Postcard from Vermont: Swimming Lessons

Nothing makes me feel as old as Zoe's swim teachers. They can't be a day over 18; all of them tan and smooth in places I am pale and lumpy. And as much as I hate to admit it, I am completely shy and intimidated by them. Somehow I feel 14 and 53 at the same time.

We signed Zoe up for swim lessons this summer because the girls (I still can't get used to saying or typing that!) and I will be here for almost a month and now that Zoe's cousin is gone, she needs some activity with people under the age of 30 once in a while. Plus, one set of grandparents has a pool, the other a lakehouse, and learning to swim is, for us, a non-negotiable life skill. So, for the last 4 days my mom, the girls (!) and I have hauled ourselves away from the lake and into town to the municipal pool over Zoe's nervous protests.

Last year, Zoe loved the water. In her Mommy and Me swim class, we bounced around and blew bubbles and worked on front and back floats. By the end of the session, she was jumping off the side of the pool into my waiting arms, putting her head under WILLINGLY and excitedly kicking her legs and waving her arms in what I was sure would one day be a historic, gold-medal-winning doggy paddle. But this moment in time is full of regressions and battles for control with Zoe and she is back to looking warily at the pool like something might jump up and bite her when she turns away.

This is a class where Zoe is supposed to be in the water, with the teachers and other kids, without me. At first she clung to me, didn't want to get near the pool, wanted to stay in the 6 inch deep wading pool for all eternity.

Now it's all about her hair and how the world will surely end in a pillar of fire if her hair were to get submerged. So I made myself go up to one of her teachers, the one with the I'm-in-charge clipboard, and I mumbled and blushed my way through a few sentences about how Zoe really doesn't want to get her hair wet and I promised her she wouldn't have to, today, so please don't push it and TAKE CARE OF MY PRECIOUS BABY OMG.

At first I hung out by the pool which proved to be a bad idea, what with Zoe running to me every two minutes. So for the last two days, my mom and I have sat outside the chain link fence and bitten our lips as Zoe sat in the gutter of the pool, watching the other kids, receiving very little attention from the teachers.

Today I found myself getting enraged.

There were four instructors in the pool. Two of them each gave what appeared to be private, one-on-one lessons to a single child, though those children are part of this "class". Another instructor worked with two girls, going back and forth between them. The last instructor, the one I spoke with, stood in front of four girls who were sitting in the gutter, including Zoe. Zoe sat there and stared and got shy and nervous when the teacher came over to her and reached for her and asked if she wanted to get in the water. When Zoe turned away and got nervous, the teacher moved on and left her there. Zoe spent the majority of the lesson either sitting and staring at the pool and the other kids or running away from the pool and the teachers who thought it was funny and cool to spend large parts of the class squirting one another with the pool noodles pressed up against the water jets. (Now I'm not only looking like an old lady but sounding like one too. "You little whipper snappers and what you think is 'fun'!" It's the verbal equivalent of spider veins and crow's feet.)

I could barely contain my seething anger. How could they not see that they need to actually ENGAGE Zoe and soften her up before trying to get her in the water, that just asking "wanna come in?" isn't enough? Why are some kids getting special private attention for the whole class while my daughter sits bored and alone and unattended to? Is there no structure to this class, with specific skills that they are trying to teach in some kind of organized fashion? DO THEY NOT SEE THAT ZOE IS PRECIOUS AND SPECIAL AND IN NEED OF ATTENTION?

And yet, when my mother said "So, go SAY SOMETHING", I felt bolted to my seat. I start to (over)analyze it all. Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe this is success, just her sitting there by herself without me. Maybe I'm wrong about her needing more attention, maybe she'd totally freak out if one of the instructors tried to give her a long, one-on-one class.

All I know is that I desperately want her to feel successful at this. To have fun. This is a hard time for all of us and I was hoping for an enjoyable experience for her.

And I know I need to get over my ridiculous embarrassment and say something to the teacher tomorrow.


