Thanks-be-to-giving the Baby Her Own Crib - Sleep Chronicles and the Fiften Month Frenzy

So despite our fondest wishes to eliminate the dourest of months in recent history, November 2016 happened. Chaya actually was fourteen months for part of that.

Then she was fifteen months.

Now she's fifteen and a half and a rip-roarin' no-way-I'm-a-babe-even-with-power toddler. Holey moley where did my baby go? Toddler Chaya may have eaten her while making dinosaur noises and running around the house throwing her hands in the air! Where did my toddler go? Chances are to the most dangerous and messy thing she could find. I'm sure I'll hear her barking soon to summon handmaiden mommy for help climbing the Xerox machine.

And life gets more intriguing by the minute.

Toddler waddler is waddling like a pro these days. And boy did she have fun in San Francisco.

Her Grandma's new house has stairs and then some. Nice deep and loooong stairs. There was also a soon-to-be-dearly-departed puppy: Meg, longtime companion and family puppy in Grandpa Tom 2's family home. Boy did Chaya love Meg. Meg - who was suffering terminal illness and biding her time before euthanasia after one final Thanksgiving with the family - was a little less certain about the rabid toddler beast. We had to pull her off the saintly sweetheart several times. Chaya knows how to say "DAH" and point like she means it.

Yes, we had a really poignant trip to San Francisco for the holidays. In addition to the canine cancer, there was a very heart-aching loss in the Wright family: Great Grandpa Wright, the patriarch of that side of the family passed on a week before Thanksgiving. I'm heartbroken he missed Chaya that one last time. He loved her so deeply. It's an honor to have had him in her life.

We were also short one future-sister-in-law/mother-of-Chaya's-non-existent-Wright-cousins, as Zach and his girlfriend had recently parted ways. To add a smart to that uncoupling, they had to put down their dog after being unable to break him from having dangerous aggressive spells (the dog, not Zach, who manages any aggressive spells at the track on his juked up motorcycle). Zasch's birthday wish for the year was to erase November 2016. Aside from Chaya really starting to take off, I have to agree we could use a big can of white out on that accursed month.

But those who survived came together and honored the legacy of those lost with their own fresh life and fond memories. There was an amazing amount of wonder and discovery and love. And Chaya featured heavily in all experiences. She held up to her role as breath of future promise with very few tantrums. Despite being sleep deprived and too distracted to eat all that much, Miss Chaya was wonderfully diverted and taken with all the attention.

To the point of, of course, not particularly noticing the hunger or sleep debt until a typical toddler crash. As sweet as she is, she mostly saved the tantrums for mommy, but kept on trucking admirably up until her midnight breaking points. In exchange, she received a mini baby lifetime of new sensations and experiences. She even got to visit her first aquarium and take a trip to the Marin Headlands.

And of course that returns us to elaboration on the baby basics.

Nap Battles 15.0!

It's been just about a year since the accursed sleep regression threw everything into the abyss. And just a little under a year since we officially Ferberized the little Furby. Things have gotten so much better since then, it's surreal. But there are always little issues with baby sleep.

Vacations and well-slept toddlers are oil and vinegar; that is, if the vinegar is rice vinegar and the oil is petrol. This trip was no exception. Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing something wrong. Is it my attitude that prevents Chaya from being an easy-napping toddler? If I were just more easy-going, would she relish long car rides, sleep anywhere, and never fuss at the loss of some key component of a reliable routine. Then I remember most of my friends with babies who do these things also keep them up all night still. Babies are different. We have our battles.

It would be an exaggeration to say it, but this feels pretty true right now: basically, a year of sleep training and a painstaking month of nudging back Chaya's schedule to account for the time change was rapidly undone in less than a week of vacation.

Two steps forward and giant baby leaps back, of course.

Before the trip, we were pushing her schedule later and later again. We were doing so mostly unintentionally. It appeared we might be hitting up against the 2-1 nap transition. This is a time that typically occurs between 15 and 18 months, though most of Chaya's friends have pared down to one nap a few months ago. It's kind of one of those awkward transitions where a toddler can stay awake for longer periods of time and will stay awake longer between sleep to the point that you can't fit all the sleep into a single day. But it's also often a time where a looong stretch of being awake can derail night sleep anyways. So babies often go back and forth, and things just get a little screwy.

No matter how she distributes it, Chaya routinely gets 13 hours in a 24 hour period. If she's recovering from an ailment, slightly more. If something is actively wrong, slightly less. If she gets a good night's sleep, one of her naps will be middling. If she gets two longer naps, she'll take a while to fall asleep or wake up early. It's just awkward enough that we have grumpy baby with a bad bit of sleep at some point during the day. And it's just enough that her schedule seems to nudge further and further apart to a point where getting her sleep into one day feels awkward. So, this was where we were going into things.

I swore I'd be a little more flexible during the trip, but to try to keep some semblance of routine just to help Chaya not go totally off the rails. I'm told going off the rails kind of sucks. I've confirmed that it ain't ideal.

The trip began with a decent stockpile of sleep. And Chaya continued to show her ambivalence to the two-nap tango by staying awake and babbling for about five hours after she'd woken up. This is pretty long, incidentally. Her first nap is usually about 3.5 hours after waking up. Sometimes 4 hours, if she's woken up early.

 And when she did fall asleep, there weren't many tantrums or major exhaustion signs beforehand. She babbled. She rubbed her eyes. She looked a little tired for about ten minutes. Then she zonked. Just to continue proving that a longer wake up time might be good, she seemed to actually sleep in the car. For more than thirty minutes. This is fairly unheard of.

Unfortunately the car ride to SeaTac is only so far, so we didn't have much chance to see how long she might have slept. She woke up as we were dealing with the parking situation.

And that was it for her naps that day. She was far too entertained playing on the plane. She loves planes and people and the bajillion distractions mommy and daddy offer her There was fussing on the ride from the airport, but no sleep. And she was seriously hyper and distracted by her wonderful Grandma and aunties while mommy and daddy rampaged around the common room trying to find the Pack and Play (seriously, we NEED that damned P&P, even as much as Chaya hates it), and otherwise prepare the room for sleep. She crashed early after an impromptu standing dinner of "artisanal goat cheese that mommy handed to Chaya while holding her and making conversation with the rest of the family before bedtime"

Day Two wasn't so bad either. Chaya woke up early, but within the range of normal. She took a middling morning nap after a bit more fuss and complaint. She frolicked with her grandpa and Great Aunt Cathy.

She fought her second nap tooth and very sharp baby nail. But she eventually crashed for another middling sleep. Both naps were concluded with an hysterical baby howling until I went and got her. We put her down a little earlier than usual. She fussed at bedtime and cried a bit when I tried to put her down, but eventually crashed after about an extra half hour.

Through the night she stirred crying a few times and seemed restless.

Day Three she woke up at 4 a.m. and fussed, then cried, then fussed, and then went back to sleep after about an hour. She woke up at 6:30 a.m. and decided that was about enough for good naps. Weary of the exhausting nap ritual and in honor of the wishes of the rest of the family to get out on an excursion earlier than later, we decided to try her morning nap on the way out to the Marin Headlands. Hey she'd surprised me with that long carseat nap on the way to the airport.

She resisted. I suggested we hike with her in the boba, hoping she might crash. And about forty minutes later, she did sleep. For twenty minutes. On her home schedule, she would have made up for that in her afternoon nap. She didn't. The nap wasn't the worst, but was more like 45 minutes. Meaning she was up super far from her normal bedtime. But that was convenient, because Andrew was going out for the evening. We put her down early so he could do his part of bedtime. She took a decent amount of fussing to fall asleep.

She woke up an hour later. She eventually got back to sleep. Then woke up again. Then again. You get the motif. Have another baby picture.

Day Four... And then made a permanent howling go of it at about 5:00 a.m. Both of her naps were short and ended with hysterical howling. In the evening, she fussed and cried, but eventually fell asleep. For a few hours. Then stirred on and off until 2 a.m. at which point it was hysteria. I sang to her for about forty minutes while she twitched and struggled and hit me in the face. She fell asleep. I put her in the P&P, she started howling. I waited to see if she would settle herself. It was agony. There were hints she might, but quickly erased. I went back and sang to her for another twenty minutes. She was far more wont to fall asleep, but stirred and howled every time I put her down. I finally brought her to bed with us at about 4 a.m. She never sleeps with us. We wake her up. She wakes us up. But she was already asleep in my arms. She perked up as I landed on the pillow, said "DADA!" Andrew said hi and I murmured to be very quiet. She then slept fitlessly until...

