Today is the last day of your very first January. You began the day early, in bed with Momma and Daddy at five o'clock because you decided you were finished sleeping in the crib. You babbled around a bit and then fell back asleep with us. You and I spent most of the day together, and it was a good day. We stacked block towers and knocked them down and made a train out of an empty diaper box that you had great fun sitting in while I pulled you around the floor. You also walked around with your push toy (with me holding on to you) for the first time. You took two good naps with no complaints and woke up happy each time. You ate your meals without putting up too much of a fuss. You were such a sweetheart all day long. I love you so much. Being cooped up inside this winter has been difficult for both of us, but we're surviving. Today we stood and watched the snow falling outside the window. It was a good day to be inside, just playing and snuggling.
Sleep tight, little boy. When you wake it will be February, a new month, a new day, full of possibilities.
"If you don't understand the assignment, please come and see me during my office hours...sometimes I have candy. I'm like the witch from Hansel and Gretel. Pleeeze, cheeldren...come into my office. My desk is made of peppermint sticks."
"If you're feeling overwhelmed, break the assignment down into small tasks. Set small goals and reward yourself for acheiving them. For example, promise yourself that you'll work on revising your thesis statement tonight and then when you finish, eat a brownie. Just one brownie, NOT THE WHOLE PAN OF BROWNIES." **and then, pointing a slow, surveying finger around the room**: "You know who you are."
Sadly, these are just examples of the dumbass things I've actually uttered out loud to one of my classes THIS WEEK ALONE. Note that today is only Tuesday.
However, I'm feeling pretty suave, since one of my colleagues (who shall remain nameless) popped in today to share her/his concern that she/he will surely be sued over having asked a class which presidential candidate they felt was mostly likely to have sex with animals.
Clearly there are some contenders around here for the stupid teacher of the year award. And I thought I had it in the bag.
Sitting stretched out on the couch wearing my jammies and new dog slippers (thanks, Elecia!); just brushed my teeth, and my mouth is feeling baking soda and peroxide fresh; the Illini basketball game and Eli's amusing commentary in the background. He's lying on the other couch eating a pear. How disgustingly healthy. I just downed about a half a bag of potato chips and three handfuls of M&M's, and Eli is eating a pear. Ugh.
Just having a relaxing Sunday evening after putting Eliot to bed. We shipped him off to Grandma and Grandpa's house on Friday night and he spent the weekend with them. We met for lunch today and brought him back home. I missed him SO much this weekend. It was great to have him back home. Just couldn't stop snuggling and hugging and kissing him. We all three went upstairs and made a game of rolling his fabric ball back and forth, which Eliot found hilarious. He giggled and giggled every time the ball landed in his lap.
We had a nice weekend—Friday night I had two of my sisters over to scrapbook and talk and drink hot chocolate, which was fabulous—such a stress relieving evening. Eli made supper for us (delicious Italian beef) and took care of Eliot. Then Saturday was Eli's turn—he had a friend over and they hit the local fishing shop and music store and then went to see Rambo (ew.). So we both had some quality downtime. It was nice to have a weekend spent relaxing, since it seems like most of our weekends are spent worrying about and dreading the always rapidly approaching Monday.
I should have done a lot more grading this weekend, but ah well. Such is life. I'm working on worrying less about what I OUGHT to be doing and just enjoying what I AM doing. Living a little more in the moment. This is part of what I love so much about Eliot. He totally lives in the moment because he doesn't know anything else. All of his feelings are so pure, so transparent. When happy, he radiates joy. When angry, he howls without self-consciousness. He simply is what he is, and he doesn't try to hide his feelings or censor himself in any way. I love experiencing the honesty of those emotions. Having him in my life really has made me more appreciative and mindful of the simple, everyday pleasures that I would normally take for granted. His delight is contagious. Seeing him made so happy at the rolling of a ball or the texture of Mumford's fur beneath his little fingers has led me to rediscover my own simple joys. Like the way the little couch is the perfect length for me to lean my back against one arm and stretch the flat of my feet against the other. The warmth of slippers and the slick feeling of my tongue against clean teeth. Flannel pajama pants. The soft glow of the stained glass sailboat nightlight that Grandaddy made. The soft sighing breaths of my son as he sleeps. The easy camaraderie of Eli and I as we sit together in the living room, lost in our own separate pursuits.
