2.26.2013

Peeking out from the clouds.

Lots of people talk about how fast babies and kids grow up. "It goes so fast!" they mourn. "They'll never be this little again!"

And while I think I will feel tinges of this, I also think that these statements are traps. They set you up for the same feeling that you may have had when people told you college would be the best time of your life, that the frat parties and keg-stands and all-nighters, well, it was all downhill from there.

I mean, really?

I have to believe there is a way to remember tiny fingers and toes fondly and yet feel grateful that some of the infantness about my infant is no longer. Noah has recently emerged as the sweetest baby on the planet (like, I kind of expect him to crap rainbows any minute) but he was an angry piece of work during his third month on this planet. There are many theories about why 3 or 4 month old babies act like the devil's spawn; sleep regression seems to be the one that checks boxes around here. And so, should you be in the vicinity of a 3 or 4 month old sometime soon, just hang in there. Rainbow-filled diapers are probably just around the corner.

*

Though we are not particularly religious, we had Noah baptized this weekend. I had two main reasons for this:

1. I wanted Noah to wear the baptism outfit that my brother wore 25 years ago. See here:



2. I wanted to officially designate some godparents for Noah. Way back when we were pregnant, we asked our friends, the Sarahs, if they would be Noah's fairy godmothers. The Sarahs have been such wonderful friends; they flew up this weekend to meet Noah and serve their godmother duties. UM, SUCH GOOD CHOICES. I might list them on Yelp and write a review in which I give them 5 stars and recommend them to other people who are looking for kind, soft, loving, smart, talented godmothers. See here:



My godparents are aunts and uncles of mine and Chris doesn't have godparents, so our choice did feel like a departure from the history of our families. But here is what I will say about designating non-family members as part of your new family...

Have you heard people say they're afraid that they don't have enough love to love a second kid as much as the first? And yet when the second is born, they realize that their hearts expanded SO MUCH larger than they thought was possible and that they completely love their second just as much?

I think hearts, when used properly, are meant for this kind of expansion. Adding members to the family does not dilute the amount of love to distribute; rather, the heart expands even bigger and the love expands with it. I stood on the sidelines of the church during the sermon and swayed Noah to sleep and when I looked at the people sitting in the front pew of that church, Noah's dad and grandparents and aunt and uncle and godmothers... well, I'll just say that Noah is very lucky and I think that he will have a huge, huge heart filled with a metric ton of love.

*

And so it goes with friends. On October 13, I had as many friends as I needed! And yet over the past four months, I have grown to need more. I needed mom friends and I am happy to say that I feel like I have a few now. A small group of us have started getting together on Monday afternoons at a local bar. Our babies cry or sleep or lay cooing on the table and we talk about TV shows and vacation spots and what jobs we may or may not be going back to. We compliment the babies on their chubby thighs and head control and laugh about their budding romances. These women are the closest things I have to colleagues at the moment; it's as if we all got selected for a crazy-ass internship with REALLY demanding bosses and we get together once a week to bitch and to bond.

My heart has expanded. I feel like I'm using it well lately... and like Noah's sunny disposition might not only be a result of getting past his growth spurt. I think he might be getting some of it from me.

Finally, finally, I have enough sunshine back in myself to rub off on someone else.


2.21.2013

Growing scabs.

I've had a stretch of great days lately, to the point where I believe I might have the day-to-day stuff down. I love my kid. He's hilarious and adorable and even when he's a grouch, I can let it go. Something clicked the other day when we had an awesome pediatrician appointment; I felt like we were on track for the first time since he was born, like we had made it out of the woods. (Or... the current woods. I suppose there will be woods and woods to come all life long...)

Yesterday I actually thought the sentence "I feel DELIGHTFUL today!" and it was true. Full of delight, I visited friends and then saw new friends at support group and had chocolate chip pancakes for dinner. I felt a lightness that I had not recognized for months, something that felt like myself.

Today I caught up with my sister on the phone and, as one does with sisters, we talked about things a bit deeper than the day-to-day news. "You seem defeated," she carefully observed and our conversation led me to confess that I don't believe in the world the same way I used to. I have a hard time seeing how my future is bright, how we're all headed some way other than those terribly pessimistic movies that I never let myself watch like Revolutionary Road or Blue Valentine.

