Stovetop Palimpsest

I scalded some peaches this morning in order to peel them and add them to our pancakes. Who knew the mark left by their juice would be purplish blue? And shaped roughly like a map of Norway?


Hello, Backpack

Ingrid had her last day at the old day care Friday (“It’s closed now,” she said, driving home that evening. “Closed like a library.”) We gave each of the three teachers plus the director a photo of her in a handmade frame (She decorated each with meticulous, evenly spaced dashes, front and back.) We said goodbye, and it was sad and a relief to have the ending over with.

Today she was to have started at the small in-home day care. But about ten days ago, I got the nagging feeling that we’d made the wrong decision. Ingrid seemed, suddenly, so old and so ready for “school”, and the uncertainties around a one-woman day care business suddenly seemed huge.

As set as I’d been—for weeks—on the in-home day care, I couldn’t shake the feeling that what she needs now is something more structured and more official than even a super experienced and educated caregiver can do in her home. The march-like song from the “School” Signing Time video stomped through my head all day: “Time to pay attention, time to pay atten-CHUN!” And my nagging, nagging gut kept demanding atten-CHUN right along with it. A, on the phone from Germany, admitted to the same doubts.

I obsessed about this for several days straight, to the point where in order to sleep I had to envision myself throwing a big clay pot, putting all of my day care thoughts inside it, and letting it float away on the blue ocean.

And then we started to look at the other options again.

We looked briefly into an extremely dogmatic Waldorf place (lovely, but the more single-minded and unfortunately more vocal of the two proprietors had a creepy gleam in her eye that brought me back to my days hanging out with fundamentalist Christian missionaries in the Himalayas. She said something about “the opportunity to meet like-minded parents” and I almost ran screaming from the soothingly arranged, newly low-VOC-painted room.)

And then we found out there was still room at the co-op day care center that I’ve loved for years (Ingrid had been on the waiting list to get into the younger kids’ room for ages) and where her good buddy H (of the fingernail polish) is going now. We signed her up, and today was her first day.

I feel lousy—completely lousy—about backing out on the original plan with the in-home woman. I never would have done this before having kids: Backing out! Of a Plan! A plan that I myself had decided on and agreed to. Backing out because of no particular concrete change other than that my gut was telling me it was the thing to do. But I did—as gracefully (not very) as I could—and today was Ingrid's first day at "school".

And I feel great about what we’re doing, about this new day care that my suddenly super grown up daughter calls school. I think it’s a great little community. There is so much that I know she’ll love: a garden, pet hermit crabs, a play kitchen. Her buddy H is an outgoing kid who draws everyone out—including even Ingrid at her most shy. And her teachers are kind, smart women who seem to love their jobs and love the kids.

Ingrid came home today exhausted but full of stories (“We made pizza for snack. With sauce and cheese. And VEGETABLES!”) and full of imaginary games about cousins (she has no real ones) and a song about speckled frogs. Apparently some little shit child who shares a name with a Wyoming town hit her over the head this afternoon, but I am pleased with how the teacher handled both the hitter and Ingrid’s (distressed, very upset) response, and for now I am going to believe that this won’t be a regular occurrence. She seems to have recovered fine.

As much as I’m trying to fight it, it’s starting to feel like fall: Cool weather, rain, the sad, sad closing of the park wading pools (closed like libraries, I guess), and a girl—after all her parents' strange and convoluted decision making finally sorted itself out—starting school.


Potty Genius

Since yesterday afternoon, Iris has pooped in the potty three times and peed in it at least twice.

For those who might have trouble telling apart "the sisters with the I names", Iris is the baby. Who turned one two weeks ago.

Yesterday she climbed onto Ingrid's little potty with her pants on. Out of curiosity, I took her pants and diaper off and sat her back down. Then the phone rang. I was distracted for a few seconds, and when I came back to her the deed was done. The two times today were kind of the same thing. She went to the potty and fussed and fussed until I got her undressed and helped her sit down.

Her big sister—who, in all her three years plus three months, has landed every poop squarely in a diaper—looked on proudly, clapping. Good job, Iris! Hooray for you!

I will now begin shopping for my outfit for the Nobel banquet.

It's been a busy stretch, here. A was away for five days, we are embroiled in the last scramble of a day care decision, and I've been busy (pardon my blushing) reading a book about how to be spontaneous. And eating tomatoes. Maybe this week I'll get it together to write again.


Rituals For the End of Baby-Raising

Last week I felt horrible and didn’t know why: walking through mud, thinking like mud, seeing through a tunnel of mud. Detached from Ingrid, and reacting to her clingy reaction by pushing her away. Honking at everyone who didn’t use their turn signal.

I didn’t get why. It seemed like it came overnight and for no reason, and it scared me that it hit me out of nowhere, in the middle of summer—the opposite of Eliot's midwinter spring.

