Friday, December 24, 2010

first smiles

Emry is 2 months old, and he's figuring this smiling thing out.


open-mouthed grin

watch out, it's power-baby

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

in the woods

Last night, to celebrate Winter Solstice, we went to Muir Woods.

It seemed fitting to welcome the longest night of the year in a place full of fern-filled shadows, where the redwoods block much of the sun even on a summer day.

Luminarias lit the trails.

The ground was soaked, the air filled with the damp, fecund smells of wet wood, crushed redwood needles, and muddy earth. It didn't rain, but drops of water sometimes found their way through the redwood canopy to land on an unsuspecting baby's head. He didn't notice though, snuggled up in the Ergo baby carrier, lulled by his Mama's warmth and motion, and of course, since he does have responsible parents, wearing a hat.

And a solstice crown. Apparently that's what they call a wreath of greenery worn on one's head. Elan wanted nothing to do with the crown I made for him. It was deemed too prickly on his head. We informed him that's cause you're supposed to wear a hat when you're in the redwood forest on a rainy night in the middle of December, but in his world, hats and hoods are only to be worn for about 1.5 seconds, long enough to snap a photo and then look at himself in playback mode and laugh.

It was a festive night. There were bonfires and shadow-puppet shows, songs and story-telling, and hot chocolate sipped from travel mugs brought along specifically for that purpose. Being in the big redwoods it's easy to forget how close you are to cars and roads, not to mention the entire lit-up sprawl of urban life that is the Bay Area. And yet, the diversity of the people walking along the trails reminded me. And the flashlights. And the kids... kids everywhere.

Elan was pretty wide-eyed about the whole excursion, and in the car on the way home, he fell fast asleep. We took off his raincoat and his muddy pants and deposited him in his bed still wearing his redwood-scented fleece pullover. In the morning, he woke up talking about the "fluffed" owl he had seen ("you mean stuffed?" my mother-in-law clarified).

"Did you like the woods?" I asked him.

"I liked it so much that I even want to go back there," he informed me.

"You want to camp there sometime?"


His enthusiastic response was no surprise. Elan wants to have a sleep-over wherever he goes these days. On the way home from playdates lately, both Mikhail and I have had to endure major meltdowns and long-winded tirades about why we are bad parents because we don't let him have a sleep-over at (insert given friend's name)'s house.

I've told him that right now, we're only doing sleep-overs with family members. When he's older, he can have sleep-overs with friends. Somehow it seems that when they're older, there might be more of a chance of some sleeping happening at the sleep-over, but maybe I'm just naive. Or unadventurous.

But a sleep-over in the redwoods this summer with my boys... that's an adventure I can get excited about.

Monday, December 13, 2010

yes, i did

Raise your hand if you've ever gone bathing suit shopping when you're 7 weeks postpartum.

I didn't think so.

I'm not so much brave as desperate. As I mentioned recently, swimming is an awesome mind-cleanser for me, and Elan is putting us through the wringer, so I need a good mind-cleanser right about now. And the bathing suit I wore all through my pregnancy was starting to put me at risk for indecent exposure so...

I started with one-pieces. I thought they would be more flattering. But this was an athletics store, so they were all Speedo and TYR and no no no no no.

Surprisingly, my regular fave the 2-piece still felt more comfortable, and looked better, "better" being a very relative term here.

In the dressing room, I kept telling myself 9 months on, 9 months off, and laughing. I laughed a lot, actually. Out loud. This crazy body, with its unaccustomed pads and rolls and ripples and soft spots where the muscle might be hiding deep in there somewhere - it doesn't even feel like my body. I guess that's the main difference between last time and this time. This time, it doesn't feel quite so personal. Mostly, I just wish I felt stronger - less wibbly-wobbly and injury-prone. I've been taking walks with Emry in a front carrier in part to slowly strengthen my core, which is not the steely core you want when you've got 2 kids, one of them giving you the run-around. It's more like a rubbery core right now. Rubber that's melted...

You get the idea.

Anyway, I've got this guy:

And he's so very worth it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

baby torture

There's a fun new game round these parts. It's called torture the baby for our own amusement. Emry doesn't particularly like hats, but he'll tolerate them so long as they don't fall down over his eyes. Which this Peruvian one does, but it's so gorgeous we put it on him anyway.

