Gratitudes- December 1

I would like to be on this blog more. If nothing else, I am planning on coming each day this month and posting my gratitudes. I want to adopt a regular gratitude practice and this feels like the right spot to begin at. 1. Sam's smile-continually lights up my life

2. My hot cup of tea this morning: Earl Grey with honey and half and half

3. My mom's muffins

4. My dad getting his knees wet while he sawed down our Christmas tree.

5. Our twinkling tree in the living room...Thank you tree.

10.5 Months!

I write these things and then don't post them! See the below from a couple of weeks ago... How did this semi-toddler replace the little dark-haired, wobbly-headed infant who slept in my arms? Now Sam hugs me and squirms away to explore the world on his hands and knees, finding the dogs toys and the tiniest bits of fluff on the wood floor. His vocabulary grows, his ability to feed himself develops, and his crawl picks up speed daily. I cut his hair this morning, just the front pieces that hung in front of his eyes like an indie rocker, and instantly he looked months older. What a fun age this is, his curious eyes eagerly eating up everything around him, his adventuresome nature peppered with the desire to still be close to mom, dad or grandparent. His laughter, his frantic turning of book pages, his excitement with the shower and his blossoming love of avocados. The personality of my little son becomes stronger everyday. And clearer, as if more of the puzzle is fit together to form the whole picture...the puzzle that never ends until we leave this body. I love that he is his own little person, that he was created by Jamie and I, but that his soul is completely and utterly his own.

Limbo

The fog swirled around the valley, small pockets of blue sky offering some relief from the heavy clouds, as I made my way up and over the Pass. It felt like I was leaving a piece of myself behind, despite the feeling of utter freedom and the welcome silence of the car, the only sounds KHOL and the spinning of my tires against pavement. How did I get to this place? The mother-to-be who was so scared of sacrificing her alone time for a little one seems light years away from the mother who finds herself missing her child after half an hour. The conflicting feelings of wanting this opportunity to see my best friend without interruption, like the old days, and the desire to turn the car around and give little Sam one more hug. I have become someone that would be a stranger to my former self, who prided herself on her independence and relished in her ability to get up and go to NYC when she wanted to. I miss that woman somedays, other times I barely notice that she has taken a backseat. I think that this limbo between feeling nostalgic about the past and the inability to concentrate on anything but the present moment is territory that comes with being a mother. At least this mother. Some days I am on cloud nine with my life wrapped around Sam's, flowing with his needs, responsive to his requests. Others days (although they are frequent they are still well known guests) I think fondly of my former ability to do exactly what I wanted when I wanted.

It was wonderful to get away from Sam for a night and be with Claire. To fully dive into our friendship and relish in the deepness of our conversations and interactions. My full attention given to her. No interruptions. No crying. No jumping up to follow the now crawling baby around. To spend two hours in the Patagonia Outlet without fearing a meltdown and to stay up late drinking wine on the couch, not worrying about the alcohol effecting my milk supply or trying to get to bed in order to wake up with Sam at all hours of the night. I revived a piece of myself that had been dormant and that I realized is still hungry, hungry for the space to stretch herself and relax her body and be quiet. And that need is paramount to being a good mom because I missed Sam so much some moments that it hurt. Missed his little laugh and his concentrating face and his bravery as he conquers the great feat of crawling.

I have an amazing husband. Without a trace of doubt in his voice he offered for me to take the weekend away. He did the feedings (the stipulation was that I left him a good supply of milk), he put Sam to bed, he changed and clothed and cuddled with him. He sent me updates that put my heart at ease. Along with my parents, he made my adventure north possible and peaceful.

One thing I realized on the couch with Claire, is that Sam is not only my catalyst for taking more action in my life but my dedication to him, my full-time job of motherhood, has made me calm down with "finding my purpose in life". And with that lack of obsession hanging over my head I am now finally finding more purpose in my life, through Sam, with Sam. I am not dwelling so much in my head but listening more to my heart and just doing. Funny how life works....

