[editor’s note: he says he also replied “that’s cool”]
[editor’s note: he says he also replied “that’s cool”]
I always think I’m very aware of time, but never more so than during pregnancy. The first time around is more novel, I have to admit. The second time has been less about the steps it takes in becoming a mother and more about looking back on what it’s meant to be Avalon’s. As much as my mind’s eye is on September, picturing a room that has more neutral colors and possibly two cribs, making it look like an orphanage scene straight out of Annie or Cider House Rules, my heart is right here, noticing the shades of blue in my twenty month old’s eyes as we wait for her to pee on the potty. As much as I miss skateboarding and margaritas, I want to stay in those eyes, in those moments, a little longer. I can already feel the challenge of being a mother to two because in the evenings I look forward to Avalon going down not just so I can indulgently look at my phone, but so I can sit and feel Skip move without any interruptions.
The other night we had the family I used to nanny for over for dinner. That isn’t the most appropriate way to capture who they are to me, but saying “dear friends” just seems so wannabe 19th century of me. Also saying we had them over for “dinner” is potentially misleading as well, seeing as Scott ordered Pizza and picked it up.
We were all sick the week before, so we went right back on the wagon of all-day diapers and morning TV. After watching these two big kids read to Avalon, quote books and offer to clear the table (aka mini-ramp), it gave me plenty of motivation to re-adopt my original parenting plan of trying to watch TV only on the weekends just like this family had modeled to me years earlier. Of course, this hasn’t been as difficult for everyone as it has been for me. You see, I miss Savannah Gutherie. Scott and I still watch TV most evenings, of course, my main goal was just to cut down on Avalon’s exposure to it. Lately Scott and I have been on a Jeopardy kick, but we also worked in the movies Moonlight and Sing Street. (Have you seen either?)
Avalon will typically choose pushing her bike around the house and splashing in any available water over reading a book, but this isn’t to say she doesn’t enjoy them. I’ve actually found her toting a few more around in the mornings in the absence of Savannah and Matt and Jeff Rossen’s Reports, so all signs point towards tunnels with protruding light.
I did, however, give in to some screen time while she sat on the potty. Daniel Tiger’s singing voice isn’t my personal favorite, but I won’t tell her yet. Especially since his serenading has proven to be effective so far. I plan to document this potty journey with infrequent, but honest updates. I plan to do the same when we have two babies in one room. I know you’ll all be on the edge of your seats.
In the warm mornings and cool evenings we’ve been spending a lot of time in the yard wearing out our jeans. Scott took out our vertical earth garden last weekend and we put some tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, beets and peppers in the ground instead. The hydroponic garden was a great idea, but we just never had the dedication to it that was required. It was kind of like killing a pet fish or hamster over and over again. We never changed the water, never washed the roots and didn’t keep an eye on the PH balance, therefore the plants died endlessly in the presence of perfect sun and soil.
Avalon waters the plants herself and spends an equal amount of time sitting on them like a chicken does her eggs. I kiss her two hundred times and ask her “Do you know I love you like crazy?” she always says “Yeah.”
You don’t have to like every minute of life, I try to remind myself often, just like you don’t have to like all the songs the music robots suggest for you, but I am enjoying these moments right now with my husband and the flowers and sun and rain and waves and growing babies.
Things I have been noticing lately:
Anyone with two or more kids.
I am not immune to morning sickness like I hoped I would be. I am also not immune to the cliché. My pregnancy cravings have been unpredictable and very real. Sunday it was these certain oat bran muffins from my childhood, today it was this white wine capellini with lemon, some days it’s Trader Joe’s Pumpernickel Pretzels.
Danielle picked up Jeanine Donofrio’s Love and Lemons cookbook in a tiny bookstore that hosted our lunch stop in Mammoth on the way to Tahoe. She continued to read the book aloud for the next hour of the drive. While at first I wished I had headphones, I ended up aspiring to be Jeanine. I don’t own the book yet, but the Lemony White Wine Capellini got to my tastebuds immediately. It’s also kind of a good go-to if you like the taste of wine, but can’t necessarily drink it.
