Sunday, August 21, 2016

Rowan's room.

It's been a long week or so. Not the days, so much; just the nights. Rowan had a cough and stuffy nose that were mostly absent during the day, but woke her up multiple times a night. Of course, she only wanted Mama. That meant I spent a lot of time staring around her nursery, the bedroom that she's going to move on from in the next couple months, after we complete the "big-girl room" that she and I are excitedly planning together.

And while it's so much fun to dream up ideas for her new space, I'm still a little bewildered by the idea that somehow, in the last three years, I went from ferreting out the perfect hues of gray and turquoise paint to researching glitter add-ins that will make various shades of blush and bashful pop on the walls.

Each night this week, while I rocked her in her chair, I looked at her room and just remembered. All of it.

:: I remember hoarding paint chips from a half-dozen stores, trying to narrow down the exact color scheme to take the room's vibe from "random piles of crap" to "soothing, gender-neutral nursery."

:: I remember painting the west wall gray and feeling the flutters of her kicks for the very first time.

:: I remember how J.J. and I diligently followed the Ikea instruction booklet to assemble Rowan's dresser. It was the quickest, easiest, least-contentious Ikea project we'd ever attempted, and we high-fived each other in satisfaction when it was done. I remember I then eagerly turned to the crib, still in its box, and - thankfully, wisely - J.J. suggested we wait for another day to try that one. I remember thinking, "Holy shit! We're finally smart enough to recognize when to leave well enough alone. We're totally ready for a baby!"

:: I remember coming home on a grumpy day to find that J.J. had wrestled the freshly delivered rocking chair all the way up the stairs and into the baby's room by himself, even perching Mosby upright with a book for effect.

:: I remember my mom seeing the finished nursery for the first time and exclaiming over how much she loved the gray. She hadn't been able to picture the color in her head and was pleasantly surprised at how good it looked, how bright, how cheerful.

:: I remember a photographer snapping newborn photos in the nursery, and I remember being in pain from head to toe because I was only one week post-C-section. I remember I still couldn't stand up straight with out my stitches pulling and burning. I remember crying when the photographer asked if I had a different shirt I might want to wear, because no, I didn't, because I couldn't figure out how to wear a bra with my nursing tops, but I had to wear a bra to avoid irritating my scabbed nipples (!). I remember being nauseated from exhaustion by the end of the photo session, and I remember seeing and loathing the pictures of myself from that day. I remember looking at those pictures again a couple years later and feeling a rush of affection for myself as a new mom, with bruised post-IV arms, ill-fitting clothes, triple chins, puffy eyes, and unwashed hair.

:: I remember that Rowan didn't sleep in this room for many months. I remember being totally taken aback by that. First she was in a co-sleeper in our room, then a Rock 'N' Play in our room, then a Rock 'N' Play in her room, and finally in her crib...sometimes.

:: I remember the surprise of discovering her first tooth while changing her diaper. She was four months old. I remember I cried.

:: I remember snapping at J.J. one night when he tiredly suggested letting Rowan cry it out for a bit, which I saw as a parenting decision-abyss that we weren't ready to leap into. And I also remember when she woke up again not twenty minutes after finally falling back asleep that night. I remember knowing that she was not wet or hungry or in pain. I remember tucking her in and hearing her shrieks as I climbed back into my bed. I remember looking at the clock and saying, "I won't let her cry for more than twenty minutes. I can't." I remember crying and shaking as I listened to her wail. I remember she slowed her cries at minute ten. I remember she stopped at minute twelve and slept the rest of the night, and the nights after that.

:: I remember when she started waking up happy instead of waking up crying, and that we could let her chill in her crib for twenty or thirty minutes while she babbled and gurgled to herself...and while we got just a little more sleep.

:: I remember the first time Rowan rolled over onto her belly in her sleep. I remember taking a picture and frantically messaging my Mom Group to ask them if this was acceptable, or if I should flip her back over. I was terrified.

