Saturday, October 29, 2011

THE day

Here are some photos from Miss M's actual birthday. I like to think THE day is pretty special even if we celebrated her birthday two weeks ago. I had plans: I wanted to introduce her to the cheesy bagel, her cousin MGR, the Aquarium, and finish it with a little more cake. It was a big day.

M meets M
Cheesy bagel looses to bagel holes - so cinnaminy and sweet

Shout out to the first year

Playing with a buddy
The promise of more cake
Enough with the Paparazzi, let's get to the good stuff

A day that wouldn't be complete without some more cake and a video of her enjoying it...


Friday, October 28, 2011

Seasons of Love

From Rent (currently listening to the London Gay Men's Chorus version)

I’m trying to wrap up my thoughts about what this past year with M has meant to me. It’s a tall order. The past few days I have been thinking that this is what a “year” feels like (and yes, I walk around singing show tunes in my head sometimes…though I don’t really know this song so it’s a pretty repetitive 14 words).

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, 
How do you measure, measure a year? 

Had I known about the sleep deprivation, I might not have pursued parenting. Had I comprehended the unending promise of poopy diapers and dirty bottles, I might not have been up for the challenge. Had I realized I would drive myself mad with the promise of breastfeeding, I probably would have gone to Mexico instead. Had I assumed that I too would be reduced to eating the remains from someone else’s noshings, I might have relished my dignity. Had I noted that even though I lost all my baby weight things would still be “shifted”, I might have chosen my old “new” body. Had I understood feeling utterly helpless watching another being navigate through this world, I probably would have thought my heart couldn’t handle it. Had I taken for granted that I would constantly be riding the wave of protecting and trying to not be overprotective, I might have thought it was too much to balance.

BUT, had I known that I could be utterly sleep deprived and quickly checking photos of her at 4 am before I go back to sleep; or that my humor would save me from the mundane tasks; or that the lightest touch could feel so lovely; or that I would become a person I liked even more than the old, edgy me; or that the slightest action could make my day… had I known how much I would love this little girl, I would have done it much sooner.

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights - in cups of coffee 
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife 

This first year has been such a gift to me. The present being sheer, delectably elegant time; life unfolding as it should rather than rushing through the days to get it all done. As a mother it makes me happy to watch miss M flourish. As a human, it makes me amazed at what we all subtly achieve every day in our own development. I wish in that sense this utopia would never end. Though I know in my heart that miss M will grow up, that D needs help supporting our family financially, and that I need validation (outside our home life) to be the best partner and mother I can be for them. 

This gig is a constant tweaking, a constant checking of self with perhaps no validation about what I am doing. I guess I need to remember that when I think about being a mom. It’s different than being a lover or a friend - experiences that are usually validated by the other person on some level. Parenthood thus far has been a verbally thankless gig. The gratitude comes in watching a smile for the first time, or having little arms wrap around my neck or a hand gently touch my cheek, or barely tangible words that sound eloquent to my ears, or the unsteady balancing of a body on two feet. These moments are what make it all worth it, these and the sheer joy of watching her grow and discover this world we know.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand journeys to plan 

M brings me joy in her smile, in her mischievousness, in her delicate touch. She giggles a lot and shares the sweetest temperament. Sometimes when she smiles I am reminded of the little nugget baby Maddie; when she first started smiling all together. She lights it up for me and each morning I try to get what I need to get done, done, so I can greet her with a smile and the time to pay attention during the hours we share. I wonder if she will loose her unabashed enthusiasm for life, for the promise of a new day. If one day she will not shimmer with her energy and I will see a shadow on her heart. The Buddhists say we spend our life trying to return to the innocence of our youth. All of the interactions, the activities we encounter pull us away from our sheer wholehearted embrace of this world. As we approach death I wonder if we get so sentimental or so unencumbered that we return to a mental place that allows for our sense of self to only embrace what has happened, what we know.

It's time now to sing out Tho' the story never ends 
Let's celebrate Remember a year in the life of friends 

I have confidence that we have a great connection: that I will not try to control her more than what is safe for her growing up; that I might be as beautiful to her as she is to me. At best, I do my best. The rest I expect to meet on the path of my destiny. I keenly remind myself to look and enjoy the view as I follow the path I am on; to introduce the beauty of it to my daughter and find at least a moment of inspiration every day to reflect on. She inspires me to be joyful and to embrace life. We have this time together to love each other wholeheartedly. That is what Miss M has brought to my world this year.

Remember the love.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

One Down

The promise of an uber-cute harvest festival at the Littleton Museum inspired me to plan miss M's first birthday party a few weeks early. It was sure to be a lovely celebration with pumpkins, livestock, live music, and cake...

I thought I had it all tied down but the weather wasn't game. I hate forecasts and predictions but leave it to me to pick the one bad weather day in October...that is until today. That Saturday morning the rain/snow were not a good mix with a one year old birthday party at a harvest festival. So instead, we crammed one smash cake, 55 cupcakes, 60 tamales, a load of green chili, and a host of friends in to our house to sing to her. Watching M eat cake, surrounded by family and friends, was delightful.

That was two weeks ago. Today is her actual birthday. The true joy in a pre-celebration like the party captured above is that you get cake twice. My mom said it might confuse her to celebrate again so soon but I say, let them eat cake (and by "them" I mean "us").

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Freeze Frame

A few weeks ago we trekked up to Ft. Collins for our rescheduled mini photo session with Rachel Olsen Photography. She did an outstanding job making the session light and easy; catching moments of us gushing on our girl and waiting patiently for our other one.

