Last Saturday Solo. It was wonderful. Today Aria sang to me. 

This deployment has had its ups and downs. Downs with health. Downs with massive transition at work. Downs with fatigue from being the one and only. 

But my time with Aria. It’s been such an up. On days like this, I realize what a relationship we’ve built together over these long months looking out for each other. 

After dinner and brushing teeth, Aria was eager to turn out the lights and to be put into her crib. 

She gazed at me with that smile of hers, not her charmer smile, or her big grin, or her laughing smile, or her smile of delighted relief I always get when I pick her up from someone else’s care. This was another smile. It was a happy smile. Simple. Full of real love. 

I realized I felt the same, that I was giving her the same smile. I felt sincerely happy. 

This always happens on days I let go, on days when I am just mom. When I’m not thinking about the novel I should be writing or the emails I should be sending or the books I should be reading. When I barely take out my phone except to quickly share a photo or two on Facebook. 

By the end of these days, I feel less tired, less angry, less frustrated. I just feel happy. It takes all day for it to fully settle in. It’s like that 8th day of my honeymoon in Tahiti. That was the first day of my entire like I felt what it truly means to be relaxed. It was transcendent. Really. 

That’s how I feel with Aria. When I’m just mom. In these moments, I feel totally and completely alive. It’s transcendent. It heals the soul. 

I asked my smiling daughter if she wanted me to sing. She nodded. I sang “My Little Aria,” as we held hands through the crib bars. 

My little Aria

Oh how I love you.

You are my daughter

I love you so. 
I will be with you

Here in the darkness, in life’s many dark moments, holding you closely

All night long. 

You may not see me. You may not be sure. 

But I will be with you

All night long. 
My little Aria

Oh how I love you.

You are my daughter

I love you so. 
It has a lot of other verses. I made them up as I went. Then I switched to “Tomorrow” as I often do and then a few hymns. 

We ended up taking three trips over to the changing table while I sang to her. She didn’t complain or protest. Just nodded when I asked her if she needed to be changed. 

On the third trip

Aria started to sing. 

I swear she was singing “Tomorrow.” Her smile widened to a broad grin. 

We sang together

Then I hoisted her up into my arms and hugged her tight. 

I asked her to tell me when she was ready. After a minute or two in each other’s arms, she shifted toward the crib. 

I kissed her good night and set her down. 

As I lifted away, she sang “Tomorrow! Tomorrow!” one more time. Then cried softly for a minute after I drifted away into the night. 

As I laid in bed, remembering what it felt to hear my daughter sing words to me for the first time, I realized this was it. Next week we go back to being three. 

It was a sweet and beautiful end to what felt at times like an impossibly difficult deployment. 

She waved to the ant

She sat there on the sidewalk, playing with her pepper shaker. 

Along came an ant. He made loops and circles between her legs. 


She pointed and poked. 

I half expected her to crush him in curiosity. 

Instead, she recognized life in that little, seemingly insignificant thing before her. 

Aria stood up. 

And waved. 

“Bye bye!”

My favorite things about Aria cerca 18 months

I really like Aria. I mean I totally love with super mother depth. But I really like her too. She’s interesting and funny and fun to be around. She’s intelligent and, in her own baby way, witty. She’s adventurous, loves to explore and figure things out, but loves a good cuddle and a kiss on the cheek. 

So in honor of her turning 18 months this week, here are a few of my favorite things. 

I love her chortle. 

It may be my favorite thing about her. It’s this slightly surprised, slightly expecting, but appreciative laugh she often makes. She sees the humor in something and laughs, rather than laughing in delight or laughing because something is silly. It’s “a laugh because she is amused or appreciative of something.” A chortle. I hope she always has it. I find it quite distictive and it always make me appreciate the humor in a situation too. 

I love how she communicates. 

I’ve an unfinished blogpost about communication and lots of hand waving. But Aria, she’s just so interesting about it. She gestures and moves her body and does this full on head nod when you get something right. It’s almost as if she’s the adult and your the child who just answered a question right. As if she understands I’m just slow and it’s an accomplishment when I figure things out. At the same time, this comes of as charming rather than condescending so you actually feel approved of in the same way if your manager tells you what a good job you’ve done and really means it. 
I love how Aria celebrates success. 

Aria is just fun. She likes to play and puzzle things out. She spent a half hour figuring out how to turn her wrist just so in order to get a teaspoon into a baking soda box. When she knows something is in reach (I had to prove it to her a couple of times so she wouldn’t give up) she goes at it with delightful determination. And when that teaspoon finally went in, she grinned with satisfied success. It’s not gloating. She seems pleased with accomplishing the task, rather than being the one who accomplished it. She even chortles after accomplishing something or figuring something out.

I love how Aria chooses her friends. 

She’s so friendly. Though a little overwhelmed by crowds and lots of unfamiliar faces, in small encounters Aria smiles and waves and talks in her baby talk way. She chooses her friends, even at this age, and the ones she chooses are the ones who make her laugh or are low key but equally engaged with life. In other words, so far at 18 months, Aria chooses friends who bring out the best in her. I hope she’s always so sage. She seems to gravitate to adults who, rather than loving on her, show her new and interesting things. Today my friend Cristina showed her butterflies and stacking baskets and a unique doll her daughter had made. She talked to her like I talk to her, as if they were having a conversation. Before I knew it, Aria was waking right over to her and asking to be held in her arms. That almost never happens. 

I love how Aria talks. 

I realized recently that I’m constantly taking to Aria. It wasn’t really a conscious thing. While I always forget to point out things and repeatedly give names, I tell Aria everything that is going on, get her input on things in a conversational way, and explain what’s happening. I also didn’t really consciously realize Aria was actively engaged in many of these conversations. “Gagle ga ha ba ba all done ga gi ga… Ba ha ma ma mo mi night night mi mil ba ba.” I noticed it when in real words started popping up in her sentences. “Oh. Yes. We’re really having a conversation!” 