Day Five...5:30 a.m., at which point she said "DADA!" again, and began happily hitting me in the face. She was actually in a shockingly perky mood for having gotten about three hours less sleep than usual. The ride to the airport was minor agony, however. She did not sleep, but she kept nodding off, jerking awake, fussing and repeating this. For about the hour it took to get to SFO. We nearly missed our flight due to the traffic, but made it.

And she slept on the plane. Kind of. She started nursing and closed her eyes and slowly drifted away, occasionally jerking and nibbling my exposed nipple. After thirty minutes, she jolted awake crying hysterically for about four minutes, before changing sides and starting to nod off again. She stayed that way for another half hour. We rushed the clock getting home and put her down for a nap, with some protest, but far less, at home. It was a shorter nap. And she crashed at bedtime.

Now we're home! The good news, she doesn't hate her crib. She wakes up in her crib and typically plays (with exceptions - see below). Sometimes she goes back to sleep if she wakes up early. I suspect part of the problem is that she does stir when she's sleeping and napping. Usually just a little, and enough to move a bit and go back to sleep. But enough that she was aware she wasn't home, and to be scared by this in her half awake state.

Anyways, things are not back to "normal" yet. Her naps improved again and she was getting thirteen hours of sleep, but the last few days, she's been waking up early again. Grumpy through the morning. Often acting very tired after her naps. Usually perking up just before her next nap or bedtime, so I can't quite believe she's ready to sleep.

Last night she was tantrummy all afternoon, yawning and glazed before dinnertime, but a bundle of energy at bedtime. She cooed and played and pummeled me in the face when I was singing to her. After I put her down, she played for about ten minutes before growing absolutely hysterical. We waited a half hour. Andrew went in and held her. She eventually calmed down, until he put her down. I am assuming this was the accursed "sleep training redux" that I'd been wary of, but also gave her some motrin just in case. She immediately fell asleep when I picked her up. But she woke immediately upon being set down. She settled after about ten more minutes of baleful howling at the edge of the crib. An hour and a half after bed time.

I guess she still has a deficit she isn't quite making up as much as moving away from. I guess sleep training is ongoing. Andrew and I were deliberating on what to do (this is only the third time she's not soothed herself to sleep without interference and before this trip). We agreed, that our relationship just wasn't at a point where we could go back to bedsharing mommy-baby and daddy in the Bachelor pad. So we're working on waiting her out a little bit more. And steeling ourselves for some grumps

 And I guess as long as she's waking up early, waiting four hours before her next nap actually doesn't nudge out her schedule. But the more day sleep she gets to make up for the bad night before, the less night sleep she seems to get the coming night.

It's nostalgic really. Awwww remember when I was verging on psychosis because I never got more than 90 minutes of sleep at a time? It must be the Christmas season again!

As for me, I'm nearly weaned off of the domperidone and paying a bit of a price for that. People don't really warn women about the longer term postpartum stuff. Oh you hear about pregnancy. You hear about the horrors of labor. You might even get some resources about the first couple of months after giving birth. But what about at six months PP where your thyroid maybe goes crazy and you start losing hair? What about the rips and ruptures that you don't even realize until you're a year out? And what about the hormonal hora that is weaning!?!

I'm not weaning. Chaya nurses roughly fifty times a day recently. But the slow withdrawal of extra progesterone basically mimics weaning. And it sucks. I know women who've gone to the hospital thinking they're having heart attacks. Mood swings. Weight gain. Weight loss. Total emotional derailment. And of course nearly ever pregnancy symptom you can imagine. I feel like I'm pregnant with the flu (except my hands and feet are still cold and I can stomach vegetables, so not my prior pregnancy).

But I'm so happy to be home. And so happy to have a crazy fifteen month old going on fifteen years.

This too shall pass and that's bittersweet!

In the meantime, I'm so glad to have a separate room for the hubba-hubs to sleep in, and a nice big safe crib for my little one to toss her bunny about in.

Happy holiday season!

Pleasant Outrage and the Plan for a Less Great but Better Tomorrow.

So far, I'm not a huge fan of Novemebr 2016. Well, with exceptions. Chaya is always the exception (even as she bashes her bunnies together and likely leaps about in her own ever-redolent poopies at 5 a.m. in the morning).

She started walking with assertiveness the day after election day. She continues to grow by leaps, bounds, and many eeny weeny tantrums-turned-giggles. A little sprig of spring in the deepest snows, perhaps.

But otherwise, the 2016 slate of deaths keep coming. Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Prince, and now Chaya's Great Grandfather Wright. And others near me have had misfortunes ranging from losses of children to putting down beloved family pets, to break ups of longterm relationships, to bad friggin' hair days.

And yeah, our nation is a bit in a roil right now. Reported hate crimes are up. Protesters are mixing peaceful with not-so-peaceful. Families aren't super thrilled with each other right now.

I guess we truly and strongly need this holiday season. I hope we can suspend our squabbles over the proper d├ęcor for our $10 pumpkin banana spiced coconut gingerbread lattes and put the Christ back in Christmas by rallying together to love the least lovable, help the less advantaged, wash the feet of sinners etc. And yeah, that's the most self-sanctimonious sentence I'll utter here. I'm directing it at myself more than anyone.

But right now, I'm thinking about 2017. And how I will take it by the horns and wrestle with the dour foreboding that shuffles under 2016's little staggers. Politically speaking in particular.

It's not exactly Morning in America. Maybe like that weird time around 4 a.m. when you wake up to use the bathroom, and everything seems strange, but you just can't go back to sleep. Yeah, I don't know if it's merely 'our turn' or if Trump's ascendency is as unprecedented as it feels. I am constantly uncertain, and having a Gaslighter in Chief doesn't really help avoid normalizing, feeling outrage fatigue, and remember how easy it was to dismiss the anti-Obama hyperbole once upon a time. We all have our own foundational beginnings. All have our own news sources and echo chambers. It's a time of shifting sand and fears upon fears.

But I know I've been (West) coasting on my progressive happy-dappy liberalism for far too long. I know that I want to make the world a better place - or at least preserve what's so great about it - for my little Beastie. And for everyone, really, but she's the embodiment of that visceral urge. Even as I continue to withdraw into my familial cocoon. People are scared of losing so much. People have so little already. Yet, I have so much. Regardless of the White House, I am of an age to know I have not given back nearly enough.

I frankly don't rightly know what I *can* do. I'm not the kind who attends meetings and protests. They take so much out of me that I'm fairly useless. I have a voice and I write well, but is yodeling through my personal echo chamber particularly helpful? I can sign petitions even. And if it ever actually came to it, I'd register as Muslim etc. Still I'm skeptical and cynical of the tangible actions I could take in the short term, beyond donating money. And my time and energy feels so limited for volunteering. I hope to expand from that cocoon, but not so quickly. It's a balance of honoring myself by embracing my limits, and honoring myself by fighting for what I believe in.

I'm still figuring that balance out. But regardless, I will not let go. I will not embrace complacency. I will also not pretend that pestering my friends and family counts as activism.

But regardless of how my role pans out, I will bind myself to these principles first and foremost.

1. I will remain informed. I will not hyperbolize. I will know what I'm fighting before I shout out the battle-cry. I will check my news stories. I will struggle with the nuances behind the headlines. I will not assume a small instance can be projected to an entire movement - as I consider sample sizes, cause/correlation, and confounding factors.

2. I will not dismiss information that triggers my cognitive dissonance, regardless of the tenor with which that information is presented. I will check sources, listen before I shout, and reflect. I will accept that I do not have to sacrifice my ethical stances by considering those that conflict with mine.

3. I will act with respect. Whether or not somebody else has "earned" my respect is beside the point. It is about who I am as a person. It is about creating a space for the other to live up to that respect instead of shutting down the chance before we begin. And if that other does not, then that is on them.

4. In regards to those in power - and all people - I will continue to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I recognize that hope for better behavior in the future does not require me to cede my demand that their past misdoings be addressed.

5. I will respect my emotions as real and valid... as emotions. I will shout and rail and let off steam with many much needed laughs. But what defines me as a person is what I do with those feelings. I have a cerebral cortex. I will use it.

6. I will act from a space of love and respect, but I will hold people responsible for their actions. I will not allow a slow trickle carve a canyon.

7. I will step out of my comfort zone and use my privileges/fortunes to help those who are not as fortunate as me. I will hold myself accountable, while also recognizing my own limitations.

8. I do not have to assume the moral high ground to act on what I believe is right. I will stand firm but still look for common ground.

9. Belittling those opposed to me only blinds me. It does not prevent them from doing harm, and in fact enables them to do so more effectively.

10. I will embrace raindrops on roses, remember the amazing good that people are doing every day, and remember that despair and despondency will do nothing. I will see the good that we, all of us, are capable of and will rejoice in that, even while protecting against the bad in all of us. I will recognize that progress is slow and full of set-backs.

