Monday, July 11, 2011

The Play's the Thing

Julian enjoyed his first night out at the theater (or should I say "theatre"?) last night.How does one take an eight week old to see a play? Thanks to summer, outdoor theater in Seattle is abundant, so yesterday evening we caught a performance of the improvised classic, "The Lost Folio", wherein a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions was created on the spot using audience suggestions. Julian didn't offer any suggestions, unless you count suddenly shrieking. What brought on the unexpected outburst? A few minutes later he burped, then all's well that ends well.

The brilliance of outdoor theater with a baby was that by positioning myself at the edge of the audience I was able to make a quick exit if needed, or simply walk back and forth with my son in my arms from the back of the crowd, disturbing no one, yet still able to enjoy the show myself. I could also pass him off to Michael and take my seat back on the grass to enjoy some of the delicious picnic that had been assembled between us and our friends - quinoa salad, Vietnamese spring rolls, barbeque turkey meatballs, cupcakes, and more.

In years to come, I hope Julian will learn to enjoy seeing live theater for himself, but in the meantime, it's great to know that he can tag along while his parents enjoy a summer evening out. A free show, friends, great food, and a sunny spot on the grass without having to pay for a sitter make the most out of our fleeting summer eves.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Homa Again, Home Again

After ten nights at my parents' house in Oregon, we are back in Seattle, readjusting by doing laundry, sleeping in our own bed, washing bottle in our own sink, and learning how being back in our room affects Julian's sleep schedule and how every day he smiles more and more.

In point of fact, I don't think I've spent quite so much time at my parents' place in one shot since I left home for college at the age of eighteen. The Willamette Valley was gorgeous, all rolling green hills carpeted in vineyards and stands of oak over plains of newly mown hay and wildflowers. Now, looking out my dining room window, I'm greeted by rain over the gray roofs of my neighbor's homes (but it is supposed to be sunny again later today, right? Right?). Still, it's comforting to be back. And I needed to be reminded that in Seattle I should not leave the laundry out to dry on the porch overnight without first checking the weather report.

Since this was our first overnight trip with Julian, it was also a good lesson in how much stuff one needs when traveling with an infant. Fully stocked diaper bag, an assortment of onesies and sleepers, the ever popular "buzzy seat" to occupy him without us having to hold him every waking minute, play mat, baby tub (I don't quite feel comfortable washing him in a full sized bathtub yet), and a box of disposable diapers (no diaper service at my parents, and I wasn't about to spend ten days washing out cloth ones), not to mention all the breast pump equipment and bottles (our boy needs a little - OK, a lot - of help in the feeding department). Considering that we also need to make room for our dog, the Mazda 5 was filled to the gills.

Traveling with baby also lent itself to a much more, let's say, leisurely vacation. While our trip was bookended with family events, the week in the middle was spent at home, watching the baby, washing bottles, and painting fence boards for a backyard project to be completed up at our place later this summer, all while our car was in the shop getting some minor body work done tax free. I'm not accustomed to pacing myself quite so slowly, or not getting out at least once a day, but Julian is changing rapidly, and I realize it is only a matter of time before his horizons expand beyond our little household.

In the meantime, I'm glad to be back in Seattle, where our little day trips - walks to the farmers' market, evening concerts in the park, an hour or two relaxing at a cafe - keep me going.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer in the City?

The first day of summer dawned bright and clear in Seattle yesterday. I opened the curtains of our bedroom, letting in a burst of sunlight, a fitting start to my favorite season. In the afternoon, Michael an I enjoyed a late, leisurely lunch of wine and sandwiches on the patio at Citizen, while Julian dozed in his shaded car seat beside us.

Of course, today the clouds are back. The weather report, which I distinctly remember predicted temperatures in the high 60s and partly sunny weather for the remainder of the week when I checked it over the weekend, now warns of incoming rain, just in time for our out of town guests from Norway, who arrive this afternoon.