Sleep Monster

I realized that I never published this...written weeks ago, but still partially relevant now. Recently at night when I wake up naturally by body waits for the soft mumblings, the cries that escalate as the minutes tick by from quiet murmurs into come-and-pick-me-up-now wails... It is almost as if I can sense when Sam is about to stir, as if I am gearing up for the earful that is about to wind its way from his bedroom into ours. Our champion sleeper has turned  into a pretty-good-sleeper-most-of-the-time. He is more aware of the world, on the cusp of crawling, about to cut his first tooth and really loves his mom and his dad and just wants to hang out with us. At three in the morning. That is his witching hour, when sleep is boring and lying on the couch kicking and throwing his arms around and inadvertently hitting one of his half-asleep parents in the face is much more entertaining.

It still amazes me that I have to get out of bed and rescue the little man. That our lives have come to this. Not that it is bad, just extremely different from the autonomy and independence that my life once held. Our lives are really not our own. We get up at any hour if the howling is loud enough and work hard to calm a crying baby. We have tried the cry-it-out technique. But the sound of Sam gagging on his own tears and his little chest gasping through phlemy breaths is heart-wrenching. Maybe we are soft, but lying on the couch and being near him seems to comfort him. And that is rewarding. In the moments in the dark when I wish only to be back in my own bed under the warm covers, I try to remember that these episodes are fleeting. That at some point Sam won't need me as often and later he won't want me to snuggle with him. For now, Dad and I are his world and what a privilege it is to occupy such an important and inspirational position.

Roller coaster

I feel like I am on one often and, not being a huge fan of carnival rides, I would really like to get off and walk on my own two feet, upon the earth. I recognize that I have a choice in this, whether to partake in the ride or resist the ups and downs.... I wrote the above last week and have since then been working hard to remember that I have a choice in every moment. I can stop my own meltdown by breathing and then moving Sam and myself on to our next activity. This is a period of great transformation, for both him and I, I am discovering. He is in the grips of the 8 month growing spurt when suddenly teeth are erupting and the frustration of not being able to move himself around is hitting him hard. He is more aware to the world, his brain capacity growing rapidly, and his little personality opening up like a blossoming flower. A flower that screams sometimes, especially when he is tired or does not get to stand with parental support. I am attempting (although not always successfully) to just be here in the now with him, to take his good days and his bad with as even a demeanor as possible, breathing through it all with the awareness that this too will pass. And before I know it I will have a toddler, a tween, a teenager. An exercise in savoring the multitude of moments that are Sam, whether he is smiling or frowning.

I have been meditating daily with Oprah and Deepak Chopra on their 21-day Meditation Challenge, invited by my mom to participate. I think that it is changing my life or at least making me think a little deeper than before. The quiet practice that occurs during Sam's morning nap is a delectable treat, Deepak's soothing voice like honey in my ears. There are so many important points to take in that I wish that the challenge could just repeat and repeat and repeat in hopes that the lessons would become engrained in my memory. If only practice and meditating worked like that. It actually takes a great deal of work to think about how others spirits are mirrors of your own, that energy is real and can be influenced by your mood and behavior, even that gratitude needs to be extended to everyone that you meet. I have realized how quick I am to swear in the car as someone cuts me off or how easily I judge someone by their mannerisms, whether I realize I am doing it or not. But I am recognizing these patterns and, with Sam as my catalyst, am working to change these behaviors that do not serve me or this planet.