When I was younger, and I would struggle with homework, or learning a new dance step, or I was just frustrated at whatever, my mom would often say, "Rachel, you're making this harder than it has to be." I could never understand that. It always made me angrier to hear her say that. I'd say, "But, Mom! It IS hard. IT IS HARD!!!" I didn't get how my difficulties had anything to do with me. I always thought it was the thing itself. The thing. THIS THING IS FRUSTRATING ME BECAUSE IT IS DIFFICULT. And I would get disgusted at her, because it was so obvious to me that a certain math problem, for instance, must have a certain level of difficulty completely independent of me and my own thinking. It didn't matter how I approached the problem, because the problem was difficult in and of itself. So how could I possibly be "making it harder"? That OBVIOUSLY DOES NOT MAKE ANY SENSE, I would think, with total disdain.
But I finally think I understand what she meant. Life doesn't always have to be so complicated or so difficult. Sometimes it just is what it is. And right here, right now, what it is, is good.
Eli: "WHY DOES THIS CHILD POOP SO MUCH????"
Rachel: "Because we keep feeding him. And it's your turn, by the way."
Eli: "I gave him a bath!"
Rachel: "That doesn't count. I changed two poopy diapers today already. How many have you changed?"
Eli, hanging his head in defeat: "One."
Rachel: "You're up."
Eli, scooping Mr. Poopy Pants up in his arms: "Fine, but you have to put him to bed."
Rachel: "Yep." :-)
But then, the baby is born and it doesn't take long for you to realize that every single cliche is TRUE. And there's nothing else to say, because you can't possibly convey what it feels like to be a parent. There just aren't any words. You can't tell someone what complete exhaustion really feels like. That you will get up out of bed at 10, 12, 1, 2, 4, and 6 o'clock to the sounds of wailing when you would so much rather just roll over and die. That you will feel overwhelming waves of resentment and anger at this tiny little red screaming THING, quickly followed by extreme guilt that does nothing to take away the anger. You will sit down in a rocker to feed THING and if he consents to drink his bottle, you will inhale a deep breath of the top of his head, which smells like baby shampoo and a scent you can't identify that's just HIM, and in that instant all will be forgiven. His warm little body will snuggle into yours and fifteen minutes later when the bottle is gone and he's sleeping in your arms, you won't want to put him down and go back to bed. This process will be repeated every night every night every night for the rest of your life.
You will be terrified of the responsibility of protecting a new life. Because you will look at him and wonder how you ever thought that all babies look alike or seem like eating, sleeping, pooping blobs, because he's not a blob, he's your child. YOUR CHILD, and he's a whole new other little person. He will look into your eyes and you'll swear that he knows things you don't. And then he'll cut a really loud fart and laugh about it.
You'll understand what it means to have the most vulnerable part of your body living outside of your body, all visceral and sticky, and undeniably real. It's as though your heart itself sprouted limbs and got away from you and now all you can do is try to take care of it the best you can and hope that nothing terrible happens to it. Because if something hurts your heart, it hurts you too. There is no difference between you, and yet you're no longer the same at all.
You see other people walking around with their hearts in shopping carts rolling down the aisles of the grocery store and you can tell by the look on their faces that they know. And you see other people with their hearts in the same store, and you can tell that they've already forgotten. And you hope you never forget. You vow to never forget.
And when your friend tells you that his wife is pregnant you want to tell him all of this, but you can't, because it won't make any sense. You can't tell him that the very fiber of his being will expand to fill the universe and he will be more, just more than what he ever was before. And so you simply say, "Congratulations!" and "Get as much sleep as you can now..." and most of all, "Cherish these moments, because they go by so quickly..."
But I finally did it. There's only so long that you can tell yourself you're just tired because you have a baby before you realize that going to bed at 7 p.m. and not getting up until 7 a.m. and yet still needing a nap (or two) in order to make it through the day is just not normal under any circumstances. (Well, unless you ARE the baby, of course, rather than the baby's momma.) And did that really long sentence make any sense by the time I got to the end of it? I don't know--it's past my bedtime.
Yesterday I almost fell asleep at my desk at work. Just lucky I didn't drool on any handouts.
So anyway, I finally did surrender vial upon evil vial of my precious blood for testing last week and now I have a bottle full of little peach pills to show for it. I'm supposed to take one every morning, starting tomorrow, and my life will magically be better. Bibbity, bobbity, boo.