Postcard from Vermont: Almost fixing it

I am gazing out at the lake after a morning spent playing with Zoe in the water when it hits me that no matter how much fun I've been having, I still feel a bit caged. Without CG here, it feels like every moment of my day is filled with wiping and explaining and cajoling and encouraging patience and working on my patience and cleaning up and dressing and undressing little squirmy bodies and OH JUST mothering.

And so with Eliza possibly asleep up in the house and the monitor possibly reaching this far to the dock and Zoe possibly safe for a moment on the dock with her uncle and aunt, I beg for a swim by myself.

I push off the dock and lunge for the raft, 20 yards out. I pause at the far side, family out of view, legs egg-beating, and close my eyes. The cool water, the momentary release from vigilance, being alone- all feel like heaven and it almost fixes it. Almost.

But then I am coming back to shore and everyone thinks it's great that I "had a swim" and I feel a tiny, sour lump of panic rise in my throat because that was it. That was my break.


I have been nursing one-armed a lot and tense with frustration a lot and carrying bags and children and carseats and children IN carseats a lot and I have a big knot in my shoulders.

So during a precious concurrent naptime, I take a tennis ball from one of the dogs and I press it between my back and the wall, squeezing the muscles, willing them to relax. I do some stretches and breathe deeply and it almost fixes it. Almost.

But then Eliza starts fussing, just barely. At two months, her naps are still not distinct and I never know how long she'll "be down". So I go to her and prepare to nurse one-armed as I contort myself into a position that allows me to read at the same time because I'm dying to read and there is no other time to do it and I feel the knot rise again.


Zoe is whining and I say "Zoe, I can't understand the whining" and this time I actually mean it, I have no idea what she's saying.

So she makes it clearer and I wish I still didn't understand so I wouldn't have to find a gentle way to say no, to weather the inevitable tantrum, to assess the best time and way to move her past the necessary explosion of feeling.

And as Zoe's stomping her feet and crying and raging at the injustice of no cookies for breakfast, I glance down at the eager face in my lap. Eliza alights at my glance, her smile taking over her face and her body and her limbs until it is so contagious that it spreads to me and I am helpless to do anything but grin back at her.

And it almost fixes it. Almost.


Postcard from Vermont: Regressions

"Ma ma" Zoe says, less like a word and more like two soft exhales. "Ma ma, I don't need to go potty, ma ma." She sounds a year younger and far away. I'm trying to remember when she started calling me Mama instead of Mommy. It seems like it's been just a few months, suspiciously close to Eliza's age.

It seems like the same amount of time that we've been wrestling with the potty.

"You know the rules, darlin'," I sigh. "We always try before nap. It's been 5 hours since you last peed. Just sit and try. Otherwise, we've got to do a pull-up."

"Okay, ma ma. Ma ma?"

She hikes herself up on the potty.

"Yes, Zoe."

"Will you tell me a story about when you were little?"

I stare at the whale I carved in 7th grade wood shop that hangs over the toilet and think of all the memories from this house that I've come to every summer since I was born. I tell her a story about how my brother and cousins and friends and I used to spend whole weeks in the attic here, coming up with dramatic plays amidst the musty discarded luggage and my grandmother's damp skirted bathing suits hanging on the clothesline.

She lifts one hand off her perch on the potty to wipe hair from her eyes and asks, "Ma ma? Can you tell me another one, please?"

I smile at her in spite of her stalling and retell more of my hazy childhood memories for her entertainment.


I am standing in the hallway outside Zoe's room as she cries behind the door that she can't sleep, the nightlight is too dark, she needs one more song. My hands are clasped behind my head, elbows closed around my ears, one part stretch, two parts defeated exhaustion.

My mom comes up beside me and puts one arm around my shoulders. I tense and will Zoe to magically stop crying, to prove to my parents who have witnessed the whole bedtime ordeal that I know what I'm doing.

"You are a great mom to those two girls," she says gently.

I want to deny it, shrug it off, beg her to say it again.

"It doesn't always feel that way, Mom."

"I know. But you are."

And I let her hug me, bending my knees just enough to let my head rest on her chest.


