On Children

On Children

Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I’m still a child, too. A child and a mother. An arrow and a bow.

Khalil Gibran has always spoken to me deeply. I loved this little poem long before I had a child. But now I feel it with the experience of parenthood, not just the anticipation of it. Ali is a swift golden arrow, I am a strong but pliable bow, and Fate is the archer, pointing in a direction I may never know.

This goes for all children, of course, whatever their genetic origins.

And my little man draws closer every day to taking his fate in his own hands. He can scoot across the floor on his belly with alarming swiftness. The crawling quilt cannot contain him. The house is his. And he wants to explore everything, touch everything, push and pull everything, lick everything. So impatient to Know Everything about this big world he finds himself in. That’s his job now, to play and explore and learn, and it’s such a joy and a privilege to watch it happen. To see him evolve before my eyes from a cute little lump to an insistent explorer.

He doesn’t even seem like a baby. He seems like a vast intelligence trapped in a tiny body. Which I guess is exactly what he is. Kids generally have bigger thoughts and feelings than they can express, and they really are the universe’s biggest known brains just trying to develop into themselves. He is something else, though. I’ve known a few babies in my time, and while I had no expectations of my son as far as physicality or intelligence or anything, he seems unusually… person-like. I don’t know how else to say it. He just doesn’t seem like a baby as much as most babies do.

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He is, of course, a baby, though, and today he did a very baby thing. He fell off the bed. He 100% refuses to nap in his crib lately, and the only way I can get him down is to feed him to sleep. The only place I can do that comfortably is on my bed. (We still don’t have a couch, and the play room gets way too hot. We need to get some blackout curtains in there so that it isn’t so hot during the day. There’s a major greenhouse effect going on in the one room in the house that doesn’t have trees outside the windows.)

Once he’s asleep on my bed, I pile pillows around him to prevent him from rolling or crawling off. But he can lift pillows if he wants to, so I know it’s not fool-proof. As an added precaution, I piled a bunch of things between the bed and the wall so that he can’t fall down there. I filled up the space tightly. But not all the way to the end of the bed. Still, he usually fusses when he wakes, so there’s plenty of time to go catch him before he starts exploring.

I know I sound like an idiot. Of course this was going to happen. But when something works at nap time, and nothing else seems to, it’s so damn hard to give that up until your hand is really forced.

So yeah. He was napping, had just fallen asleep maybe 20 minutes earlier, and I was right outside the door when I heard a thump. It wasn’t very loud, but the crying that followed was. I rushed in and found him crumpled at the foot of the stuff piled behind the bed. Thankfully he hadn’t really fallen but more like slid down the pile head-first. I picked him up and soothed him, checking him for any marks or other symptoms of injury. He seemed pouty, put out, a little scared, but all in all it wasn’t even as bad as a vaccination as far as a freak-out. He was smiling and cooing and belly scooting across the floor in no time.

Still, I shouldn’t have put him in that position in the first place. And it’s going to get so much worse from here, keeping him safe from himself and from any situation he may find himself in, as much as I can. While at the same time letting him explore and take some inevitable knocks. Everything, everything in parenthood is a compromise, a relentless pursuit of balance, of not totally coddling a kid or making yourself miserable with endless restrictions, but keeping them safe from serious harm. And so much will simply be out of my hands.

But choosing whether to put him on a bed surrounded by drop-offs is in my hands, and that’s the end of that. I am not looking forward to whatever tomorrow’s nap battles will look like. He seriously acts traumatized when I try to put him in the crib, and I don’t know if he’ll fall asleep on the floor, even if I feed him there. And it’s not healthy for a baby not to nap. It’s a biological need. And damn it makes my day hard if he doesn’t, on so many levels. (And he’s still getting up at least 3-4 times a night to feed.)

Sigh. He is sweet, though. When I’m playing with him on the bed, not with any toys, just with my face and hands and voice, and his little smile lights up, and I feel connected to this marvelous little being who came into the world searching for that connection, to know I can give him just what he needs, everything I wanted as a kid (emotionally speaking), and just to feel the sweetness of it… It’s such an amazing thing. My mother was depressed when I was a baby, in a psychologically abusive marriage, and she did her best, but I’m in such a better place as a mom than she was. It’s so nice to be able to give what I couldn’t get.

