twenty-sixteen in images:
Twelve grainy iPhone photos to sum up our year:
1. A dear friend's wedding and learning that we were to be a family of three in January:
2. Applying to graduate programs and traveling to New England in February:
3. An unplanned visit to Colorado and the Rocky Mountains in March:
4. Suffering from hyperemesis and barely leaving the house in April:
5. Admiring pink peonies and learning that our wee babe was a girl in May:
6. Visiting New England (again) and beginning an MFA program in June:
7. Nesting and readying the nursery in July:
8. Walking in the woods while very pregnant (and dying of the heat) in August:
9. Meeting Eleanor in September:
10. Apple picking and getting lots of newborn baby snuggles in October:
11. A chilly trip to Lake George and baby's first wedding in November:
12. Celebrating Eleanor's first Christmas in December:
Happy New Year, friends!
You hit three months and all of sudden you have become your own little person. You laugh when you think the face I am making is funny (which is pretty much always), you bravely grin when your dad tosses you up in the air (which you love), and you've finally given up your hatred of baths (which makes life easier for all of us). You have startled us with how early you've begun teething, but it makes you all the more snuggly (which I can't say I mind one bit). You have celebrated your very first Christmas, though you slept through most of the festivities, and you are quickly learning how to let us know when you want something (which isn't always a quiet thing). I lay in bed this morning, slightly missing my still, sleepy newborn, as you wiggled beside me chatting and kicking at the covers. But, these days, I love you all the more for your wildness. In fact, I love you even more now than I did then. Happy three months, darling.
Eleanor, this is Christmas. See how the air smells like pine and the air is cold on your face? See how we wind these twinkling lights around the tree we've brought inside, how needles fall the the wood floor as we struggle to set the sappy trunk in water? These are candy canes. This is gingerbread. Christmas is all about faith and Jesus, but the spices and scents have become tradition and now they are somehow Christmas too. Do you see the snow outside, Eleanor? It is soft, like sand, but very different. You love the cold already--the deep pine-scented cold of winter in the woods. You are definitely your father's daughter. xo
This year, our card is fairly simple. Since it is our first Christmas as a family of three, the traditional photo-on-front-scripture-on-back seemed called for. However, lesson learned: it is much trickier to get a good photo of three people than it is to get a smiling picture of just two. So sorry for spreading your grimace around the world, baby girl. It was really the best shot we could get.
Merry Christmas, friends! To you who regularly wander into this virtual space (particularly in spite of the infrequent postings of this past year), t h a n k y o u. Wishing you a season of joy as you celebrate the birth of our Savior.
PS. For a peek at Christmas Cards past, follow this link.
What I know at 27:
When you're feeling blue, hook into kindness. Its really the only thing to do.
Offer up small and imperfect words, despite the fact that they are small and imperfect. (Perfection in real conversation rarely exists).
The transformation of person to parent is taken over by the transformation of human to animal; it is a relationship physical from the very start--her hunger affects my body, her sleep affects my sleep.
Another thing about parenthood: like many other things in life, love-at-first-sight doesn't always show up when you think it will; you may slip into love slowly, and then, suddenly, all at once.
Just because someone doesn't do things your way doesn't mean that they are wrong. (Simple, and yet sometimes tremendously hard to remember).
Never underestimate the power of a kind smile--especially a baby smile (be still my heart!).
And keep in mind what Mary Oliver said, You must never stop being whimsical.
Another thing from her: You must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility of your life.
PS. Each past birthday list remains true.
As you sit, cooing and chatting on my lap, I smile and say to you, Hello, little person. You are my little person, aren't you? And you grin and giggle, as if you know what I am saying. As if you understand the bond that has tethered us together. At two months, you're still quite the dream baby, and your unique personality is beginning to peak through those baby blue eyes of yours. You love cuddles, and hate being left alone in a room. You still hate bath time, but you've become rather fond of showers, so long as you have someone to cling to. You hate being hot, and I've learned to dress you in fewer layers than I dress myself, though all the baby books tell me to do the opposite. You smile and laugh when we make clicking noises with our mouths, though, like me, you startle yourself easily and a smile can turn to a frown in a flash. And yet your frown is so cute, that sometimes we'll make you frown on purpose, just to see your pink lips form the deep horse-shoe shape, before we smother you with kisses and you perk right back up. Each day we figure each other out a little bit more, and each day I'm more in awe that during the time you spent growing inside me, I didn't know all the unique beauty you would bring to our little world. Happy two month, bebe love.
while she sleeps
I try to write as she sleeps beside me on the bed. Her arms are crossed one over the other, while her small mouth suckles the air. Still sleeping, she thrusts her fingers into her mouth, gnawing on them like the small animal she is, before drifting back into a quiet peaceful slumber.
It is difficult for me to write, or even accomplish much, when we lie together like this.