Reversing the Baby Holding Hunchback

I was going to call this post "Stretches for the Nursing Mother" because a few friends have asked for them specifically (Hi C! Hi R!) but you certainly don't have to be a mother or be nursing to benefit from these stretches. However, if you happen to be nursing a 12 pounder one-handed while chasing a toddler like I am, you might find yourself craving these stretches on a regular basis.

I was always so careful about my posture when nursing Zoe. I had a spot on the couch all set up with multiple pillows and drinks and snacks and I would stay in one spot, perfectly supported, for the whole nursing session.

Now, I've perfected the art of slumping over to nurse Eliza on my lap while simultaneously wiping Zoe's bum at the same time. Just so you know: NOT SO GOOD.

So. Here are the stretches that I do on a regular basis to help. (Those of you who do Pilates will instantly recognize that NONE of these stretches are classical Pilates. However, what I teach is more of a hybrid of Pilates, yoga and physical therapy exercises and I use these stretches all the time with my clients. They are all great for helping reverse general slumpitude.)

All stretches should be held for 30 seconds-2 minutes and feel good. Please see a doctor before starting any exercise regime BLAH BLAH I'm not a doctor BLAH BLAH please don't sue me BLAH BLAH BLAH.

1. This doorway stretch really opens up your chest and shoulders. Make sure you don't sag in your midsection. Use the 30 second stretch as an opportunity to pull your navel to your spine and hold your core (I know you were just DYING for that opportunity, right?.) (Please excuse the lack of make up here and the apparent face-melting disease. Jeez. When, exactly, did I get JOWLS?)

2. This next stretch also addresses your chest muscles but adds in a stretch for the biceps and forearms which get super tight from holding a baby all day. Hold your best posture through your spine for the entire stretch, no twisting or sagging in your core. (This a recent haircut here and a bad one. What is it about hairdressers that when you say "make the shortest layer shoulder length", they somehow hear that as "ear length"??)

3. The stretch pictured below is a great one to stretch out the back of your shoulders, upper back, neck and forearms. Try to pull your shoulder blades apart and inflate all the little spaces between the ribs in your upper back as you breathe. (I gave up on the hair and put it in a pony tail.)

4. From the above stretch, move into the stretch below. Since I am always gazing down into little faces in my lap, the front of my neck gets super tight. This stretch basically reverses the position I'm in all day and keeps me from getting tension headaches.

5. I LOVE this stretch. It is a great all around body stretch, addressing shoulders, upper back, chest, butt and hamstrings. If I don't have time for anything else, I try to do this one. Once again, keep your core engaged to protect your lower back. It also works well to put your hands on a bathroom/kitchen counter and do this.

6. This next one is a stretch and a strengthening exercise all in one (we Pilates instructors are sneaky that way). Although I appear to be being held up at gun point (and perhaps forced to smile OMG WHAT'S WITH THE SERIOUS FACE AND DEATHLY PALLOR?), I am actually stretching my chest and strengthening my upper back. This exercise looks silly but is quite challenging. Make sure your ribcage stays on the wall and your shoulders are as relaxed as possible. (ie. you aren't wearing them as earrings.)

7. I almost forgot! ("Ma! Would you go get the camera again!?") This is a great one for the whole shoulder-blades-as-earrings issue mentioned above. Notice that my hand is hooked under my seat. You can also just sit on your hand if you are on a couch. Note that the top hand is not pulling on my head, just adding a little weight for extra stretch.

So there you have it. Clueless But Hopeful Mama's tips for reversing your baby holding hunchback. There are a bunch of great ones that are done lying on the floor but since taking those pictures would have involved things like vacuuming up dog hair and clearing a path through the plethora of plastic toys that I swore I would never buy, I decided I'd stick with seated or standing stretches.

(Now if Sunday's picture didn't prove me to be not vain [unvain? vainless?] then these pics surely do. That's how much I love you C and R.)

Happy Stretching!


Sleeping like babies

I slept for only 1 hour the night before we left for Vermont.

(Anxiety, sadness, a headache.)

