Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh Boy--Look Who's Walking

We took these videos yesterday. I am not sure why a picture doesn't show up on the second one, but the video does work fine. They capture not only Miguel's new walking skills, but also his mother's verbal tics. Ack!

We need a story about when Miguel learned to walk. Other parents have these sun ray bursting through the clouds memories about the precise moment their child entered the exclusive club of bi-pedalism. My folks talk about the way I strode towards a blue jay and never looked back (adding symbolism to precision). A friend's daughter suddenly started walking at a pool this summer, which must have been joyous as well as slightly scary!

For the last few months, we have been ready to catch Miguel's first steps and weave them into some kind of tall tale. But we have been hampered by a lack of consensus on what counts as walking.

One mid-October evening, as Michael and I were leaving for a date, I saw Miguel take 2 stumbling steps forward to Jessica, his beloved babysitter, who was holding his bottle. I clapped and cheered (while briefly allowing myself to secretly wish he had walked to us) and figured he was well on his way to running circles around us all.

In the weeks that followed, he would repeat this two step every now and again, but it was more spatial miscalculation than walking. Some time around Thanksgiving, my dad, who was on a mission to facilitate and witness this milestone, got Miguel to lurch to his favorite new "toy," a tape measure. My dad retracted the tape, which had a magnetic and distracting effect on Miguel. He stumbled forwards, but then swayed back and landed on his bottom instead of letting momentum pile him in a face first heap of frustration. According to my dad, this was progress.

After Thanksgiving, we were back into the day care routine, and it is there that I suspect Miguel started taking off. On Thursday, Nov 29th, Kelly mentioned he had taken about five steps, and that he was really starting to walk. Really? I was a wreck dropping him off the next day. How could we be letting ourselves miss out on so many of these memories?

But he is not a wreck. Every day he wakes up with a smile on his face, ready to explore, love and be loved--by us as well as his relatives, friends and care givers.

And I am not convinced this walking story is finished. He tends to drift to the right instead of walking forward and he still has to pull up on something to come to a standing position. I think it's related to the torticolis. His physical therapist asked that we call her when he is routinely taking 10-15 steps at a time, which I will declare as having happened this weekend. Or maybe it was last week. . . .All I know is that it's getting harder and harder to keep up with him!

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Miguel and Michael were up early this morning, being good neighbors. Michael shoveled and Miguel helped by nibbling down the snow drifts. He's teething again, so it was probably a good strategy.

I was out with Miguel yesterday for a stroll and more than one female elder suggested I shouldn't have him out in the cold. Now, I tend to second guess pretty much every breath I take, but it seems to me that human beings have been mucking around in winter for thousands of years. Taking him out for fresh air is far preferable to crackling in the dry house all day.

Our biggest challenge so far is that we can't seem to get his new boots on correctly--his heel just won't snuggle in all the way even though the shoes are plenty big. We even went to a fancy local shoe store to get fitted because we had no idea what we were doing! I would have loved plenty of unsolicited advice then. . . .
Click here for pictures of last week's snow frolic with Violet.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

October 22, 2006

I finally wrote down the poem that has been kicking around my head since Miguel was born. I'm not sure I am done fiddling with it. At this rate, he'll be in college before I write another one.

You slipped into our world
While sun and moon
Still slept, snug

The phone rang
We raced to meet you

Short cut through the park
Where the long, pale fingers
Of your first sunrise
Flicked dew from tall grasses

The new moon
Followed close behind
A gentle witness

Have you met your baby?

The day arced
We held you
And listened
Breathless catching up

We tugged at your blankets
Trying to mimic
The nurses’ snug swaddle

Night fell
Still, we held

You wore an orange cap
That traced new orbits
As we swayed and swirled
in a tiny hospital room
for hours and hours
until dawn.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

One Year Letter

This is the one year letter we gave to Miguel's birth parents, with loads of photos from the last few months.

It’s hard to believe a year has already passed since Miguel was born. We feel like we are just starting to catch our breath. Just as we think we have something figured out, he moves to an exciting new stage. Everyone assures us that that is what it means to be a parent! He is leading us on an incredible journey and we think of you often as we watch him grow.

We visited the pediatrician in early November for Miguel’s first year check up. We came equipped with a long list of questions and were reassured by the doctor that he is thriving. We were most concerned about the lead test since we live in an old building and were very happy when the results came back just fine.

The doctor also confirmed that most symptoms of his torticollis are gone and that he is on track physically and cognitively for his age. She was impressed by the variety of foods he’s willing to eat. We asked if we needed to start giving him a multi-vitamin as we have transitioned him to whole milk instead of formula. But since he eats fruits and vegetables (including kale!) with such enthusiasm, she said we are OK for now.

Miguel is almost always on the go. In the morning, he will cuddle just long enough to gulp down his bottle. Then he pushes it away as if to say, “Check, please. . . I have things to do!” He loves to dart for doors so he can open and close them, especially if someone is playing peek-a-boo on the other side. As he scoots down the hall, he glances back with a smile before ambling out of view—for just a second. “Don’t forget to write!” we say, as we sneak behind to make sure he stays in eyesight. He laughs and squeals when we catch up to him.

