Two moons have passed since I last attempted to chronicle your lives via fingertips to keyboard. I should be wiser by now; to know that mere keystrokes cannot appropriately catalog your life, inventory it like the iPod’ed stock boy at Wal-mart, or measure and calculate it like the most diligent accountant. No, your lives are not static or solidly numeric. They are best when viewed in real time, not in the spikes and dips of a line graph or slices of a pie chart. They are alive; in one moment as solitary that Joshua tree on the cover of U2’s album by the same name. In the next moment, they entwine just as climbing, flowering vines tangle on a stony wall.
Like delicate and delicious fruit, your minds and faces and personalities ripen with the rising sun. And then, when the shroud of night pulls its edges around our weary bodies, I see reflections of your wisdom, curiosity, and omnipresent love in our sister moon.
And so, I admit to knowing that even these words – constructed of mere lines and circles with purposeful serifs – cannot do justice to the force that rises in me when I wrap my arms around your lithe and pudgy bodies. Instead, I offer the vision of a lotus flower; growing from the earth’s mud and rising through the cool water. The pristine petals open – like my body opened for your birth, like your energy expands – during the day and close at night to retreat back under water. The lotus is you. It is me. It is us, for now a trinity. It is no wonder this water lily is often depicted being held in the palms of gods and goddesses; for surely such purity and beauty and mystery belong there.
But my overzealous mamamind gets in the way and I find the intense need to manipulate these letters into words in order to remember this journey of motherhood. In order to somehow hope I can rely on them to bring me back to this precise moment. Or perhaps I hope they act as balloons released into the air, 1 crazy “I-don’t-wanna-can’t-possibly” days worth of words tied to the string of bright red, inflated latex…carried away forever so that I can have room to THINK and BREATHE once more. With my luck, it would end up right back in our postage-stamp yard, clinging to a cactus – impervious to its needles – as if to say “Ha ha, you can’t escape that easily”.
Or maybe I just truly believe that you will both want to gather atop your beds one day – knees touching through the holes in your jeans – and read about how the world could stop with your smiles, and how often you pooped on the carpet, and what Grams finally found to clean the graphic illustrations you sketched on our walls (ahem, Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser). Or perhaps I will lick a blood-red envelope containing these words on hand-torn paper and present it to you on the morning of your journey to Africa, or the eve of your wedding, or in the midst of your teenage angst and certain dread for all things Mama. As a reminder that I loved – LOVE – you beyond these words and manmade walls of earth and wood.
No, my children, your lives are not words. They are song.
“My gift is my song and this one’s for you
And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world”
So, in the interest of potential curiosity on your part, I begin the highlights of the past two months. I warn any reader(s) in advance for the sheer length of the following paragraphs (hey, it HAS been two months).
Kaia Marin. Whoah is what I have to say. We’ve had these days lately, these rough days in which we both struggle to gain control of that invisible power. And the truth is, while I shrug these off as out-of-ordinary days, my heart tells me that they will become the ordinary. I can no longer hope they are one-offs, like the occasional downpour of rain in this desert. You are testing limits, breaking the rules, putting the smack down on boundaries. You are everything I envision when I think of an empowered girl, wrapped up in this limber body of a 2 ½ year old.
And I’d by fooling myself if I said it was all rosy and if I pretended to keep a light-heart about it all. There are darker days, the days that I swear my shoulders are like freshly-fired clay; unmovable, stiffened yet able to shatter with just the tiniest hit. There are nights I slump into the couch, too spent to focus on anything and left wondering how I will manage one more day of this. Sometimes I binge on sugar. Other days, I barely eat at all. I cope. During these times, I label myself: bad mother, lazy mama, half-asser, unkempt and messy, embarrassing failure. And then the peak moment comes, my very own “jump the shark” moment which signals everything is gonna go downhill very quickly. And then you get Mama’s pizza style of parenting: a variety of ingredients thrown on together in a mish mash, quickly hand tossed, hoping it cooks up well in the oven, served hot, leftovers stuffed in the fridge. But then I think: hell, pizza is a tasty concoction, a mighty delicious invention. Maybe I am making this parenting thing work after all.
