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"I am destined to see you only by accident."

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"All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story." -James Baldwin

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 I'm slowly becoming one of Those Moms. I get stroller envy and use the fancy one we've got constantly. I don't babywear at all anymore because frankly Iris is over a quarter of my weight now and beyond that, I can't handle pressure on my abdomen while pregnant. Suddenly I'm slower to judge about parenting choices when I know nothing about the situation. I used to be the AP Mom that snickered while watching a mother wrestle a stroller through a store's doors when babywearing was obviously so much easier. But then, Iris didn't weigh twenty five pounds and kill my back. I wasn't pregnant and tired. I think more about what might be the other side of the story, the part I can't tell from first glance, especially when I'm the one being evaluated at first glance now that I push a stroller, too.
I don't judge the women who should have continued to breastfeed to at least two years, if they ever nursed at all. I weaned Iris because pregnancy makes breastfeeding hurt. There's a large part of me that's sad that she won't even nurse in her sleep if I offer now. She accepted weaning in stride and moved on to bigger things and apparently, better sources of comfort. She's growing up. And while I'll never stop feeling guilty for not making it all the way to two years, my 1.89 years breastfeeding Iris make me rest easy. I gave her what I could, more than most. So I didn't meet the WHO guidelines. I'm just That Mom.
Iris watches television these days. It certainly doesn't fit into the idyllic daydreams I had of toddler life, but neither does tantruming or toothbrushing or coaxing one single carrot into her. Neither did my darling child telling me in dressing rooms that I'm fat. So when I've had enough of managing her toddlerhood, or frankly, even if Iris had a good day and asks me sweetly if she can watch The Aristocats, I relax. Well, the AAP certainly frowned against TV before age two, but I highly doubt anyone in the Acadamy is currently pregnant. I'm exhausted. And while yes, her stretches of independent play are getting longer and longer and she clearly needs me less and less, sometimes I need a little help. And I thank Disney for being there. I am a little ashamed when Iris rattles off the characters from Toy Story to my mother-in-law, but there's worse things, I think. Heck, she could be rattling off swears that Mommy says. At least I'm not That Mom. Yet.
And today, Iris started daycare. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I'd put my children in daycare, but today, my beautiful growing-up girl waved a quick goodbye to me and trotted off to play without ever looking back. And to be honest? The moment I left the center, I was relieved. Ecstatic! In fact, if any of my mama friends were local, I would have taken them out to celebrate. Because no, I didn't want to be The Mom Who Pays Others To Watch Her Kids, but it is kind of nice to see that the two years at home that I gave her have turned her into such a well-rounded, confident, self-secure child. She knows I'm coming back. She has no suspicion that I'll abandon her. And that, my friend, is something worth celebrating. I know that while I'm busy attending college, I'm doing something good for both of us. I owe it to both myself and my children to continue my education and to place value on learning. And in the process, Iris is gaining valuable social skills and has access to a wealth of resources I could never offer her at home. So no, I don't feel guilty, being The Daycare Mom. Daycare really doesn't always have to be everything Attachment Parenting told me it was.
The thing I love most about parenting is the process. You get to witness first-hand the evolution of mankind in miniature. And while I am certainly talking about the glorious changes from totally dependent newborn to running, jumping, thinking child (and someday to brilliant parental-pride-inducing adult), I'm also talking about the evolution of my own soul, my own self-security. I think daily of how different my pregnancy with Iris' sibling is from when I was pregnant with Iris. I am such a different person now, with opinions that have slowly changed over time due to more information or more life experience. And I have to say that with each passing moment, I am so thankful that I am no longer one of Those Moms.

first day of childcare.
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I did a craft trade with crymytears this month and was so stoked when a box from Abby showed up on my doorstep! Abby is a fantastic knitter and has been working on stocking Elizabeth Tunics in her Etsy shop. She sent along one for Iris using rainbow yarn she dyed herself, and I just love it!

Check out the rest of the photos here. And when you're done with that, check out her Etsy! Beautifully handcrafted and always affordable.

