Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Amaliya - 20 Months


At 20 months old, you are truly a little person and no longer a baby at all.  I've loved all the stages you have passed through but... dare I say it?  The last few months have been my absolute favorite so far.  You are so active and energetic now.  You communicate.  You play.  You know me and love me the same way I know you and love you.  We have little conversations that go something like...

You:  "Hi, mama!" 
Me:  "Hi, baby!" 
You:  "Eyebrow!" 
Me:  "That's my eyebrow!" 
You:  "Mole!  Face!"
Me:  "Yep, I have a mole on my face!"
You:  "Banana?"
Me:  "Not right now"
***cue hysterics***

It's pretty magical.

You have so many words now.  Over 60!  You say Abby, arm, baa, baby, bag, ball, banana, bang, "beep beep," belly, bite, blanket, blueberry ("boo-bah!"  Adorable), bra, Buddha, bye bye, car, Daddy, diaper, door, "down please," egg, Elmo, eyebrow, face, fish, flower, hair, happy, hat, head, hello, hi, ice cream, keys, kitty, Mama, meow, mole, more (always said twice, eg. "more more water!") mushroom, Nanny, neigh, Nemo, no, nose, oil, owl, pants, Papa, peepee, poopoo, potty, puffs, puppy, remote, rice, "see ya!" (also adorable), Sheldon (as in, the Big Bang Theory; pronounced "Shasha"), shirt, shoes, socks, toes, "uh oh," "up please," wall, water, "woof woof", yes, and "one, two, three!" (with the "three" proclaimed loudly, and with no actual understanding of numbers).

I am keeping track of your first hundred words, just because.

You are an incredibly loving child.  You want to be held and hugged and kissed all the time.  You come over and throw yourself into my arms for no reason.  Making dinner is always difficult since you are wrapped around my legs or tugging at my skirt.  Every day starts and ends in the rocking chair, snuggling and singing songs.

Speaking of singing, it's your favorite thing ever.  You sing along (in fluent, nonsensical Toddlerese) to the ABC song, Row Row Row Your Boat, the Wheels on the Bus, If You're Happy, and Old MacDonald.  You know all the little dances and hand motions that go along with the songs.  Lately you want to be sung to instead of read to before bed, so I rock you and sing either Disney songs or the Les Miserables soundtrack (please, Amaliya, have a better singing voice than your mama does). 

Your most dreaded time of day is hair-combing time (which, too bad for you, happens every morning and evening).  You throw the most horrible, back-arching, tear-streaming, floppy-limbed shrieking fit every single time, forcing me to clamp you between my legs so I can get the job done.  I try and make it fun for you, I really do, and I try not to be rough.  We need to work together a little more effectively on this, Amaliya, or else we are going to have some very long years ahead of us.

You really are an easy child, though, and such a good girl.  You bring me things when I ask, you voluntarily throw your tissues in the trashcan, and you are extremely well behaved in public and at home.  Fingers/toes/heartstrings crossed that this never changes.  You are stubborn and strong-willed, determined to do what you want, when you want to, and not follow anyone else's schedule.   You are active and energetic, running around non-stop all day long, finally starting to climb on things and embrace some of your daredevil tendencies.  And yet, you are still cautious, scared to be tossed too high or to swing by yourself.  You are messy like all toddlers, but never destructive.  You get upset if your books are not neatly arranged on the shelf before bed. 

Checking the mail.

You are still a great sleeper, conking out for 11-12 hours at night and 1-3 hours during the day.  You eat everything, almost.  Tonight you had wild rice stir-fried with carrots and mushrooms, and a huge portion of salmon.  You are a big fan of breakfast, and all fruits, and whatever your Daddy happens to be sharing with you from his plate.  Blueberries, hummus, guacamole, and ice cream always make you smile.  Asparagus and other types of meat you can do without.

Your imagination floors me.  Watching you swaddle and rock your stuffed animals, patting them on the back and calling them "baby," then saying "shhhh" as you lay them down for bed, I am just amazed.  I am aware that this is normal toddler behavior, but still.  How do you know how to do this?  Imagination is something we're born with, it isn't learned, which makes seeing yours blossom all the more thrilling.

You love bath time, the swimming pool, and being outside.  You hunt for wishing flowers and make me blow on them for you.  You chase the neighbors' dogs down the sidewalk screaming, "puppy!!"  You wave bye-bye at other kids when we leave daycare.  You like to say "bye, mama!" and run in the other direction, only looking back occasionally and laughing at me before continuing on.  Nothing makes you laugh like bouncing on the couch or playing hide and seek.  You do a dozen totally mundane yet completely astounding new things every week.

