The Mouth.

30 Dec

Isn’t it crazy how some of the world’s quietest adults were once bombastically loud children? My brother, now a soft-spoken man, once yelled “LOOK AT THAT MOMMY’S HAIR!” and pointed to the beehive coif of a fellow diner at a Mexican restaurant. My mom says she wanted to dissolve into the floor as the entire restaurant stopped and stared.

I hope Seabass becomes as quiet as my brother in adulthood, but if recent events are any indication, that hope is in vain.

EXHIBIT A.

Running through the hall of the Portland Airport on recent holiday travels, exclaiming (at the top of his lungs) “I HAVE TO POOOOOOOOP, MOMMY!!!”

EXHIBIT B.

Announcing to everyone in Fresh & Easy (once again, the one at Broad and South St., poor fools) that someone in the snack aisle had “VERY, VERY DARK SKIN.”

EXHIBIT C.

Climbing a play structure, slipping, and screeching, “OW, MY PENIS!!”

…and my personal favorite,

EXHIBIT D.

At the park, staring, then pointing at our local resident cross-dresser, who was passing by and just happened to be wearing a long dress and a hat like this

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which compelled Seabass to yell, “LOOK AT THAT QUEEN, MOMMY!”

Yes, son. How very astute you are.

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Just get this child to three years old.

11 Dec
Swaddle

The newborn Seabass. Swaddled and…awake.

There was this particular night, oh, about three and a half years ago, in which I sat bouncing a nascent Seabass on the yoga ball.  It was late: wee-morning-of-the-hours late. I had been bouncing for several hours, punctuated by quick, laughable attempts to lay the ‘Bass down in his crib and put him to sleep. I was depressed. I was sleep-starved. I was a roiling mess of nerves, anxiety, self-loathing, and confusion, and I saw no light at the end of my personal poop-smeared tunnel.

I recall this night because I so vividly remember chanting to myself while I bounced, “Just get this child to three years old. Just get this child to three years old. Just get this child to three years old.” For whatever reason, in my mind, I had decided that the age of three would be when Seabass no longer presented a challenge.

Remember: I had never really hung out with kids before. The milestones and expectations I could place on a child at any age were completely shrouded in mystery. Perhaps I thought he’d suddenly be really fun at that age, or really independent, like he could make himself a sandwich, change the laundry from the washer to the dryer, or clip his own toenails.

Wearing the Halloween costume my mom made for me when I was three.

Wearing the Halloween costume my mom made for me when I was three.

Here we are at the age of three and a half, and I’ll admit that some of those things I’d believed are indeed true. Seabass sleeps quite well now. He uses the potty all by himself. And he is really fun. Oh, how he can put Jake and me in stitches with some of the wacky stuff he says. And when I have the energy to answer every little question he poses, life with my precious first-born boy can be beautiful. His scintillating wit and sensitivity toward his surroundings are what make him the one and only Seabass.

But you and I both know this blog isn’t about only the good stuff. It’s about ALL OF THE STUFF. And the stuff can go from ecstatically great to morbidly horrible in a matter of seconds. I believe the correct term is volatile.

He’s moody. He’s bossy. He’s utterly implacable when it comes to what to eat or what to wear. He’s nosy. He’s loud and repeats obnoxious noises sometimes, especially if he knows it bugs me. In fact, he is more adept than anyone I know at finding my last nerve and Riverdancing on it.

He can’t stand for me to spend any affection on Sweet Chuck, so much of my cooing and gurgling with her is done in secret, when he’s not around or looking. He’s like the Cuddle Gestapo. If I so much as wink at her, he starts goo goo gooing and getting up in my stuff for attention.

The truth is I think he really needs that attention. But my skin crawls when he acts like a baby. We are still negotiating how to give him the attention he craves without feeding his lunacy, so to speak.

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I love Seabass so much I think my head will pop off sometimes. (If you ever find my noggin rolling down Higuera Street, you’ll know it finally happened.) And oh, how hard on him I am! I’ll cheerfully accept his best efforts…until they’re not good enough.

This motherhood gig is simply too much sometimes. Where is the pause button? Where is the boundary between Seabass and me? Am I even allowed to put up emotional boundaries with a preschooler? Where does he end? Where do I begin?

Slumber, my darling.