And of course, there will be baby photos and maybe even cute kitties. Because 2017 demands them. And who am I to resist?

Blue Thoughts from a Blue Girl in a Red World

This won't be different than a thousand other dumps from the out of touch elite liberal coastal folks (there's a German word for that right?). We're all stunned, I know. We all have complex emotions ranging from despair, hope, anger (bargaining?), and wonky analysis. And we'll have more than a few deeply personal stories to pepper into the mix. This is my turn.

Tuesday night was hard for me. I didn't just resign myself to Hillary Clinton. I actively liked her. I respected her past activism and the sacrifices she made for a husband who likely did not deserve her. I decried the sexist undertones and double standards that constantly impeded her path. I admired her debate performance. And, as somebody who is very introverted, I sympathized with her "likability" issues while noting that she was roundly loved by those who knew her personally. I read many of her emails and felt even more that she was a cautious thoughtful person, who probably overthought everything. But one who surrounded herself by experts and worked hard to nuance out the tough details. She was a pragmatist like me, in a world increasingly taken by shouting and twitterese soundbytes and simplifications. Was she pure and clean? No. There were some ick in her past and life. But politics is dirty and people are impure. And she was judged so much more harshly for each chink in her armor that perhaps I obstreperously denied her weaker points. And I felt they could be handled.

I was uneasy going into the evening, but starting to feel a little confident. Even allowing myself some excitement at the prospect of my daughter growing up with a female president. The most qualified person to ever run for office, more importantly. I dreaded the misogyny that would swell up with it. I was weary already of the likely nonstop impeachment proceedings. But I was ready for that fight. And ready to hold her feet to the fire. Ready to rebuild our scattered primary process and reform the party.

But that wasn't meant to be. As results came in, my heart sank. And then sank some more. And then even more. I didn't understand exactly why, but I felt sick. Despite having a cold and being more than ready to crash, I did not sleep. I cried. I cried a lot.

This wasn't like when George Bush won. I was disappointed then. I was freshly exposed to the oddities of the Electoral College. I had misgivings, but it wasn't the same. It was politics. And politics don't always go my way. This was something entirely different.

It's a petty simile, but I felt like I'd just been dumped. It was like being in a troubled relationship and knowing there was a lot of work to do, but having fully committed to some truly difficult times ahead. And then just like that, having my world stripped from me. My identity. My expectations. My sense of all that was familiar suddenly becoming infinitely complicated and scary. Being stunned. Being angry. Desperately wanting to bargain and explain my way out of it. And barring that, to act out in a way that created at least a similarly deep scar that had been left from this result.

I joked. I raged. I cried again. I felt a strong and eerie sense of freedom and impetus. I stress-binged on an entire bag of carrots, several M&Ms and a pot of coffee. I had a frenetic energy... and then I got a new haircut and sang "I will survive."

And as the new reality slowly settles in, I emerge from my cloud, thoughts become more articulable. Some of these thoughts are taken from other places as I sorted out my feelings. Some are fresh. I am sure there will be more.

1. I'm just so sad that my daughter will grow up in a world where a man who admits to sexually assaulting women - who then responds to accusations of the same by smearing their physical attractiveness as beneath assault -  is given a free pass. A world where he is repeatedly praised as "honest" while his accusers are attacked and marginalized. I don't want her to see that part of the world. I don't want her to grow up with the realization that she will be strong and yet still face setbacks because of her gender. I don't want her to have to come to terms with the fact that she will be treated like a lesser being or an object by the men in power. And that she will have to tolerate it sometimes for fear of repercussion. That if she tolerates it, she will be blamed. But if she doesn't, she will be penalized.

That she will have to behave in certain ways to avoid consequences that range from resentment to assault. That she will risk censure for pushing too hard, even as she will be pushed to push harder. I want her to grow up always sure that her body is her own and it is not her fault if that is taken from her. I want her to have faith that if she is violated in ways big or small, that society will be outraged and that there will be consequences. I do not want her to be afraid of speaking out against those who harm her.

I grew up in a shifting time. A time where consent was discussed, but also a time where men were still painted as sexual aggressors and that this was normal. That this was out of their control even. We understood the idea of "date rape". But at the same time we were also encouraged to be sex-positive. As feminists, we too could and maybe should want and enjoy sex. We should fight the narrative of sexually crazed men. We were warned of dangers but not of how complicated sexual aggression can be.

Too often I allowed men to cross lines because I knew they were good people, and felt that good people wouldn't do something as bad as what sexual aggression had been painted to be. I didn't want to make the situation uncomfortable by standing up. I normalized things. I went numb and hoped it would go away. I felt guilty for not being able to reciprocate a real desire, embarrassed that I was less sexually adventurous, and often feeling guilty of leading these men, these friends, on by not being firmer. And in time I learned to avoid situations where that occurred. Sometimes at the cost of friendship.

I once found myself isolated with a man much larger than me. He was persistent, although I tried to politely decline his conversation. I even tried to slip away in a public space. It didn't work, and I felt trapped. He bought me a coffee and asked me how come I was so fat if I didn't eat meat. I allowed us to drift into an isolated area of town. I knew I had no more control and yet my brain continued trying to normalize the situation. In the moment I told myself he was an annoyance. One who wouldn't go away, but just another clueless man who thought too highly of himself. I felt alone. And I knew the power imbalance, but it wasn't until it was over that I really recognized the full terror of the situation. I bargained more or less. I said a lot to him. I talked my way out of a lot. But what influenced him most seemed to be that I had a boyfriend (untrue), and I was a virgin (true).  I let him kiss me because I was afraid of what might happen if I didn't. In the end we parted ways, while he essentially congratulated himself for not having done "what other men would have done." In other words I was not a rape victim. That was supposed to be a victory. But that victory was by his choice and we both knew it. He said it as if to emphasize how much he liked me. He asked for my email address. I gave my spam one to him and later simply discarded the message from him.

Almost every single woman I know has a story or ten like this, and many have much worse stories. We don't talk about it much because we're embarrassed. Strong women, so the story goes, don't let themselves become victims. So many woman I love and respect have implied oh overtly said as much. Women who are victimized are and become defective. And we don't want our families to feel hurt. Even in our generation. I still think about these things when I go out. I watch my drinks. I'm careful who I talk with. I don't usually go out alone. I scan streets and crowds for potential allies and potential aggressors. I'll teach Chaya to do the same. To watch how she acts, where she goes, and what she wears. And it makes me angry that I have to. It makes me angry that men are still excused and given lighter censure than the women who accuse them. That when I'm with even men I love, I sometimes think about how I would struggle against them given the strength imbalance.

That is not something I want for my child. To be the aggressor, also simultaneously hurt and guilty and angry and unclear on the concept of another individual's dignity, is not something I want for my nephews.

And now I understand so much more that I don't yet know how to teach consent to my daughter. Or how to teach her that it is ok and safe to be something other than heterosexual and cisgendered. I don't know what to tell her when a woman cannot become president for all the double standards that I still see working in the world. I don't know what to tell her when a man who has openly torn down all those who are less powerful than him can become "the most powerful man in America". When that is accepted by the quarter of Americans who voted for him.

2. Fear is a natural evolutionary response, but do not let it pull you into the mire. Hate can only be fought by love. Despair only with hope.

This has been such a polarized election. We are each living with our own bubbles and facts, and our brains are bending over backwards to justify our choices. I truly believe that many people have simply lacked the exposure that would give them an insight into what so many Americans woke up to on Tuesday. I think they truly believe it was "just talk" and they don't understand the visceral fear of losing everything. And there is a lot of hurt at the implication that they are racist etc. because in their heads there is such an absolute and despicable Manichean distinction between bigoted and not-bigoted. I really do not know how to break through that.

I do not know how to reach out now. I don't know how to help others understand. I don't even fully understand the depth of the pain and anxiety these results have causes. I'm a very insulated white cisgendered hetero woman in the middle-class. All I can do is offer my love and my pledge to fight for everything that these people are. And for the beauty and strength they bring to this world. And I know that isn't enough. I want so much to do something even close to enough for you and every one now. This country is hurting in so many ways. I am so, so sorry.

3. I'd just like to emphasize to those who are Trump supporters. When I share things like this, I am not saying *you* are racist/sexist or hateful. I know you too well to believe that. But I am pointing to an increase in this behavior, and very real fear and distress in the lives of many Americans since the election results came out. And to a contingent of the American populace who has become emboldened by Trump's candidacy. And stating that I believe we as Americans have an obligation to intervene and make the statement that we do not support this behavior. I wish I could share my experience with you and vice versa. I genuinely want to come to a place of mutual understanding of both the fears and passions that motivate us. I admit I've spent this entire election cycle trying to "empathize with the Trump supporter" to the point of exhaustion. I think very highly of my conservative relatives although I disagree with them. And I think nothing is gained from slinging insults. I'm glad to feel that I live in a community that feels the same. Perhaps that's my own self-selecting bubble, but if so I'm happy it includes people who can disagree and still love each other.