What a strange experience it is to consider what to wear and how it might define us as a family, if only for a brief moment. The process can get convoluted in the search for perfection, since we are freeze framing this day in our lives forever. Still, jeans and some of our favorite pieces worked just nicely. What you can't see are our flip flops; Ginger swimming in the pond behind us; Miss M's missing miniature barrette - the only one small enough in this world to attach to her hair. I imagine what I will reminisce on: miss M almost one year old; my best bud Gingy (and our matching hair color?!); and D and I, together ten years. It is our family, 2011.

My only wish this year has been to get my two favorite girls in a professional frame for, well, um... framing. In any case, Rachel delivered even though one of them was more interested in rescuing a bone left behind from another four-legged genius. Gingy has never been too kind to the paparazzi. Miss M is another beast all together. She is a seasoned expert with over a year of photo shoots under her belt.

this moment stills my heart

Thanks Rachel for capturing us as we are: another year older, happy to have each other to hold, and excited for what we find along the way. More images of us (and other beautiful people) can be seen on Rachel's blog here or on Facebook here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

These Days Without You

Big Head Todd & The Monsters

I was hoping to write an upbeat piece today remembering my dad but I'm not there yet. There are great memories to be shared and laughed about, but for now I still feel sad and miss the man.

I knew this anniversary would come but I like to play games in my head. Two days ago I thought, "I have two days until I knew my dad was dead" (though I believe he died on the 12th). My sisters and I all have our own intimacies learning about his death. We have the aching in common but we all have separate moments burned in to our lives that leave each of us breathless. I take comfort in knowing we have each other.

A few weeks ago Nancy was talking about how it had been more than a year since she talked to him on the phone. At the time I figured I was approaching that milestone too and it made my heart ache anew. The last thing I said to him was to check his e-mail. When he asked why, I said I would be sending photos of the baby. That moment never came to pass. October 2nd was the last time I spoke with my dad.

Through his death I have redefined a piece of myself I wish I met years ago. A self that wants to indulge in conversations I used to be too scared to have or to say things I might otherwise let slide. This leads to an aching for things left unsaid and a deeper hurt that I came to understand this perspective through loosing him. 

I have a new respect for this moment and trying not to let it pass. There is a keen awareness that nothing is concrete and letting go of the things I can't control will serve me best. Life is short. The way it can rip you to pieces and embrace you at the same time is unfathomable. I have a deeper love for my family and for those friends who have become my family. As strange as it sounds, I also have respect for those people who never will be the former, because they too are writing their own story every day. 

It’s funny what can happen in a year. I wish I recorded all the moments in the past 365 that I wanted to discuss with my father. I never got to tell him I have a daughter - though I would bet money he would have said, "I know." I never got to ask, “How did you survive with six girls?” I never said, "thank you, thank you, a million thank yous" as a newly inducted parent. Some of these things I fantasize as conversations that could have happened when in reality maybe they never would have taken place. Still though, it’s hard not to focus on the moments without him. Miss M will never know his presence outside of the stories I tell her. I won’t hear his voice again or his laugh…oh man, his laugh was the best and making him laugh felt unbelievable. I'll never again feel silly around him or have the opportunity to glean his insight or stand next to him and wrap my arm around him.

Daily I’m reminded of how fierce love can be between a girl and her father. I greet miss M every morning only to find her response is “dada”. Once she finishes her bottle, she crawls to our room to say hi to him as well. The other night they were crawling around together upstairs when I came home. The pitter-patter sound warmed my heart. At one point in time I was just as excited about being near my dad too.

This past year has provided many moments where my earliest memories resurface through my interactions with miss M. I remember how it felt to sit in his lap or hug his legs; how I would squeeze his fingers; how he would sometimes call me “tweety” as if he had a lisp. These are things I never expected to mentally dig up but rather naturally unfolded in the presence of her. These markers are the subtle memories of our life together. I accept them as the "signs" I was aching for when he died. For me they stand in place of the more ethereal things that, once I was honest with myself, were not to be experienced. For to know him, was to know what he thought about faith, politics, and current events. He was gone and with it came an aching silence.

It is all around; at times I feel it immeasurably and at times I forget it is there. It is a silence so profound I can hear it during moments when I'm surrounded by a sea of people and experiences. It sneaks up on me as well, when I think I'm doing just fine.

Time moves more swiftly as we age. This silly game of living; this world we know; these lives we live are mere moments. Every minute is seemingly so profound and important; every second slips through to the next like a fluid taking no specific shape for too long. Still, the beauty is that we long for it to never end.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

And So The Challenge Continues

This is an excerpt from my journal exactly one year ago today. It is about my pregnancy and approaching due date but seems suiting on the anniversary of my dad's death (though I would not know about his passing for two more days).

There was always going to be a time I arrived at this moment. A time that would mark the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one. And as all things in my life, I would find myself deep in the folds of the change – adjusting – because I am too steady to react otherwise...

How refreshing to find in this whole process the mantra I’ve come to learn the best is that now I am truly writing my own story. Not that I wasn’t before but perhaps I didn’t have enough confidence or trust in the story I was writing. Could a new human drive that inspiration for me to accept myself, dare I say love myself as much as I will love this kid?! The expectations can be overwhelming but I do find the need to get this all down before I walk in a building one person and walk out another. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be and I like to imagine that I will do just fine. Love has grown immeasurably in my heart and in my life these past few years. It has been a softening of sorts, a coming to terms, and an opening of my eyes. I see the direction I want to pursue. I don’t want to loose some of that edge in my soul but I do want to make myself available to the possibilities; available to respond as a strong, intelligent, kind-hearted, confident woman. It is clear that being that person is the best way for me to be a good mom. And so the challenge begins.

In retrospect, my father was a parent who viewed his children as people. He provided but more importantly he treated us with respect, he laughed with us, and let us cry on his shoulder. He exposed us to life and then let us share our adventures with him. This is the legacy he left behind. I will succeed if I can provide my daughter with the same limitless love.