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Thursday, September 1, 2011

To My Son, on His First Birthday

Dear Zenas,

Happy Birthday, happiest birthday, to The One whom I can call by oh so many names. A flood of endearments that run the gamut of cliched, overused, obvious and inadequate--but all very heartfelt, because you are: my darling, my sweetness, my pride and joy; my little man, my big boy, my bundle of joy; the one person who can always put a smile on my face, who has made me laugh more than ever before; source of such goodness and pure delight; my handsome, my hunk of love; my Zizi, busy Z, Z forever...

The last year has been in parts a blur from the haze of underslept fogginess, marked by unforgettable bits of elation and countless privilege of sharing the every day with you. You changed my life forever and I don't mind. I can't wait to see the person you are becoming and at the same time I want to stop time because every milestone that you reach feels that much closer to the day when we will say good-bye in too many ways. I can barely stand to leave you at daycare for the nine hours I am away from you so I imagine it will be devastating on your first day of school, for your first overnight, at your graduation, or on your wedding day. I want you to outgrow me; I want nothing more than to one day see you almost as a stranger but someone I have the pleasure of knowing. But right now you are still my baby, my first, barely out of my body but already so changed that I have a hard time thinking you are the same pile of cooing blind, helpless gush, especially when I see you walking and talking. You express yourself so clearly and have such a mind of your own. You are willful and I have no doubt you will be powerful--Virgo Metal Tiger and all. But already you amaze people in how natural you are at loving: you act like a mayoral candidate at every social gathering, making the rounds. You love people, especially other kids, and will already stray from your parents not even looking back so that you can make some kind of contact with whomever strikes your fancy. It's not just me, other people tell me how you give the best hugs and the recent habit you have of randomly doling out love and tilting your head onto laps and shoulders is almost shameless.

Your father and I are cuckoo for you. Somehow it never gets old to tell each other how much we love you, when we spend all day saying to you the words, "I love you." We also tell you and each other how cute you are, maybe even more than how much we love you. In private, your father always asks--rhetorically, because he is already convinced--if you are indeed as exceptional and amazing as he thinks he is. I like to keep him in check: I don't think it's healthy to be blindly adoring--but I have to agree that I do think you are quite special and I am quite proud of you and all that you are. When you were born, I joked how we decided to keep you; well lately I'm hoping that you will want to keep us, now and forever.

I don't think it's healthy to make you my everything so I never will. But please know I feel so lucky when I see your face. I feel that I belong to you. Just as you belong to me. That's an incredible completing feeling that erases all the fatigue and overwhelming parts of being a new parent. I don't want you any other way than exactly how you are. I want to thank you for being here and being who you are...and it's better than anything imaginable to get to know you.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Back to Writing

I've let my writing go idle far too long.
Not a coincidence that my last significant entry was just before I returned to work. In that turmoil of change and adjustment I found it too difficult to find the time and headspace to post updates. I had gotten too used to the luxury of thinking and laboring over my subject and fell prey to every writer's fear to put up too little substance--which is antithetical to this blog, which is not about my ego, but an opportunity to chronicle some of Z's first year so that I might share my experience with him throughout the different stages of his life. But when it serves as the only time to write, well it becomes too precious.

This is why I don't like to let go -- of anything -- because letting go always means a bit of a loss, a hand empty of a tangible object, a life left with a fading memory, or a commitment bereft of its once promise.

It was a long and unpredictable Spring. Topsy-turvy weather patterns and the newly established flurry of weekdays that are too short to fit more than work and the baby, and a string of weekends where there seemed to be always something going on. Lots of growing pains, for Z as well as Chris and me. We love being parents but how do we also remain who we were before? What has to go and who gets to stay?

They say the first year of a child's life is always hardest on a couple. Likely it's even harder on artists and unmarried partners. Throw in a new job, a new creative pursuit, lost friends and estranged family over existing baggage and it's suddenly a Dickens parallax. And through these highs and lows we trudge, and it's a lonely process as those who know us best find us changed forever and are forced to change their relationships to us. A lot of new parents told me that their friend group changed once they had kids, to other couples with kids; I wonder if it's also easier to develop and deepen new friendships rather than revamp old ones?

I feel so fortunate that with a few exceptions, I do still feel so close to my friends. The level of support I've received dumbfounds me at times. In the darkest moments when I'm crippled by the possibility of being a single mom, there is reassurance and encouragement. Even when we are acting stupid beyond belief, these friends are there to find lightness. I am so proud of the people in my life, and their generosity to Chris as well as me. I never know how to thank them, or celebrate them enough. It is my mission to raise Zenas to be as kind, giving and true as these wonderful role models he will have as his Aunts and Uncles. You know who you are--thank you so much and all of our love.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Suddenly, This Summer

Zenas looking very patriotic on his first 4th of July bbq with his hosts, Lori, Emily, Hunter, and Craig (not pictured).

Friday, July 1, 2011

10 of 12

"Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it be?" asked the Sphinx. I wish I hadn't been such a fan of the Greek myths to know how Oedipus answered.