To those who believe that Trump will not act on the comments he has made... To those (white people mostly) who believe the fears that are awakened by this result are exaggerated and misplaced: I appreciate your feelings and know you believe this wholeheartedly. Honestly, I don't know what will come. Trump has said and done so many contradictory things that the man is a human Rorschacht test. He has also previously been pro-choice and I'm sure has funded a few abortions, but I believe and I'm sure most who voted for him believe he now will follow through on his pledge to end Roe v Wade. So it's hard - or perhaps too easy - to cherry pick "what he'll do and what he'll be like."

What I do know, however, hurts my heart. During his campaign perhaps he was merely irresponsible playing with some pretty dark sentiments. He "joked" in a way that certain of his supporters took seriously and he emboldened several fringe elements to become far more prominent by being slow to repudiate them or their message. And I've seen him use what we'd call gaslighting to mock and belittle those who have claimed he's hurt them. This is a model.

And what I know now and what makes me sad is that since his election, there has been an increase in hateful language and behavior directed at those least empowered. The KKK is having a victory parade. People of all nationalities are being told that America doesn't care about the fear they've held and the increased hostility they've faced. A local Muslim family had feces smeared on their house. Other local children of people I know have come home in tears being told they'll be sent away because they're brown skinned. I have gay friends in rural areas who have been threatened, or whose children have been told they will be taken away from their parents. So many low income friends are fearing they will lose their healthcare insurance. Women are having their hijabs torn off of them in public. Some of my friends who are sexual assault survivors feel like the country just told them that their experience didn't matter and like they've been abused again. It may be a small contingent of Trump supporters, but it is a dangerous one that has gotten/taken a certain message. And I do think Trump will probably go at least as far as making policy choices that make it easier to act on these impulses. Not from malice or intent, but indifference.

And now I see that protests are also turning violent and this breaks my heart as well. And our country has its own history of some ugly moments (not with ill will, but generally from fear and overreach coming from vigilence). I think less of NAZI Germany than our own Japanese Interment during WW2. Or the way Americans were tormented during The Red Scare and McCarthyism. That's the America that Trump evoked on the trail, that "golden era." Or any other of our scads of violent instances. And I do not know what will happen, but I will be praying deeply that we all, especially those of us who are insulated from the immediate effects can make an impact.

4. I'm a Christian, albeit a liberal one who does not align with evangelicism that aligned with Trump. Jesus chose to die for us sinners. He embraced those whose intentions were most hostile to him. How can we, given this, demonize an entire faith/ethnicity for fear that one in a million of these people (and really the percentage is exponentially tinier) may mean us harm? Jesus cast out the moneylenders from his church and embraced the lowliest of society. How can any of us who claim the faith do otherwise? To those who supported Trump for reasons of faith and pro-life, I hope to see you on the frontlines protecting the most vulnerable.

5. Forty-six percent of eligible voters did not vote. If you're unhappy with the results, here's where we start. People aren't voting not because they don't care. Yeah some didn't like their options, but so many more faced absurd barriers. There are states where voting requires losing a day of work and waiting in line in bad conditions for hours, It's getting harder with shorter hours and more harassment. And the states where voting rights are most in peril are the places where many who are impacted have the most to lose and the fewest resources to make an informed vote. It starts with local politics and unsexy districting issues, to primary structures, to midterm elections, and goes straight up to that electoral college. I don't know how to make that better, but it's on us to address it.

6. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. And the electoral college was close. Very close. If not for any number of things - WikiLeaks, Comey's FBI leaks and Anthony Weiner's weiner, the DNC's treatment of Sanders and his followers, marginally better minority engagement in key states - this election would have an entirely different narrative. But it doesn't. And that sucks, but the petition to engage Faithless Electors is one that only threatens to shake the already shoddy foundations of our democratic system. The primaries laid bare some very unsavory truths about our ridiculous electoral system. If we the people want to move forward, something needs to be done. The Democrats have an opportunity to clean house. To reboot. And to start fresh. But I fear instead we'll be mired in finger pointing and internecine histrionics. I am praying that instead of resentments and hostile hindsight, we can move forward.

7. There is some bitterness for me in all of this. The GOP declared that Obama would be a one-term president. They obstructed him every step of the way, including in areas where their constituents might have benefitted. They shut down the government repeatedly. They played on racist undertones, while Obama hesitantly walked the line of being "too black" for a country that was patting itself on the back for ending racism with one election. They refused to even consider a Supreme Court justice in an unprecedented - and I believe unconstitutional - step. And then proclaimed they would reject any and all nominees from a President Clinton. And red states refused the government offerings that would have helped their poorest (and now angriest) citizens. they let people's lives get worse to capitalize on their hurt and anger. Obama tried to compromise and work together for an entire term, and it only made things harder. They cried foul when he gave up on trying so hard. They painted him as the hostile force. They repeatedly played chicken with American lives and livelihoods.

And they won. Or that's how it feels. They now have all three branches of government in hand. They may have been colonized by somebody who barely embodies conservative values, but each has made a bargain with the devil to gain power. I think it will come to clashes, but it still saddens and frustrates me.

Now Trump is reaching out across the aisle. Proposing some things that Obama had tried to do. Things that Democrats know will help. If they work with the Republicans, the credit will go to the President Elect. They will diminish their chances of winning back the White House. But if they obstruct, they become the thing they have decried.

Michelle Obama says "when they go low, we go high," but it's rather hard to continue that path when going low seems to be so effective.

But I hope that they do, nonetheless. I hope I can, nonetheless.

... BUT I wish that Obama hadn't been so civil about Merrick Garland. I wish that he had forced the issue. I wish that this made it to the Supreme Court. I wish instead of trying to model good behavior and shame the shameless, he had fought for that one.

8. As much as I'm heartened to see the activism and enthusiasm of all the people around me, I feel like we're already in a blue, blue State. Washington will do everything it can to preserve health care for the needy (we already have). We'll invest in the future. In roads. We'll raise the minimum wage. We'll pass anti-discrimination laws and protect women's health. We'll approve levies for public services. People will be hurt and there will be hate crimes, but Washington will prosecute those. It won't be as bad as elsewhere.

I sometimes think the real problem isn't the electoral college per se, but the fact that wealth, education, and diversity gravitates towards the coasts. The people in the middle have a louder voice in the electoral system right now. Minorities are clustered in states where their vote has less influence. Clinton won California by even huger margins than Obama did.  She received more votes than any presidential candidate in history other than Obama.

And that makes no difference in a winner take all college. Wealth and diversity usually mean liberalism. Higher educations. More investment in common goods and services. A higher quality of life, but also a higher cost of living. While conservatism in the middle states allows more and more people to slip through the cracks. These people are losing to a global economy that continues to make them more and more superfluous. They lack exposure to the diversity that all studies have shown to decrease racism and xenophobic attitudes. I don't mean to be condescending, but we truly have carved out two entirely different worlds by coring out the middle.

And it will continue to get worse. We can run up deficits "creating jobs" in the short term, but frankly, most jobs are not ever coming back. Not really. Technology is rushing to make human labor increasingly obsolete and the blue collar workers feel it first and hardest.

And they want change. They will continue to want change. Sometimes that will swing in favor of the democrats. Sometimes that will swing in favor of the Republicans. But I suspect they'll always be disappointed in the long run.

So instead of wringing our happy liberal hands about the electoral college, maybe if we really wanted to make a difference we'd all move there. Or wealthy tech magnates would build there instead of crowded out San Francisco. It would bring increased services and funding. It would bring more educational opportunities. More exposure to diversity. And jobs. It would piss off a lot of people, because gentrification is cultural colonialism, but it would bring exposure. nd it would bring jobs. Not the old jobs, but newer ones that bring people out. Will it help the voters with the loudest voices and the biggest problems? Maybe not. I don't know. But this may already be starting, as even the reddest states are beginning to have very liberal urban areas.

if you want your voice to matter, you have to live somewhere that right now sucks to live in if you're liberal. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

9. In the words of Stephen Colbert, I am a sexy kitty. And if you don't get that joke, that's life. There's going to be a lot of things we don't get in the next little time.

10. In the midst of this, my fourteen month old daughter made a breakthrough. After several months of flirting with a few steps here or there, she just clicked with walking. Nay, running. For the last few weeks, she'd run across the bed or sofa, but only take a step or two on the floor.