A little part of me feels a wry kind of wistfulness, though, when I think how he doesn’t know the difference. He doesn’t know life could have been any different. It’s what he was wired to expect, it’s what he got, and so it’s like the sky being blue or sea level air pressure being 14.7 pounds per square inch. Just totally taken for granted to the point of being invisible.

And then when he turns into a whiny drama king because I simply want to put him in a crib for a nap or in another safe place so I can feed my damn self, I can think, “Dude, really?” I’m more or less an attachment parent, and I want to foster as much security as I can, which in the end I believe will lead to independence as well as inter-connectedness. I don’t think babies can be spoiled exactly, and I appreciate that my guy feels secure enough to be vocal about what he wants. And I don’t see any appealing alternatives. I do let Ali cry sometimes (for a matter of a couple minutes at a time, usually in his crib when I really need to set him down in a safe place for just a little while), but he looks so frightened and lost, I don’t think I could bear to let him “cry it out,” meaning cry until he had nothing left and then passed out from sheer exhaustion, and chalk it up to a victory in a battle of wills. Unless there was a seriously compelling need to do that, it’s not something I want to do.

But I do sometimes want to say, “Hey, man, I’m there for you more or less 24/7. Do you really think I’m abandoning you if I set you down for three minutes? Can you give me just a little more credit than that?”

I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that when babies are “giving you a hard time,” that’s not really what they’re doing. What they’re doing is having a hard time for a reason you just don’t understand yet. It’s so frustrating not understanding, though. I have a feeling there is a simple fix in there somewhere. I can’t wait ’til that kid can talk. I’m sure he can’t wait, either. The next book on my list is about baby sign language.

Meanwhile our dining room table and chairs arrived, and the high chair fits with it perfectly. It feels so civilized sitting down to an actual table to eat with a baby watching us and playing in his chair. Not eating yet, just joining the table so far with either a spoon or some little plastic cups to play with. We did try to give him one bit of zucchini, but he immediately dropped it in his lap and forgot about it. Still not quite ready for solids, but soon enough he’ll be smushing carrots in his hair…

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Travelin’ Man

I put a quilt on the living room floor so Ali can practice crawling, and he’s slowly figuring it out. He’ll do a full plank, then maybe lunge forward, then get on his belly and thrash his arms and kick his legs furiously in the air, then push up on his knees and scoot himself backwards. After a while he started getting up on hands and knees and trying to โ€œjumpโ€ forward on his knees. The โ€œone leg at a timeโ€ thing will come later, I suppose. It’s so cute to watch.

But then if there’s something he really wants — like the remote control instead of “just” a toy — suddenly he can inchworm / army crawl like a champ! (Still very slowly, though.)

In any case, the days of putting him somewhere not buckled or fully trapped while I use the bathroom are over…

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Upward dog, soon to be a plank

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This was just before he tried to “jump” forward on his knees

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Rocking back and forth on hands and knees, waiting for that “Eureka” moment to strike…

His sleeping continues to be erratic, with plenty of night wakings, often being too distracted to eat well during the day, and never, ever napping in his crib. This last one is scary for me, because while I can pile pillows around him to try to keep him from crawling off the bed, I’m sure he could navigate over or around them if he really wanted to. I’m not sure what to do when feeding him to sleep is the only way I can get him to nap lately. I guess I can start feeding him to sleep on the mattress on the floor in the play room. But I wish he’d just nap in his crib like he used to. That was so dang handy.

At night sometimes he wakes up simply because he’s flipped over onto his belly, and he’s not very good at flipping back the other way. But I have caught him sleeping on his belly a few times, which was initially alarming, but now it’s kind of comforting. I know he can handle it.

Meanwhile we’ve ordered a dining room table and chairs that we’re excited about, even though I wasn’t expecting to pay $480 for the set. I guess if we have it for years, it’ll come out in the wash, and it’s nice to have something you really enjoy if you’ll be using it literally every day. But between that, Ahmed’s new smartphone, the mattress, the couch, my contact lenses for the year, our twice-yearly auto insurance bill coming due (and paying our new renter’s policy for the year), my eye exam and new glasses, and higher rent, it’s starting to feel like an alarming hemorrhage of cash all at once.

