I will be honest, I am not a Halloween person. I am not against it, and I love pumpkins and candy and spooky stuff and fun parties as much as the next person, but I've never been good at pretend. My mom tells me that I was always this way, even as a child.
A year ago yesterday, I was writing on this blog about what it feels like when you know that your life is about to change drastically the very next day. A year ago today, I was at the hospital giving birth to my second son, Wilder.
Changes in the day-to-day operation of our family have turned me into a true stay-at-home mom. The kind where I was the big pregnant mama dragging my toddler around everywhere this summer, and the kind where now the new baby is by my side for every hour of the day. I find the intensity of non-stop kid quite challenging, as I'm sure most caregivers do. I also learn a lot, which may sound odd, but since our family has grown, and the amount of day care that I use has shrunk, I am, more often than I was in the past, struck by the minutiae of the young lives for which I am responsible.
It never occurred to me that you can do other things while holding a baby until my mom came to help me after the birth of our first son. I watched her shushing him while she baked cookies and sewed nursery curtains, and even tried to paint my dining room table with her remaining free hand. I put my foot down about the table, but I admired her spirit and have never forgotten the example she set.
We've known for a while that we might be moving this year. We had been hoping to delay it until Spring, mostly because it seemed like a nightmare to move during winter and but also because we knew that we would have a newborn during late fall this year, greatly exacerbating the complexity of the move. However, we concluded just after the birth of our son that it was actually critical for us to move sooner than later, so I was suddenly faced with what I considered a worst-case relocation scenario: selling the house during holiday season, with a new baby, moving in the dead of winter, all on a super tight budget. Yuck.
I have been trying, and failing, to write this post for an entire month.
We are selling our house and I'm pretty sad. It's a house that we moved into with our older baby, and where I have been nursing our new baby. It was the first place I have lived in my almost forty years that I thought I could stay in forever.
The newest member of our family is already five weeks old, and there is no doubt that despite my efforts to stay relaxed about everything, I am itching to get stuff done, and to get out and about more than I did when we had our first son.
As a result, when the baby refuses to sleep in the crib, which is common for most of his designated naps, I'm instead walking around with him slung over one arm, seeking tasks that can be accomplished while using the other available hand. I'm learning fast and sometimes take pleasure in this most supreme multi-tasking challenge.
Several years ago, I wrote a post about some feelings I was having after my first son was born. He came into the world suddenly, significantly early and largely without warning. It struck me how we feel one way on a certain day, and then suddenly something major happens, and everything is topsy-turvy, never to be exactly the same as it was. I was intrigued by looking backwards at the feelings and details of life just prior to the event, fascinated by of the blissfully-unaware-of-what's-coming feeling, and by how the curve ball comes and rearranges life forever.
Today is a new version of that feeling, because I already know that today is another one of those days before. I am already tuned in to the fact that tomorrow morning, somewhere around 7:30 a.m., my life will be forever changed. This is what it is to have a scheduled delivery of your baby. Not a method in favor by the doulas and midwives so in vogue right now, but the method that is the best for me in this particular pregnancy.
Since I never pictured myself as a mother until I was actually pregnant the first time, I also never took notice prior to that moment of some of the daily tricks of motherhood. Getting dressed is one of those tricks, which might sound a little silly. But think of it this way: you're you, and then you're you feeling like crap every day for several months (at least), and then you're you with an extra forty extra pounds (give or take), but all the while still taking care of things at home and going to work and maybe exercising and probably experiencing change of seasons. During this part, you are probably still at least occasionally (or for some, often) physically uncomfortable. Also your breasts have changed size, maybe more than once, and even your feet have maybe changed size, either permanently, or just temporarily. Every day you're trying to get dressed for all of that, probably without an unlimited budget and probably without a lot of extra free time to figure it out.
This time, I finished the blanket before the baby arrived. Mission accomplished. It is a Debbie Bliss pattern for the Patchwork Blanket and it is knit in organic cotton. I can't wait to wrap the new guy in it.
I have been creative in only one way during recent months. Finally, after much effort and much waiting, I am pregnant with our second child. We tried hard for this one and we weren't sure that it would work out. I thought that all of that trying would make it less annoying to be pregnant, and I swore that I would make healthier choices this time. I was largely, but not entirely, wrong.
I remain grateful, excited and committed, but being pregnant still sucks, just like it did last time. Let me take a moment to say that while I am reasonably healthy during regular life, pregnancy did not seem to bring out that side of me last time. I am also not one of those Earth-mama types who can casually ingest kale and hemp seeds. I have to work at my healthy choices, and I will never stop loving gluten. Nausea and extreme fatigue, which is most of the first trimester, just brings out my love of Ramen and Saltines. Last time around, it even ignited a long-dormant candy habit.
I am not French, nor is my husband. As a result, our child is also not French. My husband and I do, however, have significant experience with French culture. In spite of that, when I was living there in college, I failed to realize how much calmer, healthier, and more standardized their national approach to food was than ours.
I noticed the lack of snacking, the late dinners, the lack of eating on the run, and the noticeable difference in eating habits between French students and North Americans. I saw college kids cook meals together in the dorm kitchen and sit down together at a card table in the hallway. I felt crusty looks from severe baristas at cafes, if I asked to have my coffee in a go cup. Not only did they not have paper cups to offer, but they were disgusted by the idea of it. In France, delicious food and beverages are meant to be savored, shared and enjoyed. While seated. To the French, eating while traveling, walking or alone is unpleasant, messy and sad.
