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Hello rock, hello hard place

31 Mar

Dear daughters,

At this very moment, you are living a fairly idyllic childhood. Eighteen months ago we moved out of the city, to the Sierra foothills. Our house, a solid, white farmhouse built in 1903, sits on a third of an acre on which you have free range. You run and tumble over spring growth so high it often pulls you down as you run through it. You turn over rocks to find earthworms, make “soup” out of rainwater and leaves and swing from the massive oak tree that shades the house. Soon a spring garden and backyard chickens will add to your fun.

Ophelia, you spend your mornings at the local Waldorf school; a five minute drive from our house. While you are there you bake bread, roll in the sand pit and cozy up in a loft full of pillows. You can’t go a day without telling me how much you love your school. Each day you come home glowing and exhausted.

Theta, we spend our mornings together, either meeting with mama and baby friends for a crafting morning/walk, shopping at the local co-op for groceries or just hanging out at home and folding laundry. When we are out you wave at smiling strangers and hold my hand as you toddle your way from one place to the next. You are the sweetest companion.

Each night we light candles, say our blessing (“we love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all we love each other”) and eat dinner as a family.

That is the picture of our lives in this moment. This is the picture we carefully crafted; a quiet neighborhood, a good school, a loving community and mellow days. A simple and full life. A childhood free of debilitating distractions. Hell, we don’t even let you watch TV.

And I believe in what we are giving to you girls. I do, I truly truly do. We’ve worked hard. made personal, professional and financial sacrifices to live this life. But please don’t hate me when I say this: I am mind-numbingly bored.

Maybe bored isn’t the right word. How can I be bored when there is something to be done, someone who needs me nearly every minute of every day? There’s no thumb twiddling. But I am restless. My brain is constantly looking for mindless tasks to complete because it feels so utterly useless otherwise. I loathe being asked to play make-believe. No, thank you, I would not like to eat raspberry soup from your wooden bowl. Again. And after you go to bed, there’s just nothing left. I don’t want to write. I don’t want to read a novel. I want to watch Louie and eat peanut butter out of the jar.

As much as I love our life and I want the two of you to continue to benefit from all of this, I feel myself slipping away. I’m going through the motions: cooking the oatmeal, tying the shoes, wiping the asses. But I’m not really here.

So now what? you may ask. And truthfully I don’t know. I just recently reread a blog post from when I was teaching in Oakland and just the thought of going back to work and feeling that same sadness to leave you scares the hell out of me. But even if we’re not talking a full time job, I’d like to at least dip my toes in the water. How amazing it would feel to go 2 hours without having yogurt smeared across my shirt, to constantly unclip and re-clip my bra to nurse, to have someone ask my opinion about something other than whether I prefer burps or farts. So I updated my resume, drafted a cover letter and sent references out in the hopes that I will get an interview for a teaching position opening up next fall. I’m not sure whether I actually want it or whether I just want to get dressed up and talk about my profession for a while. Either way, here it goes!

I love you so very very much,

Mama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Introducing…

26 Mar

Hello dearest ones!

This blog has been left alone for quite some time. In fact, when I look back at the archive of posts I see that I didn’t write a single thing in the year 2015.

2015. Yes, that’s the year your were born, dear Theta. I could apologize for the lack of documentation but I’ve been in the thick of it. For the past fourteen months I have been mama to two daughters. Two. Sometimes it feels gluttonous to even say it. For fourteen months I have been drenched in the light of your sunshine and also occasionally, drenched in bodily fluids. Yours, mine and ours, to be precise. And it’s been amazing. Really truly, 2015 was the best year of my life to date. For the past fourteen months I have cared very little about writing, very little about personal pursuits in general. Only in the past few months have I begun to gets glimpses of my old self, the self that craves writing, alone time and quiet. For fourteen months I have let go of my introverted needs and lived in the noise, stink and joy of mothering two girls. I have you two to thank for that time spent away from myself. Really, thank you.

But all was not lost from that beautiful year. I did manage a few journal entries. This one from April 2015 pretty well sums up the feeling of last year.

