Sunday, January 28, 2007

Four Months Old

Today, Anna Sophia is four months old -- by the calendar. She's a bit older in lunar months. But we seem to have lost track of weeks, and so lunar months as well. We know for sure that winter has arrived, because it is making it harder to traipse about with stroller and baby. Sometimes, the snow slows us, sometimes the wind that steals baby's breath.

It would be impossible to chronicle all that Anna has learned in her first four months. By the time we register one learning or one change, she's striving for the next.

She now tracks the cat's movements in fascination and adoration and has, a few times, petted her fur quite gently. The cat, in turn, sniffs Anna up close and jumps over her head when she's playing on the floor. Every day, though, there's more reaching, and you can see the wheels turn in Anna's head: "I want to chase that cat." And in Moon's head: "I want to be chased, as long as I can move faster than whatever is chasing me."

This morning, Anna's dad and I took her upstairs for the whole morning, a change of scenery she seemed to enjoy, albeit from the comfort and safety of her playpen (politically correctly renamed as a "play yard"). She looked at her dad's new painting, with approval, and she probably swallowed four months' worth of her peck of dirt. We haven't spent a whole morning together upstairs since Anna was born, and we mostly had to vacuum the wood floors up there, which we also have not done since she was born.

Now that she knows she can turn herself over, she doesn't bother to try very often. Instead, she is putting her energy into trying to sit up. If you lie her down on an upward tilt, on your lap or any other surface, she strains to lift herself upright. And if you set her down sitting up already, she smiles and smiles -- though we set her up sitting in her "play yard" this morning and she stretched forward as far as she could (paschimottanasana in yoga), fell onto her belly, then flipped onto her back. She was ricocheting more than causing the flips through her own effort, but we praised her anyway.

When she's getting changed, Anna now likes to immobilize the parent who is changing her by hanging on to one of our arms with her bare feet and holding on to the other with her hands. She then tries to eat our sleeves.

There is no adjustment of pipes that will turn off her faucet of drool these days. No washer we can install. Her fingers and thumb are constantly in her mouth, and any slackness in her sleepers gets yanked on so she can get as much fabric as possible to suck on. Her cheeks are also starting to redden up. These are all signs of teething. Stephen likes to tell Anna (while she watches, transfixed, as we brush our teeth) that if she had taken better care of her teeth, she'd still have them.

I have a strong suspicion that Anna's teething process will be as long and drawn out as her birth -- a sign here, a sign there for weeks and weeks -- then a big, painful production. I've warned her that she can't reasonably opt to have her baby teeth surgically extracted from her gums.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Crazy Going Slowly Am I

It's amazing how often, in thinking about Anna Sophia, the words that spring into my mind are that I'm "absolutely crazy about this baby." And it's equally amazing how infrequently I stop to reflect on the presence of "crazy" in my phrase-of choice. But there's little doubt that there's a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of insanity thrown into love for a pre-verbal infant.

We're very lucky. According to everyone, we have a "good baby." Also according to everyone, we have a baby who is very clear in her communications about what she wants and what she needs, preverbal or not. But "everyone" is not as attuned to the particularities of Anna's emerging personality. And "everyone" isn't spending a ridiculous number of hours a day at home, cut off from intellectual endeavours, with nothing analytical to do except to dissect those particularities.

In other words, it's impossible to avoid a certain amount of obsessiveness. It's impossible not to go a little bit crazy about the baby. My obsession, when it gets the better of me, fixates on Anna's objections to eating the amount that most babies her age, weight, and activity level would eat. She's only four to six ounces a day under the average, and "everyone" is again right to observe that she's thriving, strong, and extremely busy and alert. Still, there are weirdnesses in her food choices.