Scott has been home sick a few days this week. He has been an extra child whose nap I have proudly coordinated with my actual child’s. I am so excited to see where he is and what he’s doing when Avalon and I come home, however uneventful it has typically been. I long all day for the presence of him when he’s at work. His essence is so quiet and so big, like a windmill in the desert creating energy for thousands. I am also grateful for the fact that he has been here to witness my days, as monotonous as they may appear to him too. It’s simply nice knowing he has seen what goes into getting out the door to swimming class with Avalon; the tiny canvas bags I purchased with his Amazon account meticulously packed with an extra diaper, a sweater, a quick dry towel and size extra-extra small goggles all placed thoughtfully inside a bigger bag (only to be dismantled in minutes upon our arrival at the pool). He witnesses Avalon having a meltdown over me trying to get her to sit on the potty before her nap. The crumbs, dropped and swept over and over again. The ant traps set most likely in vain, the laundry folded poorly, but clean nevertheless. I guess it’s just nice knowing he saw all this considering he could easily come home to a whining toddler, an empty Brita filter and a shrunken wool sweater just out of the dryer and feel like not a whole lot has happened around here in a day. Not that he ever would assume that. Maybe it’s more what I see when I don’t notice anyone else looking.
We found out we are having a girl! Perhaps this should have been headlining news like it might have been elsewhere. I’ve loved this baby since before she was here and I’ll love her forever. That’s the easiest and perhaps only thing to really know about our second child. This predestined love is why the fact of her gender is nestled here in the middle of this essay rather than in bold at the top of it. I am, however, expecting to answer the inevitable question of: Do you wish you’d have a boy? And the answer to that is: yes I do. Scott gets this question more than I do, which I find both irritating and understandable. He’s a boy, so he is likely to want someone with the same reproductive organs to help him clean the rain gutters and field ground balls, right? Truthfully, I think I would like to have a boy more than Scott.
I was walking Avalon home from the park yesterday afternoon, gazing through the windows and across the patios of the various shaped houses on the best street in our neighborhood both critically and wishfully, imagining how I, myself, would remodel and paint them. When we passed one I have been inside before, a fantasy popped into my mind. I knew this house had a pool unusually located right by the front door. Pools are a challenge to relocate, my expertise goes this far, so in my mental remodel it would stay put. I pictured opening the front door on a school morning, hands full of someone’s backpack and someone’s lunch and my own spilling water bottle and tangled car keys, ushering kids eagerly towards the car. Then, inevitably because of the location, a mischievous child would push another into the pool and soon they are all in. I am wet and agitated and tired, but instead of unleashing it on the kids, I declare this a pool day and call their principal to excuse them from class.
It’s here in this fantasyland that I realize a boy is the one who started it all, as they do according to the most common stereotypes. It’s here that I realize I picture having a boy someday too and I don’t feel like I have to apologize to my beautiful Skipper girl or my living, breathing heart Avalon Wild when I say that. My love for them is never in question, never wavering, never anything but everywhere. But my answer to the question: do you want to have a boy? is simply yes.
But of all of this, to me, the craziest fantasy is that I get to have these two girls.
Do you ever feel like a moment is so perfect to write about that it almost scares you? This was me, sitting alone in our little condo at the ski resort in Squaw Valley while Avalon slept and everyone else swooshed around the sparkling diamond canvas nature had provided them. There was the kind of music on that you’d hear when a character in a movie is sitting on a hill overlooking a big flower field at dusk, thinking. But I couldn’t write, not completely. Maybe that isn’t what this is about anyways.
I’m reading Anne Lamott’s book Small Victories and one of the most recent chapters I read covers her own slope-style stumbling on the very mountain in the windows before me. She says “I experienced a moment’s confusion, born of hormones, high altitude, and a light snow falling”. This describes perfectly what had come over me a few hours earlier. Anne Lamott fell six feet from a chairlift in her fifties. I fell hard on my left thumb at the end of the first trimester of my second pregnancy. The words that tell that story feel so much smaller than the moment itself; a moment when it dramatically felt like my feelings became the avalanche instead of the snow. And when they all came, picture this as the location for their landing: A chairlift, designed like a limousine, so large there’d need to be mirrors on all sides to see everyone. I was sitting on the left end talking like my every hormone had developed its own voice. Scott was sitting next to me, towards the middle, patting my knee sympathetically. When we got off, however, another man appeared, exiting the lift on the right side of Scott and skiing past us. “Where the F*&% did he come from?” I exclaimed. “He was there the whole time!” Scott laughed. Apparently he and the dude had been exchanging bewildered looks the whole ride. This was enough to snap me back to reality. We snowboarded down the mountain carefully after that, stopping to take in Lake Tahoe, then eating lunch in the village before Scott went back up. I sat the afternoon session and following days out. I surfed during almost my entire pregnancy with Avalon, but I knew I had reached the edge of my comfort zone with snowboarding at 13 weeks with Skip.