” I am the mother of two astounding daughters, girls whose eyes stun me, whose hair burns a hole in the middle of my chest. Their beauty seers me. And I know, somehow, finally, that this will all be swept into the ocean when the tide of this moment recedes. They will be grown girls reading books with flashlights in the night, write their own journals, become enamored with horses or dolphins or fairies. They will stretch up into trees, their bodies becoming foreign entities. They will become secretive and mischievous. I look forward to all of it, to mothering them through it all. But now they are small, bitty things that I can fold up into my heart, that call for me. A part of me adores this phase, being their sun and moon. Part of me hears what older wiser mothers have warned and stops to kiss buttery baby cheeks, tickle chubby bellies and smell their wet hair. Part of me is immersed in this thing called motherhood like I’ve donned an extremely heavy but luxuriously soft cloak. But another part of me misses who I once was and wonders impatiently who I will be once the fog lifts, once they need me less.”

 

And of course, there were pictures taken. Many pictures but obviously not enough.IMG_1371

 

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I don’t intend to try to “catch up” with this last year but I have been putting some thought into how this blog should continue now that I have two lovely daughters to write to. I won’t set anything in stone but I think I will proceed by writing to both of you, sometimes together, sometimes separately. But for now, I am off to dust off a resume that has sat useless for almost 2 years. More on that later.

I love you my strong, precious girls,

Mama

Not the Puppet Master

28 Oct

Dear Ophelia,

My sweet girl. There is so much to write about. There is so much I want to ask some older version of you. Did I do alright? Did I make the right decisions? Did you feel loved enough? There’s so much left to faith in this whole parenthood gig. It’s difficult for someone who does not pride herself on keeping faith in much of anything.

You and I are different people. I know it’s such a funny thing to be landing on this far into our relationship but there’s something profound in that realization. I have always tried to respect who you are as a person. This is not always easy when the person whose opinion I’m trying to respect is sobbing hysterically because we can’t listen to Christmas Carols for the sixth day in a row in the middle of October. But I do my best to remind myself that your opinion matters and my job is not to control you. So you’d think that I would be perfectly clear with the fact that we are not the same person, that I do not get to decide everything for you. But here’s my confession: for a long time it  seemed like we were, if not the same person, too entwined to ever be very separate. I’ve told you a million times that our relationship feels like one of the longest I’ve ever had. That’s because I always knew you would be here someday. You. Not a child, not a daughter even. I knew it was you I would one day have in my life, who I would be lucky enough to mother. So when I became pregnant and you were born, it felt incredible but not unknown. I’ve always felt like a mother yet to have a child and because of that my vision of you has become threaded through my whole life experience. You feel like such an integral part of me.

Needless to say this is all very self-centered (go ahead, blame my only child-ness), I know. But it is what it is. So now as you become even more of a fiercely independent girl I am forced to step back and look at all the ways in which my expectations are absurd. Some days we get in these ridiculous standoffs and I realize I have no idea why I give a damn that you aren’t doing exactly what I want you to do. The result is basically inconsequential to your overall wellbeing. I’m just being a control freak.

I know this is only going to get harder. In so many ways I feel the reigns slipping from my grasp. Every time you dance around the living room singing “I’m a pretty princess!” I ask myself what the hell I did wrong. I cringe when strangers say hi to you and expect some sweetness back only to be answered with a mean stink eye. But I am not your puppet master. I am your mother. This is your life. I’m here to provide for you and guide you but not dictate where that road will lead.

I know we’ll figure this out. We may not be the same person but we’re on the same team.

I love you beyond measure, sweetheart.

xoxo

Mama

Worth

4 Jul

Love of my life,

It’s still early, although I have been up for hours now. I can hear you and Daddy wake up and amble up the stairs of the Pine Mountain Lake house, your Yaya and Papa’s house near Yosemite. In just a few hours the place will be flooded with family and we will be swept into our yearly ritual of swimming in the lake, creating and consuming one gargantuan meal after the last and pausing for just a moment to take in the fireworks spectacular tomorrow night. But for now the house is quiet, save for the sound of your sweet voice requesting a bowl of yogurt.

Ophelia, you are beautiful. Stunningly so, I would say. From the moment you were born people could not stop marveling at your huge blue eyes. Once an older woman walked by us on the street and just looked at you and said, “Those eyyyyyyyes” shaking her head slightly in disbelief but continuing to walk on by. Your white blonde curls seems to defy gravity and although you know your mother is not one for belief in celestial beings I find it impossible to look at you and not call you “angel”. Of course, you are only two-years-old and not even teeth are permanent at this point but I feel confident you will always be a a beautiful person to look at.

But here’s the thing, my love: none of it matters. Nope, not really.

Before you write me off as an ogre of a mother, let me explain. In light of recent political agendas and Supreme Court rulings, I’ve been thinking more and more about what these decisions will mean to you, what message our government and the culture we live in are sending. And I think I’ve boiled it down to one phrase: You are just a body.