After a 5 and a half hour flight across the country (during which the promised, deeply necessary in-seat Direct TV system was NOT WORKING), we wound up with a 6 hour layover in JFK before our flight to Vermont.

This group nap on the floor of the Jet Blue terminal was the best, calmest part of our day.

(I wish my mom had also captured the young lady sitting near us in her skin tight dress and stillettos. I can only imagine what she thought of us: "Time to renew that birth control prescription!")


Goodbye. (Hello.)

Goodbye avocados everyday.

Goodbye lemons from the backyard.

Goodbye view of the neighborhood palm trees from my favorite spot on the hammock.

Goodbye mild winters and perma-sun. (Hello seasons and moisture. Humidity and greenery.)

Goodbye breakfast at Auntie Ems and Marstons' salads and Zelo pizza and the homemade smores at Parkway Grill. (Hello.... um, please tell me there's good food in Northern Virginia.)

Goodbye LA traffic. (Hello Beltway.)

Goodbye farmer's market. (Hello Polyface farm.)

Goodbye tank tops and cotton cardigans all year round. (Hello wool mittens and hats and scarves and rain coats and boots and ...... )

Goodbye City of Angels. (Hello City of Obama.)

Goodbye Kidspace and Shane's Inspiration and Travel Town. (Hello Smithsonian and, uh, the Capitol?)

Goodbye Venice beach. (Hello.... Potomac River?)

Goodbye four years of my life in LA. (Hello to a brand new life in Northern Virginia.)


I will board a plane tomorrow with my mom (BLESS HER SOUL.) and my two girls. We leave for the airport at 5 am and hope to arrive at the lake houses by midnight. Can't tell you why it's going to take so long; I blacked out after hearing about a 4 and a half hour layover at JFK.

I hope to be blogging while we're in Vermont but without CG around, I can't promise much. (Though I have one in the pipeline because I finally got a Basic Blogger 101 understanding of a "scheduled post").

See you all on the flip side.


Special delivery

Dear (friend),

Enclosed please find two bags of gently used maternity clothing. Wear them in good health!


Clueless But Hopeful Mama

PS. I already gave the stained, stretched out, FUGLY, why-oh-why-so-many-horizontal-stripes-and-bows? maternity clothes to Goodwill. And I threw out the maternity underwear (?!) that would have certainly given you nightmares. You're welcome.

PPS. I know that the maternity coat seems silly. I mean, coats are already large enough, right? You'll toootally fit in your regular coat. (Except when you stop fitting it in COMPLETELY because your belly and shoulders and RIBCAGE are bigger than you ever thought possible. Then you'll be so glad that my mother insisted on buying me one over my teenagery, "But Maa---aaaaa" protests.) (Sorry if its pockets smell permanently like crystallized ginger. It was a rough first trimester.)

PPPS. There are very few pairs of pants in these bags. There is a reason and it is this: all maternity pants S U C K. Seriously. The ones that are supposed to go under your belly? FALL DOWN. The ones that are supposed to go over your belly with that unwieldy, stretchy cummerbund-from-hell? FALL DOWN. I pretty much gave up and wore elastic waist work-out pants, shapeless dresses and skirts with big, soft waists. There are a few of the latter in your bags but not many. They will remain in my closet until Operation Lose Muffin Top is more successful and zippers cease to catch stray flesh in their silvery teeth.

PPPPS. The obvious solution to the above problem? Wear a unitard!

PPPPPS. Next up! Nursing hand-me-downs! Nursing bras cut up to your chin to completely encase any and all possible stray boobie-ness! Nursing shirts cut down to your belly button to better reveal said nursing bras! (WHY OH WHY?) Fun times!

PPPPPPS. Don't worry. It's not that bad. (And if it is? It's over in less than a year.) Plus! One day you'll be doing this all day (though you probably won't have the double chin) and passing along these clothes to someone else with a smile and a grateful shove.


Moving tends to make me maudlin

I don't want any more children.

There is a tiny little part of me that will probably always want more babies. Especially sweet, easy, sleep-through-the-night, put-downable babies. Especially my babies.