:: I remember screaming - literally screaming - "Why won't you fucking SLEEP?!" when she was around nine months old and wouldn't nap one morning, because I had to pump again, again, again, and I needed her to nap so I could do that. I remember feeling horrible when her face crumpled and she began to cry...but I also remember not having it in me to comfort her in that moment. Instead, I turned on my heel, went to the guest room, and pumped. Again, again, again. She did not nap that morning. I remember I apologized to her.

:: I remember opening the door to her room after her nap one day; she was signing, "Book, book, book," and staring at our pile of books on the nightstand. I was ecstatic that she had not only executed her first spontaneous baby sign, but grasped the concept that when we wake up from nap, we cuddle and read books. A genius baby, clearly.

:: I remember the first time she started boogying when I read aloud, "'And now,' cried Max, 'let the wild rumpus start!'" and started singing our rumpus song. I remember being startled and thrilled that she was soaking in the meaning of the words, our personal twists on routine bedtime stories.

:: I remember singing our nap songs dozens and hundreds and maybe thousands of times, ever since the day Rowan decided she was no longer on board with our naptime routine of "put in the crib drowsy but awake." The new plan, apparently, was for me to rock her to sleep. Every nap, every day, every time. Still, now, two full years later, that's our deal. I walked her to sleep for more than a year and a half, until she grew so long and heavy that it was literally giving me carpal tunnel syndrome to hold her in my arms like that. Now she lets me rock her in the chair. She used to prefer "Mary Had A Little Lamb," all five (dubiously recalled) verses, sung until she drifted off. Currently, it's "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." She's usually asleep after eleven rounds of it. Worth it.

:: I remember more than a few nights of her pathetically weak cries reaching me wherever I was in the house, and me scurrying up to rescue her from her frustrated attempts to sleep with a stuffy nose. I remember easing us into the rocking chair, wrapping my arms around her, fear and gratitude accompanying me with every rock forward, every rock backwards. I remember her profile silhouetted in the blue half-light of the baby monitor. I remember universal parental prayers transferring from my heart to hers: feel better, feel better, feel better.

:: I remember thinking time and again that it's a good idea we never put a clock in the nursery, because I did not want to know what ungodly hour it happened to be as I changed her diaper or gave her a bottle or tucked her back in.

:: I remember dashing up the stairs and hiding in Rowan's room after discovering that the chain was latched on the inside garage door, even though J.J. had already unlocked that door and left for the day. She was napping, just a few months old, and in my sleep-deprived, postpartum-anxiety-clouded state, I was convinced that someone had broken in the house and chained the door shut, trapping us inside. Why else would only the chain be latched?! I remember listening intently at her door and mapping our escape route (out the east bedroom window and onto the roof)...and I remember eventually realizing that I was the one who had chained the door shut earlier that morning, acccidentally, subconsciously, when I took the recycling out.

:: I remember scooping her up from her nap on May 1, 2015, when she was one and a half, less than an hour after finding out about my mom's cancer diagnosis. I sobbed and rocked her and recognized both devastation and peace in me. No matter what, there would be constants: me, her, a mother's love. My love, and my mother's love. Constant. I remember.

:: I remember waking her up from naps and holding her close as she emerged from sleep, and I remember inhaling her post-nap scent so deeply that she'd giggle and ask me why I was "niffin" (sniffing) her. I remember her perfectly crazy naptime bedhead.

:: I remember our bedtime routine evolving over the years to where it stands now: bath, books, songs, bed. I remember when that whole routine took less than twenty minutes. Lol.

:: I remember when her crib was completely empty except for her; and I also remember, much more recently, trying to sneak some of her stuffed friends out of the crib when she wasn't looking, since they were taking over the entire mattress. 

:: I remember when she was two and three quarters and woke up screeching from a nightmare. J.J. happened to be having a simultaneous nightmare and leapt from our bed, hollering. I remember he kicked open Rowan's bedroom door with his foot and then ferociously karate-chopped invisible intruders next to her crib. I remember ushering him back to bed, giving Rowan a hug and laying her back down, and returning to our room to find out from J.J. what exactly he thought he was defending her from. I remember trying to fall back asleep, but swelling with laughter again each time I pictured him karate-chopping the air.