On Wednesday afternoon, I propped her up by the bed to change, and suddenly she'd bridged the gap and was back at my legs (ripping at my pant leg and giggling). On Thursday, she suddenly ran past me in the kitchen and kept circling the kitchen island shrieking and giggling and getting back up when she fell down. On Friday, she walked up the stairs with the help of the banister. In between she's been a holy terror of temper tantrums and messy sleep. But in the moment, it is the purest essence of human will and discovery. It reminds me how complicated walking can be. It reminds me of how long and arduous and slow the process to learning and accomplishment can look. How many setbacks there can be before suddenly everything clicks. And the unadulterated joy of life itself. The world is so full of love and discovery.

And things get better and they get worse. But they move on. And we move forward. And life, in all its messy horrific glory is a gift beyond words.

Baby steps... baby runs... and baby staggers. The world still can and will become a better place.

Dooo-Dah-Ditty: Thirteen Month Mayhem and Looming Fourteens

If having a twoddler wasn't weird enough, we've now really reached peak and pique transitional oddity time. Chay-Chay is toddling, but most not on her own. She runs up to dogs yelling 'DAH!!' and pointing in such a way that it's arguably her first word. She has named her favorite bunny (to which she is increasingly attached) Budabudabudabudabudabuda, I'm fairly certain.

She nurses (and tantrums) on demand! Choppers, but not gnawers (though Andrew scared me a few days ago by commenting "Ah you're getting a molar" while she was screaming bloody murder on the diaper table).

And yet, she really isn't that quintessential toddler quite yet. She's not exactly communicating in that way. She has taken a step or three between objects and my hands. But she's not walking. She isn't climbing into everything just yet.

Not a babe, not yet a girl. Or something like that.

But it's an amazing time to be a mom. Amazing and exhausting. And everything in between. I look back to my blogs from a year ago and I am dazzled at how much (1) harder, (2) more visceral, (3) less joyful having an infant was. It's not fully fair to say that last one. I was so high on hormones, I barely noticed I was surviving on 45 minutes jags of sleep to desperately feed the little parasite that mostly knew how to poop/writhe/sleep/and-cry-all-the-time, or the crippling anxiety that comes from that sort of fully embodied Id. It's hard to imagine this eensy little morsel is my wee gremlin. Sure Chaya always had some essential Chayaness to her.

 She has always been a little sensitive. Always a little gassy (sorry future Chaya, but the TMI continues until you're old enough to understand the concept). Always uncannily alert and aware. And always particular. But These were vague outlines back then. Now they are double etched in stone and painted over with gold and silver, then encrusted in gems.

We are a stone's throw from personality conflicts and the struggle for self-identity and independence. But here again, it's sort of in between the two. Chaya has a sense of self. She has a sense of others. She distinguishes people pretty extensively and has distinct relationships with each of them. But the concept of boundaries, rules, and lines are hazier.

In many ways, I feel like I'm heading into my second year of law school. That odd middle-child of the lawschool career, and arguably one of the best.

In fact, there are many ways that parenting reminds me of law school.

1. Sleep dies and you are always sick.  Duh, Captian Obvious.

Law school was definitely a case of massive insomnia all the time. And duh to parenting. Seriously, it gets better, but I still wake up a teeny bit every two hours now. And I just have a disturbance-in-the-force type feeling every time Chaya tosses and turns. Any time my husband remotely breathes or moves, I'm so primed to react that I hurl myself straight back into wakefulness. But it's a lot better than it was when I was literally waking up every forty minutes, say.

Those three years, I basically had a runny nose, sore throat or head ache all the time. Now that Chaya's a bit older and constantly out contracting one illness or other, I'm pretty well either coming down with something or actively collapsing dog-dead tired and ill. I rationalize that it's ok to let her slobber all over that friend with the horrible cough and gnaw on the side of the soda machine outside the public restroom; after all, it's building our immune systems before the horrors of daycare/preschool. But it's mostly that I just don't have the energy to intervene while I'm wiping my gushing nose on my sleeve and trying to keep her from eating rocks (Soil, ok. Rocks, no).

2. You lose friends and sometimes are just kind of a horrible person. Law school was surprisingly brutal on my longstanding relationships. I lost not one but two very good friends during my three intense and marvelous years at UW. One of them was one of my oldest and longest friendships. Sometimes people do just evolve and sometimes misunderstandings could happen anywhere at any time. But add in the substitution of stress for sleep, addle yourself around in the bizarro law school bubble, and you pretty well guarantee that you are, at least partially, a horrible horrible person for the duration.

And, well, parents are also somewhat terrible people. We can't make appointments to save our lives. We panic about exposing our precious snot face to any manner of germs, but think nothing of foisting the screaming, hacking germ-monger and our attendant millions of cold (see item number 1) all over you and your happy world.

I will follow my child around as she wreaks mayhem in any public space. And instead of intervening, I smile apologetically as if all this were completely out of my hands and I might as well be telling them how sorry I am that a typhoon just happened to strike their house and wash away everything they'd saved for. Or, often I just pretend I'm not there as she assaults animals, pulls up plants, interrupts other's private conversations to stare and point, and does any other manner of impolite things. In fairness, if another baby takes her toy or pulls her hair, I'm generally of the philosophy that Chaya needs a little of that since she lacks an older sibling. But it's still not the same. Honestly, I've just reached a point where it's not worth the tantrum to tell her "no" for these minor awkwardnesses. I like to reserve the distractions and "no" for times when it's physically dangerous or really actively imposing beyond a certain degree of awkwardness.

And my friends without kids. Well I'm sure they reasonably "just don't understand" the license to be a crazy, stressed out, schedule obsessed, perpetually late, flake/horrible person. I'm amazed at the other moms who seem to feel hurt that their childless friends "abandoned them." I feel like I'm the one who jumped ship and I feel that deeply! I don't expect them to change everything about our interactions, just because I managed to invest some money and get myself knocked up before knocking the a little gremlin who is now gnawing on some stranger's keys after throwing their water bottle... They clearly should understand that and all it means! Or they would, if I could every manage or arrange to see them. As it is, I'm sure most of them just think I'm dead or on the lam.

3. You no longer can have normal conversations

Law students are often accused of turning into word-weasels and cross-examiners. And they certainly acquire a distinct gloss on otherwise "normal" words like "consideration" or "the word is"... Parents certainly have their own language, but we're also kind of perpetually aphasiac, tossing our word salads, and mostly incoherent. And of course that pesky third person talking. I'm often mommy and "mommy needs Chaya to stop kicking her in the throat now, please." I'm also Adella and some days "Adella needs barrista to make nice strong coffee for her lunch er dinner er Berlin?? Crap, coffee! Except don't give me full caff because then I'll be wired off the um doggie??"

So it used to be that mom-playdates were disjointed and difficult to sustain because babies need naps, have disgusting and weird emergencies, and so on. It's a little easier on the nap scale now that they're cutting back to one or two naps (albeit still fairly impossible). But should we actually manage to convene in any one location, we will only be within shouting distance of each other for roughly half a minute. Then one kid takes off to the ocean. The other beelines for the most inedible looking soil near the parking lot. Another one is up the play structure. Any remaining children will immediately begin attacking each other and/or tantrumming. In any given playdate, I have about five active conversations that are tested in minor snippets as we pass each other by with our little gremlins possibly screaming in tow. I've often thought that mom playdates should always come with bluetooth walkie talkie sets so any single discussion could be held to some semblance of conclusion.

4.  For almost the entire first year, you are naive, overeager, overly anxious, and have no idea how you're doing. 

At least at UW, your first year grades were based exclusively on a massive final exam which was once analogized to "being dropped in the desert and graded on how close you get to the water before you die." And many of our first year classes lasted two quarters. I seriously had no idea whether I was doing ok. Sure, we got caught on the spot and grilled by teachers. But that didn't really matter except for the public shame of stuttering through a particularly ill-formed opinion. By the second year, I felt so much more settled. Classes got more interesting and engaging. I had a sense of what I needed to do, and when it got harder, I had confidence I could roll with that.

You start parenting with grand aspirations for life-baby balance. Even temperament. A certain approach to anything. And, just as you kind of knew but didn't believe it would, it explodes. Repeatedly. Ever five or six minutes. You kind of settle into your pace after a while. Sure things explode repeatedly, but you feel like it can go somewhere.

5. Self-care is an obnoxious but necessary buzz word. Our lawschool orientation was dripping with exhortations to take breaks, seek counseling, and do something just for ourselves. As a mom, I almost feel mom-guilt for not taking enough me-time.