The magic that I was always able to conjure up for myself and my future has been unmasked and diluted, like my life will end up "okay" at best. Even writing this, there's a tiny flame that ignites when I write these thoughts, a flame that scowls at the pessimism and wants to prove it wrong.

Deep down- deep, deep down- I just really do not want to settle for ordinary.

2.17.2013

Nat Geo Live.


Hunting a wild Noanie from Jen Epting on Vimeo.

Something fun.

I really love playing board games, but YOU try playing against someone who is a genius in all things math and logic-related. I get schooled so badly that I get mad and pissy and THERE GOES MARITAL BLISS!

Board games, however, are perfect things to do in the evening when you have to be at home to watch the sleeping baby. For Christmas I hit up the local board game shop and asked about two-player games... the dudes there recommended Carcassonne. It is SO FUN!

We always take a pic of the board after we're done.
Ignore those ice cream sandwich wrappers.

It's so hard to find a fun game for two players, but this is great. It's different every time and though Chris usually still wins, I kind of don't care. We recently got one of the expansion sets (Inns and Cathedrals) and love that too. 

Just a quick rec for those of you chained to your house lately (due to snow, infants, broken legs, whatevs...) and looking for something fun.

2.15.2013

Chin up, future self.

Last night Chris and I made it out to the movies and although we really wanted to see Identify Theft (for the sheer ridiculousness of it), we got the times mixed up and instead we watched Bruce Willis crash huge cars for two hours in the billionth Die Hard. It has been years since I've gone to an action film and HOLY CRAP the previews are different. After the first one, I not only needed a hearing aid but I turned to Chris and said "WOW GUNS ARE AWESOME, LET'S GO TO WALMART AND BUY SOME!"

Is this what some people are watching at the movies? No wonder these clowns are arguing for assault weapons in Kindergarten classrooms!

Anyways, Die Hard was so horrific that it was awesome. I was in charge of concessions and so we sipped our Sprecher's Root Beer (yay Wisconsin!) and ate apple slices and M&Ms while we watched Bruce defy death five hundred times. Sometimes we laughed out loud and afterwards wondered if there was anyone in that theater who wasn't laughing ironically. It was a great time.

Then we got home and relieved my mom (who was tending to The Noanster) and talked about the daycare that called us yesterday with an open spot. We're taking a tour next week and suddenly last night I fell into a sopping mess just THINKING about leaving Noah in a random building in the financial district while the two of us go to work. (Good lord, I am so sick of the hundreds of ways we can guilt ourselves as parents... can I just put out an open "GOOD JOB!" to all the parents out there? Cause I'm sure there are 10,000 ways you're convincing yourself otherwise daily.)

I didn't get much sleep after that, just lay there and thought about how tough every decision feels lately and wondering if this is just how life will be now and forever. I feel like I'm doing better and then I have dismal thoughts like that and then it occurs to me that maybe this depression is so much deeper than I thought... like realizing you're in a diving pool instead of the 3 foot kiddie section.

I'm hopeful that one day I'll wake up and I won't feel like this (even though it's hard to believe sometimes). And no matter what, I want to remember that I tried so hard. I've been pulling out every trick in the book to snap myself out of this, Oprah and seeing friends and reading books and snuggling cats and dance parties with the baby and baking and bubble baths and funny television shows and saying something I'm grateful for each day and more. I think it's easy for us to look back and say "you know, I really should have XYZ'd and then it would have been much easier," but I'm telling my future self to let it go. You tried hard, you've been trying, and you're clawing around trying to save yourself every minute of every day.

You did good.

2.13.2013

Finding balance.

Last night I went to an info session for a daycare in our neighborhood. Because we live in NYC, there were pregnant ladies at this info session. Most daycares have a waiting list of over a year and when I heard about that while I was pregnant I got so irritated and annoyed that I bailed on the whole project of finding one... so now I'm the woman in the audience with a 4 month old kid asking about how often people drop off the waiting list.

NYC, you kill me sometimes.

I'm slowly starting to assemble a plan for getting me out of the house. Some days I'm ready to grab the first person I see and say "HERE STAY WITH THIS BABY SO I CAN GO TO WORK" and other days I don't feel so frantic about it. I had such mixed emotions during the session last night (which was crazily impressive). While I don't know that I'm the right person to spend all day everyday with Noah, it is so hard to sit there and imagine him spending nine hours with someone else!