The weirdest thing is that no matter what time she wakes in the morning, no matter how hungry she is when she wakes, she absolutely will not eat more than ten or eleven ounces before noon. If she wakes with an empty belly at 4:30, she still won't eat again until 10:30 or 11:00. If she sleeps the sleep of the just until 7:00 a.m., same thing. This means that if she doesn't eat enough on Monday, she can't make up for it by eating more on Tuesday, because the number of hours in any given day always turns out to be finite, and her ability to stay awake is equally finite, and she'd prefer to sleep than eat almost any time.

Most days, she eats enough. But if she's equally tired and hungry on a particularly busy day, the tiredness will almost always win, and she'll go to sleep with too little food in her belly.

I know she won't starve herself, but the day after she has eaten too little always goes badly, and no amount of rational discussion about changing her feeding schedule seems to persuade her to eat a little bit more to even out her eating. Hence, obsession.

For all of those who suggested I should calm down about her food intake over the weekend, thanks, and of course I'm fine by today. But Monday with a hungry and restive baby (after Sunday with an over-tired and unwilling-to-eat baby) was not an easy day.

I have almost always let go my obsession of the week by Wednesday evening, after a coffee with other moms with babes ranging in age from three to ten months. Collectively, we've been through it all. Each baby has his or her own crazy-making features and his or her own joys, and all of these are fun to share and are inherently reassuring. Today, rather than coffee at a coffee shop, we got together at a mom's house -- ten little people. Some stander-uppers, some sitter-uppers, some lyer-downers, some crawl-arounders. As they circulated and watched each other and ate and spit up and farted, we could all see that our obsessions were futile.

Anna, still a lyer-arounder but fascinated by crawlers and stander-uppers, particularly enjoyed lying on her back, kicking vigorously, watching the other babies with her wide, wide eyes. She made a sincere effort to lick or chew anyone or anything who came into range. And if they stayed just out of range, she gently patted them on the leg, or the arm, or the bum, or whatever part presented itself. I did not offer her any food, so she did not have to yell at me that I was ruining everything. She did not need to spit it out or refuse to swallow it. And, in the course of the afternoon, she did not starve to death.

Anna has had issues with food since she was born, and this is why I worry. I still find it hard to accept sometimes that she couldn't breastfeed and I couldn't provide food for her from my body instead of from a tinny-tasting can full of sucrose, soy, sunflower oil, and vitamins.

Stephen, on the other hand, puts forward the perfectly reasonable proposition that Anna might just have his appetite and metabolism rather than mine. And he won't eat before noon, either. Between Anna and Stephen and "everyone" else, I'm clearly outnumbered. I might just have to find something more productive to fixate on.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Stuff and Nonsense

Last week, Anna did manage, finally, to roll over. She rolled over twice from her belly to her back (Thursday, I think) and soon was able to do it proficiently enough to be captured by camera. She rolled over once from her back to her belly, but I missed this. I was peeling five pounds of potatoes for the family brunch in her honour and only heard the shriek of surprise when she found herself stranded on her tummy. I took a picture of her on her belly in the middle of the kitchen floor. Anticlimactic, but still worthy of applause.

Anna still can't call up the ability to roll over at will -- she's still catching on to the theory of momentum and finds rolling easier when she's on her blanket on a folded yoga mat. She works her way to the edge, and hey presto she's upside down or upside right in no time.

Last night, Stephen and I decided to stay up late for the first time in yonks, and Anna decided to wake twice through the night for the first time, like, ever. Today, we were all tired. While Anna took a long nap, I read her Tarot cards, where there were few surprises. The cards said she's daddy's girl but is more insecure about her mother's affections. She's very independent and intuitive and influenced by her environment. She is frustrated at the delays in reaching her goals at present. In her future, she feel pulled between romantic attraction to the raffish and the rational, but she will seek harmony in love above all and will love the world she discovers through her senses. Of course, the final card basically said, much will be revealed later, I'm only a baby.

Hmm. My hope in writing this post was to seem less flaky as a mom than the earth welcoming might have portrayed me to be. Perhaps revealing that I read my baby's Tarot cards while she's napping is the wrong strategy?