But seriously. Think about it. I was saying to somebody recently that when I am having a tough time, I think about what I want for Chaya. And what I want is for her to grow up happy, self-assured, self-respecting and able to form loving relationships. And I don't have much control over that except for the example I myself set. Damnit. Talk about pressure!!

If I take a page from law school though, it was when I decided to ease off, skip the unecessary extra credit, and just know my limits, that I started acing my way through it. Sometimes freaking out too much is more ironic than rain on your wedding day. Who'd've thought.

5. You often feel like you 'need a drink' except having a drink just makes you sleepy and crash. 
How do parents or lawyers ever become alcoholics, and at such remarkable rates?? I used to have a stone-cold Irish tolerance. After law school, I could drink about a half of a beer and feel whooooooey to "I'm gonna just pass out here now, thanks."

6. You might just totally shift diurnal patterns. I used to go to sleep at 2 a.m. and wake at 10 a.m. Then law school happened. Since then, I wake up closer to 5 a.m. Don't ask. I'm not even entirely sure. But having a baby seems to perpetuate this lifestyle, since my baby is a very early little birdie.

7. Relationships are tested. Ok, I had two relationships during lawschool. The first one was certainly never likely to go anywhere, and after he broke up with me (yes hard to imagine, considering), my first thought was genuinely "wait you're doing this before finals?? What if this screws up my grades?"

 And Andrew and I met in law school, and blossomed. But I've seen a lot of darker outcomes from the hard and hearty days of law school.

And I needn't even recount the myriad ways that things get way more serious and every pecadillo/personality-clash/minor-difference of opinion grabs gravitas with the introduction of a little sprat. And you think you can plan ahead. You think you can have those tough conversations about how you'll parent and your values and discipline and what have you. But that's an awful lot like how you think you have some idea of what kind of parent you'll be. You don't. Because the parent you are is going to be heavily influenced by the kid you have. And the way that you both react to that kid may not put either of you in your previously harmonious non-parenting parental philosophy. You may dodge these thorny issues entirely. It's been pretty ok for me and Andrew so far. But it comes up. And the things that really strain and struggle are not the things you'd ever have thought of.

Oh and you're both tired.

7. You shelve parts of yourself for a good long while.

Perhaps more to say, I changed a lot in those three years. I took up running. I lost a ton of weight. I changed sleeping patterns. I held onto some friends for sure, but my relationship with them had evolved. I went from a somewhat wild blues-and-tango-flirty commitmenphobe who loved to take off and travel on her own and feel unattached to nowhere in particular to a nearly engaged homebody in a long-term relationship talking seriously about the next steps...

As a mom, I haven't danced or really seriously worked out for longer than Chaya's been alive. I am not working. I get my kicks in a variety of ways I've already driveled on about for hours and years. I'm me, but parts of me are definitely taking a little ME-time off.

8. When you have a spare moment you hit a brick wall of indecision

I remember after finals, I would just sit on my couch staring into space. There was an urgent sense of energy - all those things I had shelved for "vacation" but I couldn't handle a single thing. I have kind of a routine as soon as Chaya goes down for a nap. Several bajillion things. Because if I don't start immediately... BAM I'm staring wildly and pacing up and down starting a million things halfway before flitting back (like, say this blog which has been simmering for at least a week and a half)

9. Life continues to happen with or without you.

In my third year of law school, my mom got cancer. My grandfather died. The world doesn't stop because of your special immersive experience. My best friends in the world got married. Things get "real" in all kinds of ways.

It's true with Chaya too. Other people have lives. Those flourish and blossom and contract and evolve. Sometimes I completely miss it. But just because that first day felt like an eternity, the world has never stopped and every important relationship and activity still requires interest and investment. I'll come back to it. But it's important to remember from time to time.

Ways in which (I hope) it doesn't resemble law school.

1. Hopefully you aren't totally burnt out by the middle of the third year...

2. Law school involved significantly less time flashing my nipples in public.

3. Hopefully you don't work super hard and make it through all the crazy stressful tests, and then realize actually there's a major bubble in the parenting market, parenthood has restructured and your investment in becoming a parent probably wasn't worth the returns...

4. Naps seem to be less of a thing in lawschool. Definitely less of a life-structuring crucial thing.

And on we stumble. Waiting for more. Watching more. Missing the old and savoring the new. Highlighting nothing and knowing we probably shouldn't drive.

It's going to be an interesting ride hitting 14 months I'm sure.

Humble Pumpkin Pie: Chai-Chai Goeth Before a Fall

Parenting is a full-on American Gladiatorial course in humility. 

When I say humility, I have something fairly particular in mind. Humility, to me, is not about self-abasement or the abnegation of one's self, but about placing the self in the greater context. It is about the freedom, love and gratitude that can blossom from within when one does so. Stemming from the Latin humus for grounded, it is the opposite of a pride that closes oneself off from others, from deeper truths and from the self.  Pride stops one from surrendering a pleasant story about oneself when it no longer applies. Pride devours curiosity and spits out empty presumptions. Pride assumes that the set of circumstances and biases that lead into our opinions and beliefs is somehow superior to others. And in doing so, pride denies itself growth and connection.

 Humility may be about recognizing one's limitations. It may be seeking to continue improving oneself and diving deeper into the ocean of human experience. It is about being free of the desperate gymnastics we take to leave our pride unbruised and our self-stories gilded and silver-plated. It is about being open to ideas from any source and embracing those that challenge previously held beliefs. Humility is about letting go of the anxiety that we may discover we are not as "good" or "smart" or valued as we think we are. It's about seeking out cognitive dissonance. It's about fostering one's whole self, and not burying the parts we do not care for. It's about embracing failure as avidly as success. It's about recognizing the privileges and fortunes that allowed us to thrive and cultivate our talents and abilities. And about honoring those by giving back without desire for recognition.

It's almost trite to mention that we are constantly reminded of these things with a child. We think we have something figured out and it changes. One baby benefits from one act of parenting. The next is an entirely novel sphinx. One moment our child beams like the sunlight to see us coming home and the next this same creature screams to be held by us in preference to some other person in the room. And we carry on through high and low, hoping and trying to even ourselves out, remain open, and marvel in the miracles of discovery they continue to share with us. We trudge through so many moments and forgive ourselves so many parental pecadillos, hopefully without losing hope. Sometimes when Chaya is inconsolable, I have to tell her that she is deeply damaging my narrative of excellent parenting to cut the internal tension and allow there to be space for her experience of emotion.

And then there's our children themselves, little receptacles of germs and contumely. Pride can arise through and in our children in so many ways. A facile aspect would be the pleasure we take in seeing ourselves (occasionally) "succeeding" in our role as parents. Or our desire to see ourselves in our children. I admit, I get a little twinge when Chaya starts dancing to a good bout of music (musical like her mommy, she digs blues and the Eurythmics in particular). I dote on her beautiful blue eyes (so sharp and blue and sensitive like her mommy's). And I want to believe that her apparently acute sensitivity to social moods and observation of the world around her connects with my empathic HSP self. I want her to love words and have facility with language. I want her to see all of my most favored qualities embodied in her. And I fear for how my worst qualities may endure and provide stumbling blocks for her.

 But it runs more deeply than that.  How can I not look at the miracle that I have created and stumble upon the temptation to think more highly of myself for having created it. Is it possible not to edify myself for experiencing all that parenthood brings.

Watching Miss Chaya evolve and develop every single day is both the most humbling and prideful thing conceivable. Who am I to have had such a profound experience as birthing her? What have I done to merit the plunging depths of unimaginable love in every minor glance. I simultaneously want to drop to my knees and affirm God is in all things, and to parallel the experience of parenting to becoming a god in my own right (the demiurge if ever there were one). And perhaps sometimes I forget that though she is a receptacle of infinite miracle, so is every other baby and human life. Sometimes I may forget that the deep love and profundity of parenting her is no more edifying than any other parenting experience. When I sit back and realize that every parent (who has earned the name of parent) has some experience equally intense, it brings me awe. I'm astounded when I recall that parenting is not even necessary to plunge the depths of human existence: we are all embodiments of that miracle.

Our children are our own hearts, souls and blood. To see them succeed is beyond self-gratification, but it certainly is an extension of it. As we often mistake what constitutes success for ourselves, we all too often fall back to meaningless measures and metrics for our children. Do we ever truly accept that some things are out of our control or understanding? Isn't that one of the more terrifying thoughts when you have a child? That this thing whose happiness is the driving factor of your own well-being is successively less and less subject to our influence each and every day. And this is a good thing, but it is a terrifying thing. And there is a massive mote of pride lingering in our foolish idea that we could possibly know what "happiness" is for another living being.