This on top of our medical bills for the year, plus we need new tires pretty soon… and hey, a second car wouldn’t be a terrible idea. Sigh. It’s also kind of a bummer that our first new car is now a Frankenstein car after a deer took out the front of it and a hit-and-run asshole took out the back of it. I hope it’ll still last us a good long while.

We did get a $100 Graco high chair for just $15 from someone who lives close by. It’s pretty greasy and will need to be cleaned, but it looks like a solid choice. If not, we’ll sell it for $20 after cleaning it, haha. And we managed to get Ahmed’s trip to Turkey in November fully paid for with bonus miles when we paid the bulk of my medical bills with a new credit card. I’ll miss him when he’s gone, but it’ll be so nice for him to see his family, especially his nieces and nephews. It’s been way too long. At least three years. And it’ll be nice to spend some time in Stigler with my mom and step-dad. My mom is so dead gone on this kid. She’s been begging me to spend more time down there.

So, here’s hoping things settle down to a lovely even keel soon. All in all life is very good. The cat’s even started sleeping in his cat condo ๐Ÿ™‚

Five Sweet Months

Ali is five months old today. We met his granddad (my biological father) at Golden Corral to share a Sunday lunch, and Ali sat in his stroller, calm and watchful even as he got more tired and hungry as time went on. After a while he started making his little insistent “Mmmm, mmmm” sounds that mean he’s getting a little tired of whatever’s going on and would rather sleep or eat or generally do something else. (It takes a lot to make him actually cry these days. Mostly putting him in his crib unless he’s already passed out.)

So Ahmed got him out of the stroller and put him on his lap and let him feel his cold ice water glass and even lick the condensation a little. I asked Ahmed to hold Ali’s hands and brought a spoonful of banana pudding toward his nose to let him smell it, but he immediately opened his mouth and tried to gobble it up. It was so cute and funny. Probably he was just hungry and would have gone after anything (he puts everything in his mouth anyway), but then Ahmed asked if he should give him a tiny taste of the pudding, and I said OK, so he did. Ali took it right off the spoon and mashed it around in his mouth for a while and swallowed.

I’m sure we could have fed him more, but he’s still another few weeks from the recommended time to start solids. He really seems ready, though. Ahmed wants to start at least giving him finger foods to play with next weekend. It’ll help to have a high chair for that, not to mention a dining room table and chairs for us. We’ll see where we are in another week. I wonder if six months is really the magic number, or if seemingly ready babies can go for it a bit sooner without problems.

When we got home, we took his 5 month portrait.

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Not my best work, but he was tired and not really into it. And I think he looks like a tiny pimp in the second one. So it goes.

After that it was a bit frustrating because it may be the most gorgeous day of the year, and it’s the last chance I have to play soccer before the co-ed season starts, and I really need to both practice and get my conditioning in some kind of reasonable shape. Plus I was really looking forward to playing. Ahmed was all set to stay home with the boy.

But he was cranky and fussy, and it took us a little while to figure out that he was hungry. Because he eats all day. He just, apparently, doesn’t fill up. Every time it seems like things are on an even keel or he should sleep, he gets fussy and wants to eat again. I get it. It’s a big world and there’s lots to do. But it really puts a kink in my day, and this time it cost me valuable soccer time. (I told Ahmed to go on ahead, and he had a great game.) And that was after a night when he was up all hours for no particular reason, so I was already exhausted and a bit irritable myself.

Then after Ahmed left, I fed him to sleep and thought I’d get some things done, but he woke up minutes later and was a cranky-butt instead of going back to sleep while I was making dinner. Juggling a fussy baby, a stove, and an oven isn’t my idea of an awesome time. I’m amazed nothing burned. And of course I didn’t get anything else done at all. Finally I put the baby on his play mat — which was the same as putting him down in the crib or the bed as far as I was concerned except for the expectation of sleep (and having some toys around, I suppose) — and he was just fine.

This would all be so much easier if I wasn’t so sleep deprived myself. It’s so much easier to keep a sense of perspective and good humor when you’ve had some sleep.