Anna's music pick for this week is the Our Power Solar Compilation, featuring a great acoustic track by those In-Flight Safeties and a new favourite by Great Aunt Ida. Guaranteed to put baby to sleep in eight tracks or less, and all for a good cause.

Of course, we're beginning to wonder about Anna's musical taste, considering that when she's fussy, the only thing that settles her is her parents' singing Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" as a duet, with vocalizations of the guitar riffs. [*shudder*]

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Earth Welcoming

Our families are Roman Catholic, and, sadly, the Catholic initiation of babies is inadequate to baby girls who would like to live and grow on the earth. Among other things, it lacks connection to the earth and soil. For another, it rejects women's leadership.

For our Anna Sophia, we asked a special gift: a more inclusive welcoming liturgy to help her be welcomed into the community of people of all faiths and no faiths who similarly seek justice, wisdom, and compassion. We asked my aunt, Genevieve Mullally, and she enlisted the help of her husband, Peter Mullally, and their friend Pauline Dalton to create an Earth Welcoming for Anna Sophia, which her family shared in this morning. Here is the liturgy they created.

Earth Welcoming for Anna Sophia
January 14, 2007

Welcome and introduction
[One special part of the welcome was that we lit a candle for Anna Sophia, floated in a bowl of water that brought together water from the book where Anna's mom's family played and fished and the lily pond where her dad's family played.]

Song: "O Beautiful Gaia" (Gaia, a Greek word for earth)

In the recesses of our being we hear the call…the first and deepest call…
the call of Earth, through water and wind, forest and farmland, inviting
us to become one again with all that lives. We are called home
to our place within the Earth community. We are called on, into the
ongoing relatedness of creation.
(Copied from Song Lyrics booklet from the CD O Beautiful Gaia)

O Beautiful Gaia, O Gaia calling us home,
O beautiful Gaia, calling us on.

Fraîche rosée du matin, O Gaia tu nous appelles
Fraîche rosée du matin, rentrons chez nous.

Soil yielding its harvest, O Gaia calling us home
Soil yielding its harvest, calling us on.

Waves crashing on granite, O Gaia calling us home
Pine bending in windstorm, calling us on.

Loon nesting in marshland, O Gaia calling us home,
Loon nesting in marshland, calling us on.

Repeat 1st verse.

Reading: "The Four Elements"
(adapted from a reflection by John Seed and Joanna Macy in Earth Prayers)

What are you? What am I? Intersecting cycles of water, earth, air and fire, that’s what I am, that’s what you are.

Water: blood, lymph, mucus, sweat, tears, inner oceans tugged by the moon, tides within and tides without. Streaming fluids floating our cells, washing and nourishing through endless riverways of gut and vein and capillary. You are that. I am that.

Earth: matter made from rock and soil. Earth pours through us, replacing each cell in the body every seven years. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we ingest, incorporate and excrete the earth, are made from the earth. I am that. You are that.

Air: the gaseous realm, the atmosphere, the planet’s membrane. The breathing in, the breathing out. Breathing out carbon dioxide to the plants, breathing in oxygen that keeps each of our cells awake. The dance of the air cycle, breathing the universe in and out again. That is what you are. That is what I am.

Fire: fire from our sun that fuels all life, drawing up plants and raising the waters to the sky to fall again replenishing. The inner furnace of your metabolism burns with the fire of the Big Bang that first sent matter-energy spinning through space and time. You, Anna Sophia, were there, I was there, each of us was there, for each cell of our bodies is descended in an unbroken chain from that event.

Shared blessings

[Everyone present lit tea lights from Anna's candle and offered their blessings and wishes, from a wish for health and happiness to a wish for discovery to a wish for a love of animals and shoes!]

Family litany Response: You are with us.

[Everyone present called to mind their name saints.]

Salute to Anna Sophia

[An earth prayer adapted especially for Anna Sophia, celebrating her roots in the soil where she was born and the way she will grow and move in her future.]