I shudder at the thought of going through any more pregnancies.

I wouldn't mind feeling a baby flutter and kick me from the inside, just one more time.

CG and I know the limits of our patience, our money, our time and our abilities. Two children is our limit.

I will never know how much more my heart could expand with another child (and another). (And another.)

I will tire of diapers and temper tantrums and stomach flu.

I will never tire of first smiles and first giggles and first kisses. First "ma ma ma ma ma"'s. First discoveries. First time holding my whole hand instead of just my finger. First questions which necessitate careful, vague explanations beginning with "well, when two people love each other very, very much.....".

I don't want to stop time.

I just want to hold it in slices, preserve my favorite moments for a later date. When Zoe is off to college, wanting little more than a credit card and several loads of laundry done when she visits, I would take a smidge of her, age right now, and watch her run and skip across our lawn, right into my waiting arms.

I want to open a jar of Eliza, age right now, when she's 13 or 17, when everything is difficult and she won't talk to me and I'm desperate to bridge the divide. I would just hold her in the crook of my elbow, one last time. Stroke her downy hair, squeeze her thighs, make her smile with heart stopping joy just by smiling at her first.


Before Leaving California #7: One last trip to the Pacific Ocean

It is our last weekend here in California. So, of course, we had to go to the beach and say goodbye.

Because apparently it's been too long since I last forcibly cleaned sand from a certain toddler's ears. (New thought! If she doesn't care, don't bother! It'll come out on its own eventually. Brought to you by Two Children/Lower Standards.)

I like to rock the ring sling even without the baby in it. That's how I roll. Also? I like to face AWAY from the glorious ocean, read the paper and forget to bring any proper shade providing devices for my poor defenseless infant. Clearly I am not meant to be a beach person.

Fortunately, I think at least one of my daughters was meant to be a beach person.


Moving on

I leave this house a week from tomorrow.

When Eliza, Zoe and I leave it, it will look like it does now. Like our home. It will be full of our things and our lives. It will look like we could come home to it at any moment.

I will pack only a suitcase (or two).

While Eliza, Zoe and I spend a month at my parents' lake houses in Vermont, CG will be helping the packers and movers, flying to Virginia to paint rooms and unload furniture and make beds, coming to Vermont for a week of much deserved vacation before we all arrive in Virginia toward the end of August, ready to start our new lives there.

I wonder how long it will be before it really, truly sinks in that I will not ever be coming back to this house. Even when our furniture is set up in our new house in Virginia, I don't know if it'll ever register that there isn't still this house, just as I see it now, stuffed with our things, waiting for us to come home.

The changes have been coming for a long time now. We've known "Virginia", "small town", "new house" were all in our future. We've had months and months to prepare. I've spent countless hours studying pictures of our new house. I've planned color schemes and sewn duvet covers. We've picked out paint colors, ordered some new furniture and mentally repurposed our bookshelves and rugs and lamps.

I still can't wrap my head around it.

This home, our first home, will no longer be ours.

I've been weepy about leaving for weeks. It is too small. We're outgrowing it; we'd need to move anyway I tell myself as the tears roll down my cheeks.

I remember walking into our living room for the first time, its robin's egg blue walls- and ceiling- greeting me like a boisterous HELLO!

I was wearing a robin's egg blue shirt that day. It seemed like destiny (though we did repaint it a slightly lighter, calmer shade of blue).

We brought our first baby into this home when I had our second baby in my belly.

We brought our second

and our third babies home to this house.

It feels like this house contains their babyhoods. In my photos and memories, their important moments are colored by the walls behind them, by the view past their faces to the walls and floors and spaces we have loved and banged our fists against and wept on.

I will miss so much about this house. The lawn we replanted (twice) where Zoe learned to walk (and steal dog toys).

Also, the hallway where Zoe learned that Sweet Dog prefers the blue sippy cup.

I will miss even the things that drive me crazy, like our sole tiny bathroom, where Zoe was potty trained, where I labored with Eliza, where Zoe sings whatever top 40 song we've been dancing to lately while she washes her hands. (Though I don't think Beyonce sings "and then you squeeze them, squeeze them".)

