One year and a day

One day and one year ago a beautiful, squirmy boy entered my world. There was nothing that could have prepared me for all the hours that have followed. For starters, I never knew how much I could love someone so small. I had no idea that I could sing so many songs or read that many silly books and enjoy it. Or listen to pitiful cries, angry cries, hungry cries and nightmare cries. Or know the difference between them all.

My little boy is beautiful and stubborn. He has a learning face and eats everything we put in front of him. He loves to play with his toys and dance to Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. His face lights up when Greg and I come into the room. He babbles, is constantly on the move, and likes bananas above all other produce.

A year and a day ago, my baby made me a mom. He changed my life in the best possible way, and I will never be the same again.

Lingering

Mmm I want to linger…

Some days are hard. And sometimes a string of days are hard. And sometimes the last thing I want to do is spend ten more minutes with a crying baby. If I lose mom points with you for that, you should probably reevaluate why you have decided to waste your time assigning mom points.

Mmm a little longer…

But sometimes, what I need at the end of a string of tough ones is to have that tired baby, the one with the growing bruise on his cheek from trying to cruise a little farther than he has before and the sore mouth from pushing out teeth, need me.

Mmm a little longer here with you.

The nights I want to linger over bedtime surprise me. It always seems to happen when the baby has had a long day and his mom just wants him to go to bed so she can be an adult and not play peekaboo.

Mmm it’s such a perfect night…

It’s the nights when he decides that he doesn’t want to nurse or be read to. When he wants to flop all over my lap and cry until I give him his pacifier. When all he wants is for me to sing him his song. Loudly. No whispering; he wants it belted.

Mmm it doesn’t seem quite right…

Those nights are when I sooth him. When this unnameable and powerful and giant love that we have is all that he needs to feel safe and calm.

Mmm that we should have to bid adieu.

To steal a phrase from Nancy Tillman, our love is so wide and so deep that it is impossible to understand the feeling I have when I hold him in my arms and he finally stops climbing and crying and lets me make him happy.

And as the years go by,

And those nights are when I get a tiny glimmer of understanding that this is a feeling that I should try to pocket. That I should hold it in some part of my memory so that it will be there when he is not my little baby anymore.

Mmm we’ll both look back and sigh

And when I have that glimmer, I find that I can’t put him down at the end of his song. I can’t get up and put him in his crib, turn out the light and close his door. Those nights deserve to be lingered over. So on nights like tonight I sing him an extra song. Not for him. He doesn’t need it. For me. Because I do.

Mmm this is goodnight and not goodbye. 

What exactly do you do?

Other than questions about how old my baby is, the most frequent thing I get asked is, “What do you do?” I generally assume that people mean “what do you do to make money” so I generally leave out the part about being a mom and cooking and raking leaves and reading books and playing peekaboo.

I do a couple of different things. Sometimes I teach classes. I’ve taught history and museum studies classes at three of the universities in Memphis where I’ve taught online and in the classroom. My favorite class to teach is introduction to museum studies. It’s one of my favorite subjects, my students generally have great ideas and it is lots of fun to share something I’m passionate about with people who mostly feel the same way.

My main money-paying gig is as a museum professional. I work in exhibits, and I’ve spent the past several months doing primary research for a major redesign at my museum. I’m compiling a massive narrative that we will use to write the panels and labels. I also find photographs and other images that we can use and secure the use rights for them, which includes figuring out who owns them. As an offshoot of this ongoing research, I’m reorganizing our staff library and museum archives and digitalizing the card catalog so that it’s usable. (I say “I,” a volunteer and amazing intern are helping tremendously.) I also use a lot of my research to write the museum’s blog, which I repost here when the posts go live because I’m proud of them.

I also help install and deinstall exhibits. Since I’m not super strong and my coworkers are much better at using power tools, I tend to help condition report artifacts when it’s time for a new exhibit. I can mount labels, and I’ve been known to have curatorial input. I firmly believe that I have the best job in the museum.

While both of those jobs are personally and financially fulfilling, I also love the job that pays in smiles, slobbery kisses and drool. Museums are great. And so are babies.

Dirt Therapy

It’s another dreary, overcast day, which, as always, put me in a funk. This general funkiness was compounded by the fact that I was tired, the kid was screaming for lunch, and the dog was whining incessantly for whatever he didn’t have right then. I was about ready to mentally shut down and throw a blanket over my head. Not that that would have solved any problems, but it would have felt nice to disappear for a moment. Then the baby finally fell asleep, and the dog had gone in and out enough times to satisfy whatever canine imperative he was feeling.