Closing song: We Rise Again (composed by Leon Dubinsky)

The waves roll on, over the water, and the ocean cries
We look to… our sons and daughters… to explain our lives.
As if our child could tell us why
That as sure as the sunrise, as sure as the sea,
as sure as the wind in the tree

We rise again, in the faces of our children
We rise again in the voices of our song
We rise again in the waves out on the ocean
And then, we rise again.

When the light goes dark, with the forces of creation, across a stormy sky
We look to… reincarnation… to explain our lives
As if our child could tell us why
That as sure as the sunrise, as sure as the sea,
as sure as the wind in the tree

Friday, January 12, 2007

Pet Sounds

One of the most common questions I get from a certain type of people (cat people) is, "How is your kitty adjusting to the baby?"

Now, our cat, Moon (a.k.a. Moonlight, Moon Unit, Moonie, Chicken Monkeyface) has acquired, undeservedly, a Bad Reputation due to her rambunctious nature, her terrorization of her cousin kitty when they were both kittens, and her tendency to bounce of the walls and sit on the kitchen table when people come over to visit. Moonlight definitely has energy and personality to burn, so we were curious to see how she would react to Baby.

She knew something was up while I was pregnant. She used to sit on my lap and massage my belly, and given the gestational activity level of Anna-to-be, Moon must have felt a kick or two or seventy. Moon also undoubtedly noticed shifts in furniture in "her" room -- the spare room, which became the nursery. And, finally, a month before the baby was born, we set up the bassinet and lined it with tinfoil to pet-proof it, to give tin-averse Moon the message that while the bassinet was on her usual jump-and-play route, it was out of bounds. Moon only jumped in the once.

When we brought Anna home, we kept Moon out of the bedroom for a few nights, so we could see how she reacted. She was great. She jumped into the bassinet once, sniffed the baby carefully, decided she was Hers, and jumped out. She then became the baby's protector.

When Anna cried, Moon would find Stephen or find me and tap us on the back of the leg, as if to say, "Human Person, your small bald kitten is crying." (She might, of course, have been saying, "Human Person, you loved me first, so pay attention to me instead of your small bald kitten." We aren't expert cat translators.)

When we brought Anna home from one of her adventures, Moon sniffed her carefully, to make sure we had brought home the right baby.

When we set a stool beside the bassinet to help Bad-Back Daddy manipulate the baby in and out of the bassinet, Moon decided this was her sentinel post to observe the baby and make sure she was okay. This was very cute.

Then, when we woke one night to find Anna the Active bouncing the bassinet alarmingly, we set up the crib. "Aha," thought Moon, "this new piece of furniture has not been lined with tinfoil and must, therefore, belong to me." She jumped in and fell asleep. We scooped her out. And she avoided the crib for a week or two.

Until . . . Anna started to encroach on more of Moon's territory. Sitting on Stephen's lap in the morning while he drank his coffee! Lying on the floor in the middle of Her livingroom! Snuggling up to Jane in bed in the morning! Moon did what any cat would do. She strategically communicated messages about her territory. When, and only when, the baby showed up in part of Moon's territory, Moon stalked off to the bedroom, hopped into the crib, and looked at us menacingly until we got the message. As soon as we showed we had registered her concern about her territory (or as soon as we moved the baby), out she hopped.

Although . . . Moon might still have designs on the birdie mobile over the crib. She's making no promises.

Anna, for her part, now notices the cat and tracks her movements. So far, she hasn't grabbed out for Moon. She will. Neither cat nor baby has been declawed, so I'm guessing they'll be pretty evenly matched.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Motor developments

While much of Anna Sophia's development and self-discovery is joyful both for her and for us, Stephen and I have been surprised at her palpable frustration when she can't do something she desperately wants to do. We've known since she was born that she would prefer to be a grown-up and wanted little to do with this whole baby business, but she can express her desires in so many new ways, now.