But still, I’m pretty good about taking a deep breath even when things are a bit much. I still feel so amazed every day that I have a baby. I’m so lucky I get to be occasionally frustrated by this little guy. Exhaustion is nothing compared to despair.

At the same time, I do understand better now how people can move forward and have wonderful lives child free, even if not by choice. My son amazes me and I adore him, but he doesn’t “complete me” or “fill my soul up.” That work is still on me, not on him. The work was just so hard to do during the years I was on never-ending pins and needles.

I never in my life contemplated being child free, and luckily our trials came to an end after “only” five years, so I never had to contemplate it. But if I did, I like to think I’d have been able to find myself and my center again, whether or not I happened to be in charge of an initially helpless — and increasingly headstrong — human for 18 years. There are so many ways to experience being human and so many good things to do.

Parenthood definitely suits me, though, and our apartment is coming together more and more. All our pictures are up on the wall, which really helps it feel like home. The biggest thing we still lack is a couch. Ahmed ordered a section of a sectional as a risk-free trial, and it’ll take two weeks for that to get here, then it’ll take at least another two weeks for a whole couch to get here if we like it. The office chair and yoga ball set-up is getting pretty old. We don’t yet have a dining room table/chairs, either. Still eating on a TV tray. At least we have that extra mattress to lay around on when we want to read or computer. (And to do other things on that we haven’t done in a long time.) But it’ll be so nice when we finally get a dang couch ๐Ÿ™‚

Meanwhile I’m so glad I convinced my husband to replace his aging and ailing iPhone 4 with a Samsung Galaxy S9 both to make his life easier and to always have a wonderful camera / video recorder on hand to capture Ali’s childhood. Dad takes the best pictures!

 

Ali’s (Genetic) Sister!

I’ve been waiting and hoping for this day. I knew there was one other child from Ali’s batch of embryos — and apparently only one, as there are no more embryos left at the clinic and no more known births. There may have been a frozen transfer that’s still gestating, or other couples may simply not have reported their births, but my guess is the most likely scenario is that Ali just has one full genetic sibling.

And now I know it’s a little girl who looks just like him. His twin from another mother. She was born early and Ali was born late, so she’s his big sister!

I don’t want to reveal too many other details yet, as I don’t want to compromise the privacy of someone I’ve just (virtually) met without permission. But I’m so excited he will have easy access to that connection if he so wishes. What a unique bond they share!

The world seems just a little bit more full for my little guy.

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Up in the Trees

It has been a fractured and fragmented August with a major move looming for the first half and the actual move, buying new furniture, and settling in going on in the latter half. The move was utterly exhausting and took about four days, just me and Ahmed doing nearly all of it ourselves. We ended up getting rid of Ahmed’s big desk and our big white couch, and we still haven’t gotten a new couch. Just one office chair, folding chairs, and a yoga ball. At least we finally replaced our sagging mattress with a DreamCloud that so far is doing the job. It takes a while for your physiology to adjust to a new mattress, so the jury is still out.

The new place feels twice as big as the old one, even though it’s only about 150% as big — nearly 1,000 square feet. The living room and “dining room” are all one big space, and we have lofted ceilings. Plus, since we are on the third floor and facing straight into the top half of two trees (an oak and a pine), we have total privacy and can keep the windows open 24/7. It makes such a difference. The trees also provide some relief from the western sun, and in the winter the oak will denude itself and let that warmth in again.

We’re now sharing my small desk, and it seems to be working out so far. I can have it during the day and Ahmed can use it at night if he wants to play a game or whatever. Of course, when we get a couch, we’ll probably go back to doing most of our computering there, for better or worse.

The biggest drawback is that even though we face west, we don’t have much of a sunset view because there are buildings to our right that block the sunset horizon. Straight on and to the left, the view is expansive and green, all the way to the river.

Another strange thing is that the master bedroom window looks onto the public deck right outside our front door. We can actually see the outside of our front door from the bed. There’s no reason for anyone to be on that deck unless they’re here to visit, solicit, do maintenance, or deliver / pick up a package, but that’s reason enough to keep the blinds down while I’m breastfeeding in bed, which is kind of a bummer. The view out of that window is particularly pretty. I’m thinking of getting some “privacy film” to put on the window that will block the view from the outside but not the inside.

