Photos capture slipping time

Peeper was five or six weeks old when I realized that I hadn’t taken a one-month picture of her.

You see them all over Facebook and Pinterest: monthly shots of a baby, often with a button or brightly decorated chalk board marking her age. Look at a year’s worth and you can see a child grow from a slumpy infant to a one-year-old who will hardly sit still long enough for a parent to snap a photo.

I felt guilty that I’d let her month-birthday pass without commemorating it. And since I missed the first one, I figured I couldn’t catch up later. What’s the use of having a “I’m two months old!” photo when you don’t have the one-month-old one?

At the time, I was struggling to do anything besides nurse. Breastfeeding was still an awful, painful, teary, bloody struggle. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t add one more expectation, even if it seems like taking a photo is pretty minor. Because when something as fundamental as feeding your child is really, really hard, staging a photograph, printing out a sign with a big “1 month” on it and taking a picture with an actual camera is also really hard.

So we don’t have a series of photos that shows how Peeper has grown each month. But we have other ways to mark her changes.

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Peeper’s new favorite food

I was in the kitchen scrubbing dishes when I realized that the sponge-on-plate sound was the only noise I heard.

If there is one truth in parenting, it is this: Silence means your child is up to no good.

I shed the yellow dish gloves and peeked my head around to the living room, where Peeper had been playing. There she was, playing all right, but not with her stacking cups or beach ball.

Somewhere she had found a Ziplock of dog food. She had managed to open it and spill it on the ground. And, of course, she was shoving handfuls of it into her mouth.

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Get dirty and scuff your knees

We’ve been getting phenomenal weather here in Portland this week. I’ve been heading outside as often as possible to take advantage of the sun and soak up some much-needed vitamin D.

Yesterday a friend and I had planned to meet at the Oregon Zoo—that is, until I arrived and witnessed the mayhem that $4 admission day involves. After hunting for a parking space for altogether too long, we scrapped our plans and met at the park instead.

Peeper was probably just as happy playing on the lawn than she would have been looking at the elephants and cheetahs (although she’s really into animal books lately, especially the wonderfully interactive Dog and My Giant Fold-out Book of Animals). She and her buddy zoomed around the small patch of grass we claimed.

IMG_3632_2IMG_3622Peeper picked up leaves and grabbed dandelion petals. She toppled downhill—she’s clearly not used to crawling down an incline—but just looked around, surprised, when she righted herself. She paid no heed to sticks and muddy patches as she crawled here and there.

By the time we left, her hands and bare feet were all dirty, and the knees of her leggings were smudged with grass stains.

During my baby shower, friends and family took turns saying things they wished for my soon-to-be-born child. My mother-in-law wished that Peeper would be unafraid of getting dirty and take time to get acquainted with bugs. I carried the idea behind that blessing with me since, partly because I, too, love the idea of raising a child who won’t let a little dirt get in the way of her curiosity.

Extra scrubbing at bath time and stain remover are a small price to pay for the freedom of exploration. Grassy pants and dirty hands are proof of a day well spent.

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Nine months

Peeper has been in the world almost as long as she was inside me. Today she turns nine months old.

The other morning, Peeper and I were snuggling in bed after we’d woken up. We were playing, and I tickled her belly and armpits. Laughing, she threw herself down. She giggled and buried her face in the pillow as if to hide.

My breath caught. She just seemed so. grown. up.

Ok, so she doesn't always look grown-up.

Ok, so she doesn’t always look grown-up.

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Love your body: My beautiful linea nigra

New mothers find plenty of things to dislike about their bodies after delivery: lopsided boobs, stretch marks, a perma-pooch. Tabloids in the check out aisle highlight celebrities who managed to LOSE THE BABY WEIGHT IN 5 WEEKS! (and shame the women who take longer—not that it’s anyone’s business).

We undergo enormous changes in the 40 weeks it takes to, you know, create an entire human being from scratch. Coming to terms with a body that looks and feels drastically different overnight can be a difficult task.

I have loved one change since the first time I noticed it, though: the linea nigra.

Our Squishface, 2 days old, takes a nap on her mama's belly.

Our Squishface, 2 days old, takes a nap on her mama’s belly.

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Why (occasionally) leaning back from motherhood helps me be a good mom

It has been 6,240 hours since I became a mother. I’m more than 60 percent of my way to becoming an expert.

I’m only half-serious, of course.

Working hard some of the time allows me to play the rest of the time.

Working hard some of the time allows me to play the rest of the time.

Some experts say that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to reach the top tier in what you’re pursuing—soccer, piano, basket weaving, whatever—research that underlies part of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers (hence the name of my blog). I’m doing my best to become a good mom. I figure that all these hours of breastfeeding, changing diapers, peek-a-boo, bath time and front carrier walks add up and are teaching me not only about my daughter but about what it takes to be a loving, kind, patient, dedicated mother.

A new book by Daniel Goleman, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, asserts that logging a lot of hours doesn’t cut it, though. This article over at Brainpickings summarizes some of Goleman’s points.

He maintains that your attention when you’re practicing is a necessary component to reaching your full potential: You can’t just phone it in if you want to be great.

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I understand, sleep-deprived mom

Soon after I gave birth to Peeper last year, my grandma told me a story.

She had just had my mom and uncle, a set of big twins who went to 40 weeks. (My mom weighed about as much as Peeper did—and she was only half the load!) My grandma was doing her best to take care of them and an older daughter essentially by herself—my grandpa was of the generation that thought that he would work during the day at the bank and she would take care of family and home.

My grandma struggled but told me she was overjoyed at having twins, which had always been a dream of hers.

One night, they got a sitter to watch the children at home, which was a rarity. They went to a party. My grandma took their coats to the host’s bedroom. And then—then she lay down and fell asleep.

They hadn’t been at the party five minutes before my weary grandmother was collapsed on a pile of strangers’ coats.

I know that kind of exhaustion too well. Chances are that you do, too. Maybe you zonked out in an inappropriate place. (I fell asleep on the exam table while waiting for the midwife at my six-week postpartum appointment, for example. Awkward!) Maybe you canceled plans because you were too sleep-deprived to drive safely. Maybe you’ve feared dropping your baby while trying to get her to sleep because you could pass out at any moment.

I’m so thankful that Peeper and I have moved past that point, at least for the time being. I was reminded of the bleary reality of many other parents, though, when I read this article about a woman who happened across another mother who had fallen asleep at an indoor play gym.

“I won’t leave ’til you wake up… hopefully rested and ready to face the weekend with the warrior-energy us mamas need to parent with a smile on our faces,” she posted later on Facebook. She had kept an eye on the sleeping mother’s kids while the tired mama caught some apparently much-needed winks.

To the woman who slept slumped against the windy slide, and to any of you who have never felt more like a zombie, I get it. I feel you. I’ve been there, too.

It’s miserable to feel like a shell of yourself. It’s embarrassing to nod off in public. You might even feel a little shame that you can’t “keep it together” enough to parent your baby and manage to sleep—I know I did.

I’ll say it gets better, though you might not want to hear it.

But I’ll also say that you have my full empathy and compassion until it does.

As new parents, and especially as new mothers, we have to stick together. I’ve got your back, tired one. If I can do anything to help, give a shout. If not, I’ll continue to look out for you and hope your baby finally goes to sleep!

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