This week, Anna discovered the top of her head, first with her right hand, then with her left. This has allowed her to do a lot of ear-flapping and hair-rubbing with her hands. Even more excitingly, it has meant she has added one more motion to the set of motions she needs to turn herself over from belly to back or from back to belly. When she's on her back, she throws her arm into the air, presses her foot into the floor, and arches her back, and with one side of her body thus launched straight up into the air, she balances, in a poised state of frustration. She hasn't figured out yet how to thrust her topmost hip forward to give her the momentum to roll. Seeing her struggle to figure this out is fascinating and more hilarious for her parents than it is for her.

On her belly, she makes a special yelp which starts out kind of excited and playful but quickly gets more frustrated as she struggles to turn over. Actually, on her belly, she has trouble deciding between attempts to roll over onto her back (where she seems to know she will get stuck -- see above) or to move forward. She pulls one knee up under her and starts to press to roll -- then she yanks up the other knee and tilts herself facefirst onto her chin.

Anna spends more time on the floor on blankets now, since she can't be left in her carseat. She used to like to sit and watch the goings on. Now, no sooner is she set in the chair than she leverages her strong, long feet against the seat, arches her back into the air, then makes her body rigid. When -- if -- she allows herself to bend in the middle again, she slumps into the bottom of the chair with her feet hanging over the end. Not safe, not comfortable, just disconcerting.

Since I am ever helpful, I describe Anna's new movements to her using their Sanskrit names from yoga and explaining their yogic benefits. "Yay, Anna! You're practically throwing yourself from the changing table to the floor by doing setu bandha sarvangasana, the bridge posture. Aren't you strong!" It's going to take a lot of yoga superstrength and centring to catch this baby when she starts to move. When people ask if yoga helped prepare for childbirth, I can now tell them that's not the half of it.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Lasagna Revelation

Anna fights sleep, but she invariably loses. She is sleeping now. But I hope her fight was worth it. Today, in her attempts to stay awake, she managed to work in one more half-ounce of yummy yummy soy beans, one more giggle for her papa, one last attempt to roll over. (As of today, she has all the actions figured out that would allow her to turn over. She just can't put them together fast enough to get any momentum going.)

May she not seek to cram as much into every minute of the day as her mother, her grandmother, or -- god forbid -- any of her great-grandmothers. Oh, the long line of over-achieving women. Oh, the long life and long days ahead for daughters of these.

It's not the overwork that has been a big deal for me as much as my tendency to make things complicated -- or, in the worst cases, Complicated. This came home to me last year most clearly in what I came to refer to as the Lasagna Revelation. Simply enough, a friend invited us for dinner. Since I'm hard to feed due to celiac disease, I asked what was on the menu and what I might be able to contribute. "No problem," she said. "I'm making lasagna with brown rice noodles."

Lasagna, I thought to myself. Gee, that's a lot of work. I worried about my friend undertaking such a big project and having to add the complications of catering to my special needs -- checking ingredients, avoiding cross-contamination, the boring details of my kitchen life.

Lasagna, as it turned out, was not a big project at all. It is perfectly possible to make lasagna with some nice ground beef, some good quality bottled tomato sauce, layered with some brown rice noodles, and topped with some grated mozza. Pop it in a pan, heat to bubbly, and voila. Imagine my surprise at the lack of complication to this generous and kind meal.

This set off my Lasagna Revelation. I got home from the dinner and sat in the kitchen and cried. "Stephen," I said, "I didn't know lasagna could be so easy." He quietly (and mostly supportively) laughed as I burst into tears.

Why? Because I realized that lasagna, for me, really is a big project. Here's how I make lasagna.
First, I till the soil. Then I add compost and allow it to warm gently. Then I plant the tomatoes, the zucchini, the eggplants, the herbs. The garlic is already in the ground from last fall. We tend the vegetables, sporadically, interpreting "organic gardening" to include a harmonious relationship with weeds. At the end of the growing season, we harvest the tomatoes, the zucchini, the eggplants. I prepare some plain whole tomatoes and some tomato sauce for the freezer and freeze it in freezer bags. I make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays.