There is so much more to write, but I promised myself tonight that I would get to the blog and just get something out. Tomorrow can be another topic that has been on my mind. Take is one post at a time...and stay off the roller coaster:)

Getting Back to This...For Real

"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” ― poem by Mary Jean Irion I got the above from one of my favorite mommy blogs, A Cup of Jo. The poem was included as part of an illustrated book of mother advice, a gift from a friend at the bloggers baby shower for her second child. This poem resonates strongly right now as Sam is literally expanding, growing, exploding in front of our eyes. I have to remind myself to stop the day-to-day craziness and the looking towards the future and enjoy where he is now. Because it is precious and ridiculously cute. Each day there is something new: a ride in the Burley behind dad's bike, sitting at the table with us in his highchair, trying fresh peaches and sweet potato purees, sitting up and entertaining himself for long stretches, observing our every move and learning, listening, watching, breathing, tasting this big gigantic world. The preciousness of this little being only intensifies each day and his innocence expediently expands as he encounters what is new, fresh, brilliant. I grasp at the memories of bringing him home for the first time, so little and sleepy, of the multiple night feedings when the air felt thicker, more silent, more sacred. Like a budded flower, Sam has unwrapped himself to the outside world, revealing the layers of his personality and richness of his baby language. Coos, burps, baas, all inquiries. We practice saying mama, dada, doggie and Sam (focusing a great deal on the former) and he listens intently, taking it in, the knowledge literally being internalized before my eyes. Whether he can express it yet or not is not the point, rather that he is such a watcher, a sponge to  our behaviors, words, states of being. A reminder to be as present to the person I strive to be as possible around Sam, a model of a life-lover.

I just finished folding his miniature swim trunks and shirt and putting them back in our swim bag, picturing his little body bobbing happily in the pool water, a huge smile across his face, his little eyes protected behind his funny sunglasses. We started swim lessons this week in a warm outdoor saline pool and it is an utter blast. We basically bob around the pool, Sam being the youngest one there, but these first introductory steps to water are paramount to developing a comfort in one of my favorite elements. Already, at six months, it is astounding how much can be communicated-kick, lie on your back, reach for the water toy, hold your breath. Move like you did in the womb (minus the plastic toy).

Gallim Dance, one of my favorite dance companies to visit Jackson, is here for three weeks conducting a residency, building a commissioned piece of work, and soaking in summer life in Jackson. They are a striking, brilliant and thought-provoking company led by young choreographer Andrea Miller who is blossoming with pregnancy currently. In conjunction with Gallim's visit, Dancers' Workshop is inviting visual artists and poets to come to the open rehearsals and produce work around what they witness. When Gallim returns to Jackson in February 2014 to perform the artwork and poetry will be exhibited and shared. A multi-disciplinary project of the sort that I love to sink my teeth in to. I plan to make visual work, I sat in on the poetry workshop and wrote a bit, and, if I could, I would jump up and dance along with this talented company. As I sat in the open rehearsal yesterday, solo, I could feel my creative juices flowing and flowering. I love those moments. I am realizing that they don't have to be separate from Sam, a world outside of motherhood that I explore, but rather a way of living that involves my whole being. The most creative act possible is being a mother. I will paint with him, I will write with him, I will dance with him. Just being with him and moving with his flow is a creative practice.

I have started my mornings, after Sam is deep into his first nap, with some silence and writing. I want to end my day with turning to this blog and emptying my thoughts. Honestly, eagerly, deeply. I want my posts to be light some days, more reflective others, moving to the tune of my inner world. I have been neglectful and hope to turn that around...starting now:)

Food

Sam's exploration into the world of eating is going well...and makes Jamie and I laugh daily. He attacks the spoon with a vengeance, while also trying to shove his bib into his mouth, rice cereal slurping its way everywhere. Big smiles and a cereal-smelling neck. Sticky hands and eyes that light up with the new adventure of eating. And because it is new, Sam is a slow eater. Contemplating and pausing after each bite to look at his surroundings and swallow the food that does make it down his throat. There is such a lesson here in eating slowly, whether he is enjoying the taste of the food or not, it is an act to be mimicked. To treat eating again like the sacred act that it is and to stop and notice how it feels to take in food, what the world looks like with a more full belly. I made him some nice pureed carrots today. Jamie said he made a funny face and spit them out. I will freeze them and try again. What tomorrow? Apples, peaches, or sweet potatoes? It is fun to see his little face examine each new taste. Bananas and avocados have been digested, but not without a little hesitation.