Having two walk-in closets is pretty great, because one can just be used for storage while the other can actually function as a walk-in closet. Having two bathrooms is also delightful because we’re finally not sharing a bathroom with a smelly cat box! My mom came to visit a few days this week, and she had her own bedroom and her own bathroom to work with. (After our new mattress was delivered, our old mattress became the guest room bed / play room jumping area, just laid down on the floor. It sleeps great as long as there’s only one person on it sleeping on the hump in the middle. Less great when two people have to sleep in the craters on either side.)

Our appliances are slightly more modern, too.

Whether because of the move or some other obscure reason, Ali suddenly hates napping in his crib again. 80% of the time during the day, if I put him in it, he’ll get all weepy and whiny like I’m abusing him. I have to feed him to sleep on our bed and pile pillows around him to keep him from rolling off, though it’s still not much of a danger yet. He can roll from his back to his tummy, but then he’s stuck. He can’t figure out how to get his elbows out of the way to roll the other way. He’s still getting up 2-3 times a night to feed, and some nights he also wakes me up when he rolls over onto his belly and needs help getting on his back again. I guess he hasn’t figured out that belly sleeping is a thing.

The fractured sleep is really getting old and starting to affect my mind. Like my brain needs some serious defragging. There are days I don’t quite feel safe to drive. If I have to drive, I’m very conservative, avoiding highways, paying close attention, and following pretty far behind othe cars. I’m hoping the new mattress, at least, will improve things.

It’s so exciting, though, that in less than 6 weeks, we’re gonna start feeding Ali food other than milk! He’ll still get most of his nutrition from milk, but what fun he’ll have gnawing on carrot sticks and licking apple sauce off his fingers. We plan on doing baby led weaning, which makes sense to me evolutionarily, psychologically, physically, and safety-wise. After all, monkey mamas never spoon-fed their babies purees, and babies love doing things for themselves when they can. It helps them learn and it’s more fun. It also seems safer. If they’re in control of what goes in their mouth, when, and how much, it seems they’ll be less likely to choke as well as more likely to see food as something fun and non-threatening. A joy instead of a chore. (Would you want someone poking things into your mouth that you couldn’t look at, touch, or identify?)

Breastfeeding has been a bit of a chore lately, though, because he’s so easily distracted. He pops off the nipple if anyone enters the room, leaves the room, makes a noise, if the cat wanders by, or if he just decides he needs to suck his fingers for exactly 6.5 seconds before turning back to the boob. Every time he does that, it abrades the nipple a little bit, and it’s so incredibly annoying. It makes feeding take that much longer, and it also means I have to feed him more often, because he doesn’t always keep going until he’s full. Just until he’s full enough for the moment. I know he’s not trying to annoy me. He just has things to see, learn, and do. I hope the baby ADHD calms down a little at some point, but I have a feeling it’s just gonna get worse, haha.

So freaking cute, though!

Yesterday I babysat a friend’s toddler for about five hours, and my goodness, those hours went by so slowly! The little guy was super sweet and pretty good at listening, but he was still a toddler, which meant he wanted to push every button and flip every switch and go out on the balcony — and then come back in — for five or six minutes at a time, at least 15 times. It’s super hot and humid out there, and there’s just one chair. Of course he wanted it, until I squatted down by the wall, then he wanted me to move so he could squat down in that spot. Then he’d look at one page of a book, or make me read two pages of another book, or want to play catch with a tennis ball, or shove a plastic giraffe in my face and say, “Moo!” So it went, five hours going by in endless 5-minute increments (talk about ADHD!) in which I barely got to sit at all.

And, of course, I still had Ali, who wasn’t always thrilled to be dragged from one room to another to another to another, or to be left inside while we went out on the veranda, and who wanted to eat and nap and couldn’t always get either one in a timely manner. Never mind mama wanting to eat or nap. Good luck with that! I don’t know if I’ve ever been so exhausted. I know that having two kids (inshallah) will be tiring, too, but at least I’ll have some time to ramp up into it, and I’ll know both kids and their habits and their limits, and they’ll know mine. Ya know? Caring for other kids, especially for the first time, is so different from caring for your own.