It reminded me of the feeling I had when my brother went to Kindergarten. I distinctly remember him talking about some of the things they did on his first day of school and realizing that my brother was going to know people and do things that I knew nothing about. Up until that point I had known his whole world... now he was going to have parts of it that were private. He was beginning to write his own story and that's how I feel when I think of Noah spending some of his days at a daycare too.

Even though I had that slightly gut-wrenching feeling, I also was completely in awe of what this daycare was proposing. Play time and science time and art time and music and a billion other awesome fun things to do with new friends. I could never give all of that to Noah - firstly because I'm not a childhood education person, but secondly because that's not my role with him. I'm his mom and there will be some things he'll always need from me, but he will also need wonderful teachers and funny friends and people whose passion is caring for tiny people like him.

It helps me to think of the long game sometimes. When I imagine the relationship I'd like to have with Noah when he's grown, it's one in which he can come to me for advice or support, but that I also get to learn things about what he's studying or hear about the friends he's made or the places he's traveled to. It is my huge dream that Noah thrives in the world he makes for himself (one is launched from the structure we provided him with in the first place) and inherent in that is that he has experiences and relationships that do not involve me (or Chris!) at all.

This whole thing is a process, a complex and difficult balancing act.

Incidentally, the scene in the most recent Downton Abbey episode when the grandma talks about having to spend an hour a day with her children while they were growing up, made me laugh out loud. Thank god for other centuries, man. Keeps things in perspective!

2.12.2013

Money shot.



After ten days of Tummy Time Olympics, we have a champion! It has honestly been fun to do little exercises with Noah -- it especially gave me something tangible to do with him throughout the day (since he is not yet ready to debate politics or conjugate French verbs or help me dice onions).

Today's a good day.


2.07.2013

Reunions.

Reunited in DC last week... there's nothing like sibs.
This morning, after almost 10 years of not seeing each other, my freshman roommate arrived at our door to help me start planning our college reunion. We're co-chairing the reunion, which I think works out really well... though we had different interests and activities while at Muhlenberg, deep down we are both responsible and grounded and motivated. Those seem to be decent ingredients when organizing such a shindig.

Leave it to seeing someone after a decade to provide a huge dose of perspective. I caught her up on everything that's happened since 2003 (which, let's just say, is a lot). Noah's fussiness this week seemed a mere speck on the map compared to the big life things that have happened. And it was equally fascinating to hear what's been going on with her, what dreams she's persisted in following and how everything has shaken out.

We need friends of all kinds in our lives, those we see daily and weekly and monthly and yearly and every 10 years. Because with a healthy mix of all these things, we remember who we are - and who we always have been.

*

It is always so wonderful to hear that someone has been reading my blog. I know it can be slightly awkward to put it out there (often people admit reading this blog by saying that they feel creepy or weird or the like), but let's just ignore those feelings because there's no need for them. I write in this space for myself and to keep up with friends who live far away and to make new friends who have joined my book club or Creative Summer Camp last year or who just drop me an email to say hello.

And so it has been particularly wonderful to receive emails lately from lots of random people from my past who have stumbled on this blog somewhere along the way. Hi, hello and here's a hug to you, old friends. I'm so happy to hear from you.

Not to mention the fact that most of these emails have been short (or long!) messages of support to me and my little family as we get through our days. It means a lot to receive those messages and I am having a hard time staying on top of writing meaningful words in return, but I promise to at least drop a line of gratitude in response when I can.

*

I'm doing okay. My bedtime is earlier these days, which helps. I've been making a lot of soup, which helps. Therapy is helping. Having a hard cider at noon with another mom every so often is helping. Bubble baths and chai lattes and reading and new episodes of Downton Abbey help. 

And a little boy who is growing... he, too, is helping. From one day to the next he is learning; we can see it and it feels like progress. Regardless of how fussy he can be, he almost always wakes up deliriously happy to see us, as if he can't imagine his good fortune, as if to say "You?! Again?! I am so lucky to hang out with these funny people!"

Ditto.

2.05.2013

Bright spot.

I don't know how it happens, but somehow while we're sleeping my optimism returns. Every morning I wake up ready to face the day, ready to do better, to try again. This resilience amazes me and this morning I am so grateful for it.