Learning how to eat. I love the concept and hope to practice greater gratitude for food through the teachings of my little guy. Even if he did spit out my carrots.

Writing and Eating

I picked up Natalie Goldberg's newest book, The True Secret of Writing, on inner-library loan yesterday and am already devouring it, mesmerized by her personal and engaging words. Goldberg hosts Zen meditation retreats that include silent sits and walking as well as periods to write and share, as she feels that writing is a natural and important "meditation" to practice and ritualize in our lives. It is an act that, "helps to empty and settle the mind. We can then sink into a quiet pool, into silence, out of which all of these tumultuous thoughts were created in the first place." No discouraging or ignoring the numerous and often chaotic thoughts that appear in our minds, but to give them a place to bloom and take shape, birthed into the world as ink on paper. Annoyed at waking up each day and telling myself I need to write and meditate during Sam's morning nap and then not doing either, I started my day with a silent ten minutes of breath and a twenty minute release of words on paper. Content, I could then lie down and take a needed nap along with my little guy. Sam is starting to eat solids. And if four days of eating is any indication, this boy is going to put down some food in his lifetime. He voraciously attacks the spoon, slurping up the milky rice cereal as if he was starving (which judging by the size of his thighs, he is not). I love feeding him, watching his little tongue figure out how to take in the foreign spoon, how to receive, how to swallow. And he has learned so quickly! I am trying to remember as I eat my own food that we all had to be taught how to eat, that it is isn't something to be taken lightly, that the joy of taste can be rediscovered even in one's thirties. This week rice cereal and bananas. Next week sweet potatoes or apples. I love that Sam is embarking on this eating adventure at the time of year when fruits and veggies are fresh and local. What a way to start eating...

Carving a Piece for Me

I got to a yoga class and out for a delicious run with Olive this weekend, making the space to be alone and to do activities that fuel my body and mind. It is such valuable and important time for Jamie and Sam too. I love coming home and finding them both laughing at one another or strolling around the house, the little prince kicking and squirming in Dad's arms. My time away from the house and from Sam feels so precious, and I struggle with the lack of independence that I once felt while at the same time relishing the moments that I get to spend in Sam's company. It is such a back and forth, a tug-of-war, this juxtaposition between me time and momhood. How they are both needed in order to strengthen the other. How there isn't one right way to be a mother, despite what society or the media tells you. There is only the right way for you. But figuring that out can be sort of tricky. How do I want to mother? How do I find some semblance of balance between breathing space and alone time and being a mom? How do you stop the little voices in your head that compare you to other mothers, worrying whether you have the right stuff or are doing the correct methods at the appropriate time, etc, etc, etc. The awful little voices that leave you with a turned stomach and a bad taste in your mouth. This is a constant wave that I am riding.

I am embarking on a project that will begin in the fall (more details to come as I get braver and more vocal about it) and already just the planning of it, the writing of a grant to see if I can acquire funding, feels heavenly. A surge of energy coursing through me, an inkling of a former self that feels creative, efficient, organized and brave. All clues that this is something I am supposed to do. And I think that having Sam in my life is making me take the leap and put myself out there. I really do. His smiling little face is so full of courage and complete vulnerability and his little being makes me want to be the best mama that I can. And that includes taking risks and maybe even failing.

Cycles

Yesterday Jamie's grandfather passed away. He was a sweet, thoughtful, soft-spoken and intelligent man, nimble and deft with his hands and mind into his eighties. Seeing him look at little Sam and Sam back at him the other weekend, Sam motionless in my arms as he took in the great man before him, was a special moment now stained in my memory. Happiness that they were able to see each other one more time, peace allowed to enter and fill the hospital room despite the beeping machines and sterile smell. The power of the cycle of life and death so present, the birth into this world with delight in all that is new and fresh and the departure from the world with delight in all that has occurred and the richness of having lived a good life . The flexibility of little bodies bending in yogic-like postures juxtaposed to the feebleness of a chest that has risen and fallen a million times over. How scary it must be to be so innocent and small in this vastness and how frightening it must be to leave this earth, knowing that you will no longer see familiar faces, do routine things, be a human being anymore. Frank made Sam a toy chest that is decorated with animals from this region: the mighty moose, the elegant elk, the delicate deer. Our little guy will know his great grandfather through this work of art, and we will all treasure it as the years go along, filling it with toys.