He also loves to cruise, drifting from the coffee table to the sofa, or among the dining room chairs. He sometimes will take a step or two between chairs or will take a couple steps towards us when encouraged, but he hasn’t taken fully to walking yet and seems happy enough for now.

We continue to monitor the fact the he strongly favors his left leg for coming up to standing position and crawling--he gets around lighting fast by pushing off on that leg in crab crawl fashion. It’s related to the toricollis. So far, his physical therapist is not concerned. She just asked that we come in for another visit once he starts walking.

Miguel is also making strides with his fine motor capabilities. Recently, he started puzzling with different shapes and is sometimes able to put triangle and star shapes in the correct slots on a toy. He can also clap his hands, give a high five, point to his nose and shovel tons of whole grain bread, chicken, tofu, cheese and fruit into his mouth. (He much prefers finger foods these days to us spoon feeding him, though we do make sure he gets his cereals and greens.)

His vocal repertoire is expanding too, with his happy babble sounding more and more like words every day. We’re pretty sure he has mastered dada, mama, gentle, baba (bottle), caca (cracker—we were a little panicked when we first heard that word until we figured out what he was trying to say ;-) and ta too (thank you). We’re sure there are all other types of things he’s trying to tell us if only we could understand. Fortunately, he seems very patient with our slow learning of his language. His actions tell us that he loves turning lights on and off, spinning wheels, pushing chairs and hugging his long limbed bunny (an easter present from Nana.)

It’s been an awe inspiring, sometimes tiring, often invigorating year, always joyful year. We hope to spend more time with you in 2008, sharing and making new memories.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Dearest Miguelito,

Today we took you to Lula's to celebrate your birthday. We wanted to do something a little more special than usual, but you were tired from all the fun at Doodlebug (and getting up at 4:30am this morning!) so we cut dinner short. We three quickly shared a mushroom quesadilla appetizer, and our entrees were packed up before they even hit the dinner plates. The bike ride home was dark, chilly and misty--our first real fall weather--but you were warm and snug in the trailer with the rain flap down.

Once home, you played with the dining room gate for about 10 minutes: open, close, open, close, open, open, open, CLOSE! Then you crawled on to the kitchen. You stood and played with the sink cabinet lock for awhile, then tried to cruise along the garbage cans ("No--that's icky!") The kitchen tour ended abruptly when you unsuccessfully transferred your open/close routine to the Tupperware drawer. The drawer slid shut on your finger and you wailed with conviction. We should probably keep you out of the kitchen, but then you wouldn't be able to bang on the never used heat diffuser that hangs near the back door. (Or, we could do a better job toddler proofing, but as the plan is to move downstairs soon, we're holding back on a few things.)

We whisked you back to the dining room to take some pictures, but the light dimmer switch was dominating your attention. You not only figured out how to make the switch spin, you instantly figured out the connection between that action and the lights 5 feet away. On, on-er, off, off-er. . . .I could have held you forever, watching you figure out and control your universe.

But, there is no way you would let me hold you forever, no, not you, my go, go, go baby. You have wheels to spin, chairs to hide under, corners to play peek-a-boo in (my heart cracked the first time I realized YOU were the one initiating peek-a-boo), socks to pull off, books to chew, and doors to open, open, open.

Monday, October 1, 2007

letting go

I realize now that our home used to be both tidy and clean. Dirty dishes were dealt with after each meal. The living room was always ready for entertaining. Even our office, which does double duty as holding tank for all uncategorizable items , was never more than 30 minutes away from clutter free horizontal surfaces, or at least tidy piles. No wonder visiting friends would roll their eyes when I would exclaim with embarrassment, "Oh, the place is a dis-a-ster!" just because the morning's newspaper was still out, or our bed wasn't made tight enough to bounce a quarter on.

When Miguel crashed into our lives, many people warned us that we would need to let go, that, for example, there was no way we could maintain all of our domestic standards. True enough, many intentions of home cooked meals yielded to delivered pizzas. But we clung to our desire to have a serene, clean home. Always equitable in house chores, we carried on every night after Miguel went to bed, robotically picking up his toys, scrubbing down the kitchen counters, putting the laundry away, resetting the day.

Now we are both back to our full time work schedules. The transition has been brutal in many ways. I can't begin to write to the core of the matter, so I'll stick with clutter for now.

It is acreting. The office is no longer 30 minutes away to serenity. I am typing amidst piles and piles of paper, books and demands. The mounds have started to colonize the dining room, which used to be an altar of clean, teak surfaces. The whole situation makes me twitchy.

But Miguel is not twitchy. He wakes up joyfully each morning, somewhere between 5am (!!!!) and 6 am (much preferred), eager for a new day, unencumbered with expectations about how the house should look. As long as we keep the piles 5 inches away from the edge of our tables, we're OK.