Sometimes he doesn't notice the indignity.

Then there's his bear suit, which is skin-tight because it's a newborn size that fits "up to 7 pounds" and he weighs oh - about 12. But we stuffed him in there anyway, poor kid.

Can you blame us?

Luckily, Emry doesn't really mind our antics. He appears to be quite the performer. Here he is practicing his juggling. He's getting pretty good.

Monday, December 6, 2010

preschooler poetry

Before we moved here, I always thought that if I ever bought a house in Berkeley, I'd want a Japanese maple. And then we found our little place. This tree is around forty years old, and nearly every window in our house looks out at it. I love how this tree visually marks the seasons for us even from inside our home. I adore it year-round, though fall is its most spectacular show.

In the car, Elan and I were talking about the autumn color show that's taken over Berkeley. I said, "now that the leaves are turning colors, they'll start falling."

He thought about it for a moment, then pronounced: "The wind is their haircut."

Nicely put, my dear.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

just add water

Today, I got back into the pool. There were a few big hurdles to surmount: 1) the baby had to get his first bottle, an event which makes me tear up with the thought he doesn't need me anymore, but that I know is necessary if I'm going to have some freedom in the many months of nursing to come and 2) I had to deal with the bathing suit situation.

I should back up for a minute. The last few months of my pregnancy, after I hurt my back and couldn't do much walking anymore, I swam as much as I could. When I was in town, I swam nearly every day. When I was traveling, I googled nearby pools. Water is fabulous therapy for me. Baths calm me down; showers clear my mind. But swimming is the best. It leaves me relaxed and energized at the same time, and as I stroke along in the water, I often find myself having realizations about issues I am stuck on.

I feel really lucky to have this relationship with a form of exercise. Some people run; some people walk; I swim. I've never swum competitively, and I'm not particularly fast. Swimming laps regularly is a fairly new addition to my life that I really came to rely on during my first pregnancy. And though it requires more equipment than running and doesn't give you quite the same view, it's easy on the joints and something I'll be able to do for the rest of my life.

So anyway, there I was, hugely pregnant in my two-piece suit, waddling my way out to the pool nearly every day. Past 37 weeks, being in the water was the thing that was keeping me sane. I felt so *filled up* by this other life; the baby had taken over my body and mind such that I couldn't focus or deal with things the way I usually do. But in the water, I still had some semblance of grace. I could move lightly. During the autumn heat waves, the pool was the one place I wasn't sweating. I could turn and float. A respite from gravity.

I kept starting to write about my relationship with swimming while I was still pregnant, but everytime I did, the post devolved into lists of the comments I got. Of course, I couldn't really blame people. I was pretty noticeable, with my giant belly and my two-piece bathing suit, the bottoms so worn-out from constant chlorine exposure that they were white and ragged. I was praying the baby would come out before I ended up exposing myself indecently, because I refused to buy new bottoms in the size that would be necessary. I told myself that my belly was so giganticly distracting that no one would notice the state of my bottoms.

Here's that list of what people said to me at the pool:
"Any day now, right?" (starting around 6 months)
"It must feel so good to get into the water" (yes, it does)
"How much weight have you gained, or is that an inappropriate question?" (uhhh...)
"When's that baby coming?" (wish I knew -- ask him/her)
"Wow" (succinct)
Then there was the man in the jacuzzi (yes, I went in the jacuzzi for a few minutes sometimes - I was careful not to boil the baby) who came up to me, blocking the stairs, staring at my belly with concerned eyes: "You know you are going to have a baby any day now?" At first I thought maybe he was a super experienced OB who could tell when a baby was coming, and I wanted to say: "Tell me when!" But then I feared that he was just another Berkeley weirdo, and so I just raised my eyebrows at him like: "this? it's just a watermelon I like to strap to myself for kicks."

And finally: "You should really take a picture of yourself in that bathing suit."

38.5 weeks, 10 days before Emry was born

So today, with Emry 6 weeks and 1 day old, he got his first bottle of breastmilk (cue hormonal mama sniffle). I wished futilely that I possessed a one-piece bathing suit, then swallowed my pride, put on an old two-piece, and slid into the water. Like an old friend, it embraced me. My body felt infinitely different, and yet comfortingly similar. My same old skin, just stretched out here and there. My arms pulling, my legs kicking, my heart pumping, the sound of my own breath in my ears.

