Monday, November 26, 2012

the thinking woman's guide to motherhood

So, today I was in a public speaking training - a very good one, I might add - and a comment was made that caught me totally off-guard, and then got my hackles up - just like my old dog Murphy gets when a kid walks past the house. We were asked to give an impromptu, two-minute speech on a topic of our choice - didn't have to be work-related (although it could be). The primary requirement was that it be something we know a lot about, and it be something we are passionate about. I immediately started tossing around topics in my mind like photography, creativity, environmentalism, and, of course, motherhood. But then came the zinger - the instructor said, "don't talk about childbirth, or motherhood - something intellectual, not sappy". Um - okay. Hmmm.

I looked at my friends across the room - mothers, too - and thought, "I can't let that comment just slide by." After all, we work far too hard as it is to make motherhood and working coexist peacefully. It's no picnic, that's for sure. I asked, "can we talk about how motherhood is intellectual?"

This is not verbatim of course, and I definitely did not deliver this perfectly, without stumbling or misspeaking - but this was the general sentiment:

Even if you are not a parent, you know there are plenty of things about motherhood that are not intellectual. Changing diapers, doing laundry, feeding and bathing children, walking around in a perpetual state of sleep deprivation. These wouldn't necessarily be considered intellectual activities. In fact, it's not uncommon for me to try pretty hard to keep the activities of motherhood separate from my intellectual, professional life. After all, I still have to look and act and sound professional during the day, even when my 15-month-old was headbutting me at 2 AM the night before. 

But motherhood is definitely an intellectual activity. I'm shaping my children's morality, helping them understand the world, showing them the humor in life. And my daughter, who is five, is becoming more and more inquisitive. She is asking all sorts of questions: "How old are you?" "How long is 4 hours?" "How does the car work?" 

Lately, she has been talking about death - about my death, about what will happen to us when I die, about her fears about my death. These are hard questions to answer. What a huge responsibility this is - calming her fears, explaining these difficult facts of life, answering these hard questions. 

If that's not an intellectual activity, then I don't know what is.

Tonight, I reheated some dinner. I chased Oscar around the table, threatening tickles. I gave him a bath and nestled him into bed in his clean, slightly too-big Elmo PJs. Dora and I read three books from her Curious George readers, her doing most of the reading and astounding me with her ability. Then she and I talked about lying - she had tried to tell a little lie at dinner. I told her about the boy who cried wolf, about why it's important to always tell the truth. As I tucked her into bed, we kissed and hugged and said we love each other. And then we blew kisses to each other like we do every night, each of us catching the other's kiss and holding it close to our heart. "Mommy," she whispered, "I took your kiss and put it on my heart. My real heart." That is my girl - smart and beautiful and learning to be empathetic, loving with all of her being, venturing into the world and trying to make sense of it all - all of that done, at least a little bit, with my help and guidance.

Motherhood is many things - sad, funny, challenging, physically draining, emotionally taxing, and, yes, intellectual.

I won't let anyone tell me otherwise.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

pretend, and then don't

In my new normal, with two kids and two jobs, it sometimes takes me a while to get things through the entire writing/editing/illustrating/posting process.  So, this happened about a week ago, but it's still all true.

I'm going to pretend that last night was more civilized than it was.

I'm going to pretend that I didn't let Oscar walk around the house gnawing on a stale loaf of french bread. I'm going to pretend he didn't put it on the floor, let the dog sniff it, then pick it up again.


I'm going to pretend that I didn't completely make a disaster of my kitchen while I made dinner because the kids were out of control and it was all I could do to just get through it.


I'm going to pretend my 5-year-old didn't ask me to turn the lights off so we could eat by "candelight" from a battery-powered, Halloween candelabra that my husband bought to put on the piano.

I won't pretend that my favorite version of "La Mer" came on my Pandora station right when I was putting dinner on the table, as if on cue, because that really happened. I don't have to pretend that my whole house smelled like Mela after dinner, because it did, and it was wonderful. I don't have to pretend that I can do a lot of things while holding a baby on my hip, including safely transferring an entire hot pot of rice into a serving bowl, because I can.

Last night I made adapted versions of South Indian Potato Curry and Greens with Cashews. I used up a lot of my delicious local vegetables and, for the most part, my kids ate their dinner (especially the rice). The whole scene was so entirely chaotic, I decided snapping a few pictures and turning this moderately successful night in the kitchen into a blog post wasn't too much more to ask.