“And then you’ll smile
You eyes light up and deep within the ground
Without a sound
A moment comes to life
And I’m a part of that…”
-From the musical “The Last Five Years”
You now offer hugs and kisses freely and without request, which is blindingly sweet. Once night, after I put on your PJ’s, I wrapped my body around yours and shared a very simplified version of your birth story. I stroked your bangs from your eyes and traced your apple-rounded cheeks, traveling in your almond eyes. You listened intently, your body lax and warm. And then, when it was over, I softly cooed “And do you know that you were mama’s very first baby in her belly?” A smile broadened your face, you nodded in concurrence and then placed your pint-sized hand over your giant-sized heart saying “Thump thump, thump thump, thump thump”. Yes, I got it, my love. You were repeating what I’d told you many times; how I’d loved you from the moment you were in my womb, how I would hear your heartbeat and swoon. That thump thump, thump thump, thump thump. The noise that shook my world.
You string together observant, witty, and spot-on sentences. You sing “You are my sunshine”, “Old MacDonald”, “ABC’s” and so many more (including all of the original ditties you create from scratch while hanging out in your car seat). I have been told more than once you have great pitch. In public, you extend sincere “Hello’s” and “How are you’s?” to strangers. In a few finger-crossed instances, you gobbled up new foods that had – gasp – bits of green in them. I’m following your lead with potty-training which means having to take immediate action when you promptly remove your poppy diapers and run to the potty saying “hurry, hurry, hurry”. You’ve only really gone on the potty about twice. That’s okay. But you are sure to ask for “chocolate” one you’ve sat on the potty for 3 seconds. Um, yeah, I went there. Sigh.
You read aloud – rather, memorize – books and will spend an hour devouring a stack of them. Your compulsive side began to manifest itself in numerous ways and mealtime is a prime example: how you a meal to be served a specific temperature (“too hot! Too cold!”), served in a specific spot (“right here”, you demand as you smack the bar top), with a specific placemat (“the princess placemat!”), and request a specific sippy cup (“the Cars sippy cup. This one is dirty, yucky yuck!”) and utensil (“Noooo! I want the green fork!”). The thing is, your routine isn’t always the same, so one must listen and intuit carefully or rage shall quickly ensue.
You now also help out much more, often tossing your plates and cups into the sink when you are finished, or throwing away trash. You help your baby sister by bringing her binkys or replacing toys she has managed to drop or toss out of reach. All of this you do without prompting.
Oh, the binky saga. Mission Impossible. You love them. LOVE. Adore. Cherish. Probably would want to marry them. But here’s the thing: we’ve been planning on weaning you from them starting now. And you’ve been biting them so that there are numerous unsafe holes in them. Which we are finding may work to our advantage, as you’ve been handing us binky’s you deem “broken!” and refuse to use them anymore. There is one exception: the infamous “eye binky”, and this month you demonstrated a New and Improved!, More Complicated! and Daring! version of it as demonstrated in a forthcoming photo…
That said, this is gonna be hard, sister. Right now, you are screaming in your crib because there are no “worthy” binky’s to be found in this house. And we refuse to buy more. I am actually coming up with a loving way to help wean you, because I really do understand your level of adoration for these binkys. I hope to unveil this tactic, which involves a story about fairies and a Christmas tree, in the next day or two. This tactic also involves a plan B – G, should our mission fail.
I also should mention you’ve transitioned rather well to a “big girl” bed. Yes, it still occasionally takes a few attempts to keep you from wandering out after we put you down for a nap or at night. And you still waddle into our rooms sometimes at 3am, which is rather freaky to me still. Overall, you love this twin-sized IKEA platform bed that Grams gifted you with and I’m quite happy about that.
So I know, Kiki, I really sympathize with the fact that you’ve been faced with numerous changes during these past months. Big girl bed, and potty-attempting, and binky weaning, and increased responsibilities with being a big sister. Oh yeah, and I stopped purchasing your beloved breakfast bars and got slack for that for weeks. For lack of a better phrase, that’s some heavy shit. To be so little and not have a sense of control – or rather, to have control and choices imposed on you – cannot be an easy way to maneuver through life. I try to be sensitive to that. Because none of us enjoy not having choices. And for a still-newish girl like you, you are sailing through these transitions with flying colors. Now that I think about it, it’s probably me who needs more training and time and an improvement temperament, not you. Thank you for always teaching me.