Andrew and I have both pledged that we won't be those parents (read "every upper middle class parent ever") who constantly hover and push and strive to meld our child into some version of "success" that we've hobbled together from our own directed paths. I imagine this will be easier said than done, but we want her to be happy and satisfied with her chosen course. We don't want to start pushing big-S Success on her with endless reams of enrichment programs and early testing. We want her to do her own homework, have her own space, make her own choices knowing she will take her own consequences, and to be comfortable with her own failures.

But I suspect it won't be super easy to step back and ignore the occasional moment of foolishly prideful parenting.

And those developmental milestones provide a first few opportunities.

(Eight month pin-up baby)

At eight months, Chaya began walking with help. At thirteen, she shows no immediate signs of taking off on her own. At least to me. I've grown tired of the choruses of "she is so close." She has been assymptotic to walking in spits and spurts for months now. Many times standing on her own without realizing it or walking with a hand barely touching hers. She had a major revelation last week that having one hand free (and thus able to waive large objects around wildly) is preferable, which vaulted her skills astronomically. She nearly did just take off last Thursday and Friday, and was even trying to stand up on her own. But since then she's gotten more comfortable with one hand holding her up. More trusting and willing to throw herself around with the faith that this hand will keep her up. And more comfortably reckless - it's terrifying to think of the damage she might do to herself when she does actually take the (dare I say) walking plunge. At the playground, she'll just walk straight off the top structure, tantrumming when I pull her back. And she's less balanced on her own. In new spaces, or where the terrain is particularly uneven, she tends to be far closer to balanced. But for the most part, my fears of missing Chaya's "first steps" while in the bathroom remain unfounded.

She similarly mastered crawling and climbing up onto the mantle about a month and a half ago, tried briefly to do the same for the couch, and has now stopped attempting to do so. Currently, she'd rather just kind of limp-arm herself pulled up the stairs in a "walk."

I care and I don't. I didn't walk until I was fourteen months. My hubba-hubba walked at ten months. My current state may not reflect this, but I've always been a natural athlete and dancer; I have always been very well coordinated and exceedingly kinetic. Andrew, by contrast, is an athlete (and a formidable one at that) on sheer force of will. He has middling hand-eye coordination, funny joints, bow-legs; yet, he's a beast on the bike and swan on the slopes... So either way, an ambitiously prideful parent needn't worry yet. Maybe Chaya has some natural coordination and when she starts walking she'll never stop moving. She is a little dancer already with kicking legs and thoroughly fabulous rhythm. And her dynamic balance is astoundingly good - she has been able to stand while pushing the rocking chair loudly into the wall or with one hand on a jittery bouncer without a blink for months now.

Narcissus at 10 months

 Or she'll have her father's grit and kinetically kick-ass because deliberate practice is far more important than innate talent.

Or she'll have neither, won't be particularly athletic/physically-talented, but she'll find passion in something fulfilling and we'll love her regardless.

And, as I'm apt to tell people these days, it's a relief to be part of the little Chayanado careening through the house. I keep her out of harm's way several times an hour. And it keeps me nice and fit, all that walking. Which makes up nicely for the fact that I eat roughly 80% of her food these days.

Nonetheless, I can't help but bristle an eensy bit when the mama whose precocious child has been toddling since she was seven months asks about Chaya's "progress in walking" and instructs her daughter to "help her friend figure it out." I feel like other babies are "beating" Chaya when they start up with their first steps. And I'm a little relieved without knowing why when I meet an older baby who took a while to walk, or still isn't walking.

It's not a huge thing. We're well within the range of normal, and I see that she's continuing to make progress, so I feel like all is healthy and well. We don't play walking games. I don't sit behind Chaya with Andrew in front trying coax her into walking towards him. We both assume she'll walk in her own time.

Though sometimes I think that she transitioned to her current one-handed dervishment because I got tired of never having a hand free and began withholding the second hand more pointedly. And I'm sure that babies with siblings walk sooner in part because their parents have less time to help them walk. And then I wonder if I'm helping too much. Isn't my role as mother to help my child become more and more independent? Am I interfering with her growth as a person? Am I somehow secretly savoring the dependence and fostering it beyond the expiration date? But then I remember that parenting is a form of clinical insanity and holy crap, just relax already, before Andrew gets that tone in his voice while telling me to chillax, and then gladly goes about doting on how happy his daughter is to see him after a purported long day of grumps for mommy.

And maybe it isn't just pride. There's some of that, but there's a silly bit of impatience that crops up when you feel sooooooooo close to something for so long. The breakthroughs are so exciting that you start to feel odd in the minor regressions or the populous plateaus. Having a baby is a lot like watching baseball or cycling... a lot of nothing much and then - when you least expect it - massive bursts of excitement. But you have to pay attention the entire time. Don't even turn away to use the bathroom, or you could miss it. And babies aren't on DVR.

It's the same with talking. About a month ago, Chaya started to make some major connections. She started pointing at things. Birds. Dogs. Trees. Pictures. Her babble became increasingly complex to the point that my brain tries to process it as English and becomes thoroughly confused. Sometimes she'll respond to "where's your bunny?" by finding her bunny and offering it to me. Or pointing at the fan when I ask where the fan is. If I ask where her foot is, she'll laugh and lift her foot (I then tickle it). And I swear last weekend, I said "would you like to give the lamb to dada?" And she picked up a stuffed lamb and went into the bedroom where her father was. But some days, all she says is mumamamamamama with no particular connection to anything to do with me. Some days, she ignores my questions entirely. Or points idly at the light when I ask where the fan is. Sometimes I swear she's saying "bird" or "book." But other times I can't quite tell. And it makes me wonder if she was just coincidentally responding at other times.

And teething! Ok, now she has five teeth and one just on the precipice of popping.

And ... everything else.

But back to pride and humility (let's shelve the prejudice and zombies for a while longer). I've no right to anything with Chaya, except a basic constitutional right to raise her as my own right up until I'm legally unfit to parent. I don't have a right to her gratitude or love. I am gifted with her and - if anything - I owe her the world for bringing her into it. And yet, some small part of me foolishly feels like I've "earned" the "right" to witness Chaya's big firsts. As if I would be sorely slighted to miss her first steps or first words. Which is quite silly.

I remember saying that it wasn't really the wedding that mattered, but every single day after the wedding. And, despite a pretty awesome wedding, I still totally believe this. And it's the same with Chaya. The first step will be great. But will they be better than the one millionth? The billionth? Don't I have a lifetime of steps and words that will just get better and better as she walks and talks further and further from me. Perhaps it's so special because I know just how many steps I'll miss in the future. Or perhaps it's simply that artificiality that metrics always provide.

And as for first steps, I somehow suspect her technical "first steps" (staggers) will be taken at 80 miles an hour when her hand finally slips out of mine. And they will probably involve one of several crash landings. Because boy is she close to taking off when she starts sprinting. Whoever coined the term "baby steps" didn't necessarily see my little gremlin stomping around the house carrying a spray bottle and a toy snake while shrieking "buhbiihbuuuuhbuhhbuhhhh"... but the greater sentiment about things being gradual and coming in stops and starts perhaps applies.

And somewhere in there, I hope that I can foster patience and humility. Because somebody needs to ground the both of us in this crazy flighty time. Baby steps.

Slumping September Sonatina and the Weird Wonder Words

Fall: The Grand Return. As summer flings and fantasies fade faster than those lingering tan lines, children truck back to their yellow busses endued in smart new clothes and jittery optimism. Vacations vagaries proceed from life to lore. Autumn air is tinted with a smoky hominess. Pumpkins litter the grocery store atria, while arguments rage about the pumpkinosity of "pumpkin spice." And the small smattering of cyclical resolutions resurge.

Summer was the time to push past the self and beyond the ordinary. Fall is the time for Odysseus to reconnect with Telemachus, swords flashing and indiscretions ignored. And so, in the madness of our toddler tarantella, we begin the cycle with a new little creature and a little self-embrace. There is no normal for parents, but there's the settling of new routines (for however briefly they may last before whole new routines rev up).

So back to me. I'm bringin' sexless back, yeah! That's my theme music for a thought or two on the ol' mommy wardrobe.

You don't always think about how the tiniest features daily life might impact your "style." Well, ok, you might. It's not exactly a hard thing to fathom that convenience and identity are external factors in the ongoing evolution of one's "look." Of course I blather on and on about how we attach symbols to our bodies in order to associate with whatever in-group we most identify with. Mom-jeans were upgraded to yoga pants. LuluRoe and all their splendiferous leggings leapt upon the scene - they say not only are you a mom who balances comfort and individual expression, but that you probably actually have it together enough to attend "pop up boutiques" - parties hosted by your friends featuring a legging orgy. If not that, that at least you are in the right groups with the right friends for online fashion. And they are cute and comfortable. You are the fun mom who still gets a drink with buddies at the end of a day of leap-frog and adventuring.