Then my therapist, whom I hadn't seen in months but who listened on Friday as I stumbled through various ideas about the sudden blues (clouds, sugar, sleep deprivation, maybe my period) proved herself worth many times my ten dollar copayment. I mentioned in passing that Iris had turned one on Monday, and she said, "She turned one on Monday?" in a way that totally sounded more like, "Why have you spent the last forty minutes blabbing about insignificant things when this is so clearly the thing that is getting you down?"

That's it, of course, and you are most welcome to unsubscribe in disgust now if you want, because I know I've mainly spent the past year gnashing my teeth about not being a baby person, wanting to sleep more, wishing we could get on to the good part where they are both a year older, etc. etc.

It has been hard, and a baby's first year is not my favorite part and not the thing I'm best at, and with three quarters of my heart I'm thanking my lucky stars that we don't ever, ever have to do it again. But I'm still sad that it's slipped by. There will be no more babies in this house. I won't be pregnant again, won't doze with a sleeping newborn on my chest, won't thread anyone's boneless little arms through itty-bitty onesies. It hasn't been my best season, but it's one that I looked forward to, and it was studded with fantastically sweet moments, and it's over forever. Iris is one. She walks. We're done with babies.

What's made me feel the most foggy-headed and heavy-limbed is that the transition sneaks by without ritual. Iris takes her first steps; she turns one and we eat cake. She turns from baby to toddler, and we mark that, sort of, but what about going from mother of babies to mother of older children? From woman with the intense, close, physical work of baby care in her future to woman who's done that, who's done with it, who sees it now from the other side, in her past?

As with many important passages these days, the rituals our culture offers are either medical (insert the IUD or give the husband the snip) or consumeristic (get rid of the Bumbo seat and the nursing pillow; buy a little red wagon). I need something richer than that.

So I'm going to make something up.

Because I write, there will be lists: what I'm sad to leave behind, what I'm glad is over, what I've learned. What's not required of me anymore, and what strengths I need in this new, ever more babyless time. And what else I can be—creatively, spiritually, physically—as I move slowly, slowly away from the time when tiny, tiny girls were my every waking thought.

I imagine I will need to burn some lists and enshrine others in a little bottle. I'll probably have to take a dip in some body of water. And maybe there should also be wine. It has to be part funeral, part baptism, part graduation party.

What will you do (what would you do, what did you do) to mark the end of your time as a mother of babies?



I'm not sure how so many long days can add up to such a short year, but tomorrow my baby turns one year old.

One year ago today she was a mystery—a genderless, active, rather pointy baby who liked—during ultrasounds, anyway—to suck on his/her upper lip. We've learned so much this year: She is a redhead, a tall one, a ham, an adorable bottom-up sleeper, a persistent climber, a dog lover. She loves to swing, loves to unpack and disassemble, loves to shove blocks and rocks down the back of her own shirt. She loves her big sister. She eats dirt.

She says a lot of words, but most of them sound like "Aap-hm." She signs fan, light, all done, bell, and occasionally more. She does not want to be contained. She can draw with a crayon. She can climb all our stairs, up and down. She can point, when asked, to her head, ears, nose, tummy, and toes.

She likes nursing, but she likes bananas even better. She looks great in brown. She still loves to pee with her diaper off. She'll put up, good naturedly, with a lot: erratic scheduling, squashing by her big sister. But wrong her (take away her sleepy doll, or show her Mama or bananas without handing over the goods) and her face and voice tell you in no uncertain terms how very unjust she finds the situation.

She is ticklish. Rolling around on the bed makes her laugh. Dancing makes her grin. What she really wants most is to eat the cat's tail. When she stretches (she has done this since she was a newborn) she holds her elbows right next to her ears. She likes to experiment with her orifices: Can she breathe in and out with a finger in one nostril? How about the other? How about with her fingers in her ears? She explores these things with a look of fascination on her face.

She hardly ever holds still anymore, except when I nurse her in the middle of the night, and sometimes I—I, lover of sleep—stay in her room, holding her, long after she's done nursing, looking at her round little cheeks in the mostly dark, feeling the weight of her head in the crook of my arm, her legs soft and still in my lap.

On Tuesday Iris stood on her own for the first time, grinning, chuckling, and clapping her hands. Yesterday she took her first three little falling steps, crash landed in my lap and then backed up to stand again on her own—a sturdy little tripod of two legs and an arm, then an upright, grown up girl looking right into my face with her big brown eyes.

Tomorrow we'll celebrate with banana cake (not this but this—poor, nutritionally deficient second child) and a toast to our family of four and to the little girl who keeps on surprising us all.

Happy birthday, little bear. I can't wait to see what the next year holds.