Monday, August 20, 2007

velobaby is rolling . . . and chewing on his helmet

Sometime in early August, I staged a bit of a sit-in with Miguel. I was done relying on public transit to get us around, and figured we'd just stay home and wilt in the summer heat until we rigged up something for my bike. Perhaps the final straw was our unsuccessful bid to go swimming with our friends, referenced with optimism in the previous, "sleeping, butt in air" post.

Holstein Park is a mere 1.5 miles away, but its hours are tricky. We needed to be there before noon. Miguel's nap went very long, so we didn't get to the bus stop until a little past 11am. "No problem," I thought. "Even a few minutes of splashing in the kiddie pool will be fine."

Alas, we waited over 20 minutes. I could have biked there and back while we sat and studied the etchings on the bus shelter. In fact, we could have just walked.

The pool was closing up when we finally arrived, but we did find Julie and Zoe, who is 2+, at the neighboring park. They are unconstrained by the bus, because she is big enough to be carried on a rear bike seat. I eyed the seat lustfully.

We salvaged the excursion by playing at the park and going out for lunch. Then, we took the Armitage bus back home. The ride did not last long, as the driver saved time by literally careening into each stop with an open door: "Let's go, let's go!" he barked.

As we sped closer to Kimball, I rang the bell, and flexed my muscles. Miguel clung to me in his backpack, and I clung to the backs of seats as we fought whiplash and made our way to the doors. "A bicycle has to be safer than a lurching bus," I thought.

Before the day was over, I had resolved to move forward with plan Bike. Our pediatrician gave us the green light even though Miguel is under one (the standard OK age for biking), since he is big for his age, and can hold his stiff neck up with no problems.

We are mighty grateful to Josh and Krista who lent us their Cougar Chariot while we decide if we want to stick with a trailer (which stresses me out when crossing intersections, but is weather protected, allows us to keep rear rack cargo capacity and contains our go, go, go guy while we are transitioning) or use a more nimble bike seat like Zoe's.

So far, the trailer is working out fine for the short trip to day care. We are having problems with his helmet though--he just wants to play with it and chew its straps. It also keeps sliding down, so until we can that figure out, we'll still be on CTA for the grander adventures.

Friday, August 3, 2007

pool bound!

Miguel woke up at 5am to tell us he was feeling much better, thank you very much. He played, drank, ate and peed just like the good old days. As it has been 24 hours since he last had a notable diaper, I think we can lift the quarantine and join our friends at the pool.

Getting up so early exhausted him. He was napping by 8:30am. He usually rolls around a lot to sooth himself to sleep. Sometimes he's so tired he crashes mid-roll, leaving his butt perched up high.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

languorous play

We stayed close to home, wishing to facilitate intestinal healing and avoid additional public blowouts. It was another scorcher, so playing outside didn't seem appealing, though I did set up the pack and play in the yard during his morning nap, just in case we got motivated to go downstairs. I also turned on the soaker hose for the tomatoes.

But he awoke in a fretful mood (I don't blame him-our 3rd floor apt was 90 degrees before noon. Thankfully, the ceiling fans really do make it feel like a breezy 82, and the new silver paint on the roof reduces the broiling in masonry skin feeling to a simmer), so we just played languorously in the living room. Hide and seek with the phone was a big hit, as was crawling back and forth over Mommy's legs, and pulling up on everything in sight.

It was a slow, uneventful afternoon. We listened to the Cubs attempt to climb out of an early 7-1 hole and sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the stretch. I then remembered the soaker hose and ran downstairs after plunking Miguel in his crib (Mommy will be right back!!). The tomatoes and basil were quite perky.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

1st place

A sherbet moon is perched above the Hancock Tower, its lunar chill a tease on this muggy August night.

The Cubs clawed their way into first place on a wild pitch.

The Kimball and Foster buses clicked perfectly for a very frazzled mama, who was glad she packed an extra outfit, 4 diapers and plenty of wipes for the journey to Andersonville.

Miguel remains in a fine mood, despite the riot in his intestines.
His favorite new toy is the handle of a gray bucket.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

7th and 8th month letters--in photo form

Our open adoption agreement included a promise to send a few photos and a letter to Miguel’s birth parents for the first six months, and yearly after that. From the beginning, we planned to exceed these minimum expectations. We cherish our open relationship and work hard to keep the lines of communication flowing through phone calls, tons of photos, visits, and—for the first six months—detailed letters.

Even though it was sometimes difficult to get those letters done, the monthly prod forced us to write and reflect on Miguel’s progress and adventures. We are grateful for the words; they help us remember the feelings and details that photos sometimes miss. Alas, I need a sharp pronged deadline to keep writer’s block from creeping in. Without it, I rely too much on the camera to filter our days. I haven’t written a letter since the last one was “due.”

We continue to be in touch with Miguel’s birth parents. A few weeks ago, I biked to their house with photos spanning his 7th and 8th months. His birth mother and I sat on their front stoop for nearly an hour, just catching up and continuing to get to know one another.