And when I was done, I got to steam myself in the jacuzzi, and no one raised an eyebrow.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Adoration

After both of my sons' births, Eugenia, the matriarch of Mikhail's mom's family, known to everyone as Granny, has sent me this poem.

Eugenia and Emry

The Adoration
-Adrie Kusserow

It's morning.
I pull you from the crib
all warm and yeasty,
your hair stuck up like two soft horns,
you beaming brighter than a headlight
in anticipation of the nip.

Silly boy,
tender pink niblet,
luscious little beast,
water nut, love blossom,
Panis bulbosa, lactata nippiana.

And so begin
the verbal fevers
of my love-smitten Tourette's,
speaking in tongues
wild with metaphor,
swinging from branch to branch of simile,
rooting about for words
to match your roundness, your just succulency,
your sheer plump thigh-liness.

All morning I groom you with tiny love-names.
I am a cat, you are my kitten, cowlicked
with locution. I am a sound nymph
tickling you with alliteration, a Swedish masseuse
rubbing you with vowels.
Who would have known my love
would rise up so fiercely, hover
delirious in small bits of sound,
all day the adjectives landing and relanding,
determined to match your infinite perfection,
my sweet boy, my sweet boy.


Thanks, Granny.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

guilty as charged

Are kids eating too many snacks?

In our case, the answer is yes. Yes, my kid eats too many crackers. Yes, I comfort myself that at least they're whole-grain. He loves pretzels too. This is the kid who will literally eat salt straight out of the shaker.

Thankfully given the genetics I'm not worried about him being obese. It's more that we're always happy when we can get him to eat.

Read the article here.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

all dressed up

I officially adore this outfit, which Emry wore to his first big public outing, a wedding reception in Petaluma.

Onesie is Five Little Monkeys bought used, pants are speeses, and booties are handmade from Bolivia.

Real men wear dragons.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

post partum

Let's get real about the post-partum body, shall we? We don't all look like this:

Jessica Alba, 3 months post-partum

Or even better, like this:

Rebecca Romijn, 6 weeks post-partum after TWINS

In fact, very many of us new moms - I would guess the majority - look more like this:

me, 2 weeks post-partum

I remember after Elan was born I was a bit shocked by the belly that remained. The same shape as what it had been, just shrunken down, empty and slack. The skin was soft and brown, and I completely identified with how Anne Lamott described her belly three weeks after her son was born in Operating Instructions:
"Oh, but my stomach, she is like a waterbed covered with flannel now. When I lie on my side in bed, my stomach lies politely beside me, like a puppy."
This time I was prepared for my puppy-belly, and grateful to discover that, despite the tremendous growth at the end of my pregnancy, the stretch marks below my belly button were fairly minimal and already a worn-out silvery color.

This time, I am a proud of my post-baby belly. After all, I grew an entire complete human being in there, and it wasn't an easy job. I didn't even mind much when a saleswoman at lululemon thought I was pregnant and advised me to buy a size up because "you're just going to grow bigger." I laughed, and pointed to my one-week-old asleep in his stroller beside me. "Actually, I'm pretty sure I'm only going to get smaller," I said.

4 weeks post-partum

Day by day, Emry grows bigger and rollier, and my belly shrinks down little by little. It is a visible symbol of our separation into distinct people, as well as a reminder to myself that it hasn't been very long since I gave birth, and I still need to take it easy.

I'm pretty sure that celebrities walking the red carpet a few weeks post-partum have stretch marks too, and they're likely wearing some major structural support garments to squeeze that belly into a designer dress. It's a silly ideal to hold up for women - how fast can you lose the baby weight; how fast can you "have your body back"? Not to mention potentially a destructive ideal: Jessica Alba's trainer said she exercised for one hour a day, 5-6 hours a day, and stuck to a 1700-calorie-a-day diet in order to lose the baby weight fast. It's hard to imagine that many women could keep up their milk supply to nurse with that kind of strain on their body. Of course, it is a celebrity's job to look good, and they have the resources (trainers, nannies) to make it happen. I'm certainly not against feeling good, looking good, and being active. I'm just against setting unreasonable standards for women in the already-delicate post-partum period.