We’re going to wait until we get a couch and a dining room table / high chair, and make sure we have all the furniture where we want it, before hanging things up on the walls. So it all still feels a little bare and like we’re camping out in a way. But we’re well on our way to making this place our home for the next 4+ years or so (I certainly don’t want to move again until Ali is at least 5 and the next kid is out of diapers), and it’s a good feeling. Between the river and the park and the pool and a lovely play room, I feel like it’s a pretty good set up for a little family. And the kitchen has so much more space and storage than our last one, we hardly know what to do with all the extra room! Mom did buy us a coffeemaker, so that’s a nice touch. It’s nice to be able to pre-heat the oven without having to take two baking sheets and a baking dish out of the oven first and having nowhere to put them. Moving on up in the world ๐Ÿ™‚

The cat is kind of a pain, though. We let him scratch the carpet in the other place until it was bald in places (we knew the carpet would be replaced as soon as we were out anyway) and though I tried valiantly to stop him, he managed to scratch the hell out of our couch, too. Even though there was a perfectly good scratching post right next to the couch.

In the new place I’m trying to crack down harder on the carpet-scratching, which seems to baffle the cat. And if he wants to wake me up at night, he knows scratching the carpet will have me jumping out of bed instantly, the little bastard, though I never reward him at these times with food. We got him a beautiful new cat condo thing, which he hasn’t gone near as far as we can tell. He prefers to spend all day either under the bed or under the TV stand, which we placed where we placed it to keep the cat and the kid out of the fireplace — but still I find sooty paw prints on the windowsills sometimes. Sigh.

It’s going to get even more harrowing when we get a couch. I anticipate a battle royale that I am going to lose ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I’ve also been a little worried about Ali’s tendency to clench his elbows at his sides. My pediatrician off-handedly suggested I take him to a baby physical therapist to see if he may need a neuro screening. Of course I started googling, which led me to things like “hypertonia” and “cerebral palsy.” I took a little screening quiz with an early intervention program, and they called and said he seems mostly normal and it’s probably best at this point just to wait and see. I feel somewhat less worried now. He’s just so bright and aware and sweet and active. And kind of intense sometimes. He’s always doing proto-sit-ups (shallow crunches?), like he wants so badly to join the vertical world. And he jumps like a little maniac in his jungle jumperoo. I think he’s doing just fine.

Four Months, Return to Soccer!

Ali turned four months old yesterday, doddering old man that he is, and I happened to have another baby all day, babysitting a friend’s foster daughter who’s almost 3 months old. Her name is Allie. Ali and Allie. I think they were meant to meet. She guest starred in his official 4 month portrait.

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Another big milestone: I played soccer tonight (Friday, Aug 10) for the first time in more than a year. My stamina was shot to hell — I could barely amble around the pitch without getting winded — but I scored two goals and made a couple of assists as well. It was just a low-key 3 on 3 pick-up game, but even so, I did much better than I expected I would. I’m not sure how it’ll translate to full-field 11 on 11, which is all about the long sprints. I might just have to play conservative defense or something and gradually build up my aerobic fitness.

Ahmed was planning on playing in the over 30 men’s league this fall, but unfortunately today his ankle hurt him whenever he kicked the ball more toward the toes. It breaks my heart and really puts a damper on the day. He’s not sure if he’ll ever play again, or how to find out, or what to do. He hasn’t maxed out his insurance already, so any physical therapy would be out of pocket for us, and that’s if it would do any good, which is unknown. At best it seems he’s out another season. At worst, this could affect him for life. It really makes me sick that that jerk-face assaulted him on the field. It wasn’t “just a foul.” It was some psychopath who found a way to get away with assault. He came close to breaking my husband’s ankle, on a ball he knew he was going to lose, in an over 30 rec league game. That kind of thing just shouldn’t happen.

Ali had a tough day all around today. I had to wake him from his first nap of the day to take him to a doctor’s appointment. He pooped on the way, and I had to change him on one of those hard public restroom changing tables, which he really really hated. Then I had to put him in his little giraffe sit-up chair while I got an ultrasound on my thyroid gland (just making sure there are no worrying nodes, a follow-up from a marginal finding two years ago), and he didn’t like that much, either, because he couldn’t see me while I was on the table.