It was a calm, early Saturday morning—everyone else in her house was asleep. She showed me pictures of her maternal grandparents. I told her how Miguel was finally starting to push himself up. She told me a funny story about when her oldest son finally learned to call her Momma. We talked frankly about our hopes and fears for our relationship. We compared music tastes and what we do to relax, then laughed about there being no time to relax. I didn’t feel too bad about not having a letter. But I promised to get writing again for the next batch.

In the meantime . . . below are some photos from his 7th and 8th months, when he took his first ride in a swing, learned to sit up on his own, started solids, took control of his bottle (and spoon), continued his newspaper fetish, went on a hike, dipped his toes in the Pacific (and other local bodies of water), got his first tooth, dished with Ms. Violet about being in the 10/07 baby cohort, helped his mom feel OK about turning 35, and finally got his substantial noggin off the ground.

During this time he took some big trips. One was a very sorrowful visit to Warren, MI, after his grandfather was tragically killed by a drunk driver in Florida. He is the 11th grandchild on Michael's side, and he got to meet 8 of the other 10. It was a week of grieving mingled with deep, loving appreciation for family. Miguel teased out some smiles under the tears. At church, he was awed then enticed by the high ceilings. He tested his vocal chords once or twice before the service. My knees buckled while carrying him to the casket for the final offering to Grandpa--a floppy sunhat, something Donald seldom walked without. Miguel carries on the tradition, sometimes a bit fussily.

Two weeks later, we headed to San Fransisco for Laura and Tom's wedding. They asked their guests to wear something red and or orange--Miguel's favorite color! It was a splendid event--rich in hue and meaning. Miguel finally got to meet Amy, who, with Jess, had been visiting us the weekend he was born. She did so much to help us prepare, and how did Miguel thank her? By swiping a champagne glass off a table all over her party dress. Just like his dad, who once
managed to dump beer on a bride, at a wedding where he was best man. In both cases, the doused ones were quite forgiving.

Hmmm, I seem to be a bit unblocked . . . .

Friday, June 22, 2007

Still Can't Write a Poem

"Are you going to write a poem about him?" asked one of the fifth grade students 8 months ago, when I suddenly became a mother. It was quite shocking for all of us. One week I was wacky, distracted Ms. Kilgore, the writing teacher with a soft spot for poetry. The next week, I was insanely distracted, confused Ms. Kilgore, the writing teacher and now Mom who replied, "Of course I will write a poem about him!"

With the exception of the "biku" on the main page of this blog I composed at a Bike Winter poetry reading back in March, I have not followed through on this promise.

I want to write a poem about Miguel. I want to write about him in a way that doesn't duplicate the baby books that disclaimingly tell you what to expect at certain times.

I had thought all our letters to Miguel's birth parents were incredibly rich and illuminating:

"News Flash!! This month, Miguel started tracking objects with his eyes." Never having spent any time with babies, every change was press release-worthy to me.

Looking back, I feel I could have just said, "Please consult page so and so of such and such book." Despite some problems with torticollis, he seems to be meandering through the developmental milestones like most babies.

So how do I capture Miguel instead of "8 month old?"

I want to write that poem, but I can't. Maybe it's because I can't even clean the kitchen, or finish a book, or water the sad basil hanging from our sun-baked 3rd floor porch.

Perhaps it's still too soon, the earth too moist. I learned the hard way that you are not supposed to dig in the soil after a hard spring rain. Maybe I just need to let it be, wait for the drying out period, before I can bloom the dearest parts of his personality on my words.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Have you seen a green purse?

I mugged Lisa on the bus yesterday. In fact, I held up the entire bus. I escaped with surprising speed, wresting two tens from her wallet with one hand while the other 180'ed the stroller down the rubbery, grooved aisle to the sighing doors.

Seconds before, the driver had waved us on as I requested a moment to dig out my fare card. Which was odd--my wallet is always in hand when the bus comes, because I fear that my clumsiness with boarding Miguel and his accouterments will cause a delay and contribute to dreaded bus bunchings down the line.

My wallet?? Where was my wallet? It should have been in my purse which was????

Somewhere on North Avenue beach, where we had spent the afternoon with our babies. My panicked eyes grabbed Lisa's. I needed to get off, retrace our steps, and I needed some cash for a phone call, for a cab ride, for food--as though I imagined that, purseless, Miguel and I would become hungry, urban wanderers, circling around, never quite able to make it home.

"Stop the bus!" I yelped. Passengers rolled their eyes as Miguel and I made our exit. Storm clouds crept from the west, the direction of home, which at this point felt very far away.

We retraced our steps. First, we swung by the restrooms--had I left my purse swinging on a stall hook? I stalked the stalls, waiting for people to leave each one. No luck. I rolled the stroller down the plastic boardwalk to our patch of sand. Barren. We slumped to the concession area where I had bought a berry smoothy. The young crew looked heartbroken for me. On to the life guard station. Same story.

The inky clouds inched closer, kicking up the wind. I desperately repeated the circuit, giving good Samaritans some time to turn my purse in to the life guards. We hit the beach again, my eyes straining for a lonesome green lump.