And besides, as my midwife pointed out, the post-baby belly makes a perfect nursing shelf. As I snug Emry in between his old home and his new favorite place, I think eventually I will "get my body back" and then how I will miss this.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

rainbow bat & his trusty companion

I realized Halloween has come and gone and I never posted pictures. So here they are.

Elan was a rainbow bat.

Mikhail's mom Karen made the bat wings. Aren't they awesome?

He and I came up with the rainbow bat costume idea in the car one day. I asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween, and he said "a bat." We riffed for a while about possible bat colors, and eventually landed on "rainbow."

I didn't think the idea would stick, but it did.

Meanwhile, Emry was world's cutest peepod.

And later, when the trick-or-treaters arrived at our house, this is what they saw through our glass door. (Check out the Converse booties my neighbor knit for him!)

Don't worry -- we didn't let him hog all the candy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

totally in love

We are doing great here with the newborn nursing, sleeping and pooping regime. Even the sleeping part? Well, we are tired, but expectations are low so that so far, no complaints. And when I'm asleep, I'm sleeping better than I did for the last month of pregnancy.

We've had lots of wonderful helping hands around too, so that makes everything feel easier. Despite the fact that Elan still gets up before dawn, and Mikhail is still working at least part-time (no paternity leave or vacation time when you're doing contract work), I actually feel like there is a definite baby-moon vibe around the house, as there was when Elan was born, and that makes me so happy.

Emry spends a lot of time looking like this.

Scrunchy monkey.

I held you in my heart for so long, and now you're finally here in my arms.

Thanks to Kristina for the lovely photos.

Friday, October 29, 2010

it's a boy!

We are so thrilled to welcome our baby boy to our family!

Emry Isaiah Brams Davis
October 22, 2010
7 lbs 15 oz, 20.5 inches

Emry is a Welsh name that means "honorable" (Davis is a Welsh name). Isaiah is a name I love and also in honor of David Brower, Mikhail's mentor, who loved to quote from the Book of Isaiah. In the tradition of Mikhail's family, my last name is Emry's second middle name (we did this with Elan too - his name is Elan Joshua Brams Davis).

He came exactly on his due date, and three of his grandparents got to see his birth. I'll write the whole story of his birth at some point. It was a wild ride. What birth isn't? But really, it was pretty great. I feel soooo lucky for how the birth went, to have a healthy baby... and to not be pregnant anymore!

Elan is extremely excited about the baby. He wants to hold him, touch him, rock him in the swing.

And take him for rides around the hospital in his bassinet.

We're having a whole lot of fun around here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

my boy

This is my boy.

We think he looks a little like an Ewok.

He woke up at 5:30 this morning. Mama was not pleased.

Of course, I had already been up since 4. Pregnant insomnia. That one good night's sleep with the Valerian was awesome, but I guess it was a one-shot deal.

Here he is with Doggie in the pocket of his new apron. In our house, we call this a "morale-boosting outfit." As in, the cuteness factor boosts Mama and Dada's morale.

He's even taken to helping with the cooking, but don't worry - he didn't want to eat the lasagna. That would have been a little too much.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

fully baked

Well, here I am at 38 weeks + 5 days.

Yes, I am counting the days.

Elan was born at 38 weeks on the dot. Which means this baby is already asserting that he/she is a different personality than big brother. Elan came much earlier than we expected, and Mikhail and I often joke that we've been playing catch-up ever since. I rarely in my parenting life have the experience of being "one step ahead" of my strong-willed and big-personalitied little fellow. I never really feel prepared; I always feel like I'm winging it. Of course, much of that can be chalked up to the first child. Every new stage is a surprise; every few months I repeat to myself the refrain "I am a new mother" because for every new stage, I am.

I already feel like this baby is so different in personality. Who knows what you can intuit about the personality of a baby when they're still surrounded by amniotic fluid (some might say nothing), but I have certainly noticed that this baby tends to lie still all night long and into the morning. Sometimes it's even freaked me out in the middle of the night, as I've made yet another bathroom run or ponderous flip in bed without even a flicker of motion from the belly. And then Elan will be up at 5:40 a.m., crying in the hallway or chattering in our bed, and from the little one -- nada. Not even a kick, until some more sane hour.