Even reading my own words makes me shake with anger, leaves tears clawing behind my eyes. But there is no other conclusion that can be drawn when at every turn women are denied their rights to obtain birth control, to feed their babies without criticism or debate, to access legal abortions without threat of bodily harm and all the while, the protections we are due are given to faceless corporations, as if our lack of recognized personhood needed to be even more defined. You are just a body. And more over, you have very little say in what happens to that body.

It’s dark, my girl, but it’s reality. So here’s the thing, and I know it’s asking a lot of you but I think you’re the girl to handle it. You need (in whatever future decade of your life you do read this) to decide that they are all wrong and to live your life accordingly. You need to decide that you are so much more than the flesh you live in. Whoever you decide to be, whatever job you decide to work or not work, whomever you decide to love; all of that, the strengths inside you, the people whose lives you touch and the change you make in the world around you are worth a hell of a lot more than what they will try to reduce you to. You need to say to hell with the idea that anyone else has any more say in what happens to your body than you do. I know that none of this is easy. Trust me, I still fight every day to remind myself of these truths. But as a woman it will be one of the most worthwhile fights of your life.

I love you, sweetness. I love you with such a fierceness that makes me want to turn the world upside down just to give you all that you deserve. Maybe someday we’ll all succeed in that. But until then I’ll keep fighting the good fight for you, darling and I hope that someday I can pass the torch to you.

All my love,
Mama

Aside

Somewhere, something, somehow

15 Mar

Hi Sweetness,

I am writing to you from an unfamiliar, hazy place that they call “Working Motherhood.” I don’t know exactly how I got here, where I’m heading or how many hours of sleep I’ll get tonight but here I am.

I started work full-time in January while your daddy went down to part-time and will be going back to school this fall. As much as I feel like Future Ophelia would be interested in hearing the particulars of my day-to-day (ok maybe not) I just can’t go there. I feel as if I have been dragged through everyday, like those kids have wiped the floor with me. There’s a strange new pounding in my right ear, something heavy yet invisible sits on my chest and I haven’t pooped normally for months. You’re welcome for the TMI. I look at my face in the morning and I wonder who the hell I’m looking at. I’ve never looked so tired.

I don’t know what to say to you that is encouraging of someday being a working mother yourself. This feels like hell; the stress, of course, but seeing so little of you too. It feels so unfair to have this astounding and luminous little person in my life that I am only allowed to see for a few short hours at night and on weekends. I thought I’d feel fulfilled, connected to the world, excited for each new day but none of that seems to be true so far. I’ve never felt more isolated and unsure of my path.

The bright spot in all of this is that somehow you are thriving despite all of the tumultuous change in our lives. Your sunny disposition shines bright as ever. Remember those stones I told you that the midwife gave us when you were born? Joy. Serenity. Flexibility. Your blessings continue to follow you. You say the sweetest things I’ve ever heard. You like to add “little bit” to just about everything you say. For instance ” Daddy is a little bit funny” or “I’m a little bit tired”. You have definite opinions on the music we listen to saying to one song “I wuv it!” or another “I don’t like this song” and demanding I change the station. You still think farting is the funniest thing on the face of the earth. You are clearly a Watts. No doubt about things there. The way you say “Hi Mama” can bring me to tears even when I just hear it in my head.

I love you beyond measure, Ophelia. If this time is difficult you don’t show it at all. Thank you for making it easy to do the hardest things I’ve ever done. All I have to do is remind myself that I wake up everyday and go to work for you and suddenly there are no more questions. I just know that I have to strive to be the person my daughter already sees me as.

Love love love,

Mama 

Hey Baby Girl

20 Aug

Dear Ophelia,

There’s always so much to say about you that I find it hard to know where to start. You are TALKING TALKING TALKING! It’s incredible. You repeat just about everything we say…even when I’d rather you not yell “CRAP!” at the top of your lungs. You’re even trying out sentences and using our phrases by yourself. I tried making a list of all the words you know (as in, when I ask you what something is you correctly identify it or use it without me asking) but that soon became an exercise in futility because you learn at least 3 new words every day. I’m also kind of convinced that you can read. Yeah, I know. You’re 18 months old but I swear to god you looked at the word frog (no pictures) and then said “frog”. It’s happened before too. But I digress into hallucinations.