Yesterday I was at my friend’s house and we laid a blanket down for Aria to curl up on. Cristina showed Aria a doll getting into the blanket, rubbing her eyes, and falling asleep. Aria mimicked the doll and curled up on the blanket. She then began talking and singing to herself and the doll for the next half hour. 

The other amazing thing in this communication front is about two months ago it became very clear Aria was understanding most of what I say. I realized it when I handed her that cleaned and said blow your nose and she did. I can ask her questions, give her directions and tell her all sorts of things. If she knows a related word, she’ll say it with a satisfied grin. “Walk.”

She’s just so eager to communicate. I have a feeling she is going to be a great conversationalist. 

I love how in charge Aria is of herself. 

Last week when Grandma was here, she and Aria were eating dinner together in the kitchen. She started looking tired and rubbing her eyes. She pointed to the ceiling. Surprised, Grandma carried her upstairs. Aria pointed to her crib. Stunned, Grandma set her inside. After a second or two of getting comfortable, she rolled over and went to sleep. 

She’s just very aware of herself. When she’s cold, she asks for a shirt. When she’s hungry, she drags me to the fridge and picks out s snack. Usually yogurt, a clementine, aged cheddar, or whole grain crackers. 

Yesterday she pointed to her diaper when she was working on something, said CaCa and led me to the bathroom. I sat her on the lid of the toilet and she sat there whole she finished. 

I just get the sense that she’s going to be very self-aware and instead of using that self-awareness to beat herself up, she’s going to use it to be a master of self and a leader of others. 

Or this may just mean she’s better at picking out clothes than me, like earlier this week when she realized the top and bottom she’d picked out did not match the way she was hoping. 

I love how chill Aria is, 95% of the time

None of us are chill all the time and Aria is definitely not chill when her teeth hurt, when she’s over tired, when she’s worried about someone taking her away from me, or when she feels she’s been treated really unfairly.

The rest of the time she is easy and fun and seems to easily get enjoyment out of everything life has to offer. And it’s this kind of savvy enjoyment. She seems to get the humor or life, even as young as she is. I think this is why I legitimately enjoy Aria’s company. It’s fun doing things with her. And I feel very confident it’s only going to get better The more she is capable of doing. And with the way she figures things out. There is a heck of a lot she is going to be capable of very soon.

So here’s to you! 

Happy 18 months. You are now twice the age you were when you were born. That is quite an accomplishment.

It’s kinda poetic. I’ve been working on this post for a week. Just as I’m uploading the last picture and preparing to publish, I hit shuffle on my music. 

 Shots by Imagine Dragons came on. It took me back to 20 minutes after Aria was born, when she crawled up my chest to nurse for the first time. 20 minutes old, fighting her way up those 8 inches to get what she needed. It’s just who she is. Gotta love her!

Phases in Sleep

Tonight Aria needed company as she travelled from wake to sleep. I sang about tomorrow and eased her into her crib. Resting my hand on her back, I sang about finding peace in living a life worth living. 

If I lifted my palm, sad sobs slipped off her lips. 

Finally, I ended up beside her. She shifted close, until her whole body was resting against the bars. 

She reached out and stroked my knee for a time. I became quiet. We listened to each other for a time. 

She just stared out into the darkening eve. 

Minutes ticked by. 

We both stared into the dark. 

I was surprised she could remain so still and contemplative for so long. 

Perhaps it’s the change to cots at school. She was the first, bold and independent, switching alone to her cot more than two months early. But now, joined by friends in her naps, she longs to be near those she loves in sleep as well. 

It’s all phases. I stayed there until her eyes dropped and closed, until her breathing went deep and heavy, rivaling the breathing of the fan a few feet away. 

I savored the moment. I felt whole there with her. 

I’ve been going almost entirely tech down when I’m with her over the past several weeks. So instead of passing these long minutes with news reports of elections or of maneuving resources across a hexagonal game field, I simply lived and loved. 

It was the slowest and best half hour of my week. 

Thanks Aria. You make me such a better person. You’ve filled my life and made me whole. I love you. I love every moment with you. Thanks for being you😉

And that’s when I silenced  the fire alarm with a light saber and a bleeding thumb…

I don’t know what anyone else did this evening, but the least exciting part of my evening was dashing through a torrential downpour, thunder clapping at my heels, toddler wailing, and new skirt dripping with water as my cheap umbrella shrinks to half its wingspan. 

I get inside and the handful of ants I’d noticed and crushed this morning in the entryway, which was a troubling development I intended to investigate when I got home, had now ballooned into an army of about two hundred ants. 

They were all over. Up and down the entryway, over the tiny side counter,  covering my pots and pans, skittering around in my cuisinart. 

I squish as many as I can, which had the effect of shifting Aria’s mood from annoyed at being dragged through the rain to being captivated by the battle beneath her.

I then begin vascilating between killing ants, scrubbing pots and pans and counters, feeding Aria, and then subsequently giving Aria things to entertain herself with. It’s at this point that she knocks a butternut squash from my friend’s garden onto the floor, accelerating the need to cook it…

Just as I’m about to get Aria to bed, I realize I’ve got beans soaking and have to cook them. I get the pot going, then head upstairs for several rounds of Minnie’s Boutique and Chica Chica Boom Boom. 

When I get downstairs, I immediately. return to the brutal battle front and slay another couple of platoons of ants. I wait out the army. 

Haha! There!

As the last of a couple dozen ants tumble into the trash can and the caulk on their escape route dries, I finish the next phase of the black beans and begin cutting up butternut squash fries. 

Before I know what’s happening, I’m on FaceTime showing my stepmom the blood streaming down my thumb. I stave off the bleeding and get the butternut squash in the oven, then run upstairs to wrap layer upon layer of gauze on my still bleeding lobbed off tip of my thumb with my free hand.

When I get downstairs, there’s a fire in the oven. 

I’m not joking. Dad and my step mom were still on FaceTime with me. 

The fire finally dies down. 

I feel a weird sensation. 

Oh man. Aunt Flow is back for another visit. 

I get off the phone and race back upstairs. 