I wondered if Miguel knew I was freaking out. Stress sends me into silent frenzy. Did the halt to my normal chatter and the briskness of our movements alert him to the shift in mood? How old will he be when he can read me, just as I was reading the sky? Can he already? Is he learning how to react to situations by my example?? Was I setting a good example????

I crouched down and kissed him. "Mommy's having a rough afternoon. Thanks for being so calm. It really helps!"

After another kiss and a tickle, we were off again, back to the concession area. I bought a lemonade to break the 10 for bus fare. One of the smoothy vendors offered the use of his cell phone. I called Michael, embarrassed.

"I, uh, lost, er, my purse is missing, I don't know if I left it somewhere or someone took it, or both. It's just gone." I was nearly in tears. How could I be such an idiot? Who brings the unabridged version of their purse to the beach? In addition to the basics, I was carrying too much cash, my debit and credit cards, my teacher ID, the lime green iPod nano Michael had given me for Christmas in support of my jogging efforts and the good luck crystal we had found on last year's trip to Colorado.

It was just starting to rain as Miguel and I again boarded the North Avenue bus. I couldn't believe I was paying in cash. "I need to remember to call CTA to block access to my Chicago Card account," I sighed to myself, starting the epic to do list.

The rain started just as the bus pulled away from the beach. For the final 5 block walk home, I draped a blanket over the stroller. Miguel conked out quickly. We got home before Michael did, so I crouched in front of our door, letting the warm rain collect in the brim of my sunhat.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Pass the Hose

Mealtime used to be a predictable, pleasant, bonding affair. How could we lose? Baby is hungry, we feed baby, all is right with the world. Even the introduction to "solids" went exceptionally well. Miguel, always eager for new experiences, has attacked each spoonful with gusto--regardless of the glop going into his mouth: pale rice cereal, bright green avocado, orange (his favorite color) carrot, mauve apple/plum emulsion, and even stark white tofu.

But since figuring out how to hold his bottle high enough and with enough precision to actually feed himself (as opposed to sucking on air or poking his eyes with the nipple), he is starting to assert himself around other food. No longer is he content to be spoon fed at our pace. Yesterday, when I brandished his beloved oatmeal in front of his face, he responded with a defiant scowl and insistent, reaching hands.

I settled in for a long messy meal, gave him his spoon, and let him go at it. He didn't at all mind that I had to load it for him between bites. He just wanted to be in more control, to shove it into his nose, his chin and eventually his mouth. I was surprised by how much actually made it in. As a final treat, I gave him the empty bowl to chew on, and serenely waited for its spectacular flipping fall from the chair.

He napped long and deeply in the morning, and then again in the afternoon (after splashing off the leftovers in the bathtub.) Which left me plenty of time to wipe down the base boards.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Cooler by the Swimmin' Hole

When I think beach, I think Lake Michigan. Back in the growing up days, I was never more than a brisk 20 minute walk to Chicago’s calming eastern edge. Now I live 34 blocks west, in a neighborhood where cooler by the lake means nothing—which is great in April. But now the temps are pushing 90, and my feet ache for sand and cool water.

Since leaving Hyde Park, I rarely make it to the beach, even though it’s only 30 minutes of biking away. In theory, that’s just 10 minutes farther than what I grew up with. Maybe it’s the return trip I dread, all relaxation evaporating as I pedal home into the sizzling asphalt sunset.

Still, the beach calls. This week, I tried to organize an outing with some other families, but the plan almost collapsed as we tried to work around non-synchronous nap-times. (You have to budget a good 40-50 minutes of bus time there and back.)

Then Julie suggested a sandy retreat that requires no buses, that, in fact, is a brisk 20 minute walk from my house: Humboldt Park Beach. It’s tucked into the jewel of a park just south of Logan Square. So what if it’s so small and shallow that a sudden cold snap would shrink it to a skating pond in minutes. So what if there’s no skyline view (hey—there’s no annoying hum of Lake Shore Drive either!) So what if one of our friends refers to it as “Diaper Beach,” because it seems to be favored by people with small children, like, er, now, me. The hovering lifeguard and jaunty rowboat lent an air of authenticity; he even assured us that it does get deep in the middle.

Zoe, who is two and some, seemed perfectly content to splash around in the freezing water. Miguel and Violet, each 7 ½ months, seemed content to rake the sand and yammer at each other. The adults seemed content to just be in the sun, nibbling on manzanas and dulces. And the slow 25 minute walk home felt just right.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Running Home to the Babysitter

Miguel received his great-grandfather Kilgore's watch for Christmas. Will he be more on-time than his mother?

Tonight, belly and bladder full, I sprinted the final 4 blocks home to avoid returning late to the babysitter. On Tuesdays, Jessica watches Miguel 10:30am-8:30pm. It is the day that I do errands, wash my hair and have a date with my husband. Since she started in January, she has been late (ever so slightly) only twice. One of those times a huge snow storm was clogging up the entire city. The other was due to an emergency family situation. Usually she is early or right on time.