I know that a bigger, in many ways better, house awaits us in Virginia. I just hope it doesn't take too long to feel like home.


I got a million more like these

My baby girl is definitely doing some serious honest-to-goodness, no-way-is-that-just-gas SMILING.

The only reason I'm stopping the non-stop picture taking, goofy-face-making marathon is that she's asleep and I'm trying SO HARD not to wake her up for more CRACK COCAINE smiles.


Falls from grace

In the weeks after Zoe was born, I remember my constant irritation with Sweet Dog who quickly went from beloved first born to a needy, demanding, irritating obstacle.

Now it is Zoe who appears suddenly large and dangerous, all pointy elbows and heavy footsteps. Her voice is loud and screechy at just the wrong times. Her desperate needs come, magically, when I am least available.


"Zoe's such a GREAT big sister" I say to friends, within Zoe's earshot. The first few weeks I meant this, unequivocally.

Zoe is still so excited about Eliza, with frequent kisses and hugs and songs sung to calm her crying.

She is also suddenly "needing" the Boppy for her dolls and despondent when it's "Eliza's turn" on the Boppy. She wants my lap when I'm nursing, decides she HAS to bounce crazily on the bed when I'm nursing there, must have my assistance at bed time when I'm nursing Eliza (Do you notice a trend? [Luckily, she has decided that she is no longer interested in breastmilk.]).


"Eliza is such a GOOD baby" is an easy thing to think, to say. She has slept all night for the last two weeks. She hasn't ever required the three hour nightly bouncing/shushing/hair dryer-on-right-next-to-her-ear sessions that Zoe did at the same age.

She will, at some point in the future, not sleep all night.

She also has had a few screaming->coughing->choking->gagging->barfing fits that come out of nowhere and leave us frazzled and confused. Does she have reflux? Did I overfeed her? Is it just gas and she needs more vigorous burping?

(Is she still a "good baby"?)


I earnestly kept TV at bay for over two years.

Zoe just watched an hour of Sesame Street, then yelled for "more videos MOMMY!".

CG and I earnestly crafted family rules for the table (No talking with your mouth full. Wait your turn to speak. No throwing/spitting food. Clean up your own spills. Use your manners when asking for/refusing food. Ask to be excused before leaving the table. No walking around with food in your mouth or your hand. Once you leave the table, the meal is over. Clear your own plate and cup. OMG ARE WE CRAZY STRICT OR WHAT?) only to be unable to enforce some of them on a regular basis now that we have Eliza and her needs to contend with.

Having two children is either the best thing for Earnest Mothers like myself or the worst thing. I've spent three years reading all the books. I've spent three years explaining and caring and guiding and listening and reflecting and hand holding and setting boundaries and following through and BLAH BLAH BLAH NOW IT IS ALL FOR NAUGHT.

I cannot hover in ways I'm used to. I cannot always help her clean up every toy before she takes out another. I cannot ensure she isn't wasting water/soap/toilet paper when she insists on using the potty by herself. I cannot always intervene in her fraught peer relations during playdates, because I'm changing a diaper/nursing a baby/washing poop off of clothing. I cannot always help her when she asks me politely and calmly for assistance finding a toy. So then she melts down and throws a huge fit at my feet which begs the questions: when I'm finally available to help her, does she get my help? Does she have to calm down and ask nicely AGAIN?

She's clearly acting out due to all the changes in our lives. Her behavior is asking "So much is different.... is THIS different? How about THIS?".

And the answer, sometimes, is "yes".


I am finishing nursing Eliza in bed, her face squished against my breast. My nipple falls from her mouth and we both take deep, heavy breaths.

I hear Zoe's clomping footsteps in the hall and she bursts into the room. I scramble to hide, to fix, to erase, like a cheating wife in bed with her lover.

I simultaneously resent the abrupt intrusion into my lovely little scene and mentally toss Eliza from the bed to make room for my first baby.