While I’m in the middle of putting in a tampon, I hear a soothing British voice warning me there is smoke in the entryway. 

I stumble downstairs, clean underwear in one hand. 

The alarm sounds. 

I look around, desperate for something tall enough to reach it. “Don’t wake the baby!” I think frantically. 

And that’s when I see it, as if it had been calling for me all along. 

My light saber. 

Aria had been playing with it earlier in the evening. 

I heft it skyward and silence the alarm. 


I listen. 

No cries. 

But then the British woman speaks again.

“There’s smoke in the entryway.”

BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEEP!

I silence it again… And again…

The voice explains what is happening. The alarm can’t be silenced. There’s too much smoke. 

I never turned off the oven. I thought maybe I could finish my squash fries… I cut off my thumb trying to make them…

Aria starts to wail. I throw down my light saber, pull on my underwear, and run to turn off the oven. 

I sprint up to get Aria, then realize she’s in the least smoke filled room. So I just hold her. 

The alarm sounds over and over again. 

Over and over and over again. 

The woman speaks again in that comforting, I’m-so-much-better-than-you monotone. 

The smoke is clear. 

I put Aria back in her crib. 

I pack up the fries and beans. 

Then I fill up with a long, deep breath. 

Needless to say, I did not analyze state assessment data tonight like I was planning on. 

I took some Tylenol instead. 

Night everyone!

Shaping Life’s Experiences with a Blossoming Memory

I really dislike reading things about baby development — they take away the magic of it all. Here. Let me show you why. 

I’ve been watching awestruck over the past two weeks as a dramatic wave of change has taken hold of my daughter. 

Subtle and beautiful and unexpected. Was I really seeing this? 

Was it new or had I just not been paying attention?

Then, last night, Aria hands me a paper from daycare I had ignored. It spelled out every nitty gritty detail of the transformations from 12 to 18 months. Something to the effect of a very scientificy statement about the child exhibiting first signs of memory and imagination. 

😦

I frowned. This is exactly why I stopped reading parenting guides and books about development probably at six months pregnant. Where’s the adventure in being told what is going on?

Here’s the magic I had been experiencing. 

I’d of course noticed months ago how Aria very clearly knew where all of her favorite foods were located. Cheese in the cheese drawer, crackers on top of the fridge, clementines in the crisper. 

Then I’d noticed how we could be playing at a vantage point and she noticed this big interesting rock. When we went down the stairs and around, it was like she knew exactly where it was. 

But the first time I really realized the extent of Aria’s change in memory, was when it became a memory about an experience, rather than a sight or food. 

One day a couple weeks ago we were hanging out in the kitchen at breakfast. Aria started squealing and waving her hands. Through the nonsensical stream of vocabulary I heard loud and clear

“Ga!!! Ga!!!”

Dog?

Sure enough. There was Buddy heading into his house down the road. 

[Just for context, Aria LOVES dogs and has since the moment she first met her cousin, Toc. They’re her favorite part about walks in the morning. Pretty much her favorite thing in the world. 


]

It had taken me too long to figure out, but Aria insisted that we go outside to pet Buddy as we often did in the mornings. She looked everywhere. I took her hand and led her down the sidewalk. We knocked on Buddy’s door. I explained what happened and, with a big grin, Trek led Buddy out. 

Aria exuded delight as the tiny dog kissed her face. It may have been one of the happiest, most surprising moments of her short little life. 

A week later Aria looks up at me in the kitchen and says “Ga!” This time there was definitely no dog outside. After some nonverbal discussion, she’s dragging me outside by the finger and leading me to the neighbor’s house. 

She remembered. And she wanted that miraculous experience again. 

What was so distinct about the was that it wasn’t some trigger, like seeing her stroller or the refrigerator. She was thinking about a memory she’d had and wanted to repeat it. 

I can see memory in her eyes more and more since then. She sends signals to do certain things, like dancing around the living room, or remembering things that make me laugh and doing them with that look in her eyes, waiting for me to giggle. It’s not me suggesting or her reacting to triggers, like I said, it’s her pulling from her experiences to shape and decide the new moments of her life. 

I find that extraordinary. 

And I don’t need some paper to point it out to me — Aria is the far more interesting teacher of what happens as a tiny little supermanning baby stands up, speaks out, and becomes a full blown child!

Solo Mom — Ornery Child? The impact of a 162 day long work week?

It may just be me, but I feel like if a mom flies solo for too long, there have to be ramifications on the child. DH has been gone for a third of Aria’s life now. The equivalent of a decade for him or me. 

When you fly solo, you are the whole army. There is no relief unit, no cavalry fresh and ready to swoop in and set things straight. There is only a tired, blood-soaked infantry. 

You operate in survival mode far too much of the time. What can I do or give my child so I can rest or gain relief from your cries? A habit of appeasement takes root and the child begins to reign. 

You give in to get a moment’s rest, but you never really do rest. 

162 days without sleeping in. 162 days of packing breakfasts and lunches, of providing walks or entertainment, of holding you when you cry. 162 days without the baby napping longer than an hour at home. By the time you wind down to follow suit, she calls your name. 

Never fresh. Never enough energy to really reset things. 

Go ahead. Take Poland. Have Crimea. 

A 162 day work week. 

I am in such a habit of appeasement, 75% of the time now I let her lead me to the fridge and show me what she wants to eat. My only saving grace is getting to put together an elaborate lunch box full of fruits and veggies and nutritious dishes for then ten and a half hours you are at daycare 5 days a week.

Occasionally I brave the storm and assert how I want things. 

I succeed with a lot of other things just by replacing and redirecting. Head on collision almost never works. 

Trying to pick your nose? Here’s a Kleenex. 

Headed for the trash? I tell you it’s “Caca” and make a gross face. You step back. 

Trying to walk hands free in the street? I force my hand on you or pull you up screaming. 

Don’t want to get in the car seat? Here’s a cracker. Or when I don’t have one, I just muscle you in😦

I let you take your time walking out the door and almost always take you on a walk when you ask. Sometimes it makes me late for work or a meeting. Shrug. 