When I first started writing this blog, I really thought it was mostly going to be about food. I had been inspired by blogs like Orangette and movies like Julie and Julia, so I jumped in with plans for something along those lines. I like to cook, I like to bake, I like to read recipes, I like to eat, and I like to take pictures of food. Seems like the perfect recipe for a food blog. Except - the further I get into parenthood, the less time I have for experimentation in the kitchen. And, really, what I love about cooking is following recipes, not making up my own. I'm all about making substitutions (a necessity with kids, I think) - but it didn't take me long to realize I would never have enough "original" material to focus just on food. So, I slowly migrated towards writing mostly about being a mom, even though "food" remains in the subtitle of the blog.

So here I am tonight, with a food blog, and I'm doing what I'm trying to do as a mother and photographer. I'm going to stop pretending. I'm trying hard to just be myself, not trying hard to be someone else. I follow recipes, and I pride myself on being really skilled at that. I pick out good combinations of things (usually). I can read a recipe and figure out if I want to make it, and whether or not it will taste good (most of the time). I know how to chop an onion efficiently. I love the way olive oil smells when it's heating up in my cast iron skillet. Recipe-writer, I am not. Recipe-follower, I am.

So, tonight, two recipes, from other people, that I made. I left out the ingredients that make these dishes really spicy. I added in a couple of comments about my experience making these recipes. I'm no expert - I just love good food, and sharing that love with all of you. Enjoy. Or at least commiserate with my chaos.

South Indian Potato Curry
adapted from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey by Madhur Jaffrey

3 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp yellow split peas
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 tsps ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 lb red potatoes, peeled and diced 3/4 in
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 can coconut milk
chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add mustard seeds and split peas. When mustard seeds begin to pop, add onions. Turn heat to medium, and stir fry onions for about 3 minutes, until soft but not brown. Add tomatoes, coriander, and garam masala. Stir for 1 minute. Add potatoes and stir one minute. Add 1 cup water and the salt. Bring to boil, cover, turn heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add coconut milk and stir. Top with a bit of cilantro.

Greens with Cashews
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates

8 cups rinsed, stemmed, chopped greens (I like kale best, but chard or collards, or a mixture, also work)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 chopped onion
2 garlic cloves
 1/2 cup roasted cashews
2 Tbs fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 can coconut milk
1 teaspoon curry powder

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes.

Make dressing: In a food processor or using an immersion blender, combine the cashews, lime juice, and salt until smooth. Add coconut milk and process until well combined.

Add greens to pan, stir to combine, cover, and simmer until wilted (time varies depending on greens - less time for chard, more for kale or collards). When wilted, remove from heat and stir in dressing until well combined. Serve hot or room temperature. SO delicious!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

more photos than words

In parenting, there is no shortage of comparison. “When’s your due date?” “How much does he weigh?” “Who’s her teacher?” etc. etc. etc. Asking these questions of each other isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For me, it’s often a vehicle for validation. Whew, I’m not the only one who lets my kid watch TV while I make dinner. Ooh, interesting - her baby ends up in bed with her, too. It’s a way to seek out a familiar face in an ever-increasing competitive world, to find another common soul on this journey of imperfection.

The comparison activity gets ramped up to a whole new level when you become a parent for the second time. Now, not only do you have two sets of peers to compare yourself to, you have yourself to compare yourself to. Me as parent of 1 vs. me as parent of 2. It is literally the most exhausting sport on the planet.

In many ways, I feel I’m doing a “better” job this time around. It’s easier, at least. I’m more relaxed (not without the aid of a professional!) and I worry about things less (most of the time). I’m not obsessing about schedules and milestones and food the way I did before. I’ve realized that, as long as there is plenty of love to go around, most of the other stuff has a way of working out.

But this realization doesn’t remove the guilt, or the comparison of current self to past. For one, this baby - my sweet little Oscar man - has many, many less words written about him. For the record, he started walking last week - 13 months old and he is toddling around the house, throwing things. Quite the little devil, cute as can be, sweet and tough all at once. 

When Dora was an infant, this blog was one of my only creative outlets, and I poured my heart into it (nearly) every day. As a result, I have many of her milestones recorded - if not in a baby book (and don’t worry, I have guilt about that, too), then in a “virtual” baby book that just happens to be a public document.