You are scared of nothing. When you want to pout and whine and not walk in the grocery store (i.e. want me to carry you), you don’t give a damn if I leave you standing at one end of the juice aisle and turn the corner at the other end. You will be standing in the exact same spot when I return from hiding in 1 minute, waiting for me patiently with a smirk on your face. You win. You are exhausting in your will-power, and you win.
You color and draw circles and faces and acorns. You have an obsession with licking random objects. You like to accessorize and pretend like you are going somewhere, waving at me with a purse under your arms and saying “Bye, Mama! I’ll be back soon! Love you!” You always look like a gaudy tourist in these get-ups. You enjoy bossing the dog around. You could watch vintage Pink Panther episodes for 2 hours straight (today when we asked you who you loved, you went through all your family. Then you said, “And uh, Pink Panther!?!”). I got you a little stool so you can turn light switches on and off all by yourself – and now you perform this task with compulsive, independent joy. You say Please and Thank You and You’re Welcome quite often. You press stickers on every nook and cranny in our house. You are amazing at puzzles and are profoundly adept in your sense of direction. You have eagle eyes and a steel-trap memory (which comes in rather handy when I ask “Kaia, where’s the remote/your sippy/mama’s makeup/your shoes…?”).
I find that you refer to yourself in the third person when you are repeating mantras of mine: “Kaia, be gentle or I’ll have to put it away. No, Kaia, don’t play in mama’s makeup. Don’t do it, Kaia, be nice. Go slow, Kaia. Kaia, hold my hand please. Kaia has boogies. Icky!” You know the name of all of your aunts, uncles, grandies, cousins, and friends. You know your own full name, your baby sister’s full name and many times call me and Daddy by our first names.
A few weeks ago you discovered your nostrils and how to dig for gold in them. I find it hard to tell you not to do this, as your folks here don’t set a good example. In fact, you are so intrigued by nose-picking that one night as we lay together in bed, you were second-knuckle deep in your nose. Finally, after I let you know it was really time to go to sleep, you promptly removed your clean finger, looked at it, and cheerily proclaimed “Nigh-night boogies!!!” You’ve even been sure to let me know when some of your friends have boogies. We’ll have to chat about social graces, love.
This age is so incredible; to bear witness to how you are beginning to really connect the dots in this thing called Life. You fire on all cylinders, all of the time. You are proud of your accomplishments and your eyes shine boldly when you are blissed out. This year, during the holidays, I was astounded at your gratitude and excitement over “presents” and “Christmas trees!” You unwrapped each gift methodically, and with each first peek proclaimed with joy “Oh, mama, Wow! Look at this, a …!” Talk about heart-warming. This is surely when holidays begin to get fun.
Kaia, this world holds no limits for you. Remember that. No matter what anyone tells you – including me – I beg you to continue exploring it in your own unique way. Turn upside down. Question it. Argue with me. Do things in your own time and in your own ways. Watch. Listen. Know. Make sure I give you room enough to Be.
Indigo Sol, two months for you have whooshed by me like a comet whose tail sparkles and glitters against a charcoal sky. To sum up your utter, juicy, deliciousness is impossible. I want to scoop you upon a golden spoon and eat ya right up. Well, perhaps not, but you get the point. Quite simply, you are a content, giddy, sweet-as-pie, affable, giggly little girl. You are simple to please and have not a demanding bone in your body. You are one of “those” babies, the “easy peasy japanesy” ones. I never, ever thought I’d be mama to one of “those”. You happily roll around on the floor, grabbing your toes, for an hour on end. You could sit content on my lap all day and night, your busy arms grabbing anything in reach. You blog with me, your fingers smashing the keys in delight. You’ve been sitting up on your own for a few weeks, perfectly satisfied to pick up and inspect your toys or fall gently to your side and continue playing. Because of your amicable personality, I find myself holding and carrying you most of the day. I just truly enjoy it – you being like another appendage of mine – oftentimes snuggling you close and giving you big open mouth kisses and saying “Please can’t you stay this tiny just a little bit longer? Must you get any older?”
