My dearest daughter,
Eleven moons! Look at how the number 11 hangs in the air, dangling like your tiny legs from my hips. The word eleven is even fun to say and, my sweet Kaia, this past month has been full of fun with you.
In Basque, hamaika ("eleven") has the double meaning of "infinite". Truly, these past four weeks have proven your infinite capabilities, the endless ways in which you seek to learn this new world, and the never-ending magic of your sweet spirit. Your mighty personality unfolds gently, majestically, and sometimes surprisingly, like the petals of the honeysuckle after rain. Oh Peanut, Daddy and I can no longer compare your personality to ours. It is solely your own, with your own unique taste, and smell, and softness, and variation.
In these 11 months, which have passed too quickly, we have watched as you have invigorated the deepest corners of our lives. I’ve been humbled, heartbroken after doing all I could, as you’ve dealt with the awful pain of teething and double ear infections with such grace and bravery. You’ve helped me remember that lots of good naps, and sometimes Mama’s arms, are indeed nature’s best healing. We have witnessed your resolve as you pull your tiny, compact body up to the furniture and use your sturdy legs to maneuver around the room. Holding you warm against my chest, cheek to cheek, you are my comfort from a weary day. Seeing your index finger extend to point reminds me of unbounded curiosity. And when I drop you off at your babysitter’s house, and you grin up at me with half-moon eyes from the floor as I walk away, my heart is aglow with the trust you are instilling in me. The trust that I will come back to scoop you up soon… that I will always come back.
This month you’ve pulled some wonderful new tricks from you baby bag. Aunt Kate managed to teach you Hi-Fives in one try. You follow along to the Itsy-Bitsy Spider song by twisting your wrists like the climbing spider. You wave bye-bye and, according to Aunt Liz, sometimes speak German. We love Aunt Liz! I guiltily admit that you say the word “Elmo”, because it means you’ve watched your share of Sesame Street. I never intended to raise you on TV. But commercial-free Sesame Street captivated you in long enough spurts to provide me the ability to work from home with you for six full months. Plus, I’d by lying if I didn’t admit I sometimes watched it too and reveled in the memories of Cookie Monster and Super Grover. You also are keen on dancing and sometimes break out in a random spastic dance all your own. Other times, with my “Dance Dance Dance” prompting, you comply and look like a head-banger in a mosh pit. Funny bunny, you also pick up anything that resembles a phone and put it right up to your ear, speaking in a gruff voice. This is too, too cute. We've also moved you to a big girl car seat, which is posh and padded and comfy. You garnered your second double whammy ear infection this month, coupled with an upper respiratory virus. You poor thing! But, amidst these ailments, you managed to…gasp!…sleep through the night for 7 nights straight…gasp again!…
Last night, our luck was broken, I believe in part to new teeth poking through. They had to ruin the party. Speaking of teeth, you are nursing less and less on your own accord, and I’m having mixed emotions about this. I know you are becoming more independent and part of that scares me so much. I also know that these means you are making some of your own decisions, however small they may seem, and I cannot “own” you forever. It is said that our children are really not “ours”, that we only “lease” them for a time and prepare them well for their futures. This is a tough concept for your Mama, but I’m trying to learn to give you safe and sturdy wings.
Here are your Daddy’s contributions, in his own words, from an email he sent to your Grandpa Ritchie:
“Kaia is a chatterbox, chanting "Daaaddaaaa" all day and conversing in her own dialect as well. She's sprouted a tiny new tooth (that makes five) but she's being shy about showing it off to me and mum. Everyday she seems to develop a new trick and I ask Leigh "Did you teach her that?" Leigh just shakes her head and saying she just figured it out on her own. She's reluctant to stand on her own, but occasionally she does, and balances great for up to a minute until she realizes she's erect with no support, then quickly seeks the floor under her bottom.
She squeals in delight when one of her multiple dolls / books / clothes / toys with Elmo appears exclaiming his name…Melmo!!! (binky in) or Em Oh!!! (binky out). The other day I was switching through the channels while she was fiddling with toys on the floor. When I stopped briefly on the Sesame Street, she was instantly captivated. Her gaze was locked onto the tube, mouth agape body paralyzed by the moving colors and song. When Elmo appeared fully animated she smiled and clapped so excited to see her favorite friend. It's amazing how much she comprehends now.” Oh, your Daddy loves you so much. You are his muse for sure.