Thanks again Abby! We love it! xoxo

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Is this how it goes? That everything everywhere comes together in one central message, one bright blooming flower in the middle of some garden? Is this how it is? I cook with my mother, browsing through cookbooks like they are love poetry.
We could picture ourselves as bohemians, with bright checkered vases in the windows to catch the sun. We are the ones who love flute music and electric violin. I swoon over cello, and you tap tap your toes to make the beat. I wish we would dance together, more than we already do. I have this idea that we will go somewhere with red and yellow waving pennants strung over the city and paper flowers and pastries bought on the street corner. I have this dream drawn out in my head where we will hear the music and know that it is our time and we are alive. And we will dance, with feet stomping and hands flashing and arms swinging and mouths grinning open. We will pour sparkling juices down our throats and our lips will glisten. Our eyes bright, our arms hugging strangers and the laughter bouncing out of our mouths because we are alive. I can see us in bright red and woven green and bare feet on the dirt road. Cities where the roads are filled with pedestrians and bicyclists, not cars. We will ride on trains and in the beds of rickety trucks, with dust kicking up and I will turn to kiss you under the hot sun. And we will be happy, eating crusty bread and orange pieces and olive focaccia. In the square I am shaking my hips with my hair swinging in braids, beads clicking and bells ringing. You are holding in your arms the one that looks like us, with big eyes and a skinny face, but looking more like the city than anything. There are parades in the eyes of a little one. Camels and donkeys. And we, the three of us, we are all smiling.
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Just a lot of thinking lately.
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A lady asked for her "occupation when renewing her driver's license."Do you have a job or are you just a...?" inquired the woman recorder. "Of course I have a job. I'm a mother!" The recorder smiled indulgently and wrote: "Occupation: housewife." "We don't list mother as an occupation. 'Housewife' covers it," said the recorder emphatically.

One day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our own Town Hall. The clerk was poised, efficient and possessed of a high-sounding title like "Town Registrar." "And what is your occupation?" she probed. "I'm a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations." The clerk paused, pen frozen in mid-air, and looked up, as though she had not heard right. I repeated the title slowly, emphasizing the most significant words. "Might I ask," said the clerk with new interest, "just what you do in your field?"

"I have a continuing program at research (what mother doesn't?) in the laboratory and in the field (Normally I would have said 'indoors and out'). I'm working for my Masters (the whole darn family!) and already have four credits (all daughters). Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities (any mother care to disagree?) and I often work a 14-hour day (24-hour is more like it). But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are in satisfaction rather than just money.

There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she completed the form, stood up and personally ushered me to the door.

As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my "lab" assistants--age 13, seven and three. And upstairs I could hear our new experimental model (six months) in the child development program testing out a new vocal pattern.

I felt triumphant. I had scored a beat on bureaucracy. And I had gone down on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than "just another..."

Home--What a glamorous career! Especially when there's a title on the door!