You are fierce! Seriously, you are stubborn and sassy and funny as hell. You have these looks that clearly say “I mean business. Don’t you know who I am?” But the best thing is that you can be giving me one of those looks and I’ll give it right back to you and then we’ll both burst into laughter. We’re too alike. Oh and you are MOOOOOODY. I wonder who you got that from? 😉

Yes, you are smart as a whip and you’ve got a spine of steel but what I adore about you most is how tremendously kind you are. I’ve spent so much time with babies and toddlers that I feel like I have a good idea about the average 1.5 year old’s capacity for compassion. You, my lovely, are exceptional. You hug random kids before they go down the slide at the park. If you see me get hurt or know that I am sad you run over to me to give me a hug and a kiss. When Daddy and I hug you insist that we pick you up for a family hug. You say hi to everyone and always have a smile, even for strangers. When I lie down with you to fall asleep, you give me a smooch on the cheek every couple of minutes. My heart just absolutely melts. Despite our challenges, I feel lucky everyday to be your mother.

Before I sign off, and get some much needed sleep, I want to thank you. Your mama has had a tough year, to say the least. But you are amazing. You wake up everyday with a smile on your face and pull me into real life. You remind me that the world keeps spinning despite my worries and stresses. So thank you, my girl. I will try to do the same for you.

Love,
Mama

Goodnight

1 May

How could I forget?
Young eyes
Excited opals
Dancing at me like tambourines
How could I forget your wild arms,
Winding up for flight?

4/29/13

This is not a Mommy Blog and I am not a Mommy Blogger

2 Apr

Dear Ophelia,

Occasionally, very very occasionally, I entertain the idea of becoming a real blogger. You know, the kind that posts pictures of the amazing Halloween costumes they’ve sewn for their childrens, gluten-free pancake recipes and hosts product giveaways. Mommy Bloggers. I entertain this not because I think I would be any good at it but because I see the sponsored links on those blogs and I know that they are getting a tidy little check every month just for writing a blog they would probably keep up with anyway. That modest paycheck would be a very nice thing to have in addition to our 1.12123 income household (I made that number up if you can’t tell). We want to do cool things like, I don’t know, take trips, eat good food, send you to college. Any extra cash would be niiiiice. But then I come back down to Earth and I realize that there are a million and one reasons I should not and could not become a Mommy Blogger. Here they are in no particular order:

 

  1. I don’t even know how to post a picture. Seriously. I once knew how to do it and then our internet got all slow and now it takes seven hours to upload a tiny picture. And even when I do wait it out the picture is always awkwardly sized in comparison to the text.
  2. I don’t know ANYTHING about html codes or making a blog look pretty. I’m still not even sure I fully understand hashtags. People explain them to me and then I think “No, that can’t be it. That’s too stupid and unnecessary to be what they’re for.”
  3. While I am pretty damn crafty, I should never really be the person whose example one follows, say, in a tutorial. I’m the crafter that gets bored sewing something and breaks out the hot glue gun instead. Or I start something with high hopes of finishing it in time for a particular holiday and then totally punk out and find something else I’d rather be making.
  4. Despite the fact that I continue to read them, I kind of actually hate those blogs. I think they project a false idea of motherhood. Reading them you get this sense that having a kid consists of idyllic days of felt crafts, wholesome baking with toddlers and a house you aren’t ashamed to post photos of online. I generally feel completely incompetent after reading a post or two then looking around at the avalanche of board books in my livingroom and the lack of dinner on the table. I don’t feel the need to make other women feel that way just so I can have a little extra income every month.
  5. I am a writer. Since having you I have had to be hyper-vigilant about carving out time for myself just to write. I’ll be damned if that precious time is going to be spent writing for the benefit of someone else. Unless that someone else happens to be you. Which brings me to the final reason why this will never be a a Mommy Blog:
  6. I’m writing this blog for you. Sometimes I am self-indulgent and I write about things that maybe you will never give a damn about. But I’m always writing for you. This is not to say that Mommy Bloggers are selfish for not writing for their kids but personally I need to stick to the reason I created this blog and that is to leave a record of my thoughts and your early childhood.

And that, dear daughter, is another self-indulgent rant. Thanks for listening.

 

Love,

Mama

Too too long

11 Mar

Hi wonderful girl,

Your mama has been totally remiss in updating this blog. It seems like the months have had their way with me and now here you are, 13 months old and quickly becoming the most amazing person I know.

You took your first steps the other day. It was March 5th. We were in the library and you were playing with some blocks and some little cars that you could hook up into a chain and drive around. I don’t know exactly what you were going for, a toy, a book, maybe me but you took 2 hesitant, teetering steps and then fell on your butt. I just looked at you in astonishment, wanting to yell out “She just walked!” but I was surrounded by strangers so I didn’t. But it was amazing. You are amazing. You looked so cool and nonchalant about it all, like you could have done it at anytime but decided it had to wait until that day.