What Oscar has that Dora did not have so much of is a multitude of photos. I took a lot of photographs of Dora, too, but she was 2 years old when I upgraded to a much better DSLR. Before that I still used my old SLR film cameras, but not with the frequency that digital allows. That was the beginning of a big shift for me, a return to an art I have always loved. As the photo population increased, the words went down. With Oscar, it’s more photos than words. I’m photographing him (and Dora) almost every day. Of course - I will probably never get to all the editing I need to do (another source of guilt!) - but at least they are captured, saved, and backed up - and someday I will get to them.


Last week a friend of mine sent me an article about how important it is for the mom to be in the picture. Even those who are not photographers know that it is often the mother who ends up taking the pictures (not always, but often) and the result is that momma isn’t in the picture very much. In my own family, my mom did take a lot of photos (mostly with her Kodak Instamatic). As the blog post that my friend sent me so deftly points out, our children need to have pictures of us with them. Now that my mother is gone, I cherish those old, square, slightly yellowish/orange images of her - a young woman in a plaid shirt, looking a little tired and a little annoyed at having her photo taken. Next to her is a 2-year-old me, with a shock of straight blond hair just like Oscar’s, and on the other side is my brother at 8, getting tall and thin and probably annoyed by me already. It doesn’t matter if she didn’t look perfect to herself - to me, she is perfect - my mom, my friend, a woman who I still love and admire deeply. I cherish the photo of her and the chance to remember her as she was, to love her imperfections as much as her good qualities, to see in front of me the woman who still visits me in my dreams.


The point is - be in the picture, because to your kids, you are perfect. You are their mother, and that’s all that matters to them.

The same is true about all of this comparison. A little healthy discussion is fine, but in the end, all that matters is that you are yourself, the mother your children love and cherish and want beside them. Whether you take loads of photos of them or spend hours writing about the experience of mothering them, your love, your hugs and kisses, your home-cooked food (or not), your messy (or clean) house - all of these are perfect in the eyes of your children. Dora was only 2 days old when someone told me, “you already know exactly what this baby needs”. Imperfections aside, I believe this to be a divine truth. We are what our children need. They already believe in us. Now all we have to do is try to believe in ourselves.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

baby girl

My baby girl goes to kindergarten tomorrow. Now, I know its a big cliche to say, "it goes by so fast". But guess what? It does. I seriously remember exactly what it felt like when the nurse wrapped her up and handed her to me right after she was born. I can remember the music we listened to in the hospital the night of her birth. I can remember the first time I realized how much I was falling in love with her. It's all so fresh it's like it happened yesterday, and yet so much of it is also foggy I fear I'll lose the details forever. It's a funny thing - like something slippery you just can't quite grasp hold of. 

I was feeling really good about her going to kindergarten - just really very excited and happy for her. I know she is ready, and the school is just down the street from our house, and she has friends in her classroom who we already know. I know a lot of parents at her school already - people from the neighborhood and parents of her friends. And she's been going to daycare or preschool since she was 12 weeks old. Sending her into someone else's care is not something new for me. 

But today, I had a thought about school - about how hard it is, about how mean people can be. Like Dora, I was skinny, and smart, and loved my parents a whole lot. I feel like I had kind of a sheltered childhood - we just had a very stable home life and things were generally very good for us. Our parents read to us and loved us, and loved each other. I got through school ok and feel relatively unscathed by it (overall), but I can think back on being teased for being smart, or skinny, or whatever. I can remember how hurt I was by friendships turning sour, by being left out of things, by not being in the "in" crowd. I guess going through those things is a part of becoming independent and adult, but I think about Dora going through it and I just want to find some sort of shortcut, some detour that protects her from all the bad. 

Dora knows that my mom is in heaven. We've talked about it a lot, for a lot of reasons. We've looked at pictures, she's seen me cry (a few times!) about my mom. We've talked about how Grandma Carol is up in heaven with Mackeson (our cat who died a couple of summers ago). I don't know how fully she comprehends death but she knows that when you die, you go somewhere else. She knows we don't get to see Grandma Carol. 

I don't know if it was because of this or because of something someone said at her preschool, but a couple of weeks ago, in the car and out of the blue, Dora asked me, "mommy, are you going to die when I grow up"? Wow. I had to think about how to respond to that, and then I did the best I could. I tried to explain that yes, everyone dies, but that it was a long way away, and that as long as we love each other, we'll always be together. I explained that love goes beyond everything, that because we love each other we stay connected all the time, even when we're apart. I think this really sunk in because she says it all the time now. 