(from "Put It All Together and It Spells M-O-T-H-E-R". by Esther W. Cross. CORONET, October 1961.)
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She just gets bigger and bigger. Clothing gets cast off so quickly in favor of more roomy things and I pack away the old in disbelief. My baby was never this small. She never could have fit into this. But then, is she even a baby any more? At what point is she considered to be a different creature entirely? When she can run away from me? When she prefers to use her words instead of crying for what she needs? When she has preferences and makes choices, when she cracks up at her own little jokes? Or is it just when those delicious baby fat rolls slowly stretch out into quick toddler legs and bellies? Is it when she calls herself by name or sings special songs? At what point does my plump little baby disappear forever?
I miss her already, which I suppose is why women become pregnant again. To multiply their love.
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Iris. My gosh does that girl ever amaze me.
She is suddenly a little girl- not a baby. It's like she burst into bloom overnight and has turned into this fierce creature full of will and ideas and happiness and fear and love and everything else. She is incredible.
She wants to know the sign for everything now- words like panda bear and pizza and bedtime story. I am constantly flipping the pages of old ASL dictionaries trying to keep up with her curiosity, her drive to know things. I miss being like that. Driven to learn like that. I still am to a degree, about certain things like babies and birth and all those kitchy things, but to posess that divine wonder to inhale all the earth has to offer- I can remember being like that, and it wasn't that long ago.
She is my little helper now. She puts laundry into the washer and shuts the door. She turns the knobs until she is sure the machine should start. And then she croons when the laundry begins to tumble and slosh about. She helps me close the dryer door and claps her hands at her good work when she is finished. We feed the cat. We fold (and unfold) the laundry. We pick tomatoes. We fetch the mail. She stands on a stool and eats slippery chunks of watermelon while I make dinner. And all day long she constantly asks me, "Wha dat?" and hunches her shoulders in a happy little dance when I sign to her the name of the object.
"Iris," I say, "Can you pick up all the baby wipes? Can you put them in the drawer?" She picks them up one by one, prompting me to say "thank you" each time by signing. She opens one drawer, realizes it's the wrong one, and slams it shut and opens the right one. In go the wipes. She claps, prompting me to tell her she did a good job. That she is my clever girl. "Okay Iris, all done! Bye bye, bathroom," I tell her. She signs "all done", waves goodbye, and marches out of the room. She is so smart.
Most things I ask her to do she can complete with little effort. Nesting, stacking, finding. She can go get things for me, put them away. She can do anything. She's been walking for three weeks now; suddenly she can walk forwards and backwards, squat down to scoop up toys without losing her balance. She tries to run! She walks up stairs holding onto the wall.
Iris now says, "Happy happy" though P's are hard for her, so it comes out more like "hah ee hah ee!" She sings the word in the grocery cart, signs "cat" and meows to old ladies, and plays Peekaboo with employees. Everywhere she goes, she recruits a growing posse of babylovers who abandon their previous tasks to spend at least ten minutes following her around making mouth farts and silly faces. Everyone is in love with Iris. Everyone.
She is a growing girl! I put on a pair of wool longies that I started for her this spring and never finished and no longer have to roll the legs up. She has grown at least four inches over the summer! I never took her to her twelve month well check because we were between insurance policies at the time so I have no idea how much she weighs or how tall she is. But those pants and my strong arm muscles tell me plenty about how big she is. Iris demands breakfast, lunch, and dinner now and generally at least one or two snacks. She nurses all day and all night, too, but can consume multiple crackers, pieces of cooked carrot, and at least one cheese stick in a sitting. And still ask for more food. Eating solids was never vitally important before to her- it was something fun to do, something social that Kevin and I did and she wanted to imitate, but now it is definately a source of nutrition.
She likes cows milk, and I feel strangely about that. We don't have any histories of milk allergies in our families, and she's done well with cheese and yogurt, but for some reason it makes me sad to give her plain milk. I remember reading about some breastfeeding mothers experiencing similar feelings when they started their babies on solids, but I never had a problem with that. For some reason cows milk just feels like an imposter to me, when I can provide the real thing. She seems to like the milk and is starting to ask Kevin for some, but aside from what sits in the spoonfuls of my cereal that I feed her, I can't bare to give her milk that doesn't come from my own body. No, not yet. This relationship is too sacred.
And speaking of our nursing relationship, the experiment in night weaning failed. I don't believe that those who told me it would take three or four days had a baby like Iris is. She was beyond miserable; we all were. I was falling asleep sitting up in restaurants and I don't think I was even that tired when she was a newborn. And the guilt! Oh, it felt so terrible to deny her something that she loves and needs so much. It became very clear to me that though she "should be able" to go all night without milk at this stage, she still had a definate need to nurse and my denying that was undermining our relationship quite a bit.
Iris asked constantly- every five minutes- during the day time for more milk because I think she was worried I was going to take it away then, too. She was incredibly clingy. She just was not ready. I was not ready. My body tensed so much that I felt flulike. Iris developed this crazy rash all over her body. Kevin felt helpless to meet her nighttime needs. Everyone was sleep-deprived and miserable. So I spent some time talking to Lisa, who attended as a doula at Iris's birth and also works as a lactation consultant. She's practiced AP with five children, the oldest of which has just started high school. And she confirmed my sneaking suspicion- Iris is just not ready. Nursing is way too important for her.
I found it ironic- I wanted to nightwean so that we would all get more sleep at night, and instead we all slept poorly. Since I have given up and let her nurse at night again, she is polite about it- unlatching when she's finished and turning away as opposed to staying attached to my body until the wee hours of the morning, using me as a human pacifier. And during the daytime? When I ask her if she'd like to nurse and settle into our favorite nursing spot, she rushes up with a twinkle in her eye, bouncing on her pudgy little knees and signing "milk". "Nur, nur, NUR!" she shouts. And I remember how this won't last forever. Her body already spills off my lap and kicks at cushions and lamps and half empty glasses of water. My arm falls asleep immediately from the weight of her head. My little baby that folded up so perfectly inside my body is gone now, replaced by this happy, healthy, spirited girl with long legs and exploring fingers. I don't want this to end. What on earth was I thinking?
Iris is sleeping now. She has learned lately to sleep in her own bed amongst pillows and stuffed animals that are twenty years old. When she is dozing, I still find myself lingering there, locked into the soft dimples at the base of her fingers, the sweet curl of her hair around her ears, and that bottom lip that still, all this time later, still tucks up into the top one in a little cupid's arrow shape. What is it about sleeping babies? Is it that it took so much effort to get them to this place? I know I could be doing a dozen other things besides wasting my precious time hunched over her bed, examining, but it's not wasted time at all. There isn't enough of this time with her to waste. Already I see her changing. Already so much of her babyness is gone.
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 You might remember when Kevin had me draw a series of pregnant women. He has turned one into a beautiful blue vase, with a baby in utero on the back that he also had me draw. Of course, the finished product looks very different because he had to turn them into stencils, but it's still amazing to see my art on his vase, and to know that this pregnancy has affected him this much, in so many un-thought of ways. The blue glass is a little more rich than the photo lets on- it's a nice sky blue.


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