I had high hopes for a summer off work with our new baby. Often the easiest way to get out of the house with a newborn is to simply take a walk around the neighborhood, a simple task that becomes more enjoyable when the weather's warm and the sun lingers longer in the sky. With last summer infamously known as, "the coldest summer in 30 years", I was sure that things could only go up from there, but the weather report and the thought of rain leaves me dejected.

Not that we haven't made use of the sun when it shines. Glancing down I can see the pale criss-cross of my shoe strap marked across my bare feet, evidence that yesterday really did happen. Sunny afternoons have made their appearance, just not as frequently as hoped.

Saturday we ventured out to Green Lake for our first "destination" walk - some place requiring a drive to get there, rather than simply stepping out our front door. The weather was disappointingly damp, but I still packed turkey sandwiches to share with our friend Lewissa, whom we met up with at Chocolati Cafe.

"It's June-uary!" Michael announced, while we picked from the exotic hot chocolate drinks listed on the menu. At least the weather was conducive to sitting inside and sipping decadent hot beverages.

"Well," I countered, "this isn't exactly unusual for June around here."

"But it's been June-uary for a year!" lamented Lewissa. Aaaand... point for Lewissa!

After picnicking within the confines of the cafe, however, we were pleased to find it dry enough to manage a walk around the lake after all. Of course, this being our first outing where we had intended to do much walking with Julian, we had inadvertently left the stroller at home. Fortunately, a one-month-old is still pretty light, so we took turns carrying him as we made the 2.8 mile loop around the lake. Even without the sunshine, it was good to be out.

Take Me Out

Last week I spent Monday night high in the stands of Safeco Field with three friends, watching the Mariners lose to the Angels. At least, compared with a game I went to last summer, one that the Mariners ultimately won, there was some actual scoring throughout the innings. At that previous game, hardly a man made it to first base throughout nine innings, and it wasn't until the second extra inning that anyone made it safely to home plate.

More significantly, though, I was out... with friends... without the baby.

It was the first time, exactly four week's after Julian's birth. It felt good, on a beautiful evening, to feel normal again, just to be someone hanging out with friends enjoying a game, some conversation, and garlic fries. Parenthood, something I'm still trying to get a grasp on, felt far away.

I'm not sure when the feeling of being a parent kicks in for most people, but most parents I've spoken with can remember the early days as a whirl of wonder, confusion, and frustration. It's a sudden leap into new responsibilities beyond the magnitude of any most have previously experienced, and it comes with a label that all too often becomes the predominate lens through which others view us: we are now parents. Mothers, in particular, can get lost behind this new title. The world still tends to view us as the primary care providers, the ones most emotionally and physically invested in our children. And frankly, in the early days of breast feeding, we are often the sole provider of nourishment for our babies, something that occupies the majority of a newborn's waking hours.

It can be hard to come to terms with this new role and the pull it exerts on all other areas of my life, of my identity. I don't want to lose the friends I've had, spending all my nights at home with my child, trading adult socializing for the company of an infant who can't yet crack a genuine smile. As a mother, I am determined that I am adding to my identity, not taking away from it, and the occasional night out provides just the confirmation and respite that I need.

Of course, all bets are off when that baby does start smiling. I definitely want to be home for that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Shower Power

The baby shower: a rite of passage for moms-to-be. We run the gauntlet of games guessing what baby food is what (the winner can somehow tell the difference between carrots and sweet potatoes), cooing over onesies, and collecting clothespins for catching others in the act of speaking aloud that unavoidably overused word, "cute".

Well, maybe. I have to say I'm not enamored of such baby shower hallmarks. Judging from the number of people I've spoken with who seem to agree with this sentiment, I'm rather surprised these games are still going. Fortunately, there are two ways to trump tradition: know the people throwing your shower (and know that they know you), and invite the menfolk. They provide balance that naturally keeps the cuteness factor from rocketing up to radioactive levels. And besides, 50% of the parenting power in my household will be supplied by my dear husband. He has come to every single one of my pregnancy OB appointments, and he's coming to the showers. Heck, he even took care of registering us at Babies R Us on his own (thank you, Sweetie!) - now that is a brave, bold man!