162 days into my workweek. Five sick days, two real trips to urgent care for an emergency injection of my Addison’s medicine. Five times hired a babysitter, four to get done projects for work, once to sleep. 

I can be late for a meeting to make our morning smooth and pleasant together. 
I do wonder if I’m bending too much to your wants and directions. 

I’m sorry at home your diet has devolved to milk, yogurt, fruit, cereal, cheese, and blue corn chips. 


You seem so happy and vibrant, though you have your moments. It seems wrong to elaborate on those moments for an audience. Ms. Terry knows what I’m talking about😉

Anyway. I hope I’ve done okay by you, even if I’m stumbling more and more the longer this workweek drags on. 

Your grandma just flew in to help. 

The cavalry is here! 

She’s going to cook and spend time with you. Maybe I’ll get to sleep in, or sleep through a 2am meal! 

Tomorrow I have work to do. I won’t have time to rest, though I’m going to try and keep it short. I’m so tired. 

I mentioned how a month after DH left, my charter network slips into three regions and laid off two dozen people, leaving me trying to sort out and keep constant the support previously coming from six people, right? I have no idea how I’ve survived this deployment. I’ve cried at work a couple times. I’d promised myself I’d never do that at this job. 

I just hope I’ve done right by you through it all. I think I’ve done my best. I’ve given you all the boundaries I’ve had strength to put up. 

Daddy’s coming home soon. I’m lucky in that. Maybe he can make right anything I’ve messed up.

Maybe between him and grandma, we can have family meals at the table again. 

But who knows, maybe all this will set you up as CEO material!

Who knows? 

Really. 

One thing I do know. 

162 day work week. I need a weekend!

Me time is baby time. 

I had an epiphany last week talking to my sister. She was lamenting how this lady had, like many times before, dumped her kids off to go be with friends, using some pretense for my sister to care for them. She was especially annoyed because the woman had been gone all week at a conference and she didn’t get it. The lady had wanted kids so bad. Why was she always trying to unload them?

I’m a “middle-aged” new mom, if you exclude random 60 year old pregnancies. It means I spent all my formative and defining college years, and five more years of good health and bold years after that as a woman. I developed hobbies, pleasures, and pastimes as an individual and then as a wife. I wrote an okay novel, half of a better one, and the first two chapters of two even better ones. I served a mission. After I met DH, I quickly learned to love eating at nice restaurants, having long conversations, exploring new places, seeing movies, and giving each other the time and space and verbal support to excel in our careers. I still took extra classes and found time on the train to write. 


 As fairytale-esc as being DINC (after we made it through the two poor years of grad school and my massive dental bills from getting a spinning hook kick to the face, ninja-style), we both wanted children. Two of them. We wanted to be a family, a clan. 

I had a vague sense of what I was trading. It led us to go out twice a week for a month before we gave birth, each time toasting to what we thought could be the last time we ever ate out together. 

When DH deployed, the trade-off was palpable. Any real heavy weeks of really going the extra mile for work (working late nights or crazy early mornings multiple days in a row) and I literally ended up at urgent care getting an emergency injection of corticosteroids for my Addison’s condition. None of my single, grad school, or DINC (dual-income no children) pastimes, not even heroic service at work, were anymore possible. 

And that’s when this conversation with my sister struck me. I chose Aria as a new way to spend my time and heart. Not a hobby, but a way of life. 

Instead of novels, a blog about mother and daughter. 

Instead of fine dining, an adventure through the grocery store, capped with a meal from the hot bar. 


Instead of a Saturday developing a system for setting up response to intervention in my elementary schools, a Saturday at the park and nature center and mall playground. 


Instead of a long novel or book about Ed policy, the news. Short and sweet and easily digestible. 

Instead of walks alone or with my husband, family walks with a detour to the playground. 

Instead of extra classes in project management or business analytics, life became a class in humility. 

Instead of binging through shows like Battlestar Galactica in a month, we binge on watching Aria transform and grow. 



When I watch Aria at play, that is me time. It’s the time I’ve chosen for myself in this adventure called motherhood. 

750 snacks and meals later…

I don’t know if it’s an Aria phase or a burnout after months of solo parenting. But she’s just being a picky eater lately. She’ll eat her berries and sweet potato mash and beet applesauce. She’ll eat yogurt and drink her milk. She craves aged sharp cheddar cheese. She’ll eat almond butter right out of the jar with a spoon. And she likes tofu. She really likes tofu. 

Sometimes she’ll eat her mini quiches. Sometimes she’ll eat her chicken and veggies. And yesterday I got her to eat quinoa brown rice by making it buffalo style with butter and hot sauce. 

But that’s kind of it. Over and over again. When she gets bored with it, more cheese and yogurt takes hold. 

Sometimes I think I’m just kidding myself that I’m doing right by her diet. 

Only want bread? 

Sure. But it’s going to be whole grain and fresh. No preservatives. 

Won’t eat breakfast today?

Fine. Have gmo free blue chips rich in magnesium, iron, and other minerals. Here’s some salsa. Dip it and I’ll pretend you ate your vegetables for the day. 

Only want yogurt? Don’t want your chicken and broccoli?

Fine. Have plain organic yogurt blended with mangos and kale. 


The problem with this is that I haven’t really pushed her to try sauces or chili or sandwiches or noodles or soups. Occasionally I’ll put those in front of her, but I’m not really making them for me. 

The best, or at least most diverse, meals I get are from grocery store buffets. 

Sigh. And if I want to rest, I’m more inclined to hand her the bread and cheese, let her fill up and go down filled and happy. 

But grandma is coming! And DH isn’t too far behind. 

Cause right now, after planning or providing 5 meals/snacks a day for almost six months, my creativity and willpower in meal making a food exposure is a bit tapped out… 750. That’s a lot of figuring out what to feed someone. 

Heavens. How many meals moms and pops must go through! I’m only getting started!!