The differences between you and Kaia are vast. You’ve have always been such a tactile learner, taking in the world with your nimble hands. Kaia used to love when I read her books; sitting quietly in the seat of my lap to listen to the sound of my voice enunciate and reverberate. You, however, prefer to slap the colorful pictures of the books in excitement. In fact, you can entertain yourself endlessly by just staring at yourself opening and closing your hands. I know many babies must do this, buy Kaia never did. You are enthralled with the fact that you have joints and opposable thumbs, often testing them out on solid surfaces or my arms and chest while you nurse. I truly believe you do this because in a former life you had wings. Thus, these fingers and hands of yours kinda freak you out. For months, we dubbed you “The Thumb” because that tiny little part of you was constantly being pressed into something and balanced or moved around. You rub the edges of our sheets for comfort and hum/moan yourself to sleep when you are tired (and sometimes when nursing). I find these aspects of you exceedingly endearing.
Speaking of nursing, you manage to squeak out this cute little “cough” when you are hungry, just like your big sister used to do. As of late, you’ve become a gym-nurser, popping on and off the breast dozens of times to check out the scenery before let-down. This is the only complaint I have about you, my sweets, as it makes for quite a peep show (and a mess when let-down does occur). You squirm and wiggle and kick your legs in happy anticipation. Sometimes, however, you get very frustrated that let down doesn’t occur in ONE SECOND like frothy beer from a tap. And so you come off the breast to complain. I guide you back, and you repeat this cycle until you are satisfied. Once again, this is a new experience for me, as Kaia was a “get down to business” kind of nurser. Once you finally relax and find the magic milk flowing, you touch my hair or face, or rub my skin, or meddle with my clothes or jewelry. I love this sweet form of affection and self-soothing (except when your fingernails are long).
Overall, nursing you has been a joy and I hope to continue our symbiotic relationship for a long time. At night, your soft head against my chest is my comfort and I draw in breaths in unison with you to help me relax. You are a sleeping pill in the form of a baby. And some of your mystical powers still manifest themselves at night, particularly when we are falling asleep together. During this brief window of time between wake and dreaming, I often think of a friend and then “see” symbols in my mind’s eye just before I drift off. And my dreams have been off-the-charts vivid the past months as well. So much so that I’m seriously considering checking #9 off of my “100 List” because I swear I physically met and hung out with Mr. Pitt in one of my recent dream travels.
That said, I still find that co-sleeping is a delicate balance. I crave space, beg for physical alone time, become desperate with hip and shoulder and back aches. The King-sized bed we had hoped to purchase has managed to evade our budget for six months. And so, I’ve lately attempted to place you snugly in a crib next to our bed once you fall asleep (the one recently vacated by your sister) thus affording me a few hours of sleep sans infant. However, you have been wise to the bait-and-switch and manage to not exceed an hour of sleep in it at a time. Oh how I’d love you to be an “either/or” baby; going with the flow of big bed with mama and daddy to little crib by the bed. But I realize that most of us aren’t either/or kind of people. We have preferences, likes, and standards. I like my chocolate dark; the milky variety can take a hike. I prefer my mattresses in the form of foam ones instead of shaky, squeaky box springs.
Indi, you like to sleep. You don’t fight it…usually. You take a few solid naps a day, a predictable morning nap about 2 hours or less after you’ve awakened and an afternoon nap, with some occasionally cat naps in the middle. But you still like to wake to dream nurse between 2 – 5 times a night. November started a cycle of sleep deprivation unlike anything I’d ever experienced, which is another reason I’ve been unable to write much. You became sick with a cold, then we all got the 48 hour stomach virus (in which I awoke at 2am to you vomiting unaffected in my face), and then you acquired an ear infection. As a result, sleep was scarce. You had weeks where you’d awaken every 15-30 minutes for hours at a time, leaving me spent the next morning. Finally, we got wise and had you sleeping for parts of the night in your Bugaboo stroller, which can recline to numerous positions. This allowed your infection and goop to drain and gave us a few hours of sleep between waking.
Then we set out on a 10 day vacation to the Midwest, where all of the late night action with my family caused you to want to stay up and party with us. Who could blame you? And because you truly are so easy and happy (if when you are tired), I could do nothing but let you stay up. And it wasn’t like we didn’t try to put you to sleep; we didn’t want you awakening Kaia (we were sleeping all together in one bedroom), so we were using the Bugaboo again to put you to sleep. Well, you’d simply hang out in the stroller all bundled up like a burrito staring at us all without a peep. No amount of rocking or strolling or moving or cooing could persuade you to go to sleep. And so, you’d finally pass out at 2 or 3am. Every. Single. Night. Suffice it to say I was so grateful that my family took care of Kaia and let me and you sleep in each morning. We are slowly starting to recover from this lack of sleep as we settle back into our routine. I don’t know how people function that way for months and years on end.