You are starting to seriously annoy the cat.

It is impossible to capture all the moments I want to, all those instances where I am cracked wide open with my love for you and the beauty of who you are.  How can you really capture the essence of a person in a blog, anyway?  You are silly and ticklish.  Reserved and observant.  Adaptable yet determined.  Eager to please and so, so smart.  I am incredibly proud of you, baby girl.  I can't wait to see what the next few months bring.


My silly beast

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

On community, unity, and you.

As someone whose introversion borders on hermitude, it is not surprising that my relationships with my friends is an area of my life that I struggle to keep in balance. After work is done, my family is fed, my schoolwork is completed, I seldom have much energy left over for socializing.  My life is busy and operates on a schedule, and I find it difficult to make time to go out and be with my friends - I want to be home to put Amaliya to bed, I can't stay out late because I'm up extremely early to run, I'm not much of a drinker, movie-goer, board-game-player... it seems like most of the "normal" ways people get together and have fun just don't appeal to me.

But I am a coffee-shop dweller, a morning-at-the-park lover, an evening walk taker.  My apartment door is always open, and I'll gladly meet you at dawn for a run.  I've often felt bad over the years that I couldn't "keep up" with the people in my life because I just wasn't interested in the things they were doing.  I've learned an important lesson over the last couple years:  do what you love, and what interests you, and you will draw in wonderful people who share your passion and drive.  That's where I am now, and for the first time, I'm starting to find balance.  I have moved away from those relationships that left me feeling pressured and unfulfilled, and what I have left is not just a list of friendships but a true community of amazing people.

Pablo Picasso, "Friendship"

This post is a small tribute to those people in my life who support, amuse, inspire, and lift me up every single day.  In no particular order:
  •  My old friends. It amazing to me how much my old friends, those I've known for 10 or more years, have in common with each other.  They are bold, independent, adventurous.  Extremely extroverted, social and brash.  Nonconformist. Loyal.  Most have not paired off, settled down, or started reproducing - they are living life on their own terms, accumulating stories and compiling glorious experiences.  Their loyalty keeps me in their circle, despite the fact that I am different from them in so many ways.  I am grateful for that.  Friends that have known you for so long and so well are irreplaceable.  Some of us don't have a lot in common any more, but that's okay  We have so much shared history together - a shared childhood, in some cases - and that bond is hard to break.
  • My older friends.  I am blessed to have people in my life with a diversity of backgrounds and life experiences.  Lately, I have been especially grateful for my older friends.  Those in their 30s, 40s, 50s and older, some with kids and some without, some married and some divorced.  The perspective I gain from them is invaluable, and their sage advice and guidance is always appreciated. 
  • My mom friends.  I mean, do I even need to say it?  The community of mamas that I have found (or did they find me?) since becoming pregnant has become so very important to me.  I hear rumors of mommy-wars, harsh judgements, and silly competition among mothers, but I am happy to say this has not been my experience.  I get a fair amount of unsolicited advice and black-and-white views on parenting from the folks in my life without children, yet from my community of mothers, nothing but empathy, hugs, helpful suggestions, and a wealth of experience for me to draw on.  In my most trying moments as a parent, I would be lost without your kindness and wisdom.
  • My work friends.  Roughly 23% of my week is spent in a cubicle, starting at a screen. I enjoy my job, but honestly, the biggest reason I love it is the diverse, passionate, interesting group of people I work with.  I don't know how many people can say that they work in an office with nearly 100 people and don't have any beef with any of them.  Whether it's running out for coffee, hilarious comments via instant messenger, lunchtime workouts or breaktime conversations, I can honestly say that my coworkers make every day I'm at work that much better.
  • My running friends. I never imagined this solitary sport could lead me to such a fantastic group of people.  Having never been athletic or involved in any sort of physical activity, I had no idea what it was like to really feel supported in that way.  To have people encourage you, cheer for you, help you push past your physical limitations and keep going when you desperately want to quit, and then celebrate your accomplishment as if it were their own.  This is what my running friends do for me.  Besides, something magical happens on the run, when you're sweating and struggling and fighting with yourself to keep going.  Your inhibitions disappear, you end up talking about any and everything, opening up about things you wouldn't imagine saying to someone at any other time.  There's a special bond you form with the people you run with.
These are the people who get me out of the house, give me the space to be myself, help me work out my problems, and make me aspire to be a better friend.   These friends of mine are the reason I smile when I think back on my nearly three decades of life, and why I so much look forward to the next three decades and beyond.  If this post is about you, I hope we can grab a cup of coffee and catch up soon.