Mama and Daddy are recovering from a nasty 24 hour stomach virus that caused us to vomit for ten solid hours. You even slept through this fiasco. A day prior, you mysteriously vomited while in my arms. I held you over the floor and patted your back as you puked up chunks of pears, amoxicillin, and breast milk. Afterwards, I caressed your limp, tired body and said “Good job, honey. You are a good puker-upper just like Mama!” Hey, we all know you feel so much better after puking. I learned from my Mama at a young age to just get it over with and boy I am grateful. Enough puke talk.
A social butterfly you continue to be and separation anxiety (knock on wood) has yet to set in. You lean, standing against the ottoman at Kimmy’s house and eat apple slices with your boyfriend Ty. You are as happy as a clam around other babies and children, content to just watch and copy their smooth moves. I could watch you learn and laugh all day long.
Eleven days ago I woke up and became a vegetarian. I didn’t do this for some sort of hippy-trippy statement ‘cause goodness knows I’ve made enough of those in recent years. In part I chose this new path for my health. But mostly I chose it because of you. I want to give you the chance to really revere, honor, and respect your animal companions instead of eating them. I couldn’t possibly teach you this lesson if I ate them in front of you. I wanted to provide you the opportunity to nourish your body with the abundance of the earth’s colorful vegetables and fruits. I have had to learn this lesson the long, hard way and I'm still learning. It wasn’t easy. I had (have) a relationship with comfort foods that aren’t necessarily nourishing for my body. They taste good, they feel good, they clog my arteries and raise my blood pressure. For you, for me, for our animal companions and the dwindling resources of this Earth you will inherit, I am resolved to be healthy. Of course, it was easy being veggie for the two days I couldn’t eat a single thing due to our stomach virus. I think I was a NONEnavoire!
Because of this teething thing, you haven’t wanted to eat hardly at all the past three or four days. To make matters worse, we haven’t left the house since Friday afternoon due to our sickness so our food supply for you was limited. After scouring the house, I resigned myself to the two things that had been starting at me for days. I really didn’t want you to have them, but I was broken down, you were hungry for something other than breast milk, and there they were. So, I reluctantly offered you Yoplait strawberry yogurt and an entire strawberry cereal bar. That’s right, my love, pure high fructose corn syrup packaged to look nutritious. And you gobbled them up voraciously. I apologized to you and told you not to get used to it. Once I get my wimpy body back to the market, it will be bananas and beans once again. Let’s hope that’s soon, because the guilt factor is really starting to set in.
Today, needing a respite from the messy house, we stepped outside and I strapped you in your plastic, red swing. It was still 100 degrees outside, but we were safe in the shade. With heavy eyelids, you relaxed your body into the molded swing and let the gentle breeze lift your fine hair. I saw you engrossed in the beauty and the melody of the impending desert evening and I took a cue from you. I closed my eyes, leaned into the chair, let the soles of my feet settle on the warm pavement of the patio, and listened. Together we heard the sounds…of the wind through the leaves of the Palo Verde…of the crinkled hibiscus petals floating across the bricks…of the cactus wrens singing…I heard our cat creep softly across the rocks and our puppy eating too-tall grass…an occasional car pass on the nearby road…the rhythmic “clack-clack” of your swing’s chain hitting the stucco…our neighbor’s chimes moved in the hot breeze and sung out…This was our shared lullaby…I opened my eyes to see a hummingbird buzz around the lantana…the lone ocotillo was bathed in the last light of the day and it’s brittle branches waved softly…the mountains loomed behind us and the clouds gathered close as if talking about showers…I looked at you, gazing at it all, and I realized you were memorizing, taking it all in for future reference. You were intent. You wanted to remember. And in an instant I recalled that my love for nature, the simple way it entices me, began at an age as young as yours.
Once again, I closed my eyes and imagined it were a year from today. We were lounging outside of our new home; in the heat of the June desert evening again. You were nearing your second birthday. Mountains and plateaus surrounded us and I could even hear the blades of the metal windmill down the road. Our land seemed endless…
When I came back to reality, I realized I was wearing the same aqua skirt that I wore the night of your birth in the hospital. It is well worn, pilled even, and the stretchy jersey-knit waistband feels familiar and comfortable and a bit fragile. I stared at you and held the soft fabric of the skirt between my fingers and remembered…
Your first birthday is around the corner, and I admit I am overwhelmed with impending emotions. I am so grateful for you, my little eleven month old. I want to slow down with you more often and notice the way your breath rises and falls. I want to hold your baby cheeks in my hands and kiss your red lips until you giggle. I want to snuggle your soft, rolly-polly thighs into mine and nurse you to sleep. These are the memories you’ve given me. These are the memories we keep.
I love you, my Kai-Kai. Happy MoonDay!