Thursday, May 31, 2012

Name Play

 Old What's His Name at 5 Weeks (this much cuteness should be illegal)

When we were picking baby names we thought that Isaac might bear the nickname Ike. He may at some point in his life, but we have a family tradition of playing with nicknames (and word play in general). Since I am the worst culprit for this, Isaac has been called many names in the past five weeks:

Isey (eye-zee) - his primary nickname, so much so that Charlie corrects strangers who say Isaac. Nate and Ellis made a brief play for Izzy as a scheme to procure free ice cream from our favorite local ice cream shop. I put the kibosh on that, mostly because there are too many Isabelles called Izzy these days. Plus it just doesn't suit him.

Mos Eisley - my brain went there from Isey. Must be all the Star Wars Charlie insists on watching lately. I swear, though, he is not a "wretched hive of scum and villainy."

Eyser Geyser and Eyser B'Geyser (and sometimes Eyser Pee Geyser - anyone who has changed the diaper of an  infant male knows the origin of this variation). Lately this has morphed simply into B'Geyse (buh-guys).

Eisenhower - see, Ike is still in there somewhere. Papa in his inimitable coolness started this one.

Bunny - I started calling him this in utero during the third trimester. It started after we read the bedtime story "The Dreaming Bunny" by Margaret Wise Brown (and often morphs into Bunny Bun Bun like a character in that story). It also has roots in the lyric "but Bunnie I loved you" from the Morrissey song "Now My Heart is Full." Similar to Boonie, which I've called Charlie for ages, and, like Boonie, I tend to use it for the other boys, too (including Josh).

I also admit that when I'm particularly sleep-deprived, I just call him Charlie.
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Friday, May 25, 2012

Bone Tired

Back when Charlie was a newborn, Ellis was five and Nate was fourteen and I could actually follow that old saw "sleep when your baby sleeps." It's very different with Isaac. The past four weeks have been bleary ones with the constant hum of the washing machine as soundtrack. Charlie is not quite four and in a phase where if I fell asleep on duty, he probably wouldn't kill himself, but could sustain serious injuries in his quest to destroy our house. I took the picture above to prove to myself that he can engage diligently in calmer activities without any "Hulk Smash" moments. He didn't paint his whole body this time, although he did pour the water jar out all over the ground on purpose shortly after this photo was taken.

Isaac is a pretty good sleeper for a newborn. He usually sleeps in three hour chunks of time at night with feedings and diaper changes in between. The brutal nights are when he doesn't go back to sleep for more than an hour after eating, but those don't happen very often. Nevertheless, four weeks of interrupted sleep has taken its toll on my brain. I try to mitigate it with significant periods of zoning out during the day, or the more recent habit of sneaking a nap in when Josh gets home from work. I'm still bone tired a lot of the time, taking comfort in the knowledge that this phase doesn't last that long and at least I don't have to go back to work this time around.

Evenings, after the children fall asleep, are a choice. Do I catch up on sleep or do I enjoy some adult time alone or with my husband? Either way there are regrets. Josh and I miss our time alone together. Yesterday, driving home from a school pick up, I fantasized about stopping to get a bottle of wine to enjoy with good conversation or perhaps a movie in the evening. Then I laughed out loud because that's just not my life right now.

Instead, last night, I went to sleep when Isaac did, snuck in some conversation time with Josh during the first feeding around midnight, and today I have felt as close to what passes for peppy these days. I went to the river with the little boys after dropping Ellis at school, shopped for groceries on the way home, cut up veggies, hard boiled eggs, and baked banana bread. Take that sleep deprivation!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Garden 2012

During late February when I am usually lusting over seed catalogs, we decided that we would take a pass on the vegetable garden this year because of the timing of Isaac's birth. We have plenty of edible perennials in our yard and weekly farmer's markets to scratch the local produce itch. Instead, we committed to focusing our garden energies on clean up projects and making 2012 a year for subtraction rather than addition.

Of course, I am a big cheater. Yes, those are tomato plants growing no-till style in my weedy garden bed. And maybe there are basil seeds germinating in the herb garden. Oh, and a few sunflowers for the children.

Friends, I am an incorrigible gardener.
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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Around The Neighborhood


The lovely weather plus the not being pregnant anymore provides me many opportunities to skulk around the neighborhood and see what's up. It's good to know that Midway remains subtly subversive.