When I complimented her about her timeliness, she explained that she learned in high school that 15 minutes early is on time, and on time is late. Wow. I tend to live my life by the premise that if you haven't missed an airplane at least once, you're probably wasting time by getting to the airport early.

Usually, despite stellar intentions, I tend to run a little late. I do not mean to disregard the people who might be waiting for me. It's just that, like a toddler, I struggle with transitions. Whatever I am doing at any given moment fully engrosses and cements me--whether it's reading the vapid parts of the newspaper in the morning (making me late for work), or over-embellishing a grant application at the end of the work day (making me late for my family.)

I recall a conference I was organizing with a co-worker, someone who was slightly below me in terms of the "org chart" (and age), but years ahead of me in terms of professionalism. We had to be somewhere very early for set-up. I was late. Not wickedly late, maybe 15 minutes. But, when everything is tight, that's a long time, especially considering that I had vowed to be on time--and that it was my event. When I rolled in, I felt her frost. Later, after all was successfully, though stressfully, executed, we debriefed. She let me have it--in a professional way. At that moment, I realized I was the kind of person you could rely on--to be a little late. Ever since, I have worked to change this habit with little success and ever greater feelings of guilt.

Tonight, Michael and I pushed it by ordering dessert. We asked for the check with the tiramisu, but it didn't come. I kept looking at my watch. Michael, who is reliably on-time, and not nearly as fretful about all things, suggested we just call to say we might be a few minutes late. But we did that a few weeks ago. I don't want to keep being the type of person who can be relied on to be late. And so we power walked home along the bus lines. We weren't lucky--catching a mere 3 block lift on our final leg west.

So I broke all the rules about exercising after a meal and ran down Kimball in a desperate attempt to be home by 8:30 for for the wonderful woman who is always on time and who provides such loving, attentive care for our son.

I failed. The clock said 8:34. She was forgiving, Miguel was sleeping, and all I can do is try to be better next week.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


A new baby just arrived in our circle of friends (welcome Hazel Bee!), causing me to ponder this difference between winter babies and summer babies: layers.

I'm remembering the not so distant days of piling on the clothes for even the shortest trips: onsie, footed one piece (what do you call those??), jacket, gloves, hat, snowsuit. . . Ah, how quickly I forget Chicago winters, which is probably for the best. Now it's June, and Hazel Bee doesn't need Miguel's bear outfits from when he was a wintry infant. Just the thought of putting a tender wee one in anything furry or fleecy right now makes ME break into prickly heat.

During his first three months, Miguel also spent plenty of time in a swaddle. (In the picture, I am literally following the step by step instructions from The Happiest Baby on the Block--Miguel was 3 days old.) When he cried or needed to be soothed to sleep, we yanked a blanket around him with vigor, recreating a snug, presumably womby environment. It always seemed to work like a charm. But what would I do with a flailing wisp of a person now? When it's warm outside, it's toasty in our top floor apartment; when it's toasty outside, it's broiling here. Swaddling a newborn in our home during the summer would verge on child abuse.

Perhaps this is why my mom was always bemused by our obsessive bundling of Miguel. I was a June baby born in Virginia--apparently I spent my first few months nearly nekid (prickly heat and all). No womb reenactments for me!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Squeaky Floors

Miguel has outgrown (in interest and size) his small, jungle-themed activity mat. We keep it in his room as an emergency floor holding area.

So far, his room serves four purposes: sleeping, bedtime book reading, changing clothes and changing diapers. It is not a place for playtime and exploration. . . except when things don't go so well on the diaper table.

Today was one of those days. I had to plunk Miguel down on the undersized mat so I could regroup, slap myself in the face and run to the bathroom to soak his crevice befouled diaper cover.

As I walked back to his room, I heard a strange squeaking noise. "A new vocal achievement?" I wondered. His placid face revealed nothing. Then I looked at his legs. He had turned himself halfway off the mat and was kick-sliding his sweaty feet against the wood floor. Squeak, squeak, squeak. . . big smile. Squeak, squeak, squeak. . . big smile. I kicked off one of my clogs. "Squeak, squeak, squeak," I replied, with a questioning smile. He answered. "Squeak, squeak, squeak," big smile, eyes on me. Back and forth we went, 5 minutes? 10 minutes? an hour? I don't know.

What was he learning? Curious raw sensations? How to take turns in a conversation? That I can watch him for 5 minutes? 10 minutes? an hour? without getting bored and that that's a form of love? I don't know.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Protective Stance

It was a hot, muggy, stir-crazy day. The yard and window boxes called for tending. Instead of staying in to overponder the "master garden plan," or bemoaning my inability to hop on my bike and do a big trailer haul, I loaded up Miguel's diaper bag and searched the phone-book for a garden center that would require no more than one bus transfer: Farmer's Market Garden Center near Irving Park and Elston.

We took the Kimball bus 20 blocks north to Bell Plaine and walked 6 short blocks west until we saw a micropolis of greenery shimmering across Elston. I assumed my protective stance (body between oncoming traffic and stroller, arms stretched to keep the stroller going straight--why I think this helps, I don't know. I just hate pushing my child into distracted car traffic in front of me), and picked my way across the busy street.