Scott’s sister Kristen’s wedding was on Saturday. It snowed. There was a falcon who delivered their rings, like something in Harry Potter. Leon, the groom, thought their marriage now meant he and I were cousins. He gave an amazing speech to kick off a party that so perfectly captured who he and his stunning bride were as a couple: warm, generous with their hearts and always down for an open bar. Kristen wasn’t just stunning because of her long sleeved lace dress and the way her blonde hair curled down her back, but because she is the kind of person you hope to encounter or know at some point in your life.
It snowed four feet that night. It made me think of how Lorelai Gilmore says “Everything’s magical when it snows”.
I never realized how quiet snow is; so different from rain, my mom pointed out, as it covered our feet as we anxiously watched Scott and my dad sweating in 20 degree weather as they packed the suburban for our soon-to-be 12 hour car ride home.
We used a variety of distraction devices for Avalon on this car ride and I will list them since I always tend to be curious about this stuff. That, and because I need Amazon dollars (*joking*, but these are primarily affiliate links). We brought the Eric Carle A Very Busy Coloring Book, these beeswax crayons, these magnets, these stamps +washable, non-toxic stamp pad, eco-dough, dot-art watercolors (remember these?) and this handy tray (unfortunately sold out right now). Truth be told, though, all of this stuff bought us about 15-20 minutes at a time and the real lifesavers were snacks, dancing to La La Land and Raffi, the movie Moana, Daniel Tiger and stopping to run around. I’d honestly do the drive again because a little discomfort never hurt anyone, and all that. Do you have any good road trip go-tos?
We had packed all our play clothes, ready to play in the earth’s sandbox. This was a few weeks back when Scott, Basia, Phil and I decided to make visiting the desert in February an annual thing.
We left just before the worst storm to hit California in seven years made its grand entrance with sand bags available at all markets and flash flood warnings arriving to our phones like worried glances from our mothers.
“My phone can’t make it through the whole day anymore,” I laughed to Scott as we drove. “It’s kind of like me!” I was about 12 weeks pregnant at this point and still functioning like a zombie on Xanax (oh wait, a few weeks later and I still am!).
We headed towards our AirBnB with only minor raindrops falling. Basia and Phil, on the other hand, rode down with the storm in their face like an angry mother bear. In the morning, when only the last breath of the storm hovered, we hiked to a hill called Shadow Mountain. I bring a diaper bag stocked with extra socks and hair bands with me even when I take Avalon to my parent’s house, but I ditched the whole thing for this walk, so of course we had an explosive diaper incident just before the sun dramatically exploded into the evening sky herself. I carried a diaper-less, crying toddler home singing about Golly Golls (dogs) with blue eyes for two miles praying she was done going to the bathroom for a bit. Sometimes opportunities to grow arrive like little cactus thorns in your socks.
There was a train table and a handmade train scene in a spare room of the rental house. It was neat because someone had spent a lot of, presumably, happy hours making it for others to enjoy and also because it was creepy without trying. Although, maybe it was the howling wind that moaned through the eves of that room.
The third day we made it to Joshua Tree National Park. I’m happy to know that I’ll only ever have to drive two and a half hours east to feel like I went to another planet, which is great since being an astronaut is actually my nightmare job (space= scary and stressful).
We saw a guy perched way up high walking a tightrope between two enormous boulders reaching for the sky. He was skimming the sky with his foot.
“You’d rather be up there?” Phil asked.
But then later I thought, he will never know what it’s like to be pregnant. And that is a pretty exhilarating accomplishment in life too.
Other things to note are that Avalon called Basia (pronounced Bash-a) “Bash” and Phil “Fish” the entire time and that sitting in the infinity-edged yard playing with the bb gun and remote control car made it really feel like we were on vacation for a while. We all came back different, better.