:: I remember sneaking into Rowan's room every night before I went to bed, just to see her sleeping form. I remember stifling giggles when I'd see her snuggling her latest bestie: Bunny, Baby, Brachiosaurus, BB-8, Invisible Kermit. I remember pacifiers strewn everywhere, and I remember crossing my fingers that she'd sleep through the night even after we took the pacis away. I remember how gazing on her would wash any frustrations from the day, my heart swelling with gratitude and love and disbelief that this amazing creature was mine, forever.

:: I remember just now, running up to interrupt the very end of Rowan's bedtime routine with J.J. to show them the rainbow blooming outside her window. We sang two rainbow songs, and Rowan exclaimed, "I know! In the morning, you and you and me - all of us together - can draw pictures of rainbows!" A perfect idea.


Now we're planning the next phase, the big-girl room. This time, though, it'll really be Rowan's room, the room that represents who she is and what she loves. She's requested yellow and pink walls; glitter on the south wall; a canopy over the bed; and pictures of her family. I'll do my best to create another space for her to cuddle and dream and grow, to feel safe and loved and content.

Rowan's room.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

August in motion.

August inches forward. I know I've been absent from here, but it's just because I've been so fully present out there. I do not want summer to end, and I'm soaking up every last second before September launches, full of school and jobs and responsibility. No, I'm not quite ready for fall. 

Here's how we do August:

:: We do Mama-Rowan downtown date nights.

Window shopping at the robot store.

Blue Moon ice cream at Kilwin's when they
didn't have her new favorite, Superman.

:: We do most afternoons at Gramma's pool, but also plenty of afternoons in the backyard with the baby pool, the slide, the sprinkler, and definitely the hose.

We haven't mowed for weeks since our lawn is dead and brown,
but there's a two-foot radius around our garden that's lush and
overgrown, thanks to the garden sprinkler.

:: We do evenings on the swing.

:: We do the petting farm.

I love how the three on the left are totally under Rowan's
command, while the one on the right is like, "I don't need
your fuckin' carrot."

:: We do spontaneous bike rides through campus with Rowan's littlest cousin (who's just seven months younger than she is).

The crane operator waved and honked his horn for these two,
which I think made their days. I mean, made their LIVES.

:: We do lots of ice cream, apparently, including a trip yesterday that only happened because when Rowan woke up and I asked her what she wanted to do, she cocked her head to the side and said, "Well. Mama. It's a hot day, you know." "Yeah?" I replied, thinking she was going to suggest the pool or the sprinkler. "Yeah," she said. "Soooo, maybe we should get...ice cream?" She said it so cunningly - and I was so surprised - that I couldn't say no. She wanted "the ice cream store by the Kroger," which is actually a frozen yogurt place that I don't love, but that's where we went. Her request. The skies opened up while we were inside eating, which meant that by the time we got home, there were perfectly huge puddles for stomping and jumping. So we did.

:: We do picnics, and cloud-spying. Today she told me she saw an elephant, a dinosaur, a fish, and "a big ol' sheep and a big ol' hippo."

...and sometimes those picnics have musical accompaniment, thanks to our music wall.

:: We do tomato hunting and tomato munching.

:: We do preschool play dates every Wednesday, where we meet the kids and families from her preschool class at different parks around town. That way, the kids will be familiar with each other when school starts in a few weeks (and the parents, too, which is important because it's a co-op). We've been to splash pads and beaches and parks, but her favorite so far might have been playing in the (drought-dwindled) river.

And, you know, I try to do my own thing, too. Minus the shorty. Movie nights and pool parties, river tubing and cookouts, neighborhood jogs and patio hangs, late-night dinners and date-night hikes. Summer is when I feel the most authentically me, always, and I never want it to end. Maybe especially this year, since it seems like I'm watching my tiny girl transform into a big kid in just one season. Must be time for another baby, eh? More on that soon, but I promise, there's no fun news to share yet. Just taking things day by day for now.