At some point in the winter, I decide to make lasagna. I thaw the tomatoes or tomato sauce. Chop onions, garlic, zucchini, eggplant, red pepper, mushroom. Let them all simmer to a rich homemade sauce. I wash, stem, and chop a pound of spinach. This is a lot of spinach. I grate three kinds of cheese.

Then I make the lasagna. Sans ground beef, it is still basically tomato sauce, layered with some brown rice noodles and some spinach and cheese, and topped with some grated mozza. Pop it in a pan, heat to bubbly, and voila. But my lasagna required more than a year of careful tending in the lead-up. Delicious, of course. But, let's face it, Complicated.

It's more than gardening that went into that year of careful tending. It's always more than gardening. It's a whole lifetime's worth of complex, interrelated values (often expressed as Issues) that I can't escape, that I contend with every time I try to do something as simple as making supper or as challenging as making and rearing a baby. This does not mean I ever really live up to the ethical standards that I set for myself -- this is part of what makes it all so Complicated, with the rationalizations and the shifting priorities and the self-flagellation. But I do, truly, love the complexity of systems and value my part in that complexity, whether it makes things taste better or not.

A lot of the complications I create will probably, similarly be around food. With celiac rampant on both sides of Anna's family, she's likely to need to eschew wheat from the earliest age. I want for her to have passions and passionate values and expressions of them. I just hope they are not too complicated.

(My Libran friends who have made it to the end of this post are saying to themselves, "Sister, you don't know from Complicated until you try living on the scales." You are brave Librans, all. Help my baby!)

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

First Christmas

With just one final family gathering to go before the last of the aunts and uncles "from away" head for their various homes, I think we can say that we have survived Anna's first Christmas. Santa kept it simple, with some lovely little musical instruments, and aunts and uncles were wonderfully generous with practical, needed gifts to make the house baby-safe as Anna gets moving in the coming weeks.

Anna's gift to all was her happy presence. She was much in demand for social engagements, and her parents have obliged as often as possible.

Stephen and I are coming to terms with having given birth to a baby girl who is more outgoing than both of us put together. Anna Sophia loves to be around people, to watch what they're doing and hear their conversations. She also loves to be the centre of attention. More than once, she basically fell asleep -- her little body going very, very still and her breathing relaxing to its sleeping rate -- but conserved just enough energy to keep her eyes open to see what was going on. By noon on Christmas day, she was slumped in her father's arms, refusing to even blink in case she might not be able to get her eyes open again.

Since she was born and still today, at three months old, the two things people notice first about Anna are her bright, alert eyes that take everything in and her incredibly strong little body -- especially her legs. She has been able to support her own weight for weeks, but she "stands" with support for longer and longer times now, bouncing or sliding whenever she possibly can.

In her house painted with bright primary colours and hung with vivid paintings on every available surface, it's not surprising that she's observant. She hasn't figured out that she can see as much with her eyes casually open as she can with her eyes wide and her eyebrows raised, so she has a look of constant surprise. As much as she likes to be surprised by objects, patterns, and colours, she still loves people's faces the best. And if their faces are making funny noises, all the better.

Stephen and I are trying to figure out how we will parent a person who is showing signs that she could turn out to be laid-back, socially well-adjusted, and athletic. Based on our own experiences and personalities, we're better prepared for a misfit with an aversion to organized sports. I will know how to console a child hurt by emotional bullies who tell her she's "too smart for her own good" or that her unfashionable clothes make her look ridiculous. I will know what to do to buoy up a child's confidence when she gets picked last for softball. I don't quite know what I'll do if she wears mascara and is a rugby star. I'm not close-minded. I'm just allergic to mascara and suffer from Post Traumatic Gym Teacher Disorder.

I'd better get prepared to be as ready to learn from Anna as I am to indoctrinate her. I'm sure that next Christmas, when she's more aware of the goings-on and when she's fully ambulatory on those little legs, will be a great learning opportunity.