At ten months Zenas is at the verge of walking--or so we are told, by those who seem to know how to read the signs. We've barely gotten used to the idea of him crawling, and the alarming speed which he's gained in just a few weeks. And he's been pulling himself up for a while now: on me, on Chris, the couch, the nesting table (thereby upsetting a plate of food to pour over his head), the dining room chair (which collapsed onto him), the other kids in daycare (who cry), our cats (who screech), and whatever seems handy within reach. His mobility and strength grows every day, but sneakily right in front of our inexperienced eyes who don't know how to measure its progress. But someone like Uncle Adam will come over and say it's the way he seems to slowly squat down from standing to crawling, not just plopping backwards, and it's that awareness of gravity and his own body that signals that most coveted (and feared) milestone. One of the defining characteristics of a "baby" is his inability to walk. Until he's bipedal, he seems still in that miracle stage of life; once he's upright, he will fulfill the scientific criteria of our species and officially be on his way to becoming a man.

Zenas in the last week learned to stand up from a sitting position. Learned, we say, but more accurately, self-taught through instinct and practice, and without an obviously conscious process. My son is not special or unique, but magnificent in that he is proof of genetic hard-wiring to develop such skills. And as new parents we can't help but marvel and celebrate what is so universally matter-of-fact as nothing short of the greatest accomplishment of our lives to have created such a creature.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Six-Month Mark

I was never good at dating, or at least "dating" in the sense that movies/TV/friends seem to present the concept. They make it seem so breezy and fun: meet a guy, ask or get asked out, eat a meal or attend an event, kiss, make a new friend, get serious or more often than not, go your separate ways. I instead think of dating as a series of awkward moments and communication blunders . With the exception of a few, I quickly skipped the dating phase and went straight into relationships--though of course, in the first few months, it's always called dating because of the general state of denial, or lack of definition/commitment...

Zenas and I have known each other now for exactly six months. A good friend told me just before I had the baby: "It's okay if you don't feel in love with your baby immediately. There's a lot of pressure to feel all this love instantly, and you might not. But it will come." I thought it was a brave thing for a new mother to say. And I could imagine, despite the months-long hype leading up to the birth, it's essentially a blind date. A lot of fantasy and hope and anticipation bundled up in a flannel blanket. A wrinkly face that might not be so appealing. What if there were no chemistry???

But I got lucky. It was love at first sight. Giddy, instantaneous crush on someone I imagined more than knew. But it's easy to love a newborn. Their need for you feels like the most precious love. And these small creatures can crush even a hardened heart. But that was not yet true love. Those first few months were the hazey, hormonal and sleep-deprivated weeks of infatuation. My lump of a larva could coo, poo, spit up and sleep like no other. It might have been an unhealthy period of little sleep and all obsession but I was hooked and he was the drug that made me feel good.

I started to feel a shift around month four, when the traveling began. That's always a milestone in any relationship, that first trip away, to spend 24/7 under duress. Away from our daily routine, I had to tune into his cues better in order to provide as much comfort as I could. We got to know each other's little quirks, sleeping and eating habits, and I became the authority on how to make him happy.

Yes we have had some late nights: I did most of the talking while he cried. I made mistakes and I apologized. His drinking grew heavy. He made messes that I had to clean up. But never did either of us think even once of leaving or being with anyone else. If anything, we kept building new routines, inside jokes, and filled photo albums. We kissed all the time.

Now we find ourselves at that six-month mark when there's no question of it being more than dating. If you make it halfway to a year, any relationship seems suddenly more significant. (Less than that might be considered a fling.) Any serious commitment before six months sounds frivolous and insane. But when you say "six months," somehow it's acceptable if you decide to get married, move in, whatever.

I want to be with Zenas forever!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lost Item #5

Sophie the Giraffe
Given to us three times as a new baby gift!
Last seen: On way to the Uncles' house for dinner, 2/26/11
*We think it might have fallen out of the car outside their house; we did not try to rescue it from gutters of West Oakland. Thankfully we had a spare, which came in very handy - it's one of his all-time favorite toys!

Monday, February 14, 2011

FIrst Valentine's Day

current nicknames given by various people

The Tyrant
The Prince
Z Man
Big Ol' Flirt
Sumo Wrestler
Drool Monster
Boob Man
Little Animal
The Sun
Cutie Pie/Pettuty
Fat Boy
Russian Mobster
The One
Best Thing Ever

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Under his ample cheeks, spread across his chin, is a very special roll we call "da butta." It's all milkfat and it covers any trace of neck Zenas might have. One of my favorite games is to give a big raspberry whenever he tips his head slightly back, thereby exposing the tender gushy flesh. It's usually good for a giggle.

And yes his giggle is one of my favorite sounds.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sit Ups

One of Zenas's first days sitting up by himself. Didn't know this at the time but he was early to master the balance and strength necessary for this move. Here he's still a bit unbalanced, as you can see by his uneven tilt to the side and lean forwards. Only a couple weeks later, he will be completely upright!

Far-Moster Kirsten

We received sad news: Christian's aunt passed away. This was Farmor Hanne's sister Kirsten who lived in Denmark. In addition to family, Kirsten had many friends who will miss her. I never had the chance to meet her, but selfishly feel the loss of someone who loved Zenas.