Live life to the fullest. Everyday. Be honest and truthful and hardworking. Give love to those that you love as well as to those who you don't know. Cherish each moment.

Preciousness

I feel this pressure to figure out my life, what my future looks like, what I might be doing that makes me feel alive in the next five years. This constant questioning at what my purpose here on this earth really is, what I need to accomplish to make it feel full and worthwhile and amazing. I can get so caught up in goals and hopes and daydreams that I often forget to just look at what I have, what is already present, what I have before me. Even as a mother I find myself doing this; when my days feel less my own there is still time to dwell on what my next accomplishment is. Hitting the pause button is good. Taking the time to stop and breathe in all that is beautiful right now. I have a loving husband and a sparkling little son. I have amazing parents, brother and in-laws, friends that are kind, sincere, thoughtful and inspiring. A strong, beautiful home. A fun-loving doggie. My health, the stunning environment in which I live, a creative space. This period of life right now is really so miniscule in the larger life picture. This time with Sam, as he grows and develops each day, is so special and precious and full of curiosity. I went to my last Womentoring event tonight, a mentor/mentee program that I have been part of for ten months. And it was so jaw-dropping to go around the room and share as a large group of women what we have gotten out of the experience, what we have learned, gained, and how we have grown. The power of a group of women always bowls me over leaves me more heartened towards the world. One mentor shared a quote that I can't recall exactly but was about how life is divided into segments and that we have to enjoy each segment, knowing that we will move on to a new one in the future. Basically, being okay with where we are are now. A lesson that is reappearing almost daily in my life. Be here now. With Sam. Not daydreaming about what is to come. It is alright to have goals. It is alright to have ambitions for myself. But when my mind becomes too full of have to's and musts and shoulds and steps to take to get from point A to point B, I end up losing focus on what is right in front of me. The greatest teacher of all. My little son whose smile and whose cry makes my world alive and vivid and personal and present.

I have many more segments to live. This segment of my life is precious. This one holds so many lessons.

Sitting While He Sleeps...

My little guy got his first cold last night. We were up every two hours as he battled congestion, his little nose dripping and crusty. It made my heart ache to see him struggle to breathe and to be so tired but unable to get comfortable. Now I am sitting in his room with him while he naps, listening to the river sound on the iphone app, feeling more relaxed and at peace than I was earlier. He woke up this morning with his Sam smile, as bright as ever despite the clogged nose. I wrote it all out this morning and was reminded of the power of getting thoughts down on paper, the act of longhand and seeing my handwriting on the white page. It is always cathartic. I don't do it nearly enough. It felt great to get out pent up anxieties and let my life spill over onto the page. Seeing the words there, out of my head, helped a great deal. I feel more peaceful and assured.

Little Sam is such a teacher. I struggle with figuring out this mom/me balance, defining who I am now that my day-to-day world is shared with this little being, my little guide who can't communicate in words with me. I feel envious of my friends who get to go to work (never thought I would write that!) while also so fortunate that I can stay at home right now and be a mom to Sam. The pull of the two worlds is so strong, and I am trying to remember to stay in the moment and realize that someday, fairly soon, Sam won't be so small, won't need sustenance only from my body, will want to run and play and interact with others besides his mama. This time is preciously short and it is a lesson in patience and dedication and nowness.

I hope my little guy feels better soon. Daddy is away for the week and the taste of single momdom is upon me, intensified now with Sam's slight cold. We will persevere though and will fill our days with friends and getting outside in the glorious weather. The sunshine and warm breezes are so soothing....