I've heard that adding a second child to your family is like "dropping a bomb into the middle of your life".

To me, it feels like a house of cards, one that was so carefully built and so preciously tended, is collapsing in slow motion all around me. It is not so much painful and explosive as it is inevitable.

It will, of course, be rebuilt, with just as much loving, thoughtful care, but the cards are still falling all around me. The rebuilding will take time. It will look different than the first time around.

It has only just begun.


Before Leaving California #6: Get our a$$es to the Getty Center

It was a gorgeous day. Zoe was going to school after a day spent slowly killing my will to live. CG met me, Eliza and my in-laws at the Getty, a place that we've been trying to get to for years.

FINALLY, we made the time to bask in its glorious architecture.

Eliza really enjoyed the tour explaining the intricacies of the design. (Okay, fine, she slept through the whole thing.)

The bougainvilleas grow up through rebar trees. Gorgeous.

Eliza tried out our new sling. Mama's jury is still out on the whole "ring sling" design.

We thought about reclining nude with that gorgeous statue but the security guards prevented us. Douches.

We felt pretty darn guilty about not taking Zoe, who would have LOVED the steps, fountains, zig zag paths and tram to the parking garage. So once we picked her up, we went to the farmer's market and let her have a whole sno-cone before dinner. Because a huge dose of sugar seemed like JUST the thing to improve her behavior of late.

Pretty much a win, win, WIN for everyone!

In summary, get thee to the Getty!



I am stopped at a light with Eliza and Zoe in the backseat. A man, maybe 50 years old, starts to cross the street in front of us, carrying several bags. His clothing and hair and skin are varying shades of greasy gray and dirt brown. He mutters to himself.

I immediately imagine him as an floppy infant, trusting, in his mother's arms. I paint a whole picture for myself, his mother smiling, his skin porcelain smooth, his mouth and eyes open, searching.

What did he find when he entered this world? What lead him here, now? Whose perfect baby was he?

I pull over to cry for a minute, telling Zoe that I have something in my eye.


There is an article in the paper about a young girl with schizophrenia.

There is a pivotal moment in the book I'm reading when a boy loses his father.

I am drawn to these stories. I am terrified of these stories. (F YOU VERY MUCH "My Sister's Keeper" kid-with-cancer movie. No, I will not be seeing you EVER.)

I can barely read these stories without breaking down. I focus on the words, avoid extrapolations, try not to think about all the possible demons and dragons that lurk in the shadows of every child's life.


Zoe's Nana and Papa are visiting, excited to see the baby. Zoe wanders over to where I sit with Eliza who is propped up on the boppy on the floor. She kisses her feet, squeezes her hands, smiling. We all remark on what a kind big sister she is.

She starts to try to climb on top of her and I stop her. "I just want to crawl over her" Zoe says and I tell her it's not safe to crawl over little babies, she can show us her crawl NEXT to the baby and she protests loudly. Next, she wants to sit on the boppy, too close and too rambunctious for my comfort and I stop her. A full blown tantrum greets me this time.

In Zoe's eyes I see a storm of conflicting emotions, especially when we have company: she loves Eliza, she wants to squash her, she wants to kiss her, she wants to bite her, she wants to sit with her, she wants to sit ON her.

The affection and aggression sometimes mix together in ways that confuse us all.


I peel Eliza's face off my chest and glance at her face where the red welting line of my bra strap is emblazoned on her cheek. The mark takes my breath away even as it quickly disappears.

By tomorrow, the angry streak of pimples, now a major constellation on her forehead, will be entirely rearranged or will have exploded to cover her whole face or will disappear entirely.

Her eyes flutter open and struggle to focus on my face. Her smile appears out of nowhere and consumes her whole body and as she wriggles her greeting, I cannot help but do the same.

Within minutes the storm clouds gather and her wriggling takes a new form, knees up to her chest, her belly contorting in digestive discomfort, her forehead wrinkling in consternation. A fussy "ehhnnn. EHHHNNNN." progresses to outright crying.

I put her to my chest again for another round of pats and shushes and indentations on her soft cheek.

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