Yesterday was our first shower, thrown by two of my co-workers. It was nicely low-key, a chance to visit and nosh and be on the receiving end of many presents. I haven't experienced such an outpouring of gifts since we were married over ten years ago, but soon-to-be-born babies seem to bring out the warm fuzzies in everyone, and the generosity shown to us felt almost overwhelming. It was then that I realized something: with this kind of support, with Michael by my side, and without the kitschy contests, I just might be able to pull this motherhood thing off.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sleeping the Day Away

Today was a particularly bleak day in Seattle, the rain moving seamlessly from drizzle to downpour. Feeling exhausted, I chose the option of an early afternoon nap on the sofa with the dog over taking her out on a walk. One thing pregnancy has taught me, although it's been a difficult lesson to learn, is to listen when my body is tired, to take the nap or head to bed early as time allows.

Only in the past few weeks has this tiredness come creeping back in, seeping slowly into my bones. A nap, I have found, can make the difference between a productive afternoon later on and one lost to restlessness and irritability. It's common knowledge that good sleep habits mean better health and even productivity, yet I still feel the subtle pressure of a society that admires those for whom sleep is something of a nuisance, that which keeps us from accomplishing our all. "I'll sleep when I'm dead," indeed.

I've always enjoyed a good night's sleep - when I could get it. And far from being one of those go-getters who routinely hit the sack for a mere six hours maximum, I've always figured that an average of at least seven hours a night was doing pretty well. But now I see that it's not even about me, it's about this new life I'm carrying, and I have no choice but to bow to his needs. My body does it without needing even my permission; if he needs nutrients, he gets them, no matter if I come up short. My body is focused on growing my child, and it will wear itself out if that's what it takes. My personal needs at this point are secondary, and if I don't eat well enough or sleep well enough for the both of us, my body is not going to show me any sympathy.

So I give in to my body, hoping all the while that by acquiescing to its demands now it will treat me kindly this week when I won't have the time for naps. For today, though, I am almost thankful for the bleak weather - it made taking that nap all the easier.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Springing Ahead

Tonight, we lose one hour of precious time. I've set the clocks ahead already to mentally prepare myself, but there was really no need; although it's only 9:40 according to the old time, I'm already more than tired enough for bed, glancing at the clock as I type, grateful that soon I'll be snuggled under flannel sheets.

I could blame this lethargy on pregnancy. As I enter my final two months, it's normal, I've heard, for the fatigue to start to creep in. Still, I'm loathe to blame too much on the baby I'm carrying. Throughout much of my pregnancy I've focused on how my life can and will continue as normal. True, I may be sipping tonic water instead of a beer, but I can still catch a show at the club. I may experience a stronger fear of falling while navigating icy tracks on a rented pair of cross country skis, but I'll still hit the trail. And I can still stay up until midnight playing games with friends, it just means I may not be staying up quite so late the following night... especially when baby decides that 7am is the perfect time to wake mommy with his in utero calisthenics, regardless of last night's bedtime.

The truth is, I'm pretty happy with my life as it is, and as it has been. Sure, improvement is always a worthy goal, but my definition of improvement has long leaned towards better organizing my time, putting in more volunteer hours, remembering to write thank-you notes, calling friends on the phone more often, and so on. Such an enormous change as bringing a child into the world for whom Michael and I are solely responsible was beyond the scope of my modest goals. When life is good, it's hard to imagine shaking things up too much.

And yet here we are, on the verge of something that changes everything. Or does it? Is it cowardice or common sense to think that everything in life must rearrange itself upon the birth of a new baby? How do I navigate this new world, both as a mother and, quite simply, as me? Whatever I learn and however I change, I think I can safely say that I expect the unexpected - and that I expect the unexpected will be better than anything I could imagine.