For a moment there was silence, and yet the funk persisted. So I went outside and planted pansies in my front flower bed. I have no idea what I’m doing when I plant flowers. I never remember to water them, and I never seem to plant them in the right location. Basically, it’s by sheer evolutionary design that any pretty plant is able to survive living in my yard. It’s a personal goal to get better at growing flowers, but for today, the simple act of putting them in the ground made me feel better. I eschewed my gloves and went for the soggy earth with my fingernails. I dug holes, loosened roots and firmed them into the ground. Then I hit the raised bed and pulled out the cherry tomato plants. I planted kale seeds a few weeks ago so I thinned those seedlings and also replanted the areas where none had sprouted. Where the tomatoes were, I planted collard greens. The basil is still going strong, so I am going to leave it in the bed until I make pizza or the first frost, whichever happens first.

It’s still dreary outside, but I smell slightly loamy and feel much happier.

Peace

I want to capture and hold the absolute peace I feel when I rock my baby at bedtime. After his bath, after the lotion, after the pajamas are on, after the breastfeeding, after the story. When I hold him against my chest and use my right hand to rub the back of his head and sing him his lullaby, the world makes sense. For a moment, there is nothing else. There is me and my baby. There is our chair and our song. There are small murmurs and snuggles in. There is peace.

Rhythm

Now that I’ve been a mom to a child outside of my body for eight and half months, I’ve been doing some thinking about what’s changed. Other than everything. Lots of aspects of our lives are remarkably different from what they were a year ago. We ate dinner at 7 o’clock last night, after the kid was in bed, and could barely get over the fact that there was no crying or violent banging of the high chair in demand of puffs. Sleeping in is when the baby decides to stretch his sleep to 7AM; tripping over an ill placed toy is a frequent occurrence.

I think the thing that has struck me the most is the change to the rhythm of my life. I have always set the pace for myself. And that pace is fast. I like to move–physically and mentally. I cram as much into a day as possible, walking fast to get there and reading quickly to get to the next novel. I always have; in fact, I cannot remember a point in my life when I did not have somewhere to be or a complex day to plan.

Until now. To be fair, I still have places to be and a desire to be there on time. I go to work and church. I have meetings and classes to teach. But I do them on a different rhythm than I did before I had my kid. Where my days were hyper structured to make sure that nothing fell through the cracks, they are now fluid. Today I want to respond to my students, go buy milk, organize some paperwork, do laundry and replenish the baby food supply, but it doesn’t matter what order it happens in, or if I’m being honest with myself, at all. (Other than the baby food unless I want a thoroughly displeased baby tomorrow, and the replying to students because that’s my job.) I find that when I try to move too fast, chaos ensues. Instead of making things “easier” it makes them stressful. And if I moved through my day at the pace I did before my child came, I would miss so much joy. I use to be a multitasker in the extreme, but I would rather just play with my baby than try to read a novel while keeping him entertained. There are always points in the day when I find myself holding a baby and trying to cook or sitting a screaming infant on the floor so that I can do something with two hands. But that is life. My life. With its new rhythm.

On the road again…

We have been traveling fools this summer. Two trips to New Orleans for weddings, two trips to Nashville to hang out with half of our family, a quick trip to Atlanta for me, a week in Kentucky at Camp Carrico, and, now, back to Nashville. This trip is impromptu–Greg’s cousin from Louisville has a varsity football game at Ensworth tonight. Work lined up right for him and, after spending the week at home with the kiddo, I decided I’d rather come along than try 72 hours of kid without backup. So here we are–on the road again. Our baby is a trooper; I should calculate how many miles he’s traveled.

Coming up in 2014: back to Atlanta for a wedding, 26 hours in Chicago for my birthday, 2 more trips to Nashville and a few days in Louisville. I should mention that most of these sojourns are to visit family. We want our kid to know all of his grandparents and aunts and uncles, and we are going to travel the miles needed to make that happen.

On going slow

It goes against my nature to go slow. I like things to be fast–I want to think on my feet, read quickly, jump at an opportunity, run ahead. I always have, and, in many ways, this tendency has served me well. I got where I needed to be and moved on to what came next.

So it has taken a lot of mental effort to reteach myself to go slow. Having the baby has taught me many things; most pertinently, if I go too fast, I am going to miss things. If I try to quickly go about my mental list of things to do, I will miss a gummy smile or an attempt to crawl or a beautiful concert banged out on a toy piano. If I try to multitask every moment of the day, I don’t get where I want to be any faster; I just get tired and messy.

I’m working on it. The baby laughs are a good reward system.

 

It’s ALIVE!

Things are growing.

Like the kohlrabi.20140623-125640-46600670.jpgAnd the black eyed peas, eggplant, squashes, tomatoes and baby you can see below. We went out early this morning so that I could weed and the baby could supervise before the sun got too high in the sky. Our new system: as long as he can either see me or hear me talking to him (frequently about the annoyance of opportunistic weeds), we’re good.

 

20140623-125638-46598318.jpgDespite the blurriness, you can hopefully tell that I was able to pick a couple of squash, some snow peas and some giant pickling cucumbers that stayed on the vine a bit too long. I’m planning on seeing what I haul in Thursday morning and then getting the summer pickling underway. Because in this house, summer means standing in a kitchen with a boiling water canner going. 20140623-125636-46596519.jpg