Finally got home, and I was making lunch and put him in his pooping chair so he could watch me, then I had to pee, so I went to the bathroom. While I was there he started this weird screamy cry, like he was panicking about something, not super loud by oddly distressed. I’d never heard him cry like that. I wondered if the cat had scared him or something.

When I got to him, he was out of his chair and lying face-down in front of it, sideways to the chair, doing his “superman” thing with his arms, legs, and face pulled up from the ground, pathetically scream-crying away. God I felt awful. I picked him up and held him to my shoulder, and he seemed to calm down right away, even smiling, then suddenly he started scream-crying again, and I just held him and held him until he did calm down a bit, then I fed him and he seemed just fine.

But Jesus. I still feel awful. I just hadn’t thought of him powering his way out of that chair, but in hindsight, of course he was strong enough to do it. From now on I’ll have to buckle him in any time I put him in that chair. I guess after all these months, it just became a habit to plop him in there. But I need to keep ahead of his development, not endanger him by playing catch-up.

A bit later on my dad came for a visit and woke Ali up from his next nap. He stayed good-natured the whole time, but pretty soon it was clear he was both hungry and tired (he’s apparently going through a growth spurt, just eating non-stop), so I went in the bedroom and fed him a little, enough that I hoped he’d nap for a while, but “a while” turned out to be just a few minutes before he woke up grumbling for food again. My dad finally took his leave, and I fed us both into a nice nap before Ahmed came home.

Ali was in great spirits on the way to the soccer game, and everyone was remarking how chill he was. After about an hour he was ready for a nap, but he’s really bad at napping anywhere but his crib these days (or in my lap), and being outside was just too exciting. Ahmed and I took turns watching him, but he just wouldn’t nod off to sleep. Then the hunger started creeping in. He was still OK until we got into the car, annoyed but not insistent, but once he was strapped in his car seat, he let me know how unhappy he was. It was kind of funny, these yells mixed with grumbling — a much more manly type of complaining than babyish crying. But once again I felt like crap, making him wait for food and sleep and being unable to explain why.

Finally got home and fed him good and he passed right out. I hope he can forgive us for days like this!

I really do love that kid more every single day. It just kills me sometimes. He’s so perfect. He’s still a stranger in a way because his humanity still has so much emerging to do. Other than very basic things, I don’t know his likes and dislikes, his opinions, his talents, his quirks, his personality. It’s all there waiting to unfold. Right now I just know he’s sweet and beautiful, easygoing but eventually (and understandably) annoyed when the basics of his life are withheld from him, cuddly but able to entertain himself well, good with strangers but doesn’t like loud noises, especially when he’s already a bit overstimulated.

It’s not much of a list, but it grows thrillingly day by day, and meanwhile his tiny hands are just so perfect, his strong little upper arms that I can enclose in one hand, his ever-kicking feet, his utterly disarming smile, and most of all his wise and dewy eyes, like a fawn or a baby seal. It feels like such an honor to have them look upon me at all, these shiny new windows from heaven, and to be his mother? How is it possible?

When I was babysitting Allie, I was thinking how hard it would have been to have twins but also how sad it is that Ali lost his twin so early. How in a way it feels there is a baby missing. How nice it would be for Ali to have a biological sibling his own age. How beautiful that other baby would have been.

But I guess by definition it wasn’t meant to be. And now Ali has us all to himself, at least for a couple of years. He gets our gleeful devotion but also our learning curves, mistakes, and foibles. (We all just smile like idiots when he farts. Farts feel good, and we have a baby, and he’s farting, and all is well in the world.) So far he seems like a happy boy who’s also not afraid to voice his opinion when he’s annoyed. We just love him so much, whoever he is. How did we get so lucky?

UPDATE (Aug 14): It was again heartbreaking to get Ali’s shots and watch his little face crumple with the unexpected sting of it and let him bury his face in my shoulder while he cried and screamed until he (hopefully) forgot what he was crying about. He’s been fine ever since, just eating and sleeping a lot. There’s definitely some kind of growth spurt going on. He’s been a bit fussy and clingy lately, too, and reversed his sleeping through the night after only a few blessed days. Wonder Week? Sleep regression? Who knows? But we’re here for it, whatever he needs to feel secure as he grows.