There are so many posts I've wanted to write recently, all in a desperate attempt to write through the sludge and process the bad, bad days. For whatever reason, none of them have come together here and so I leave this short little one as a positive remembrance of this period of our lives. We are really having a tough time over here, but most mornings we wake up believing we can still do it. And that's not nothing.

2.02.2013

The Tummy Time Olympics

Do not even think about putting me
on my stomach, mom.
If you have not heard of it, "Tummy Time" is a term used by pediatricians to describe time you should spend putting your baby on their stomach each day. I forget what age they're supposed to start this (maybe a month or 6 weeks?), but once they get the all-clear from the doctor, they're supposed to start this exercise for a few minutes each day and work up to lots and lots of minutes each day.

Most babies hate Tummy Time. Noah does. Our pediatrician recommended getting him lots of tummy time at our last appointment, not only to develop his neck muscles but also because he had a slightly flat head. I cannot tell you how often I lay awake at night worrying about this. I also cannot tell you how many people say "Tummy Time? We didn't need no stinkin' Tummy Time back in the good old days!" (Yes. Agreed. Because babies did not always have to sleep on their backs back then. Now good day to you, sir.)

 I feel about Tummy Time the way I feel about flossing my teeth: massive guilt that I cannot motivate myself to do it.

Since Noah gets Very Angry when we try to put him on his stomach, I am loathe to ruin any good moods he has by trying it. And if he's not in a good mood, well, it's not a great time for it either. But now we have his 4 month check-up looming in 17 days and I am terrified that our pediatrician is going to say "Here's your kids' helmet. Flat head and disastrously weak neck muscles. Way to go, stay-at-home mom."

So I am trying something new. I am calling it the Tummy Time Olympics (sounds fun, right??) and I am posting about it here in case you are scared of Tummy Time too. Maybe it will help you sleep a little better.

The gist: Rotate through an assortment of exercises that encourage the muscles that Tummy Time works… and time your kid to see how long they can stay in the positions. Rotate through the list each day and write down their best scores. Get excited when they have personal bests! (Disclaimer: it should be obvious that I'm not a doctor and you should only do this if you think it's the right thing for your kiddo. These are compiled from pediatrician suggestions, the baby class we attend and the Internet.)

The 13 poses: 

Mini-pull-up
Baby is laying on the floor. Gently hold his hands and pull him until he's sitting up, then lay him down again. Do as many as you can.

Upright shoulder walk
You walk around with baby's neck higher than your shoulder. Talk about all the interesting things the kid is seeing. Hold as long as you can.

Superman
You lay down on the floor with knees tucked and lay the baby on your legs; make funny faces at the baby. Hope he does not puke in your face. Hold as long as you can.

Stare out the window
You sit in a chair or on the couch in front of a window. Put baby against your shoulder so he can contemplate the world. Hold as long as you can.

Get on the same level
Baby goes on his stomach and you get down there to sing songs, make noises, make faces. Could be on the floor or your bed. Hold as long as you can.

Changing pad massage
After bath, rub some lotion or baby oil on baby's back while he is on his stomach. Hold as long as you can.

The Cliff
Put baby so he is (carefully) peering over the edge of the bed or couch. Sit so you are eye-level with him. Hold as long as you can.

Naked time
Waterproof mat on floor. Baby is naked and on stomach. Hold as long as you can.

Roll to the left and stay
Roll baby to his left side and let the weight of his top leg fall over his bottom leg (so he's essentially rolling to his stomach himself). Hold as long as you can.

Roll to the right and stay
Roll baby to his right side and let the weight of his top leg fall over his bottom leg (so he's essentially rolling to his stomach himself). Hold as long as you can.

On your chest
Lay the baby on your chest - or start on your side with baby facing you on his side, then roll him onto your chest. He has to hold neck up to look at you. (Beware engorged boobs if this is an issue for you!) Hold as long as you can.

Sitting forward
Sit baby on your lap, leaning forward. Put one hand on his chest and the other on his back. Talk to him about what he's seeing. Hold as long as you can.

Bumbo seat
Put baby in Bumbo seat. (If his thighs are too fat for the leg holes, be careful getting him in and out. Noah The Chunk has this problem.) Hold as long as you can.

---
If you make it through all thirteen poses for a minute each, that will get you a great start. I will check back in on this in two weeks after we have our pediatrician appointment… good luck, little Olympians!