My door is open.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

For the love of bellies.

Amaliya loves bellies.

Belly (bee-ah) was one of her first words. She gets excited and shouts "bee-ah!" any time her eye catches my stomach peeking out from under my clothes.  When I lie down with her she pulls up my shirt, hugs my stomach, and gives it a little kiss.  I have no idea how she knows to do this.  We talk about how she used to live inside of me, before she emerged to meet the world.

In the evening you will occasionally find my husband and I sitting on the living room floor, shirts up, with our daughter between us.  She slaps one of our bellies, then the other, then rubs her own stomach and laughs.  I understand the fascination.  These body parts we generically refer to as "bellies" are so different from each other - my husband's mocha colored, hard, abdominal muscles creating little hills and valleys; mine pale, soft, lined with stretch marks, spilling out of the top of my jeans; her's taut and round and honey-tinted.  All of these are bellies?  All of these are the same?

I have no memory of seeing my mom's belly as a kid.  It's a body part that, like so many others, falls victim to our insecurities and unrealistic expectations.  I hated my stomach as a teenager, wishing it were flat and tanned and beautiful like those I saw in advertisements. Even now I have moments, usually in the middle of the grocery store when Amaliya shouts "bee-ah!" and yanks up my shirt, when I feel embarrassed.  Not embarrassed of my child, whose insatiable curiosity and utter lack of a filter I adore, but self-conscious about my pasty, scarred midsection. Those demons from my youth whisper in my ear, "Keep it hidden.  It isn't pretty.  People will judge you.  Your body is flawed."


Marked, maybe.  Worn, maybe.  Lived in.  Well loved.  Strong.  But never flawed.

My body runs miles, and walks with friends.  It lifts weights and grocery bags and toddlers.  It loves, and is loved in return.  It grew a life, birthed a child, and carried me through the long days/weeks/months that followed.  My scars and tattoos and imperfections tell the story of a life that I am proud to have lived.

I silence the demons, and am happy when my daughter pulls up my shirt to kiss my stomach.  I hope one day to tell her the story of every scar and stretch mark.  I hope to grow another baby, so she can see for herself the amazing things that bodies, and bellies, can do.  I will never slap her hand away, yank my shirt down, or hide my body from her in shame.  She will know that, regardless of what our culture holds up as the ideal of beauty, in our house we have real, lived-in, interesting, imperfect bodies on display.  No shame, no regrets, no apologies.  We are beautiful.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A conversation in the park.

Yesterday we tried to interject some fun into a long day of appointments.  After taking Amaliya to the dentist and receiving an excellent report on the state of her teeth, we stopped by the park to let her run around and bury herself in woodchips.

It always feels strange to take a day off of work and do normal things, like shop or take my kid to the park.  I feel like an anthropologist, studying everyone around me, imagining what life would be like for me if I wasn't sitting in a cubicle all day long.  Swinging in the park with my daughter is extremely special to me because I rarely have the opportunity to do it. I want to celebrate, because it feels like a holiday whenever I spend a weekday morning with my family. Then I look around and realize that for most of the people at the park, this is just another day. This isn't a break from life; this IS their life. Moms who stay home, or work part time, and aren't chained to a desk from 8-5. A group I envy, yet don't envy, and whether I'm envious or not doesn't matter at all because I am excluded from this select group anyway.

I chatted with another woman pushing her little girl on the swings, who invited me to join her mom's group. I was excited- she was nice, and I'd love the opportunity to have Amaliya interact with other kids while I enjoy some down time with friends. "Do you meet up on weekends?" I asked her. She was apologetic and told me no, they rarely do anything on the weekends, because that is the only time they get for themselves or to spend time with their partners.  "Of course," I said, "that makes perfect sense."  And it does.

I need a better balance.  I will always be juggling the need to make money with the need to be with my family, the need to nurture my friendships with the need to pursue my own creative or athletic interests.  It is a struggle, but even though I may feel isolated sometimes from the greater community of mothers, at least I know that I am never struggling alone.  We're all in the trenches, doing our best every day to keep all of our balls in the air.  In the meantime, I am grateful for those few and far between days where I can play hooky, cast off responsibility, and spend time outside giggling with my girl.