Dispatch from the Other Side

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…and here we are, the three of us, emerging with spring out of our shell and out of our personal war story.

They say to nap while the babe naps, but sleep eludes me, and capturing moments in text seems the only logical thing to do.

I should start by saying this: I called my friend who is due with her first baby in a week and a half, and I said to her: “Carrie, I am so excited for you!”

There—I said it!! Can you believe it? I can’t quite.

I have ventured over to the Members Only club of parenthood, one that rouses emotion that had been hiding in toenails, perhaps, or the farthest molars. One that compels you to get up yet again to feed the hungry monkey and to nibble on toes that curl every time you kiss them. It is sickingly joyful.

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In the few moments we’ve had to debrief, to relive, to reminisce about the first–let’s call it challenging, shall we?–week, N asked me if I would do it again. I unflappingly said Yes. Which is odd, considering what I endured and my slow road to healing. Considering I have never liked babies.

But my baby, well, that is a different story.

I’m in the middle of typing up the story that was the eventful arrival of Luka Lee, and perhaps one day I’ll share that madness here. But before I forget all the hands that held us up that first week, I must give a WAT WAT to our Village.

It is true what they say, about a village and a child, and I must blink several times and shake my head fiercely when I think about the amazing village that has surrounded us in the short amount of time we’ve lived here.

There is the FarMor (father’s mother) who has washed and folded more of my panties than I’d care to count, and held LL so N and I could get some real shut-eye.

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There are the heaps of friends who have cooked, baked, delivered full meals.

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There are the long-distance Grandma and Grandpa who have relished in the latest addition to the Kitchens clan and made me feel like this is their first grandchild rather than their fifth! (This, despite two trips to the hospital for them!!)

A been-there-done-that sister who texts daily baby advice and sends needed baby goods via priority mail.

There are the school folk and friends delivering first Easter baskets and heaps of Goodwill.

Long-distance friends who have listened to our birth story and its aftershocks and assured me, No, it’s not supposed to be quite that challenging.

I am certain that N, LL nor I would have survived that first week without this Village. To Mom, Dad, Jess, Brita, Lara, Amanda, Kerri, Anna, Carrie and Craig, Julie, Phoebe and Jonathon, and to those who I am forgetting due to lack of sleep. All of you saw us through. We are indebted and hope to return the favor.

For all my ambivalence and un-excitedness leading up to Luka’s birth, I am thrilled to be here. To cuddle up at night with this little guy. I am eager to point out to him his first eagle, to take him on his first hike up Little Mountain, to watch him gaze at his first snowfall up Highway 20.

One of my favorite quotes is from Into the Wild, where Alexander Supertramp writes: Happiness is only real when shared.

What a glorious thing, then, that I have two kindred boys with whom to share my joy.

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Up, Up and Away!

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I take pea planting pretty seriously. They are one of the first seeds you can  put in the ground, they germinate fairly quickly and yield one of my favorite fresh, off-the-vine experiences.

Since we’ve moved into our house we have relied on scraps, dead tree limbs–okay, crap–to erect a pea trellis. Most years the sugar snap peas, which grow 5-6 feet, crawl to the top of the trellis, shout a quick What The Hell? and then fall limply back to the earth.

Looks a bit Pirates of the Caribbean, no?

Looks a bit Pirates of the Caribbean, no?

I have had visions of a proper pea trellis for years.

Guess what?! If you can grow your partner a whole human being, he will likely try to make all your gardening dreams come true. (But to be fair, my partner in crime has been bringing my crazy gardening dreams to life since 2008, sans any gestation on my part. Perhaps he knows that he owes me that much?)

Two weeks ago I said, “Honey! I’d like an arched pea trellis. Out of chicken wire. Between two beds. And it’s time to plant the peas. Like last week!” Close mouth. Smile. Smile. Smile. Rub the baby belly to remind him of my 9-month task.

And of course, because he is the brains and the engineer and the one who actually executes shit around here, he had all kinds of questions and points of clarification and realistic expectations to rain on my pea trellis. (Well, sure honey, all the chicken wire is coated in toxic zinc which will likely enter our food steam and thus body and probably kill us, but won’t the trellis look awesome? And that is where I picture an arch of blooming pea flowers and green pods hanging like candy ready to be eaten fresh–toxic–from the vine.)

The Home Depot trip takes three times longer than expected (why I don’t expect this now is beyond me) because we (he) compares everything and ends up finding some wire that works 100 times better at a fraction of the cost. (This is why he is the executor.)

One evening after work, we erected our pea trellis. I am happy to say that unlike years past, this one does not involve bailing twine, dead tree limbs or resemble a pirate ship. It’s embarrassing how delighted–nay, excited (there’s that word you all want me to use!)–this trellis makes me. Giddy with anticipation.