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Friday, May 18, 2012



As the weather seems determined to tumble into summer before May even comes to a close, we are grateful for the following:
  • The long hours of daylight meaning more outside family time even on weekdays.
  • So much access to the river banks right in our own city.
  • Old craggy twisty trees for climbing.
  • Shoes that are easy to kick off.
  • Bikes and bike paths and a good patient teacher to help expand skills and independence for a more cautious rider.
  • A curious caterpiller named Hungry that found a nine-year-old's hands a good place to explore and was given a new home in Mom's prairie garden.
  • The relative ease of carrying a ten pound baby in a sling on the outside rather than inside my body.
  • River kayakers that spark the imagination with ideas for future summers.
  • Watching them love being out in nature as much as we do.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Pause at the End

Seventeen years ago, I sat on the steps of the rental house I shared with three college roommates, bewildered at what was going to happen next. I had graduated, gone on a road trip with friends, and was preparing to move to the Twin Cities in a few days, but I had also maxed out my vision of the future. Sometimes, when driven to accomplish something, the way I had focused on getting a college degree for as long as I could remember, there's nothing left in the psychic reserves to plan for what comes after. Sure, I had some vague ideas of things I wanted to do, but nothing was as concrete, anchoring, and enjoyable as what I had just done. The future had arrived and I had the disconcerting experience of feeling time stretch out beyond an endpoint that had been fixed in my mind. It must be what things are like for true believers in the apocalypse that find the world did not end on their leader's predicted date. It took me a year to recover fully and five to identify the next big endeavor of my life that I could throw my energy and singular focus behind.

Sometime around the beginning of the last decade, around the time I got married for the first time, my biological clock kicked into full force and I knew that it was time to focus on having children. Like going to college, this was something I wanted to do from the time I was a little girl, and everything seemed aligned to carry it out. The path to building my family ended up being a bit more meandering than the path to educational attainment. I didn't expect pregnancy to be as hard as it has been for me and I certainly didn't expect to get divorced and restart my family building with a different partner. Now ten years after getting pregnant for the first time, I have given birth to my last child, and I find myself once again scratching my head as to what is next.

As disconcerting as it feels right now, I also know this is the right decision. I always knew that I wanted to have more than two children and after three pregnancies and a fourth bonus child that I thankfully didn't have to carry, I have satisfied that desire. I have realized at 38, going through pregnancy and now the sleepless nights of the newborn stage, that I have come to the end of my energy for doing this particular work again. I look forward to completely focusing on the monumental task of finishing raising my current children. I also feel great happiness about the pure potential of using my creative energies in other areas of my life.

And yet. And yet I find my eyes brimming with tears sometimes when I hold Isaac and my mind wanders to the finality of it all. It feels like it's just a short trip from my choosing to be done with childbearing to no longer being of childbearing age. I am feeling my mortality. This is compounded, I think, by the realization that I will never have a daughter and that my intimate experience of girlhood and young womanhood ends with me. And so, the losses I felt as a girl and young woman, although they were always mine, feel so completely mine now. For example, I will never know in any close proximity, what the father-daughter relationship is like for a young girl, and losing my relationship with my own father at a young age hurts all over again. There is no way through these feelings but grief. To paraphrase Gerard ManleyHopkins - it is Charlotte that I mourn for.

And yet. And yet grief feels like such an inappropriate and self-indulgent emotion when holding a beautiful, healthy, sweet-dispositioned newborn in my arms and knowing that Isaac was the exact right baby for me to have. Grief feels wrong when I have been given the gift of raising four children.

And yet. And yet my experience with grief has shown me that as inevitable as it is, its greatest power is in being a marker of the things most important to us. We each have only one life and there are limits on the things we can experience in our allotted time. Some things we give up with no emotional impact, and some things wreck us in their sheer significance. Those are the things we are most meant to do.

So now, faced with the end of one of the things I was most meant to do with my life, I will not attempt to delay the completion with hopes of avoiding grief. I will grieve it - for the beauty of how it was and for the imperfections I perceive in what it was not. I will stare a while into this void, and I will move on in search of the next great thing that will break my heart as fully.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

One Week Old


Happy to be at home with my bunnies all cozy in our warren.
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