All I want to do is stare at her. To breathe her in. To gently lift the edge of the muslin blanket away from her face when she shifts in her sleep. Her pink tongue flicks in and out of her mouth. A wide grin stretches across her dreaming face, and, occasionally, a throaty laugh will escape her small lungs, startling me with its suddenness.
Writing, reading, laundry, work; it all feels so impossible these days.
And yet, there is so much writing, reading, laundry and work to do.
Time is laughing at me. I am trying to control it--with notebooks and iPhone photos--to hold it in my hand, as I hold her when she sleeps.
There is so much to be done, and yet, as I sit here, staring, all I can think about is this:
What marvels can a nearly-seven-week-old possibly be dreaming of?
Wildly obsessed with you would be putting it mildly. Our house is a love bubble, and you, the third little member if our tiny little home team. You're kind of a dream newborn. Which is partially your sweet personality, and partially (I believe) an abundance of grace that God has granted your two very new parents. You sleep for five hour stretches every night, and, though you hate bath time, its really the only time you scream till you're face is red and hot. You have big, beautiful blueberry eyes, and I wonder if you'll start to suck your thumb soon, for you're hand is always finding its way into your mouth. You smell like heaven, coo like a bird, and you're milk-drunk smiles melt my heart every time. We're still pretty in awe that you're here.
A Nursery Tour
Could there be a more bloggerly post than this? A photo tour of a room in our house. Particularly a room carefully curated for a little girl who, once she arrives, won't truly care or notice what it actually looks like?
The nursery, like the rest of our house, is arranged and decorated in a way that suits us best: eclectic, lovely, and neutral. I want colors and decor to match, but I am not a huge fan of pre-ordained themes. Let us live simply and beautifully. Her hanging mobile was handmade by my sister; the tiny quilt by a certain great-grandmother; her teddy bear was a gift from her soon-to-be auntie; and the little lamb in her crib was knit by skilled friend. I am overwhelmed by the multitude of tiny handmade things that have been so lovingly given us.
We framed postcards and watercolors from Europe to hang on her wall, basking in the sentimentality of those prints. For her changing table, we recycled an old family dresser. It was Zack's dresser when he was a newborn babe, and though I painted the once-blue outside a more neutral white, I couldn't bear to remove the tiny dino contact paper that my mother-in-law so lovingly lined his drawers with over twenty-five years ago. (There is, after all, nothing against girls liking dinosaurs).
And, of course, since she is my daughter, there are books everywhere. And tiny stuffed African animals, loving carted across the ocean by my mother before baby girl was even a wisp of a thing.
Truth be told, baby girl's nursery is far nicer than our own bedroom. But isn't there something fitting about that? The amount of love we already have for this little lady is already pretty ridiculous. xo
twenty-seven days (or more)
When autumn (finally) arrives, I will let out a fierce sigh of relief.
Though, of course, I will be sad too.
Once fall is here, it means that I have completely missed summer.
In Uganda, they have a saying—a response to just about anything:
There is no what to do.
I’ve spent the summer hot and pregnant, a little bit sick, always curled up close to the AC unit in our living room. Don’t think me a bad mother (a bad woman?), but this is my truth: I am so excited to meet my daughter, but I have hated being pregnant—every week, day, and month of it.
This morning, with three-and-a-half weeks ‘til my due date, the unbearable heat of this particular summer lifted (if only for a moment), and I stepped outside into the cool, sweet damp of a crisp morning in late August.
I felt like an entirely different person. Renewed. Hopeful.
Abandoning my daily perch by the AC unit (finally), I drove to the café, first thing, before the cool evaporated in the clear heat of bright sunshine.
Eight months ago, I could not handle the smells of that kitchen. Remember when you made me hate the smell of bacon and eggs? I silently say to the tiny girl in my belly. I talk to her often these days, though rarely out loud.
She and I sit at a corner table. I sip at a warm mug of jasmine tea and open a book. Content.
I am reading a collection of short stories by Amy Hempel. I heard her give a reading my first evening at Bennington, and her narrative voice blew me away. Now I am reading her entire collection, four small volumes bound into one. I rest the paperback spine on my thirty-six week bump and remove the tea leaves from my mug, settling the tea bag on a saucer.
The book rises and falls as baby wiggles and turns, tapping at the weight resting on her space.
Jab, jab, kick.
Jab, jab, kick.
Three-and-a-half more weeks (though maybe six if she is late).
Twenty-seven days (or more).
Who knows? There is no what to do.
I wonder if I will miss feeling her move inside me. Miss knowing to expect swift kicks every time I drink a glass of ice water or eat a bowl of watermelon.
I pat my growing bump, relishing the cool of the early morning, the social clatter in the café’s kitchen, the taste of jasmine in my mouth.
Come as soon as you like, baby girl, I think. Come soon.