Tonight after her bath she wanted me to blow dry her hair. I brushed it out and she laid down on the bed next to me while I nursed Oscar. Her hair was so shiny and blond, spread out around her on the bed. I looked at her little tiny body, stroked her back, and said, "tomorrow is a big day. You start school tomorrow. I just want you to always remember you are strong and you are smart, and I love you very much". I was thinking about those hard times in school, those people who are inevitably going to be mean to my child at some point. "As long as we love each other, we'll be together forever," I said. She smiled and shook her head yes, sucking on her two fingers like she has since the day she was born. 

Tomorrow, I have to let go of her hand, have to let her walk into that big school with her lunch box and her backpack and trust that she will be protected by our love. Like a spotlight that love will follow her wherever she goes, giving her a little cushion against the hard surfaces of the world, keeping us together even when we're apart. I've got to remember her spotlight is on me, too, there to protect me from all that is harsh and cold in this world, to remind me of her love, to keep us connected, even when we're apart. 

I love you baby girl. Stay strong and stay safe.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mom UR Awesome

We were running late, as usual. Of course. But before I could spend the entire drive berating myself for always running late these days, Dora sang a little song about loving me, and said, "you're the best mommy in the whole world"!

This little comment could not have come at a better time. Between work, photography, trying to keep the house from becoming a complete disaster, and juggling two kids, I haven't felt like a very good mommy at all lately. Some of that is just part of the territory - guilt, self-doubt, negativity - all are normal places in the landscape of motherhood. But some of it stems from being truly, deeply, entirely over-commited, in every sense of the word. I am happy - and blessed - to have the work that I do, but finding some balance between work and home and everything else seems endlessly elusive. 

It's pretty easy to feed that negativity with the vast availability of data these days. Someone else's superiority at writing, photography, housekeeping, organization, time management, cake decorating, sex, marriage, child-rearing, cooking, make-up application, fashion sense, or self-care is accessible 24-7 with the click of a button. All we have to do is hop on Facebook, read a blog, check out someone else's photo albums, or - worst of all - visit Pinterest to feel inadequate. 

But here's the beauty of what Dora said to me - it's not just that she thinks I'm the best mommy in the world - though that in itself would be a lot. It's that she's such a special, loving, wonderful human being that she thought she should tell me I'm the best mommy in the world. Some of that comes from her inherent wonderfulness, I'm sure, but I think it's ok to take a little credit for it, too. In other words - the fact that Dora knows that much about expressing love is proof of what a good job I'm doing. My little Dora is empathetic enough to know when someone needs to hear loving words and giving enough to share them - and she had to learn that somehow. What a revolution would it be if as mothers we viewed our children with adoration and, in turn, let that adoration reflect back on ourselves, allowed ourselves to take a little credit for these beautiful little human beings we've brought into this world. What if we loved ourselves the way we love our kids?

Of course, taking credit for the good means we have to take credit for the bad, too. When she's stalling at bedtime I know it's partly my fault - if only I'd been stricter earlier on this wouldn't be an issue. When she's rough with her brother, I know it's partly just because we haven't been doing a good enough job of spreading out the attention more evenly between the two of them. When she struggles with her temper, I know it's not just my freakishly long second toe she's inherited. 

I'm essentially juggling two jobs right now, and though I often try to convince myself it's an investment in our future, and it won't always be this challenging, it is also a great source of guilt. I often wonder if, in 5 years, I will look back on this crazy time where I work all day and then am up late at night editing photos and feel like it was all a big mistake. I love photography so much, it feels a little like I'm being selfish spending so much time on it. After all - I have a job. I don't have to do this. But I want to anyway. I have felt most fulfilled in my life when I've had some kind of creative outlet - a writing project, a blog, knitting, crafting, cooking, photography. Creativity lets something out of me that needs to get out, and it also lets something in - gives me some return of energy like nothing else. It's like breathing - it's value (and necessity) is as much in the exhale as it is the inhale. And it does something so vital for me, I think it makes me a better mother, too. Maybe that's a little revolutionary as well - finding that which fulfills us and indulging in it, even when it doesn't necessarily give us more time with our kids.