For the record, Elan woke me up at 5 in the morning nearly every day of my pregnancy. Early on, I didn't know why I was so wakeful, but then later, it was quite clear: early-morning trampoline hour.

Is this just wishful thinking on my part, willing the baby to stay still so I can get my badly-needed and elusive sleep? Maybe. But I'm okay with that.

The idea of a radically different child with a very different personality is thrilling, and intimidating too. What new tricks will this one have up his or her cute little sleeve? How will we relate to each other, what will be the challenges, the particular joys of that child?

Right now, I am sincerely hoping that this baby is: 1) healthy; 2) comes out smoothly; and 3) does not choose to set me a new challenge right off the bat by coming late. Let's be honest. On-time will feel late to me. I tried to not set myself the expectation that the baby would come at 38 weeks, but I also wanted to be prepared in case my gestational oven was always set to quick-bake. And of course, it was inevitable -- preparing for 38 weeks did make me think I'd be having a baby at 38 weeks. On Friday, I wondered what to do with myself: it appears I'm not having a baby, how about a trip to the chiropractor instead? I have officially entered the waiting game, which I never played with Elan, and have no desire to play for any real length of time.

September into early October was fairly comfortable, compared to the general course of events for this pregnancy, in which standards for comfort have not been high. But now I am full up with baby. I am baby down to my knees, baby up to my throat. Not literally of course, that's just what it feels like. Going up the stairs leaves me breathless; leaning over to buckle Elan into his carseat is an Olympic event. I am a rather complainy and moany person. Just ask my husband.

As I walk waddle around town, my enormous belly invites comments. EVERYONE has something to say. I tell myself that the miracle of human life so bowls people over that they are compelled to comment. But sometimes I think that if one more person says "Looks like you're ready to pop" I will walk over and pee on their shoes. "Oops, guess I just popped!" I imagine saying with a shrug of my shoulders, and then strolling away unconcernedly.

Wouldn't that be fabulous?

Or am I just spending too much time with a potty-obsessed 3.5-year-old?

Friday, October 8, 2010

"marriage first"

us, last November

I was reading an interview with a woman named Pam as part of The Motherhood Project on chookooloonks, and I loved what she said in response to the question "What advice would you give to someone who is still trying to figure out this parenting thing?" (and isn't that all of us who are parents?):

"Really, the best advice I could ever give are two simple words: marriage first. Children are the single most disruptive thing to a relationship, a budget, a routine and life in general. Also silence. Doesn't mean that they aren't wonderful, it just means they are extremely distracting and, if you're not careful, the days and thoughts and energy can go only to them. A family only works if a marriage works. If the marriage suffers, the children suffer. Do everything in your power to support the marriage first. Your marriage is the model for what the children will expect and do in their own relationships."

I think this is so wise. It's what my parents modeled for my sister and me, and what I strive to model for Elan and his sister/brother on the way. It's not easy. Elan is the kind of kid who hates it when his parents attempt to have a conversation in front of him. After he goes to bed, we are both tired and in need of quiet "me" time; we tend to retreat into our separate activities and interests. There are nights where 9 p.m. will come along, and I'll realize that all we've done is sit in front of our respective computers, Mikhail watching soccer and me reading blogs. And of course with another little attention-demanding person soon to arrive, it will be even more challenging.

In September, Mikhail and I went away for an overnight just the two of us (my fabulous mother-in-law watched Elan, with help from my fabulous sister-in-law -- we are lucky!). We stayed at a B&B in Calistoga, floated around in the pool, poured over baby name books, ate a nice dinner out. It was beautiful, though I have no pictures. I didn't even bring the camera. We talked to each other for more than 5 minutes straight. We were quiet together. A little time away from the household routine and you start to remember that your relationship is more than being co-parents, co-workers on the domestic front. I cannot recommend it enough.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

practicing to be a big brother

No baby yet, but Elan had a chance to practice some baby skills at a Big Brother, Big Sister class at the hospital last weekend. He keeps saying things to me like: "Mama, I want the baby to come today. I'm tired of waiting. It's takin' too long!"

That's not my refrain quite yet, but I know what he means. I feel like I've been pregnant forever, so these 9+ months must really feel like forever to him!