An essay on stress

Breathing in and out, this deep exhaustion. Source unknown. A sudden, deep, unexpected broken. Your body is amazing. It will do as you say. When one part is broken, it will commit any part or limb at its disposal to bridge the gap. But sometimes, it just keeps compensating until there is nowhere left to go but a cliff. 

Addison’s is a fascinating illness. Cortisol is what wakes and motivates you. It tells you to metabolize and tells your heart to raise and lower pressure in times of stress or emergency. It tells you to hold on to salt when the sun barrels down on you. It is the warrior at the gate, the defensive linebacker, the bodyguard. It’s not the hero on the front lines dripping sweat and blood to save the army in fight or flight — that’s adrenaline. 

I feel I know stress better now than I ever did before Addison’s destroyed my ability to make cortisol five years ago. Better than when I got a name for the tanning skin, nausea, fatigue, lightheadedness, urgent peeing, cloudy concentration, salt cravings, and unquenchable thirst that plagued me for a year before I got diagnosed. 

I feel the impact of stress on the body in such an unusual way. The sun stresses your body, you just may not notice the full effects, depending on how well your body compensates. Driving for an hour stresses your body. It compensates with cortisol. Emotions can turn to physical stress. So can not sleeping enough or drinking enough or taking time to meditate or rest your swirling thoughts. Starting a new workout. Changing your eating habits. Losing weight. Losing a loved one. Drinking coffee. Catching a cold. Getting rearended. Food poisoning. Dental surgery. Giving birth. 

I have to pay solid attention to what has a physical stress attached to it. I have to note if it’s a familiar stressor, a new and permanent one, or a temporary visitor. 

If I’m used to it, I take my regular dose of cortisol. If it’s new and permanent, like starting a new workout routine for the umpteenth time, I take a little extra cortisol the first couple times, and then my body says “Check! I’ve got this! I know what to do.” If it’s temporary, I take a little extra, or double, or triple, depending on how bad. 

The problem comes when I don’t acknowledge stress. If the new stress is subtle, but real, like the commute I added a year ago, it can creep up on me. Slowly, day by day, I start to feel a little sicker, like before I was diagnosed. It can feel like morning sickness or just fatigue and lightheadedness. My body may compensate by sending out Thor, God of adrenaline, or whatever else it can do. If I say keep going, it’ll keep going. It’ll just metabolize slower or lower my blood pressure or turn off some electrolyte management. I have no idea how it decides. 

If it goes too long, eventually that cliff comes and I’m out sick and calling my endocrinologist for blood work. 

If it’s a sudden thing, like whatever happened last week. Maybe food poisoning? I didn’t stress dose. Instead, my entire body slowed to a stop. I could barely think. It hurt to move or look at my phone or the tv. So I laid there, my body spending every ounce of cortisol I gave it on whatever virus or bug was plaguing my system, for 36 hours. All the symptoms of crisis were there, but it took me an hour and a half to conjure up the will and energy to look for my phone and call my parents to rescue me. Three emergency doses of cortisol later and I was human again. 

Someday I was to write a book about stress. We all live with it. We let it torture our system and weaken us silently from inside. Some people let it drive them to great things. Others let it drive them into the ground. Some people meditate to reduce their cortisol. Some people workout to expend it. 

But the better I become intimate friends with stress, the better I become my own defensive linebacker and read the game in front of me, the more likely I will be to survive. 

I’ll do my best Aria. I want to see your kids graduate from college after all. I want to be there to answer the phone as you achieve your dreams and face your sorrows. I want to be there to help like my dad and stepmom do when I really need them. 

Knives and imitation 

Couldn’t figure out why Aria was so upset as I was cutting up an apple in front of her. Had I destroyed it? I thought you wanted this?!? I gave her a fresh apple and she took it, but was still really upset. 

Oh. She wants the knife. Heck no!

Still upset. 

Hmm. 

Then I see the measuring spoon within reach. 

Super pleased, she takes it and begins “cutting up” her apple. 

Problem solved!

Finding the heart of life in a midnight stroller ride…

I just finished rolling Aria around the house a hundred or so times. My feet drummed the laminate and the wheels made their steady rumble. And Aria finally fell asleep. She might have been a month old in that moment. When we’re sick, we all revert back to infants in a way, even if we don’t show it.

Aria had woken up in the middle of the night after falling asleep, hot, feverish, damp with sweat in my arms. Her ravenous gnawing on my empty breasts told me she was more hungry than uncomfortable. A meal of yogurt and bread later was welcomed, but she remained restless and could not fall asleep in my arms. Her frustration was fierce as I walked her between my bed and hers. Finally she gestured down the stairs. I trundled down, thinking she must still be hungry. Instead, her royal majesty, Queen of the Suburbs, gestured to her chariot. 

I looked at the clock. One in the morning. 

Sure. Of course, m’lady. 

She looked impassive as I buckled her in, but it was clear that this was what she wanted. 

I moved furniture as I went, until a path was clear. 

Then around and around and around and around again. I tried at one point to take her out and incurred her royal wrath. 

A half hour later, my liege was out cold. 

I wheeled her backward up the stairs and waited for her to rustle in her chair. 

When she did, I lifted my little princess into my arms and leather curl up against my chest. 

I could’ve taken her to her crib at this point, but deep maternal instincts drove me to lay my feverish child beside me in my kingsize bed. 

All I want in the world is to nurse her in her sickness. I rescheduled all my meetings and rebuffed the idea from a co-worker yesterday of an app to find a babysitter specializing in sick kids. It seems all a part of the deepening maternal change in me. Moments like these seem less inconvenient and more at the heart of life itself. 

I say that now. We’ll see where I’m at in another 24 hours😉

Anyway, really savoring being a mom these days. Two weeks of vacation being a mom 24-7 seemed to hook me. Nice to have a reset inside on what’s most important in life. Hmm. Maybe not even what’s most important, but on what brings the most joy. Who’s to say what’s most important? But spending time with my husband and daughter, in sickness and health — I can definitively say, that is the heart of it all. 


4am rolled around. After 45 minutes of trying to get comfortable, we’re back in the stroller again. At least this time I thought to get a picture! 