I crammed his stroller with herbs and flowers for our window boxes and arranged to have a huge load of soil, mulch and compost delivered. It was a flat (and not inconsequential) fee, so I kept upping my order to get my purchase amount to delivery fee ratio in harmony. It's all stuff we need for the "master plan" anyway. I think.

Miguel was in a fine, but sleepy mood, for which I was very grateful. After waiting 30 minutes in the midday sun for the bus, I gave up, realizing the last place I wanted to be was on a very crowded bus (which it would be once it rolled around) with a stroller bulging with sleeping baby and plants. So I walked the final 20 blocks home, assuming another protective stance: trying to keep the stroller angled so the sun wouldn't bake his little legs. He napped the whole way.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

6 month letter

Every month we write a letter and give 20-30 pictures to Miguel's birth family.

Miguel opened the month with a roll. Having finally mastered this feat, he feels no need to continue exploring the floor-world from his belly. Before we even have a chance to lay him down, he starts clenching those core muscles and folding into his “rolling stance.” He digs both feet and his right shoulder into the ground and hoists his bottom in the air, creating a sort of sideways, almost upside down V shape. He teeters back and forth a bit until gravity pulls him down on his back with a thud, which is followed by a huge, self-satisfied smile. We have learned that this is an “immature” rolling strategy, but he seems happy with it. His left rolling style is more “advanced” but not nearly as charming.

We continue to visit the physical therapist, even though Miguel’s head shape and neck flexibility is much improved. She shows us many ways to play with him, and keeps us on the lookout for developmental milestones. Given how much he loves to stand (with help) and hates to be on his stomach, we wonder if he’ll skip crawling and go straight to walking.

He is definitely starting to assert his likes, dislikes and needs! We think his favorite color is orange. Out of a choice of 4 colors, he always picks the orange rattle ball to play with. On a recent, warm walk, he kicked off one of his shoes and kept thumping the stroller until we removed the other one. The sight of his bottle literally makes him wiggle and quiver with happiness. When he’s hungry, he smacks his lips. When he’s full, he tells us by starting to wave his hands in protest (curiously, before he stops sucking).

The world and his own body seem equally interesting to Miguel—one minute he’s whipping his head around to investigate the source of every sound, breeze, shadow and flash of color, the next minute he’s twisting around his hands for some home grown entertainment. He’s suddenly aware of things he’s always ignored: our green vase full of peacock feathers, Mommy’s earrings, the sound of keys in a door lock (which always seems to startle him a bit), the ceiling fan in our living room. . . it makes us wish we could get behind his eyes and ears to see how his senses are evolving.

As he works harder and explores more, he’s also starting to have his first aches and pains. The bottoms of his big toes are a little rough from pushing off the floor to roll or bounce. The chilly weather dabbed his cheeks with eczema; he looked like a pink faced boy in an old painting. We think he picked up his first cold last week—while his mood was fine, his nose was stuffy and his babble was wheezier and higher pitched than normal. But at his “6 month” doctor visit this week, the doctor assured us that he’s doing great. He’s still at about the 50th percentile in weight and height for his age (18 pounds/26 inches).

As we expected, being a parent is joyful and challenging. What we didn’t expect are the kinds of joys and challenges. For example, before Miguel, Gin had a total phobia about diaper changing. Whenever any of her friend’s babies needed a change, she was the first to duck out of the room. So she’s surprised to find that some of her favorite times of the day are at the changing table with Miguel, taking care of his most basic needs. And while Michael has never particularly been a morning person, he enjoys waking up to Miguel’s happy 6am babble and feeding and playing with him before heading off to work.

The never-eroding mountain of laundry is one of the challenges we were not prepared for! He goes through spitting up phases—just when you let down your guard and leave the burp cloth in another room: “Blurp!” Yesterday, Miguel somehow managed to deliver a warm load down the front, inside of Gin’s shirt—she got soaked to the skin, but he managed to stay dry and smiling, clever fella. We’re definitely dressing more casually these days. And now that he's moving into solids, we expect the laundry pile to keep growing.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

5th month letter

The baby books don’t lie when they describe the 4th and 5th months as golden—a magical time when your little one is interactive but not mobile. The last few weeks with Miguel have been incredible. When we swooned at his fleeting 2 month smiles, now we understand why people said, “Just wait until he smiles with his heart, not his digestive system!”

He greets each day with happy babble, content to let us sleep in a few extra minutes while he entertains himself with vocal experiments. “Ah goo” is a sign of relaxation; “ah ging gee!” is the signal of distress. We’re also hearing some l’s and b’s.