6 Nov

The act of putting a child to sleep is as ancient as the earth itself.  Since time began, mothers and fathers have used the same old patterns, tricks and routines to gather up calm and shower it down upon restless bodies in preparation for sleep.  Taking part in the ritual is a privilege, even after a day of pure horror.

Seabass has always been partial to bedtime stories and a caressing back scratch.  After reading books about dinosaurs, teddy bears, and (what else?) tractors, he rolls to his side and I let my fingers walk gently across his impossibly tiny shoulders, down his arms and over his peach-fuzzy back.  “Mama, will you sing to me?” is one of his regular requests, and I reply, happily, with something timeless, something true.

imageSweet Chuck also gets a song from me for bedtime, but hers is always coupled with a warm, cozy snuggle.  It is a joy unparalleled to feel her burrow into my neck while I sing and lull in the squeaky rocking chair.  And then, just as the last notes of my tune have decayed, she takes up the melody herself, no matter how sleepy.  She intones a couple of tiny hoots, a gurgle and a hum, mimicking the sounds that I made just seconds before, showing her support for my efforts.

Each parent has their own favorite bedtime song. For me, I like to reach across time and space to join hands with Stephen Foster, who captured the essence of love for children in his “Slumber, My Darling” from the mid-19th century.

I have, literally, never listened to this song without crying.  My mother thought these same thoughts over me as I slept, as did hers over her.

We are not alone, friends, in this helpless, knee-scraping,

reckless-abandon-love we feel for our children.

Slumber, my darling, thy mother is near,
Guarding thy dreams from all terror and fear,
Sunlight has pass’d and the twilight has gone,
Slumber, my darling, the night’s coming on.
Sweet visions attend thy sleep,
Fondest, dearest to me,
While others their revels keep,
I will watch over thee.

Slumber, my darling, the birds are at rest,
The wandering dews by the flow’rs are caressed,
Slumber, my darling, I’ll wrap thee up warm,
And pray that the angels will shield thee from harm.

Slumber, my darling, till morn’s blushing ray
Brings to the world the glad tidings of day;
Fill the dark void with thy dreamy delight–
Slumber, thy mother will guard thee tonight,
Thy pillow shall sacred be
From all outward alarms;
Thou, thou are the world to me
In thine innocent charms.

Slumber, my darling, the birds are at rest,
The wandering dews by the flow’rs are caressed,
Slumber, my darling, I’ll wrap thee up warm,
And pray that the angels will shield thee from harm.

They are beautiful.

28 Oct

This shot was taken the day of Sweet Chuck’s first birthday party.  Though his grip is a tad strong, I think Seabass handled his first big-brother-of-the-birthday-girl event well, don’t you?

My beautiful babes.

My beautiful babes.

It’s so effing hard.

9 Oct

DSC06050It’s been a while since I wrote, yes.  Life has been throwing us a few loops around here, but we remain intact and I’ll be damned if we don’t have heart.

Jake and I made the decision last week to give up our precious Murphy, the little, incredible dog who has blessed us with his presence for nine years.

This has been on our minds for a while now, but the final straws came all at once and we knew it was time to act.

  • Final straw number 1: Seabass recently pushed Murph with his foot and said, “Get out of the way!”  I looked down at Seabass and admonished him by saying, “Don’t talk to him like that, son.”  I suddenly felt Jake’s eyes boring holes in my head and turned to ask, “What?” to which he replied, “Um, he learned to do that from watching you, Jaime.”  Knife+heart=ouch.
  • Final straw number 2: Murph started digging in the backyard, ostensibly out of sheer boredom.  You know those neighbors who make me crazy with their nasty, miserable music and debauch-tastic parties at 3:34 AM?  Those were the same kids bringing Murph back to our house after he escaped.  Unacceptable.

We passed him on to a family that has taken wonderful care of him several times for us when we’ve gone on vacation.  And if it hadn’t been them, it would have been someone from the extremely long list of people who love and worship Murph.  In other words, we’re not worried about Murph.  He is doing just fine.

But when I washed his little food and water dishes, packed up his (disgusting, hairy, putrid) bed, and packed his beloved ChuckIt! toy, I felt like I was packing away all of the golden and free years I spent with Murphy and Jake before our children were born.  Into that bag went some of my most cherished memories and experiences.  Camping in Big Sur and watching Murph run laps with pure joy in a sun-drenched field.  Sneaking him into a hostel in San Diego in my purse.  Watching his ears flap in the wind from the passenger side of our old Civic.  And, sadness of all sadnesses, picking him up from the animal shelter that spring day a million years ago.  Oh, how in love with him we were.  All of us were, and are.