And asleep again…

I genuinely enjoy Aria’s company 

I neither conceived nor gave birth to a little girl, and yet here she is, laughing and playing, dashing and climbing, babbling stories and using sign language. Her smile is wide and playful. It makes you forget all your cares and want to just sit back and enjoy life. Her enjoyment is infectious. She laughs with delight when I invite her to nurse or show her a playground. She giggles at the game of dropping things and watching me try to catch them. She reaches for my hand to walk down the sidewalk, just because she wants to hold it. I really, truly, love her company. Only DH can really rival her, for many the same reasons, plus he’s a little more engaging in conversation. 

Just wanted to share. So happy to be a mom🙂


The half brain I sacrificed at the altar of motherhood + synopses of dozens of posts I wish I had time and brainspace to write…

The posts I want to write are queueing up. Noticing after noticing slipping away in the scatterbrained reality of motherhood.

Someone told me once that toddlers demand their mother’s attention at least three times a minute on average. I write a sentence and my twenty seconds of thinking time is lost. Train of thought broken. Transcendent insight forsaken. 

You get so used to the disruption to your thinking that the anticipation of disruption is as disruptive to personal endeavors as the disruptions themselves.  

I feel shell shocked. Each sound thrumbs my nerves and I anticipate this post being lost with so many others. We’re like magnets. I feel pulled to her at all times. And she feels pulled to me. This intense, all-consuming, mammalian draw is her best chance at survival. 

Sometimes I feel like I’ve permanently lost my creative, reflective side — the side that will one day publish the two novels I, at present, can only dream of putting on paper. Then I go to work and remember that my brain’s not lost, just intently focused on feeding and protecting and navigating the evolving emotions of my baby girl. 

Here’s some posts I’ll hopefully get to finish some day:

  • Farewell Mommy Cow! The tumultuous end of breastfeeding. In the midst of possessive howls and titty twisters and precious moments of bonding in peaceful harmony while nursing, I resolved to break the strings. And failed. For now. 
  • First Words and the Vanity of Not Competing. My internal war with deliberately teaching vocabulary, knowing I can never compete with my lingually exceptional sister and her daughter who could say 150 words (or something like that) by 18 months. Complete with a short list of the words Aria uses. 
  • Silly Aria!” A playful story to go along with the oft repeated phrase at the bottom of my daughter’s notes from school. 
  • A day in the life. A collection of “tiny tidbits” from school depicting the carefree existence of a toddler, complete with incident notes about biting, being bitten, and getting bruised from lodging herself inside a shelf…
  • Friendship at 18 months. A collection of pictures illustrating the remarkable existence of preference in company that my daughter exudes. She is different around different babies. Laughter and jokes with Ethan. Delight and smiles and side-by-side, blissful play with Alina. Combative territory protector with Luca. Self-absorbed and serious, ignoring the other babies when with Carson or Caleb or Owen. She makes friends quickly wherever she goes, and will happily play alongside strangers, but gets annoyed by pestering. How will this all compare to when she is older?
  • Aware. A look at how aware Aria has become of space and people. She can see a rock on top of a deck and then swoop down the stairs and see it from another angle and point in recognition. She goes looking for dad in places she knows he’s been, going “Da da!”
  •  Anger. Since DH left, I’ve felt a brimming anger and resentment inside of me. As Aria has become a toddler and work went through a major transition and my commute worsened because I do drop off and pickup and I had no one to talk to or to give me a break. When resting time finally comes, it is late and the duties of work come crashing in. I resent those moments where I desperately want to rest and read or write and instead I am crawled on, my phone stolen, my hair and skin pulled, my arm bitten, and the second by second demands that make adult relaxation a distant memory for God only knows how long. Aria too is angriest in these moments where I do not want to spend time together and I want to spend time alone. The parallel anger distresses me and I try to bury it deep. Instead I come out verbally biting in moments when I should be more patient and serene. I must reign in the dark side of the force. Though only in occasional moments, fifteen minutes every few days, they are a blight on an otherwise happy life. Perhaps Rey can help bring me to the light. I just have to hold on to hope that I can be better. But will that come before or after I recoup some semblance of “me time” in my life?
  • The Beauty of Language and Learning. As a mother I get the remarkable gift of observing a child learn to understand language for the first time. As I learn French Pimsleur-style at the same time, designed to teach language in similar way to how children learn, I am delighted with a new understanding of learning. Pieces of words put together for new meaning or broken apart for different use, language is like a puzzle where the pieces change shapes depending on the picture you are creating. I try to see the same connections in Aria as I hear myself repeating, combining, and breaking apart words to communicate to her. And she understands. 
  • Wipe your nose! Yes folks, Aria has discovered her nose. Thanks to dawning comprehension, when the stray finger heads to her nostril to unearth gold, I can hand her a tissue and say “You’ve got boogies sweetie. Wipe your nose.” And she does! Then I discovered this week I could imitate blowing my nose, and she figured it out immediately. I mean how do you learn to blow your nose? You just do! Life is extraordinary!
  • Left Handed, Part 2. I’m really starting to think Aria really is left handed, but I’m guessing it’s not because I slept on my left side all through pregnancy! She just seems to have a lot of recessive traits – blue eyes, dimples, baby blonde hair. Still kinda early to tell. But there’s no arguing my little quarter Asian is wholly unique! 
  • Water Baby. Aria loves the water. Last week I got a note from school, “Aria couldn’t get enough of water play today. She was the only one…”
  • The meDoc Generation. Aria’s generation is unique in having their whole lives documented from pretty much conception. A dozen pictures and social media posts for even the most insignificant milestone. What impact will this have on our children and, ultimately, our culture and society?
  • Grandparents! I’ve been wanting to write a celebration of grandparents, especially the two lovely grandmas Aria has who are related by love and marriage, but not by lineage. She is lucky DH’s dad and mine both found tender women to be companions to them and grandparents to her. Though she bares my mother’s name, I hope she gets many years and memories with my step mother and DH’s. 
  • Happy Dol! Yep, that’s how far behind I am. A tribute to Aria’s aunt Cindi and the rockstar first birthday she orchestrated. This will be an edge-of-your seat tale of the toljiabee choosing ceremony where Aria picks from a buffet of gifts to tell her fortune. Will she be a warrior or a scholar? Have many children, much wealth, or a long life? Will she be good with her hands, perhaps an artist or a doctor, or enjoy a lifetime of good health? Find out… someday!
  • And so many more! I feel like I constantly have posts in my head. Perhaps it’s time to go for shorter, rather than longer musings and noticings!