Pea trellis

The peas are on the same gestation plan I am, methinks: t minus a week or so till sprouting. I can picture me drinking my first glass of long-awaited chardonnay, with a little critter wrapped up closely to my chest, under the flowery blossoms of pea shoots.

In my visions, the peas are prolific and smell so good that I don’t even notice the soiled diaper.

Face the Sun

The last two weeks have created “The Rage,” as my teaching friend and I like to deem it. The last two weeks spurred this almost-blog entry (okay, well now it is a blog entry):

Skimming blogs and Facebook, one might be led to believe that every one’s life is hunky dory, 24/7. That every recipe tested comes out Saveur Magazine worthy, every event, Martha Stewart-esque. Slate Magazine published a great article on “the human habit of overestimating other peoples’ happiness.”

Libby Copeland gets it right in that article when she argues: “Any parent who has posted photos and videos of her child on Facebook is keenly aware of the resulting disconnect from reality, the way chronicling parenthood this way creates a story line of delightfully misspoken words, adorably worn hats, dancing, blown kisses. Tearful falls and tantrums are rarely recorded, nor are the stretches of pure, mind-blowing tedium. We protect ourselves, and our kids, this way; happiness is impersonal in a way that pain is not. But in the process, we wind up contributing to the illusion that kids are all joy, no effort.” 

Lest you think that all my Pacific Northwest days are sunny, that they all end with perfectly funky raised beds, happy marital grins and savory soups and scones, let me let you in on a secret:

Sometimes my life sucks too.

Sometimes my hair thins.
Frequently I despise my job.
I have to work hard at my baby marriage.
I found a free bed frame and sanded it and painted it and it came out looking like ballet-pink vomit and it’s sitting, purposefully ignored, in my basement.
I can’t always zen out while picking and cleaning spinach or washing dishes again.
Some weeks I come home from school and sit on my ass, eat Ben and Jerry’s. All week long.
I freeze the recipes that come out tasting like cardboard or dirt, in hopes that N will unknowingly take them to work and take them away.

And…drum roll, please…

It’s okay. While looking for an old recipe from Ashley Rodriguez’s beautiful Not Without Salt blog, I saw this post, which almost brought me to tears. Her honesty, her hardship felt so human. I adored her even more for her struggles. For seeing them through. I watch my neighbors, both thirty-something-year-old public school teachers with a ten-month old and a three year old, and I see them melt into pools on their porch Friday afternoons. I know that one of my wonderful former teaching buddies suffers from a chronic disease and yet still wins teaching awards, and should win Mother of the Year and Friend of the Century. I look around and I see that our lives are challenging. Not in a bad way, mind you, but in a oh-my-gosh-I-know-that-this-professor-is-going-to-turn-into-a-werewolf-right-now-and-I-can-save-my-friend-if-I-can-just-force-my-friend-to-let-me-break-the-code-of-using-the-time-travel-watch kind of challenge. (1,339,276,299 points for a Prisoner of Azkaban reference, right? And yes, thank you for asking, I am on book four.)

I think society makes us–me–feel like it’s complaining if we share our struggle. In this idealized world of perfect Hawaiian sunset photos, perfectly coiffed brides, perfectly raised souffles, I think it’s important to remember that we are human. That we make mistakes. We have to work hard for the good things in life and encounter struggle frequently. And that each day, we have to pick ourselves up, make a decision to keep fighting on, and pull off another day. They won’t all be pretty. Up here, the trumpeter swans will not always create alphabet letters across a tangerine-dyed sky. Not all my seeds will sprout. It’s good to remind ourselves that we don’t live in the adorable Storybrook Lane, where our lives fold up neatly and can be tucked away for the night.

Messy is good. Imperfection is necessary.

My hesitation in posting this was not that I second-guessed myself, it was that I couldn’t get my ass in gear to find all the necessary links it HAD TO HAVE to go live. (No, I don’t have an ounce of anal-retentiveness!)
But yesterday, in the middle of one of those days where you work and laugh and love so hard it makes your belly ache, I made a giant discovery while staring, boozed-up, into the eyes of my fava bean and daffodil flowers:

Face the sun.

It’s that easy. These flowers and plants could have all chosen to pirouette, attempted to set flowers on the north-facing side of their stem. And they would have wilted. Mother Nature is one savvy chick: she doesn’t even give them a choice; the plants just set their flowers on the side that provides the most light. Every. Last. One of ’em. Without fail.
So, I’ve made a conscious decision: I’m going to face the sun. It’s where beauty blooms.

Rain Falling on the Sunshine

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”… “It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
Margaret Atwood

Garlic and spinach and beets, oh joy!

The beds and the boy who raised them

“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
Pablo Neruda

Daffodil Whispers to Crocus