As I prepare for tomorrow's departure from Houston, it's natural to look back at the last few years and think about the big picture. In between packing boxes, playing with the baby and stopping for an occasional deep breath (usually while reaching for an adult beverage), I have had to periodically remind myself that this uncomfortable transition will be over soon and we will obviously make it through. My thoughts turn next to all of the things that have happened to us here.
Houston has felt to me like a life-sized, three-dimensional game of Chutes and Ladders. Mostly ladders that have enriched our lives, and made us stronger, happier and more prosperous, but also a few big chutes, where we having been going along and then found ourselves thrown abruptly a few steps backward, scratching our heads in dismay. It has been a time of extremes and big lessons in adulthood.
Luckily, the sum total is overwhelmingly positive, so while I am hoping for slightly lower number of surprises in the next few years, it would be folly to wish them away entirely. Instead, my focus is on improving my ability to roll with it when they inevitably come.
On that note, until next time, Houston. Thank you for the adventures, and thank you for being better than expected.
Our baby was a month early and it still sometimes feels like I'm cramming to catch up; he's growing up fast and it's not easy to keep abreast of the changes. I finally made him a toy rattle, and I'm pretty sure he would have enjoyed it even more a month or two ago, but he still took some time to check it out before breakfast this morning.
That was seven-ish years ago. The surprise we have felt at not hating life in Houston, and even rather enjoying it, has been noted on many occasions in this blog; and has been accompanied by multiple other surprises since moving here.
Either way, I thought that the decision to leave, when it came, would be a clear and simple one; that it would be easy and obvious. I was wrong. We have found a way around the location-versus-job roadblock, but it is not without emotional and logistical risk. I am able to make a clear list of reasons why it is time to go home to Minnesota. My instincts say that it is finally the right time and for the right reasons, and possibly even under sustainable circumstances, but I do not feel the sense of elation that I expected. I feel good and positive about it, but I also feel a little sad and a smidge nervous to move away from the one version so far of life with oil that has felt largely pleasant and seamless.
Creating a family has always seemed a slightly curious endeavor to me. My husband and I both have parents who raised kids that grew up and promptly moved far away in early adulthood, so a little part of me thinks, 'Really? That's it? Raise kids who then take off and that's it?'. It could definitely happen to us. So if you're not sure whether or not you love kids before you take the plunge, and you know there is a good chance that you will spend outrageous amounts of time and resources for many years raising children who you will then rarely see, then why do it?
The answer to that question came from my gut. I can report that the reasons to do it are complex and intangible, but real. Ultimately, our baby, besides just being a tiny human that I love, has also given us the drive and the clear picture of why and how to go home. The baby and I spend too much time alone while my husband is at work in Angola. My husband likes his job, and I have come to appreciate the quality time we have with him when he comes home, but the long weeks and weekends alone while he is gone are too hard. We have great friends in Houston, but they are busy, too, and anyway it is not fair to them or to the baby that they are the only safety net we have here for weeks at a time. We could hire help to resolve this, but we could also go home.
In short, in caring for our family, I want the village. I want the baby to know his grandparents. I want him to know my other family members. I want to raise him alongside my other friends at home who are having babies and not moving every couple of years. I want him to play outside in air that I know from experience is fresh, and learn to ride his bicycle on streets that are (mostly) unbroken. I want him to swim in the lake that I know to be clean, the one that I swam in growing up. I want to launch his education in a quality system in which I already feel safe and confident. I want to be able to drop him off with my parents for the weekend so that my husband and I can have time to ourselves once and a while, as grown-ups are meant to have. We have put the pieces in place and if we don't do it now, I believe that we will always wonder if we should have gone for it. We could get a nanny, but we can also have the village, so at least for now, we choose that.
There is a chance, and indeed strong likelihood, that we will not want to, or will not be able to, stay in Minnesota for the long term. If it doesn't work out, we will face another move. If that happens, it's a hassle, but on the other hand, what's one extra move at this point? A small price to pay in order to test out a long-held dream, and to improve the quality of both our baby's young childhood and my nascent motherhood.
I'm ready to stop thinking about this old nagging problem so that I can save my energy for the fresh new ones.
My husband and I just returned from taking our baby on a trip to Missouri to see family. We spent four days in a house with six other people, bringing the household total to nine people, ranging in age from six months to forty-six years. We arrived in time for an ice storm and were essentially snowed in until our departure. It was our first trip with the baby, and while it went well, it was intense. I still can't believe that I was one of those people at the airport that I always pitied in the past (a person with a baby and a stroller and car seat and unbelievable amounts of shit in my luggage and carry-ons).
In spite of snow days and trips, I finally made something practical for the baby, with extra bits I already had, instead of buying new stuff:
I borrowed the pattern from some other bibs given to us as gifts, and used my serger to keep it fast and simple. The material came from a hand-me-down baby blanket that we did not need. They are not beautiful, but they are something that I made with resources I already had, which felt good. As the baby starts to eat real food, I am coming to realize that I will need many, many, many bibs. And a sense of humor.
Also, we’re moving. Stay tuned.