He’s 14 pounds 8 oz now, which is somewhere around the 30th percentile depending on which scale you use. His head is 41.1 cm, which is roughly 25th percentile. And his height — 26.5 inches — is 93rd percentile. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a string bean!

UPDATE (Aug 15): Yeah, a sleep regression is hitting us pretty hard. The nights before and after his vaccinations, it was suddenly a battle for sleep at night. Until then, even him getting up three times a night wasn’t so bad, because I could just feed him back to sleep. But now when I try to put him back in the crib, he wakes up and fusses and sometimes even yells or cries. It can be a long chore to get him back to sleep, and sometimes absolutely nothing will do but being back in bed with us. (Or I’m just too tired to keep bending over his crib.) He’s still cluster feeding, too. So it goes!

Little Extrovert?

Ali did AMAZING at my Grandma’s 90th birthday celebration. (Since my mom has become Grandma to her grandkids, my Grandmother is called Old Grandma by her great-grandkids, but I still just call her Grandma.) At least 50 people were there, and Ali was passed around and loved on for two full hours, and he just lapped it all up. Never a whimper. Maybe because it was inside with air conditioning and there wasn’t a long, hot car ride to get there. Maybe he sensed he was among family. Or maybe he’s just growing up and realizing crowds aren’t so bad after all.

Here’s 12 of Grandma’s 20 great-grandkids:

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Before the big event, we took some of the balloons and tied them to Ali’s arms and one of his legs. He didn’t really seem to get what was going on, but then we’d tickle him and he’d move his arms and legs and seemed to enjoy the movement and colors. I think it’ll be more fun when he’s a bit older!

He napped after the party, then he was up and ready to go for much of the rest of the evening. His cousins are so crazy about him, and they made him laugh and smile so much. It’s almost too much to take in sometimes. Such a big group of good-natured boys.

Around Ali’s usual bedtime (9pm) I fed him and he seemed to zonk completely out. I left him on the bed in my old bedroom upstairs with pillows on either side to prevent him from rolling out, with plans to check on him every 20 minutes. At the 20 minute mark he was still dead asleep.

Next thing I knew, my sister in law was bringing him down screaming. Apparently right after I left (maybe because of the noise of the door shutting), he woke up and managed to pull part of the bamboo changing table cover over his head. I sleep on the cover and nurse him on it to keep any milk leaks off the sheet and mattress. It’s a really light thing and he was in no danger, but it scared him. I’m so glad she happened by. I felt (and still feel) so horrible for putting him in that situation. We’re not used to having him more than one room away from us. I guess we’ll have to get a baby monitor just for Mom’s house.

But as usual he bounced back quickly, good-natured and calm again in no time, and then he only woke up once to feed in the night.

On the car ride home he slept most of the way, was entertained part of the way, and then finally started fussing and crying right around the time we got to the grocery store to stock up for the week before the last leg home. Night and day compared to last time. He’s really growing up fast.

Then that night (August 5), for the first time ever, he slept almost 11 hours straight! Must have been tired out from the weekend. The next night he got up only once, around 1:30am. This hasn’t yet translated to me getting much more sleep, because he still stirs pretty frequently at night, and I wake up and lay there listening to him to see if he’ll drop back to sleep or go ahead and wake up and want to eat. But I can see a strong light ahead in my long, dark sleep tunnel.

He continues to roll over now and then, mostly when we’re not looking, and he tends to have a hard time getting his arm unstuck from under him. But this morning I woke up and saw him doing push-ups in his crib.

He noticed thunder for the first time today. In general he’s easily distracted while breastfeeding. With any unexpected noise, he’ll pop off the boob and look at me as if to say, “Hey, mama, what the hell is that?” I’ll calmly explain to him whatever it is, and he’ll seem satisfied and go back to his milk.

Just before my Grandma’s big day, my friend Emily was in town for her father’s birthday, and Ali absolutely loved her. It was so nice to see her and introduce her to the fruit of my loins. She’s good people.

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