you missing me too?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

10 months: Noble Grooves

At 10 months old, Noble's blathering about someone named Baap, twerking when she hears the right beat, attempting dangerous acrobatics and has turbo charged her crawl. She's noticed that the foam flooring in her room is ripe for chewing and dismantling, that electrical cords can be unplugged on a whim and wants to find her way inside the fridge before the door shuts real bad. She's screaming with someone else's voice when we put her to bed and has begun throwing mini-tantrums: arching her back, turning red and screeching with hot urgency whenever she feels the moment deserves it.

Writing these days is an impossible dream; facts and phrases hanging limply in the ether vanish when her tiny hands approach my laptop, plucking out keys, slamming out wild unplugged prog rock and reminding me that my dreams are not, for the moment, my own. Sharing has come naturally to this relationship, and it is truly a privilege to swap so many stories over farts and spilled food. It's like middle school really, but I've got better hair, more defined brows and a smarter wardrobe. My current best pal, as it was all those years ago, is a petite girl with a lust for life and a healthy sense of humor who inspires me to play up the slapstick.

We've settled into a routine since Bill was hired to work from home, one which unbelievably hasn't included any time in front of the TV until now. I feel like someone with the wherewithal to use a straw is ready to taste the next level of laziness, but she seems unfazed by the bewitching pull of HBO's Sesame Street Classic. Most of our hours are spent playing on the floor, puzzling over simple geometry, fighting on the changing table or crawling around picking up/binge eating debris off the floor. Bill and I have been wondering about choosing an eventual pet for Noble, but neither of us see the reason for a dog when she does so much of her own clean up after meals. We'd consider her preferences, if she had any. She's so loving and open to new experiences that there's little she doesn't respond to with enthusiastic cheer, save for kale, which she fumes at, sneezes at, and rubs all over her face to keep out of her mouth.

This past weekend I left her overnight for the first time so I could take a quick road trip alone. Driving to Houston in the rain I felt the zing of possibility. Might I pop into a shop hands free? Roll down the windows and blare a little Streisand? How many hitchhikers can I accommodate without the car seat? I met up with friends for delicious Thali, then spent the next day rearranging their house, the number one activity I've been craving since Noble arrived. I felt the thrill of pulling everything out of a room and creating a brand new space, solving riddles of efficiency and aesthetics, all the while wondering how I can implement such fulfilling work into my days at home while still caring for Noble full time. If it's possible, can I also get a little paid? Mysteries abound. Going back to work just to cover the cost of childcare is likely still a productive use of my energy, but the quest to find the ideal job that accommodates being present for tender moments like these is hard to give up on.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

9 Months: Noble's Dad (Dear Noble)

Thanks to Judd for this hot snap
It's Father's Day, Baby. I'm so pleased to celebrate and to be sharing my favorite dude with you, that bearded paragon of masculinity - dadliness? -humanity??? - that won't stop smiling at you, your father. You may have heard him called Daddy, Babe, Bill, Billy, Ducky, or Bill Nice; he has many names. I call him Uncle Bill when I think his inner guidance counselor has taken over, and need a way to rebel against being helped. He truly is bubbling over with perspective, beneficent encouragement and appreciation for the most obscure notions, and if I didn't already have a favorite uncle (looking at you, Kerry!) I should hope to have one like him.

A beloved personality across many realms, Magic: The Gathering splashed his name into prominence many years before you were born, and gave him the worldwide fan base he deserves. An unsung philosopher and poet, passionate about social change, conversation and justice, his inquisitive presence has the power to diffuse surges of violence, (though he has been politely asked not to return to the state of Missouri) and more than once I've seen him come through many a traumatic ordeal unscathed. His ideal schedule includes a 4 mile morning walk, where he organizes his thoughts, writes lyrics and sweats through his shirts while rapping and schlepping fruit home from the store. If you happen to be into hip hop even a pinch more than I am, he's going to be thrilled. He's building a collection of songs, (don't forget this one with Berm and Swale,) that will no doubt serve as a timeline for his journey through his 20's, 30's, fatherhood, and beyond. He's a rapper baby, he's going to spit at you. His voice is just a vessel, but the hot fire he's shaping is the key to his innermost feelings. Unlocking his heart shouldn't be a problem though, as he's more than happy to talk at length about anything you want. And more. (And more.)

Before you were born he played in a recreational basketball league, and we attended all of his games. I filmed them for you, so at the first sign of interest we'll put together a highlight reel. Man, if you're into basketball he's gonna be over the moon.
For your first 8 months he was at home with you, having been a casualty of a mass lay off just a little while before you arrived. This means you were together a lot more than you have been lately, making googly eyes, nuzzling and bonding over things that crinkled and buzzed. Nowadays he spends his working hours at home designing games and coming to investigate your laughter at every opportunity.

He is a highly affectionate person, and dazzled me into a surprising tolerance of PDA when I was already well into my 20's. Can you conceive of your 20's? I have high hopes they'll be full and wild, lived to the max. Your dad was a real dynamo in his 20's, when I snagged him.  He's since grown into the breeziest, most effervescent husband I've ever had. An enthusiastic student, he is a great lover of habits and innovation. It is likely our shared love for life hacks that keeps our marriage afloat - that, and my stunning reversal of my ban on movie theater nachos. When it was just the two of us, I often scrimped on the basics to the point of mania - hovering nearby while Bill did the dishes to turn off the faucet between plates seems ludicrous now that I run a bath for you every night. I've barely glimpsed the surface of his skills, aggro micro-managing over-achiever that I am. I forget that people have been successfully managing their lives without me (you being the exception) and it's often a strain to contain myself. I rely on him to help me unpack my thoughts, balance our budget and open cans of pickles. He indulges when he discovers something like power clashing, and has a range of laughter I'll attempt to illustrate thusly: his courtesy laugh (you'll have one of these too) is a subdued, murmured chortle, what you'll hear most often is his easy, choppy chuckle, but when you hear his high pitched, rapid mad-hatter trilling warble you can be sure something ridiculous has happened. Likely in a basketball game.

So there you have it. He's traveling a lot this month so I had to draw on memories to paint this picture, but I think it is a faithful portrait. You're 9 months old, and you have your own opinions about him, but if you think you love him now, well, just wait until you see him dance.