I got in my car to drive home from work today and I saw a car with "Mom UR Awesome" scrawled on the back, the way the wedding getaway car has "just married" written on the rear windshield. I know it was written by some teenager, probably one that had either gotten in trouble or was trying to get out of it, but I kind of felt like it was a message meant for me. Dora's words and the scrawled message were like little bookends on my day, little reminders that - at least to the two people whose opinion about this matters most - I'm ok. To them, I'm the best mommy in the world - even when I'm running late, over-tired, over-committed, a master of nothing. To them, and maybe even to myself, I'm Awesome.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

points on the horizon

I was running around in a panic this morning trying to find a photo of my mom and I together. It's Mother's Day, and I woke up wanting to post a photo of my mom and I together on Facebook, along with some thoughtful and slightly sad status update about how much I miss her. I flipped through the few photo albums we have in our dining room and couldn't really find anything suitable. There is one image of my whole family at the bicentennial celebration in Amesville, Ohio, probably July 4, 1976. I'm about 8 months old, about the same age as Oscar is now. I'm as pudgy and fat as he is, being held in a sling by my dad. My brother is in the photo, too, tall and skinny and about to turn 7. Mom is in the frame, but just slightly, her back turned to the camera. Most of the other photos are of pets, or my brother and I, or of the two of us kids with my dad. Like me, mom was usually the photographer. And this morning I was hit with the sudden realization that I have very, very few photos of us together. 

One of the things that's so hard about losing someone you love is how, as your life goes on, the time that you had with the person who is gone shrinks, fades away into the distance like the horizon line in one of those perspective drawings of a road, a tiny dot in time receding to the edge of the universe. The artifacts of your time together, the photos, letters, and memories, become valuable currency, precious archeology you will do just about anything to preserve. You know they are finite - there aren't any more of them to be made - so you are desperate to find and keep the entire inventory. This morning when I realized I have so few photos of mom and I together, I tried for a moment to remember actually having a photo of us taken, and could hardly think of one. 

There are the group family photos at the Outer Banks, one taken every year from early childhood on, standing around the bronze busts of Orville and Wilbur Wright at the Wright Brothers' Memorial, which we faithfully visited every year. There are Christmas, Easter, and first day of school photos, usually taken by my mom, who had walked us down the driveway to meet the bus, or who was in charge of the Instamatic while dad played Santa or hid Easter eggs. There are funny ones, too - me at 2 surrounded by dry spaghetti I had thrown all over the kitchen, me at about 5 completely upset - crying even - because our television had been hit by lightning and destroyed, me at about 7 amongst the spring daffodils, to this day my favorite flower.

In my desperation this morning I flipped through our wedding album, knowing there is at least one photo in there of just my mom and I. I didn't find it, and instead settled upon one from the evening of our wedding. We got married at 10:30 AM, with a lunch reception following, and had a dinner at my parent's house that evening for immediate family. It was my mom's birthday, too - June 19 - so we surprised her with a birthday cake, even though by then we were all completely "caked out". We sang happy birthday to her and someone - maybe Kendra? - snapped a photo of her blowing out the candles. It was a beautiful day, of course, and a happy way to end it - giving my mom a little party of her own. We did not know then that it would be the last birthday she got to celebrate. 

People can say whatever they want about grief fading. It's true that it does become less sharp and bright, becomes dulled with age - like a piece of sterling silver left out to tarnish. But it's still hard metal, still something so basic and elemental that even time doesn't truly break it down. There are people - and animals - whose loss we never get over, never fully comprehend. What changes, I guess, is us. I was 28 and newly married when my mom died. Now I'm 36 and a mother of two, married almost 8 years. Before she died, when she was very ill and unconscious much of the time, I sat in her room with her alone. I asked her to please find a way to be with me forever, to send me a sign or something when I really need her advice, or when I'm really screwing something up. I guess at the time I thought the signs might be really big - like billboards, obvious and impossible to ignore. But they are not. They are like tiny points on the horizon, like comets - more visible when you look away just a little bit. The place I feel my mother's presence the most, usually, is from somewhere inside of me - in my memories, my sense of humor, in my heart. In the woman I've become - the mother, the wife, the baker, the photographer, the writer of to-do lists that never quite get completed. Now I am the one almost never in the photo. Just like that - I became her without even realizing it. 

A friend today wrote of my mother that "she was funny, smart, earthy, practical, a great cook, a deep thinker, who loved her children passionately". Almost never a day passes without me wishing my mom was here to know my kids, to share motherhood with me. She can't be here, though, to see her grandkids or to give me guidance. Instead, she has to experience this through me, share mothering by being here in my heart. I can only hope I bring as much friendship and love to mothering as she did. It was such a comfort to read someone else's words about my mother - to hear their memories. I dare say I saw a bit of myself in my friend's description of my mom. I can only hope to be all those things that she was, to bring some of those qualities to my own mothering. 