Select pictures for these nonexistent posts:

Farewell Mommy Cow!



First Words

Silly Aria!


A day in the life



Friendship


Aware. 


Grandparents!

Happy Dol!




And again

I don’t even know what to do. She slept for an hour and a half after my last post, then woke up crying again. I’m really exhausted. That’s always the part critics on the sidelines aren’t experiencing. 

I couldn’t sleep after the 4am tanrum. I often can’t. I was almost there. The curtain was falling. 

And now. And again. 

Oh wait. 

This is when she normally wakes up. Do I go in and rock her or let her cry? Do we start the day? I really wouldn’t mind a little extra sleep. 

I’m not really asking anyone the question. I’m already holding her. She still seems tired. But maybe we just go do breakfast like usual. 

If I sit down or lie down, she screams. If I stand here in a daze, she relaxes. 

Parenting is so hard.

Solo parenting is so much harder. 

You’re left with a half a brain. That’s it. 

And then you just get right back to it. You walk downstairs and pour the bowl of cereal. Because no one else is going to do it. 

4am Resilience

She screams like a soul condemned to hell when I slip her back in the crib. Five nights in a row. 4am. 

I did the ten minutes, but she was wailing. The one time I stood firm for too long, I left her in a sea of poop. So I went to her and calmed her at my breast. But when I eased her back into her crib, the abandoned soul began howling into the abyss. 

Clock ticking. No relenting. No eye rubs or collapsing to the matress. 

I am a parent and I want better for my child. I imagine each of us have a different better based on the lens of bad we see in ourselves, our families, and our experiences. 

I want my daughter to be resilient, to be a master of her emotions. I’ve battled for years to grow into a steady champion, to shed the childhood whirlwind of screaming matches and games of trying to make me cry and belittling sarcasm meant to serve as guidance and siblings out out the house with all their things stacked in bags on the front steps. I’m almost at a point where those are legit not the memories I remember. 

Sometimes my resilience feels like a mask. Sometimes it feels like part and parcel of who I am. 

I want resilience and steadiness to be part and parcel of who Aria is. 

How I handle these moments of tantrum feel so important in this quest. 

But I’m exhausted. 

How can I be a teacher when all I want is to curl up in bed? 

I plod back to her room. I pick her up. 

She is too far gone to be relieved. 

She thrashes and spins in my arms. She pulls toward my nursing chair and screams for my suckling breasts. 

As safely as I can, I set her on the floor. 

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

A new decibel of fury trembles through her lips. She whirls and turns and climbs up my legs. I lift her and shush her. 

As safely as I can, I set her on the floor. 

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

Blind madness rages as she tries again to climb up into my arms. Her back arches as I heft and turn her. 

I set her down again. 

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

Get rage turns to gasps and wails. The devil has escaped her and left misery in its ashes. She flops onto my knees and sobs. Sad, exhausted sobs. 

I stroke her back. 

“You ready?”

Another sob. She reaches up. 

This time when I lift her, she takes in a couple trembling sobs. She tucks her head against my chest. 

I hold her for a minute as her chest ripples with the last vestiges of her misery. 

I’m so tired. In my exhausting victory I’m ready to call retreat. Walk back to my room, lay her on my bed, and let her tear up my nipples like a pacifier. 

I drop her down toward the matress. Her tantrum reignites. 

I pull her back up and start to put her on the floor.

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

She quickly suck in a breath to calm herself. I pull her back to my chest. 

“Time to go night night,” I remind her. “Tell me when you’re ready.”

She curls up as close to me as she can, resting her face in the book between my chin and chest. A few more desperate wails moan out from her lips. 

I want as much to hold her like this forever ask desperately want to go back to bed. 

“Tell me when you’re ready,” I say wearily as I lean over the crib. 

She takes a deep breath and hugs herself to me. 

I lean closer. 

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

She turns her head to the bed and sighs. 

She points to the crib. 

I take my own deep breath and set her down. 

She rolls to the side. Without another son or protest, she closes her eyes and goes back to sleep. 

Does any of this teach her the self-mastery I yearn to cultivate in her? I don’t know. I hope she grows up so much better than me. 

Hmm. 

I was about to write about all the things I don’t think I’ll be able to do because of my weaknesses. 

But I look back at how incredibly far I’ve come. Personally. Emotionally. Professionally. I am light years ahead of that girl who left home for college fifteen years ago. Still playful and quirky, but a woman who stands so much taller, literally and figuratively (thank you roommates who pushed me to fix my ape-like posture!)

In these moments I teach Aria, I stand taller even still. 

Whomever I help her become, she’ll have choices far beyond that. 

Maybe we can both be better than we started, 

even in these tired moments 

at 4am

when we should both be sleeping…

Another morning

Listening to the rain
It rumbles on the deck
Baby listens, content
In mother’s arms. 

Cleaning up the kitchen
It demands respect and care
No dishes to pack lunches
Crumbs on the floor.
Can’t really do this one-handed…
Baby watches, content
Eating some cheese
In mother’s arms.

Playing with her toys
Rain still falling 
Collect and return, set bum down. 
Mom cross-legged.
Send the box down the slide;
Drum the xylophone. 
Baby plays, content
In mother’s arms. 

Work heralds
Rain is louder
Baby clings tight

And so does mother.
No rush
Just us

Holding on, content
In each other’s arms.