We not only mourn her death but also grieve for our loss: we not only miss her presence in the world, but also lament our missed opportunities to meet and know her. Denmark was our next planned stop of the Baby World Tour, which we hoped we'd resume later this year. Though she was so far away, Kirsten had made sure that we knew how happy she was about the birth of our son. She sounded so excited about meeting him one day; and we wanted to bring her the joy of holding him her arms, feeling that joyous rush of touching family. I would like to believe that there is an afterlife, where she is now experiencing all that is Zenas with all her senses.

Kirsten sent us a number of cards on which every blank space filled about how much she thought about us and baby. Chris said the handwriting was exactly the same as he remembered from the cards he had received throughout his whole life--the words uniformly slanted, her loops a bit large but the letters still reedy and written with a fine point. I cannot say I knew her at all but felt a familial love for her all the same, it's hard as a parent not to love back someone who loves my child so much. I only spoke to her once on the phone, but Chris's love for her was infectious, and her reciprocation that obvious by how much she cared about our baby.

I will remind Zenas that she spent precious hours talking about him. She had sent one of the coolest outfits he wore as a newborn. We had yet to properly thank her for the present she had sent for his first Christmas, which was a soft baby book of Winnie the Pooh--in Danish. I had hoped to have her read it to him when we visited, but it will now serve as a memento of her amongst his keepsakes. We had sent her photos of Z, which she loved, and now we plan to frame a picture of her to keep in the house so that Zenas will always recognize his great-aunt.

Like the word farmor to mean father's mother, there is a word for which means mother's sister, moster. Borrowing the construct of the word for grandmother, I want to remember Kirsten as Zenas's Far-Moster, though I'm likely making up the word. I would like Zenas to have an association that is more than her name, so that her significance in his life is always obvious.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lost Item #4

Made in Vermont Knit Sock, multi-color
One out of five in a set given to us by Grandma Pat
Last seen: Berkeley Bowl West, 2/3/11
*Zenas had learned to take of his socks, something he very much enjoyed to do. I spent an extra 45 minutes circling the store twice, to no avail. The single sock never turned up at Lost and Found.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Five Moons

Happy Five-Month Birthday to Zenas!
You just keep on getting better. Thank you for being born.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Weeks That Feel Like Years

Zenas shopping at Berkeley Bowl

We left for Hawaii on December 20, and returned from Japan on January 14. All intentions were there for updates along the way, and then for as soon as we got home... but a new phase of lethargy set in, and I am finding it very difficult to get back to the things which are part of taking care of myself, like writing.

First step: to let go of the insistence on posting everything at once or nothing at all. Great irony that I need to resort to what feel like baby steps. Or great poetry, depending on how I look at it. I want to get back to making entries, and will be putting in old dates as well as new ones, as I can't quite give up accuracy. So if you are one of the few devotees to Z, please check for December/January entries the next few weeks.

Zenas is five months old tomorrow. His birth feels like it happened both yesterday and a million years ago. I can trace his aging through photos and the tracking of his various new accomplishments. But his existence feels immeasurable, too precious to quantify and too elusive to name. But thanks to the calendar, we can pause and celebrate the now of Zenas. He weighs over 21 pounds. He's at least 27.5 inches. He stands and sits up with help. He's still teething. He doesn't crawl yet but we can see how that's going to happen soon. He smiles a lot and is generous with the belly laugh. He's tried ten foods already and makes solid poops. He wears cool outfits. He works toys with his now graspy hands. He manipulates us.

We love him we love him we love him.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lost Item #3

H&M Herringbone Cap, size 2-4 mos.
We bought it for 300 yen in Japan and absolutely loved it--he wore it for a day or two only
Last seen: As we left the house for lunch at Pixar on 1/27/11; mother packed it to show off baby only to lose it somewhere in the car, restaurant or parking lot. Never seen and sold out at every location. (We have seen two other babies in San Francisco with the hat - we covet it still).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Hair

The Fohawk has been long gone...

Though Zenas still insists on keeping his father's hairline, the hairs that are on his head have grown too long to stand up. His hairs are the baby fine, spiderweb-like strands of smooth and sturdy silk. The color has darkened beyond the golden hue of milk caramel to that more of burnt sugar. The natural punk look is no more; in its place is a style too unkempt to be referred to as any special coiffure. The hairs keep falling flat down into his face, in scattered squiggles over his forehead, too wispy and separate to look any different than an accident. I caught myself with a new habit of pushing the hairs to one side or another as to give a more combed look, mostly because I feel itchy to look at him, or "uttoushi" as they say in Japanese.
The new hair also offers up some fun: Chris and I play around with various combings and title each affectionately.


Hitler Youth:
Dwight Schrute:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ananda Balasana

All yoga poses have names based on real life imagery. The instructors usually call out the Hindi, then translation, of half-moon, warrier, boat, etc. After any session which required some back strain, my instructor usually throws in what's known as Ananda Balasana, where you lie flat on your back, but grab your toes up in the air above you, knees bent.

See Zenas in his new move. In yoga it's called the Happy Baby.