August inches forward.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

one, two, three.

I didn't believe until this past week that Rowan was anywhere close to turning three years old. We were on vacation (more on that soon), and J.J. and I couldn't stop staring at her and saying to each other, "She's so big. She's so old." And she really is. This summer is washing away any traces of toddlerhood and replacing my girl with a big, capable, independent preschooler.

I mean, she's still little. She still needs prophylactic Band-Aids and hugs during nighttime thunderstorms and me to rock her to sleep for naps. But? She swims by herself underwater and jumps off the diving board. She refuses booster seats at restaurants. She basically potty trained herself in the spring (I don't know which gods I pleased to receive that blessing). She's ready to start no-parent gymnastics and actual preschool.

This summer, Rowan spent her first nights away from home, including a sleepover at Gramma's. She had her first Bomb Pop, toasted her first s'more, and saw her first movie in the theater - Finding Dory.

She'll only climb down the stairs all by herSELF, thank you very much. Lord help you if you try to assist, despite the fact that each stair takes approximately forty-eight seconds to descend.

She's getting increasingly skilled at bedtime stall tactics, including calling for me repeatedly and then, when I finally relent and check on her, snuggling into my neck and telling me, "I'll be your daughter forever, okay? Even when I'm a grown-up." Then she'll pause and add, "But I won't be your girl forever. Because I'll be a grown-up!"

Not too long ago, Rowan was playing in our guest room/office and told me she wanted it to be her big girl room. Good idea, kid, because that was my plan, too. She wants to help me paint it her favorite colors: yellow and pink (so pretty much the opposite of her nursery color scheme of blue, green, and gray, and about as anti-Peggy Orenstein as possible). She crawled into my lap tonight while I was pinning big girl room ideas and started pointing out all her favorite things - rainbows, stripes, canopies.

She figures she can sleep in her big girl room, and her baby can sleep in "the little kid room." Never mind that there is no imminent baby in our life; Rowan already knows exactly what her little sister (she's very specific) will like to read, eat, and play. She talks about being a big sister constantly. We were at Babies 'R' Us the other day, and she dashed from crib to mobile to blanket exclaiming, "My baby wants THIS! My baby LOVES this!" She found a stuffed giraffe on a shelf and snatched it up, cooing, "Ooh, my baby would looove to snuggle this giraffe!"

This is the girl who's already in love with her preschool teacher, who sings dozens of songs by heart, who loves somersaults and swinging by herself (she tells me to walk away and have "alone time"...um yes please). She likes to plink on the piano and play "sad songs" (slow music) and "happy songs" (fast music), and she instructs me to dance slowly or quickly, accordingly.

Her daddy is her best buddy.

She tries to catch us at the bottom of the slide.

She makes up words and jokes and songs and is thrilled when she makes us laugh.

She loves to play outside, to play pretend, to play with friends, to play with her cousins. She's brave and empathic. She wants a cake that looks like our next-door neighbors' house for her birthday. She's been saying since February that she wants to be a ghost for Halloween. She's just the very best thing I know of, even when she's being the worst.

I'm psyched to start planning her big girl room - it's been forever since we've done anything new and exciting to the house. But am I psyched to have a big girl? Let me put it this way: I never knew the word bittersweet could resonate so sharply until I watched my baby grow bigger and grow away from me. She wanted to try something this past weekend - I can't even remember what now - and we told her no, that it was only for big kids. She perked up and said, "But this kid is big!" True, true. 

Almost three.

(Also? I swear, every time I start writing one of these super-sappy I love my sweet baby posts at 7:30 after I put her in bed for the night, she ends up being awake past 9:00, singing and playing and calling for us until we're ready to burn her stuffed friends to ashes. Gotta love the extremes of parenting. GO TO SLEEP.)


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