Okay, she’s probably pooping (yep, definitely pooping)
Holding me this tight
Needs lots of cuddles
As her butt works out its plight

That’s okay
I loved the morning

Every minute

Caring and being cared for
In my daughter’s arms🙂

Orlando

Dear Aria,

The day you were born, your daddy had friends pick up a newspaper so you would know what was going on in the world on the day you were born. When we received the paper to weeks later we’re a bit disappointed. It was covered in pictures of an ISIS training camp. Instead of pictures of Curiosity on Mars or a landmark Supreme Court decision or a scientific discovery, your birth was marked by terrorism and the threat of those who have been raised to hate. 

I wanted for a long time to go to some library or archive and find you a better cover. Today I see how right that cover was. 

That hate, celebrated by  black ISIS flags flying over cities your dad once fought to free from a dictator, has come home. 

San Bernadino. 

Paris. 

Orlando. 

Perhaps worse, that hate now permeates our politics. Us and them is being redrawn so our nation can unify in our anger and ignorance. 

But your daddy doesn’t go and serve abroad because of hate. Soldiers don’t hate. They serve and defend. 

I remember the first time your daddy told me he planned on deploying many times over the course of his life. I was so angry at him. We must have taken a dozen laps around his apartment complex battling back and forth. 

Until I understood. 

I thought he was going because he could never be attached enough to a wife or child to mind leaving them. 

I learned he was going because his power to love was far deeper than I’d ever realized before. 

He kept it so private and locked up inside. I had to pry his heart open to see and understand. 

When your daddy asks to deploy, I know he needs to. He needs to because it is one of the ways he shows his love and one important way he fulfills his small place in this world. 

Yesterday 50 people were murdered at an LGBT club in Orlando. The hate that man must have had. Not just to kill, but to violate the safety and security and belonging that club represents for our country. Fear and loss will permeate that community and all their brothers and sisters and children and friends for a generation. 

My hope for you is that you will find your own way of fighting the hate in this world. My hope is that in your fight you will wield the weapons of love and wisdom, the weapons me and your daddy use. I fight hate by empowering young black men and women to celebrate their identity and harness their education to realize their dreams. Daddy fights hate by dedicating his career to the service of our national defense. 

May you find your own path. 

Perhaps because of you there will be one less Orlando or Freddie Gray or Travon Martin. One less Denver or Sandy Hook or 9/11 or Columbine. 

One less black man shied away from in the street or in a job pool. One less movie where interesting or remarkable women are an exception or an afterthought. One less Hispanic data analyst or ultrasound tech judged as ignorant because of their accent. One less family or individual pre-judged or excluded from a conversation because of their religion. One less transgender kid assaulted in the streets. One less black kid suspended for disrespect. One less refugee fleeing the ash and blood and chaos of war. 

One less speech insisting it’s doing us a service by spouting stereotypes people are afraid to admit they have.  

Love and respect and waking in our neighbor’s shoes. The people in the Middle East need that from us as much as we need that at home. 

And hope. Hope for a better world. Hope that mutual respect can bring us together. Hope that we can be better than our enemies. Hope that our democracy and freedom continues to mature and blossom for generations to come. 

Hope for those who lost loved ones yesterday. 

Hope for Orlando. 

I love you no matter what, little lovely. Stand tall and be someone I can admire too. Someone who loves and serves and exults in life and all its possibilities. Someone who makes her little slice of the world a better place. 

Love,

Mom

The best moments

I realized today that the best moments of the past year and a half have been the moments where I didn’t rush time with the ones I love. 

Right now I have to wake up in the middle of the night on the weekend to see​ my husband’s face and hear his deep, soothing voice. It could be easy to rush it, to insist on sleep. But the nights when I just savor the flavors of a rich conversation, I feel deeply renewed and healed from the loneliness of a week without my confidant and partner in all things.


Sunday night, when I could have spent hours pouring over the tasks ahead for the week, I spent and hour and a half talking to my best friend. She is lovingly called “PraRa” by Aria, who adopted her name as the fifth word she would consistently use. We talked about life and husbands and Aria and education policy. She listened to my challenges in navigating some changes at work and advised me with patience and wisdom. Friendship, like partnership, is best left unrushed. 


Last night, after a long, thirteen hour day of work + commute, I could’ve just gone straight to bed. My dad was there watching Aria for me like he does most Tuesday’s. He probably should’ve gone straight home. He was wiped. But I had a kitchen I’d gotten in the mail for Aria. And my dad was there. How could we not build it together? Dad and me. Building together. It was like being a kid. 

For three and a half hours!


I loved it. We were both crazy proud of the final product. Aria noticed the kitchen halfway through breakfast. Her curiosity won out over bran flakes. 

I watched her play for longer than I’d planned. Though I felt late, I was still the first one into the office in the morning. 


And then a simple, but perfect evening with Aria, which is what actually inspired this post. While Aria is a little person with her own little agenda, and often in her own little toddler world, it could be easy to see time with her as more of a referee than a relationship.  

Tonight, instead of rushing home, we just took a long walk and then ate dinner together at the grocery store. We giggled as we passed a be a piece of paper back and forth with our teeth. I enjoyed her revelling in her teriyaki tofu as we did laps around the grocery in one of those race car hybrid shopping carts. By the time we got back to the car, it was well past bedtime. Instead of rushing home, we sat under the last rays of the sun on a grassy hill. 

As we say there, I noticed how she has this layer of hair that’s almost 2 inches long. It sits on top of the rest of her hair. The funny thing is this top layer rustles in the wind and the rest sort of stays close to her head. It’s just adorable and awkward and Aria. 

And then I realized I had not thought about work since I got the Aria’s daycare. I hadn’t really thought about anything. I’d just lived in the moment. 

I spent a lot of time last week fretting over work and not a lot of time being successful at it. This week I spent a lot of time not rushing time with my loved ones. 

I feel so much happier this week. Even with the stuff at work I’m less excited about. 

The best moments are the moments unrushed with the ones we love. 

And the best moments are like taking your life from inside a dark and dank building and into the sunshine. They bring light into everything in your life.