In other news, Eli can no longer deny that Eliot is in fact saying "momma" and not just babbling incoherently. We were sitting in the living room floor playing today and he (Eliot, not Eli) was saying over and over, "Mom mom mom mom, momma, momma, mom mom" and just grinning at me and leaning over and hugging me. He's the best little kid. So Eli conceded. I win. And no "dada" or anything close has been uttered as of yet, either, making the "momma" victory oh so much sweeter.
In addition to "momma," I've heard him say "baba," which I do think means "bottle," and "caca," which I take to refer to Mumford. In fact, "caca" is what I'll be calling Mumford now, after he puked on the living room rug this afternoon for the thousandth time.
The next semester (fall 07) I came back and noticed the jelly bean was still there. I thought about picking it up then, but then I thought, wait...let's just leave it there and see how long it takes custodial services to find it and sweep it up.
(I got a new officemate, and she was worried that if she left papers in a stack on the floor they would get recycled while she was gone, but I was able to assure her that if my spring 07 jelly bean was still there, I was pretty sure her papers would still be there the next day.)
Anywho, uponst checking under my desk this morning, I see my dusty little jelly bean lying right there where I left it. And I was just thinking, that if I leave it there long enough, perhaps, with the right climate and a little love, just maybe it will sprout into a jelly bean tree.
I've never seen a jelly bean tree, but I imagine it would look a lot like a ficus. And it would have margarita-flavored jelly bean fruit growing in plump little clusters.
I voiced this deep-seated wish to my new officemate, and she said she'd see if she could arrange it. And if anyone can get that jelly bean tree to sprout, it will be her.
I warned her that if I come into the office one day and see a ficus-looking tree growing out from my desk sporting margarita-flavored jelly bean fruit, I might die of happiness. Then she said she wouldn't do it if it would lead to my death, so I assured her that I wouldn't die after all. I'd just collapse in the floor and pee my pants. But then, as we know, we'd both have to work with a stinking pee spot in the floor because custodial services apparently does not clean our offices, as evidenced by the original jelly bean.
So it's circular, you see.
And it's nice to have an officemate who responds to my insane digressions as though they're just another part of normal conversation between colleagues.
Got to work on time, found a spot, and made it to my first class only to realize about 10 minutes into it that my first class is English 1002, not 1001, and I'd given them the wrong diagnostic writing prompt. Oops! and *$%@! I looked up from my desk and saw them all busily writing on the wrong topic, and a thick black cloud of doom began to form. My guts started churning and my interior voice was yelling, "Your idiocy and incompetence is unparalleled! You are the sole cause of famine and death!"
For me, this sort of thing is usually all it takes to make me feel worthless and destroyed for the entire day. And since I happen to be a very forgetful, befuddled sort, things like this happen often. If Eliot drops his pacifier in a public place and I fail to catch it before it hits the dirty, ucky floor, I will be certain that I am the worst mother that ever lived (at least for the next thirty minutes or so).
I like to call this phenomenon an alarming lack of perspective.
I know that when I feel myself slipping, I need to just stop, take a breath, and think about why whatever just happened is not the end of the world. Mass chaos will not ensue because I give the wrong handout. My son will not keel over and die if we have to find a place to wash the nuk before he can have it back. In fact, if I give it back to him without washing it, he probably still will not die. Probably.
So "Stop. Drop. Roll." is my reminder to myself to quit running around in mental circles like my pants are on fire and just stand still for a moment. Stand still, let the insanity fall away, and then move on and do what needs to be done.
When I decided to start blogging, I meant for this to be a space where I could write to myself and work out my various neuroses by calming myself down and taking time to think and reflect. I didn't intend to share it with anyone. But then I realized that people probably like to see pictures of Eliot and hear how he's doing, so I decided to share anyway.
Well, that, and I am also incredibly vain and like attention.
Also told us to get rid of the walker, as it delays motor development; he should be pulling up and standing by now. Whatever.
He'll stand when he wants to stand. I don't think putting him in a walker every once in a while is going to significantly deter any of his abilities. Like...well, Eliot could have been a professional basketball player; it's just too bad his parents used a walker and it took him four weeks longer to stand than the average baby. Such a shame. He could have been great.
Classes start on Monday--SO not ready. Better get off of here and get some work done.