I don't quite do mom-chic, though. I do mom-mess. Kind of the early 1990's Seattle version of mom-chic. You know the whole overplayed "boyfriend cardigan" idea? My current sense of style is a bit more "big-brother's gymbag." But it works for me. Athleisure becoming so socially acceptable in the US is a boon, though I rather enjoy my birthday haul of decidedly non-gym-bag palazzos gauchos, and flowy shirts that hearken back to my youthful dancing days.

 Of course it makes sense that I'd want something (1) comfortable, (2) easy to stumble across rooms trying to stop tiny human from self-destruction, (3) not dripping with opportunities for snagging and pulling and yanking, (4) not hideously unflattering to the more effeminate body that has emerged post-parturience. I don't quite elevate myself to buttery leggings and flowing tops. Nonetheless, lifestyle and fashion. And the freedom in America to go sloppy and call it athleisure.

But shirts, in particular, have a certain constriction: breastfeeding dictates a lot. Not for everyone, but for us.

When the gremlin seemingly started self-weaning at tennish months, I began fantasizing of sartorial splendors. Or at least shirts whose merits are not solely their ability to flip-and-flash the boobies. Not that this is not a miraculously fabulous design feature. Were my breasts at all erogenous areas anymore, I'm sure there would be even more attendant excitement and novelty about the peek-a-boo convertible top. But it is fairly limited. You can only do so much with a flip top shirt. In fact, You can't do much at all if you detest nursing bras and do not have an extensive bosom that can froth out over normal clothing.

And no matter the nice design work in the back or appealing color-scheme, the nursing top is typically also a maternity top, or one at least designed to charitably side-step the mommy pooch. Which means that the midrift is set adrift in florid fabric oceans. And this doesn't lend itself well to attractive profiles or accessorizing with any additional layering.

And so, it's nursing tops, running pants, and my favorite hoodie. I've tried desperately to mix things up with at least a few different styles of hoodie, but only this one particular hoodie maintains deep enough pockets to carry my cell phone and keys with me. And a cell-phone pocket is particularly important. I recently discovered restaurant server aprons as a handy summertime porta-pocket, but these tie awkwardly under other hoodies. And Chaya has learned how to untie them, which she finds hilarious. I still don an apron on warm days or during kitchen binges, but I prefer the damned hoodie. It's my version of a lovie, I think. I just don't feel quite as safe and warm without it.

I briefly managed to find some lovely nursing tops. Beautiful lace work in the back. More structure in front (instead of a full flip top, there's a two-piece tank that separates around each breast). Elegant profile. But Chaya has set about tearing honey-badger-style at the underlying structure. She is so driven to distraction by the part that remains around my breasts that she will incur severe niplash popping on and off and ripping at the shirt. I have returned to the simpler, less flattering flip-tops recently. Which is fine, because the lace in the back was not really meant for my "throw everything in the washing machine and hope for the best" approach.

At any rate, the fantasies are momentarily stalled, as Miss Chaya has not only reversed course on the self-weaning thing, but has also taken to rapaciously ripping at my flip-tops when she decides (a) she wants to nurse, or (b) ha-ha, mommies boobs are funny and wouldn't it be fun to scratch off that mole mommy has, which is already scabbed over from previous attempts? (c) how many times can I drench mommy's shirt in a combination of drool and let-down milk before she gives up and finds a toy to distract me from what will otherwise be a maelstrom tantrum when she puts her top back up. My poor tops are already getting a beating.

Then again, I do accessorize as best I can. I can't wear pretty well any of my favorite dangly earrings for fear of an ad hoc lobe-ectomy, but my daughter's spurned baubles look great on me, if I do say so myself.

I shall reclaim some momentary sense of "style." I am slowly re-opening my boxes of soxes.

Of course any semblance of style and suave will take a backseat to the somatic slump.

Parent hunch. Not code for my approximate and far more nebulous version of "mother's intuition." This is more like Quasimommy Kyphosis. I can't imagine how sunken chested I'll look once the nursing gazongas deflate back into (small) pumpkins. It's a mix of devastated abdominal floor, creaky core, stoooped and snarled back, and that particular combination of fully enveloping a little one during naptimes and nursings. I can feel the tectonic shifting of my shoulders into a forward arch. The oozing slump of my pelvis. I know the posture is prowling into calamity, but it's a little hard to stand in glorious attention while leaning over a toddling non-walker. It's not super easy either when you're singing your sixtieth round of Dream a Little Dream of Me to a baby who is alternating between nodding off and pounding your chest while screaming LADLDLDLDLALDLAL and blowing raspberries into her hand. It's not merely a bowing in the back, but a sheer shrug of parental uncertainty, as the shoulders raise themselves towards my ears. Truly not my finest display of frumpery, but one which puts me in solidarity with office workers and elderly folks everywhere.

Still I stumble on in my charming manic pixie dream mess, I am reclaiming tiny slivers of my original Adella mojo - namely I've realized that Russian novels are fantastic for the sort of sporadic and staggering reading that mommydom requires. I've resumed Anna Karenina after a year-long deferral. And while essentially everyone is named either Anna or Alex (and variations thereof) in addition to having twenty additional names, you can read almost each chapter as a short sketch in its own. The plot (there nominally is one, I swear) is less driving than your average Edsel, while the language and internal monologue is rife. I can rapidly reorient in each chapter, wade about in the primordial mental and spiritual muck, then emerge mere minutes later at the end of a chapter. It's rather relieving. And it's quite satisfying to read again. During the naptime hours, I've taken to pacing around the kitchen island (my entire life involves circling this bastard) with my kindle. At least once I'm done with the cleaning and cooking and barefoot-but-not-pregnant-in-the-kitchening. It's great. Sometimes it's almost ploddingly internal, but the language is lovely and just dripping with clever observation and simple profundity.

And speaking of language (segue time) I'm utterly marveling at the complexity of language and the human induction that underlies it these days. Nothing like having a preverbal toddler pointing at everything in search for a term to remind me of the heuristical marvels of basic human cognition and communication. How on earth do we understand that the cartoon on a page, the toy rattle, the gigantic furry monster loping along howling, and the yipping rodentish quadriped are all dog.

 But also could be doggie, puppy, chihuaha, King, Spot, canine, etc. Birdie, bird, duck(ie), robin, crow, chicken, emu, cock (oh my!), hen, warren... but not fly... Bunny, rabbit, hare, Angora, And lord what is she pointing at now? Ceiling? Sky? Spider? Every single word is a rabbit-hole into deep and complex ponders about the very essence and eidos of the universe itself.

And wow, how gendered our language is! I'd like to give Chaya as much space as she needs to understand her own gender identify, but it's almost impossible to teach simple language without imposing heavily loaded cultural notions. What's a boy or a girl? What, really, is the difference? As soon as you start explaining how to distinguish, you impose a world of expectations and ideas - a treasure trove of aspects and adjectives that take prescriptive prominence. As soon as pronouns go beyond "it" you associate objects with feminine or masculine traits.

What makes a woman? What is a mommy? Do we define women by their biological function, something that many women will never exercise and which mommy herself was not actually able to fulfill on her own? Do we leap headfirst into the external trappings or the prescriptive job descriptions. Do we begin to heap on heteronormativity?

Of course we end up doing so. What else are we going to do? Do I dress my daughter in neutral grays and never wear anything that could be at all associated with either gender? While I certainly don't shun the boys' section when I'm shopping, I cannot resist the cute dresses, the pinks and purples, the sparklies, and all the vicarious fashion fun that having a little lady allows. Are her loving nicknames often feminine? Yes there is always Princess Papaya, though I maintain that "sweetie-chai," "pumpkin pie (or "Pumpkin spice latte" for the autumnal season), would certainly be used for a little boy-Chay as well. Do I usually point out little "girls" and "boys" based on their manner of dress and hair style. Do I interpret some of her behaviors as feminine and joke about her "boyfriends"?

 Of course. Are mommy and daddy already exceptionally gendered in their style (see it all ties together), manner, mien, and occupation? We never begin with a blank slate and it gets chalkier every ticking second (and even the tacit ones).

But I digress as I fall back into the writing ramble of an autumnal nap period. We are rounding out another year in the life of Miss Chai and her (W)rightly Ranglers. And I may never quite rediscover the entire dresser full of cute tops, but mama will have her mojo moments. Or perhaps mojito moments, although that doesn't seem particularly autumnal. Perhaps with a little pumpkin pie spice dashed in?

Happy autumn all.