Happy Mother's Day, mom. My love for you is still so big. Like we always used to say, "Es enorme! Que importa? Me gusta!" I love you and miss you. Always. 


Friday, February 10, 2012

slow down

Oscar is an old man of nearly 6 months now. Tonight I was nursing him after work, on the couch, where the setting sun shines into our living room, and I noticed that his hair is growing over his ears. Unlike his sister Dora, he never went completely bald, and now has a full head of whispy, strawberry blond, baby hair. In the back, like a Japanese chonmage, he has a little three inch ponytail of darker brown infant hair, the hair he was born with. It's like his little status symbol, his little warrior marking from our birth journey. 

He is surely a mammal, with the little white hairs I notice on his tiny, plump hands. But he is no longer an infant. Gone is the downy fur that covered his back and shoulders, over which I would run my finger when we nursed in the heat of summer, curled up on the bed in the back of the house in the air conditioning, whiling away my maternity leave and our early days together in a blur of nursing and sleep and diapers. Gone is the rest of his dark baby hair, slowly falling out or washing out or floating away mysteriously, disappearing into thin air like those early days. He is growing so fast, so immediately becoming more little boy than infant, I feel like his infancy is running through my fingers like sand, trailing away like water that can't be held. 

I promised myself that I'd enjoy this time around more, that I'd let the early newborn days be what they are - fleeting - without the fear that comes when you are a brand new parent, crying at dinner at the thought of never having another meal that doesn't involve a fussy baby. I promised to soak it in, to be truly present, to slow time down at all costs. And while I'm certainly enjoying it, I'm failing miserably at the slowing time down part. If anything, it is flowing by more quickly than ever. 

After Dora was born, as I slowly began to realize how immensely powerful my love for her would be, I longed to return to her birth somehow, to experience again those first moments of her life with the knowledge of what she would become to me. That being impossible, I had hoped to deepen my experience of the birth of my second child with that same knowledge. Oscar's birth ended up being so different from Dora's, so fast and so incredibly intense, that although it was quite beautiful and truly amazing, I still couldn't get that perspective I'd hoped for. Now, 6 months later, I'm still amazed at how much I love him, still as unprepared for how completely he has taken up residence in my heart, filled up my life and soul with a total dedication to meeting his every need, holding him close, loving him forever. 

When I was pregnant, we did not find out the gender with an ultrasound, yet I knew I was having a boy. Though I was excited about having another baby, I wasn't sure I would love having a boy. I was so happy with having a girl, so focused on what that experience has been, I was afraid I wouldn't bond with a boy in the same way, or wouldn't feel as close to him, or just wouldn't know what to do with him. Now I have said over and over again, "how could I have ever been unsure about having a boy?" He is so absolutely perfect in every way - it is absolutely the way that it is supposed to be for us.

Oscar's infancy has flown by, and meanwhile Dora is growing taller and more intelligent and more challenging every single day, and yet when she's asleep next to me at night, I can still see her as an infant, too. Both of them seem to be moving forward at the speed of light, while I am desperately wishing that things would just slow down a little, wishing I could hold on to these days a little tighter. Perhaps it is this experience of great love that awakens in us a hunger, a desire that was never there before (or at least not so strongly) to cherish our time. Maybe it's that the love is so powerful, so all consuming, that it feels like something we need to have more time to fathom. 

I heard a Radiolab episode once about how time seems to slow down when we're experiencing something really terrifying - the way a car accident feels like it's happening in slow motion. I don't remember all the details but I think the basic premise was that our brains are taking in many more details than usual when we're under the stress of a potentially life-threatening incident so that, if it ever happens again, we know what to do to survive. The result is that we feel that time has slowed, even though it hasn't. In other words, there is some inherent drive to slow time down, to capture all the details, as part of our survival mechanism. Love for our children is as intense in some ways as a life-threatening experience - it takes over our minds and our bodies with the same ferocity anyway. 

So maybe its only natural that we want to slow time down, want to record all these details - the downy fuzz on the shoulder, the chubby hands, the chonmage ponytail. It is part of our very survival to take it all in and use it to fuel the fire of love within us, to make sure we love our babies so much we'll do absolutely anything to ensure that they survive and thrive. It's the monkey inside of me trying to slow time down, then - the same monkey who I let out, who I tapped into, to bring these babies into this world. I love that I can find her within - I love that she is a part of me, and a part of all of us, waiting to come out when we need the animal mind to take over. I just wish she were more successful at slowing time down, because I'd give anything to make these days last just a little bit longer.