We had your birthday party last month at Granny Mimi and Grandpa Phil’s house. We kept it small and pretty grownup. Your friend Gracie was the only other baby there. We ate manicotti, lasagna and homebrew made by your daddy and a delicious salad made by Auntie Mary. You opened a few presents and then we had your blessing ceremony where everyone said aloud a wish they thought of for you and lit a candle. It was very special and sincere and I cherished every second of it.

You have been giving hugs and kisses. Grandma Watts is particularly over the moon about this. I love it too. You’ve even started giving your teddy bear hugs too which is just too adorable for words. And you know how some people are really crappy at hugs? Like they just give you a little squeeze or a lame pat and then let go? Well you will never be one of those people. You have the sweetest, most perfect embrace.

You say “hi” all the time. It’s particularly cute when a stranger says hi to you at the grocery store and you surprise them by saying hi back. Sometimes you and I will go back and forth exchanging “Hi”s for a few minutes. You’re so proud of yourself. I’m pretty proud too 🙂

You say lots of other words too but not very consistently. You like saying “kitty”, “dada”, “Mama” and “thank you”, which sounds like “taykoo”.

Whenever music of any kind comes on you light up and start dancing (read: bouncing on your butt). I’ve even caught you dancing to Brahms. I think I would be remiss in my motherly duties if I didn’t enroll you in a music class in the next few months.

You’re still a nursing champ. I would even go as far as to say a fiend. You can’t be anywhere near me without demanding that I immediately whip out my breast. This is of course annoying but I’m trying to be compassionate. Your teeth have been giving you a real hard time lately and you’re reaching out for your favorite comfort. Dear girl, you certainly have taught me a lot about patience and stamina in the last year.

You’ve started using “no” a lot and your comedic timing with the word is always impeccable. You still shake your head emphatically while saying “nahnahnahnahnah”

Your hair is still blonde as can be and you’re finally starting to get those sweet curlyques around your ears. You look like a perfect little Kewpie Doll. 

You love peekaboo or pretty much any game with daddy. He still gets the best smiles from you.

Your newest thing is spitting when you are displeased with something. At first it cracked me up. Now I just roll my eyes and pray that this is a phase you will outgrow. I call you my little stinker all the time and you just giggle and giggle.

I’m going to be better about writing to you more, my love. It’s hard when there’s so much to do and you need lots of attention and love and kisses. But I do think this blog is important, if only to serve as a reminder someday how in awe I have always been of you.

 

Love,

Mama

 

You, right now

20 Nov

Right now.

Your daddy calls you the girl with the golden hair. It’s finally begun to curl right up around your ears. It sends pangs of loss right to my heart to see my baby turn into a child before my eyes.

Strangers always marvel at your eyes.

“Those eyes. Those EYES,” an older Black lady said today as she passed you.

You love to wave at people and sometimes get so excited that both hands have to get in on the action.

Sometimes you open books and begin to speak gibberish like you’re actually reading.

If I look away from you for even a second you look at me and cock your head in my direction as if to say, “Um hello, don’t forget about me.”

You squeal with delight at the kitties. You squeal in delight at a lot of things. Sometimes it quite resembles shrieking in terror. You’re ambiguous like that.

The heart-shaped birthmark on your thigh is growing into something very unheart-like. I’m pretty sad to see it go.

You’re pulling yourself up to standing and getting up on all fours but you remain disinterested in crawling. You continue to remind me that patience is a virtue…and so is having a baby that can’t crawl before your house is babyproofed.

Your favorite toy is my wallet. You can get every single credit card, dollar bill and receipt out of it in seconds flat.

You are a ravenous eater, devouring everything from artichoke torta to shrimp and grits to plain yogurt. If I want to eat something in front of you I better well be prepared to share unless I want to witness a complete meltdown.

You nurse more or less constantly through the night. We need to fix this because my sleep deprivation is bordering on dangerous these days.

I have to keep careful track of what I give you to eat. You have been known to keep your fist clenched for hours around a tiny nugget of cheese without anyone (not even you) remembering it’s there.

You love music, especially “Bom Bom” by Sam and the Womp. As soon as I put on the music video you start bumping up and down excitedly.

You give hugs and big open-mouth kisses but only to me and Daddy. We feel very special.

Right now,

You are perfect.