But it’s a new season, and not necessarily a kinder one.  Of course I love my babies with my whole heart, and of course I’m not enduring chemotherapy like my precious mom, or living with the threat of terrorists or civil war like my friends in Kenya.

I’m not the swearing kind, but there’s no other way to say it. It’s so effing hard.

 

The day Daddy nearly smoked a stolen doobie.

9 Sep

Jake and I recently had the extreme good fortune to attend the Outside Lands festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  Yes, without children.  Yes, for three days.  Yes, seriously A-W-E-S-O-M-E.

The fashions, as you can imagine, were pretty insane.  I remarked at one point – after seeing a girl donned in a giant fur cape, acid wash jean cutoffs and pink ballerina toe shoes laced up to her knees – that postmodernist fashion has finally arrived.  In other words, fashion no longer exists.

These god-awful outer space tights were everywhere.

I just, ugh. I just don’t know anymore.

Really.

Thankfully the music was spectacular.

Between sets by Phoenix, Young the Giant, and Vampire Weekend, Jake and I walked through a bustling corridor to get to the next show and saw a white dude with a truly egregious afro making his way through the crowd. Think Willie Nelson, only with an afro, crunchier, younger and probably smellier. As soon as the guy passed by, Jake bent down to pick something up.  It was a big fat joint.

“This just fell out of that guy’s hair!” tittered Jake.

“Nice score!” said an envious onlooker with a thumb’s up.

I should mention, before I go any further, that my precious Jake is a decently straight-edge guy.  His only vices, really, are oatmeal stouts and movies starring Bruce Willis.  Other than that, he’s pretty clean.

But you wouldn’t have known it by the way he fondled that joint before squirreling it away in his jacket pocket.  I was shocked.

“You can’t smoke that, Jake.  You know that, right?”

“Why?!? It’s practically legal in California, right?”

He had a point.  But between wiping baby butts, driving a cursed minivan and trying to maintain some semblance of a career, I had no time to keep up with marijuana law.

“I don’t even know anymore,” I said. “But that isn’t the point.  You can’t smoke that.”

[pause, thinking.] “Because it might be laced with something, huh?”

“BECAUSE IT FELL OUT OF A GUY’S AFRO.”

But he remained unconvinced, and held on to that joint for the rest of the day.

As we left the field to hunt down our car and turn in for the night, Jake walked up to one of the recycle/trash/compost stations. (This is San Francisco, after all.) I had all but forgotten about the weed in his pocket, but apparently it had been weighing on him more than I knew.  After studying the illustrations on each bin to determine where he should dispose of his joint, he finally decided on compost, chucked it in, and heaved a sigh of relief.

5 days of nuggets: Day five: SHORT AND SWEET.

6 Sep

Talking with a group last fall, not long after Sweet Chuck was born, a fellow mom said “Long hair is so much more versatile than short hair.  You can put it up or leave it down!  Everyone cuts their hair short when they have kids, but not me.”

This is a friend of mine, so I knew she just wasn’t realizing that I, who had short hair, was sitting directly beside her.  When my presence and shortness of hair occurred to her, she added, “Yours looks great though, Jaime.”

It was then that I thought perhaps I should grow my hair out.  But over the past year of enduring my hair’s length, I was reminded of things I’d forgotten:

  • Wearing a ponytail constantly is not cute.  It is the coif equivalent of sweatpants.
  • A headache recurs around 4pm everyday from wearing hair in said constant ponytail.
  • Postpartum shedding is about five times worse with long hair.
  • My wispy hair in the front of my face tickles my nose and gets in my eyes with impunity, even when my hair is in the aforementioned constant ponytail.

I started to get glimpses of myself in shop window reflections or mirrors across the room, and I didn’t like what I saw.  And what did I see, exactly? A frumpy, lackluster woman with a baby dribbling off her hip and a preschooler running circles around her legs while the words “no” and “stop that” and “don’t touch that” poured endlessly forth from her lips.

Could I change the dribbling baby, the insane preschooler, or that endless river of negative words?  Probably not.

But I could get my sassy hair back.  And that’s exactly what I did.

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