Oh, yeah, and last month you had you first taste of “real food”. You’d been grabbing for food and watching us eat while emulating chewing motions for a more than a month before I finally gave in. And when my finger full of mashed bananas and breast milk came near your mouth, you pulled it in like you’d known how to do it forever. And you ate. And ate. And ate. And so I fed your some bananas every other day for a week. Then, while your Grams was here and watched you and Kaia for SIX HOURS while Daddy and I partied, she fed you lotsa yummy bananas to keep you happy. And they would not be expelled from your body for a week. One week of awful constipation, screaming and crying and thrashing all night long. Constipated Indi was so different from any kind of you I’d witnessed before and it was both scary and sad all at once. Finally, I gave you a bit of flaxseed oil. The next day, I’d never been more elated to have to clean up TWO blowouts. You pooped for the next few days and it was grand. Regulated Indi was back. Now, I give you solids once a week or so, even though you continue to try and finagle every bit of food from our hands and plates.
Oh hey, we trimmed your old-man mullet last month. Now it’s all business and no party.
Here’s what you love: watching and laughing at your sister (whom you adore), studying the cat and dog, grabbing your toes, screeching gleefully (and loudly) like a pterodactyl, naked butt time, baths and showers, being held, laughing, making zerberts and spit bubbles, letting us do your “auctioneer” trick, bouncing up and down on our knees, looking in a mirror, banging toys on hard surfaces, toots.
Here’s what you don’t love: sleeping alone for too long, being in a soiled diaper very long. Um, that’s all I can think of for now. You are 80/20 with the car-seat thing: 20% of the time getting upset when we strap you in or while you are riding. But girl, you are damn easy to calm down. I just cannot get over it. You are also 80/20 with a binky: enjoying it when you are really tired or cranky in the car seat but mostly popping it out for the duration of nighttime sleeping. Oh, you know what else is different than Kaia? From the first day you had a binky you were able to keep it in without assistance. Kaia couldn’t do that until she was at least three months old. I used to fall asleep with her, holding a finger on her binky to keep her from waking. I remember how I was shocked and thrilled when I realized you could do this! And now on occasion, you can even pick your binky up all on your own and put it in your mouth.
Indi Sol, I am attached to you in a way I cannot put into mortal words. You are my soul exposed. You are pureness packaged into stout limbs and a Buddha belly. You are comfort. You are a vacation on a secluded beach, Sangria in hand. You are ever-trusting, never-doubting, full of patience and cosmic goodness. You are possibility and limitless love. Being your mama is an entirely new experience for me. Kaia challenges me to go deep, submerges me into The Unknown. You give me permission come up for air and be present in the repose of The Known. If you can fault me for anything it’s that I struggle daily with the concept of you growing up, for I am certain that never a more jubilant baby existed.
You see, I always refer to Kaia as My Fire. Her energy dances and sizzles and keeps me moving and somewhat cautious of her flames. But when I release my fears and take intentional time to study her blaze, I encounter wisdom and unearth newfound resilience. But you, Indigo, you are My Warmth. You beg to be near and beckon my very body to curl close. Like a brilliant ember of Kaia’s flames, you smolder with ancient mystery and glow with the brilliant light of peace. Your eyes speak of unconditional acceptance and perpetual bliss. And, while you both share the sign of Cancer (though you are a Gemini/Cancer cusp baby), it occurs to me how perfect the duality of your personalities are. Yes, how could I enjoy The Warmth if I didn’t have The Spark?
“…Solemn Joy and Sudden Spark, our children” – from the musical “Ragtime”
I often try to envision life without you both; would I welcome a break from the responsibilities and the selfless but all-consuming calling of motherhood? Would I wallow in sweet, uninterrupted sleep and leisurely shopping sprees once again? Perhaps I would for a short time. But mostly, I think I would wander this green earth endlessly– and travel the stars – looking for you once again. Together, you are My Home.
Indi and Kaia, I love you with an unexplained deepness of equality. It is as if a perfect level of division and multitude exist in my heart, leaving room enough to expand each day for you both. Thank you for lighting and warming me from the inside out.