Everything’s bigger: smiles, cheeks, poops, screams and eyes—eager to take in every detail. And where his eyes land, his hands follow. He’s grasping and grabbing and trying to shove as many things as he can into his mouth. One of his favorite tricks is to rub his gums with his thumb through the fabric of his sleeves. We won’t be done dressing him, and already there will be a wet spot on his shirt. He looks up like, “Yeah, Daddy, you gotta roll my sleeve down faster than that! Heh, heh, heh!” He’s also gnawing on the ears of stuffed animals, sucking on frozen washcloths and chomping on people’s fingers. His biggest oral fixation is a brightly colored atomic looking rattle. It’s easy for him to pick up with one or two hands, and there are plenty of noodley surfaces for him to clamp his mouth around.

Not all of his handwork is geared towards the gums. He’s also into making noises. Any toy that has crinkly paper inside is a hit. He loves to rustle the newspaper, especially while Mom is reading the sports section. So many things make him laugh: dabbing his chin with a burp cloth, sweeping hair across his face, blowing on his belly, sucking air through his knuckles, making goofy sounds, repeating words, imitating his facial expressions. . . We went through a hilarious lip smacking stage a few days ago.

He adores his jungle themed bouncer. It combines many of his favorite things—making noise, bouncing, and touching. He is less enthusiastic about tummy time, but he tolerates it. We suspect he’s not yet rolling over on his own because his mellow personality leads him to be fairly content wherever he is.

We’ve been seeing a physical therapist every week or so to monitor his development. The flat spot on the right side of his head we noticed at 4 months is nearly gone, but he still prefers looking to the right. She has taught us stretches and exercises to help balance his neck muscles—he often protests, so we have to be sneaky about it. She’s also given us tips on helping him develop the muscles (and the desire!) to roll over.

Miguel is still a member of the jet-set. In mid-March we visited snowy mountains in Colorado for a reunion of Gin’s family. Her aunts, uncles and cousins were delighted to finally meet him and to learn more about the miraculous way our family was formed. . .

Thursday, February 22, 2007

4th month letter

It’s hard to believe that already a month has past since we sent the last letter and batch of photos. Each day Miguel seems to be doing something new, whether it’s making new sounds (lots of goo gaa’s and excited happy squeals lately), getting better at using his hands (he likes shaking a bell rattle and playing with animals in his floor mat activity center), mimicking our faces or laughing at our silly games.

We traveled with Miguel in early February to Arizona to meet his grandfather (Michael’s dad). Miguel is still an agreeable traveler and even seemed to enjoy the plane ride. Grandpa and Miguel were both very happy to meet each other. During the trip, Miguel passed an important milestone—he rolled over twice from his back to his tummy! We learned later that that floor he was playing on was sloped, which no doubt helped him. Nonetheless we were very excited and proud about his accomplishment.

Miguel has also gotten very close to rolling over from his tummy to his back. He had rolled over a few times when he was tiny (maybe by accident), but hasn’t lately. We‘ve been coaching him, cheering him on, and helping him through the motion during tummy time. It’s fun to watch his excitement in inching towards being able to roll over on his own.

We’re getting closer to following a set daily schedule with Miguel. We usually put him down for sleep around 8pm, and then give him a last feeding of the day before we go to bed at 10:30pm. He typically sleeps through the night until about 6am (but not always). He then eats, chit-chats and plays for a while and takes a mid-morning nap. By noon, he’s ready for lunch. He plays some more, but by 1:30pm (almost on the minute!), he gets a little cranky, so it’s naptime again. We usually feed him before our dinner and he joins us at the table for supper either in his rocking chair or in his new “high chair” (it’s a seat that attaches to one of our chairs). He likes to follow our conversation, often chiming in. After dinner, he’s typically active until his evening feeding, after which story-time leads up to his bedtime.

Every day, we give thanks to you for bringing our family together. . . .We hope all is well and we look forward to talking with you soon.

Monday, January 22, 2007

3rd month letter

What an amazing three months! We are settling into our roles as parents, and loving Miguel more and more every day. The nursery is finally coming together--just in time, as he is outgrowing the bassinet. We worried that he would resist the transition to the crib, especially because he likes kicking the bassinet to make his beloved lion mobile jiggle. But he greeted his new surroundings with the same wide-eyed, patient curiosity he reserves for all new experiences.

Every day he seems heavier, firmer and more in control of his limbs, which are quite fascinating to him. (We need to phase out the swaddle; his arm will not be contained!) We’ve caught him staring at his outstretched hands with a mixture of awe and trepidation. In the last few days, he’s been wrapping his fingers around a rattle (with help) and holding on tight for minutes at a time—watching closely to see what will happen, perhaps not realizing that he’s the one in charge. He’s also smiling and talking a lot (lahs and heys), especially in the mornings. Sometimes we take turns with our utterances—we love these “conversations.”

He was 11 pounds, 12.5 ounces and 23 inches long at his Dec 28th doctor’s visit; all that gobbling of formula shot him up to the 50th percentile for weight and height. What does it feel like to double in size in 2 months??? For the last few weeks, he’s been eating about 30-32 ounces a day, but we think he’s entering another growth spurt. Yesterday, he was both sleepy and hungry. He snoozed through the entire NFC Championship Bears game, then woke up, slurped down a bottle and cried for more, resulting in his first 7 ounce dinner!