Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Yesterday I took Penelope to the mall.  I didn't really want to go but the house we just moved into still smells like the dead guy who lived here-  (may he rest in peace) - and the closest fragrance store is at the mall I used to frequent as a teen.

The car ride was typical.  P threw her sippy cup into the car door after whining for it.  There it lay upside down, slowly leaking while i attempted to reach for it while swerving through traffic.  I quickly gave up and handed her an Elmo toy to eat instead.

But when we got there all the normal boring mall stuff was transformed into wondrous whimsical beauty.  When we walked by the gross fountain with dirty pennies on the bottom of it Penelope almost leaped from my arms, pointing her tiny finger.  "Ooooooooh!!!" She exclaimed, eyes wide, pupils dilated with ecstasy.  I walked trying to carry her while also pushing a stroller full of hand soap and air fresheners as she pointed excitedly to all the stuff that I wouldn't have noticed such as: any person younger than 12, anything colorful or glittery- ranging from a display of jewelry to cell phone covers, escalators going up and down from the food court, the giant skylights..  And right when i was considering buying her a Mrs. Field's cookie on a nostalgic impulse- remembering all the times my grandma used to buy me a cookie when she took me shopping- Penelope pointed at something else and started bouncing. "BaOOOs!" she glanced at me between hops and gestured toward some old 4th of July balloons.  Her tone was what a grown up might sound like if they found a $100 bill instead of $3 worth of red, white and blue balloons.  It was the first time I'd ever heard her say 'baloon' and I figured she was so happy she didn't even need a cookie.

As we walked out, pointing at all the treasures together I noticed a pet shop and remembered her reactions to the few dogs she's encountered.  "Wanna see some doggies?" I asked her, pushing my kid-less stroller, and trying to shift her to my other arm.  (She's getting SO HEAVY!).    Her reaction to the dogs was better than I could have ever expected.  It was like those sweepstakes winner videos, or like she was welcoming a child back from war.  She started squealing, kicking her chubby legs, trying to crawl over me to get inside the areas where people were playing with potential pets.  "Puppies? You see the puppies?" I said laughing and wrestling to keep her from falling on her head.  "PUPPIES! PUPPIES!" She screamed her new word, pointing with both hands.  I tried to turn her to show her the other ones but she grabbed the side of the cubby wall where people were test driving potential pets.  One test driver was an 8 year old boy who looked on with an expression of confusion and fear.  "Look, there's more over here! Let go!" I tried to convince her, peeling her away.  But she wouldn't listen to reason and started to melt down.  The 8 year old playing with the Schnoodle (Snouser mixed with Poodle) continued to stare.

I managed to get her to other cases of dogs before she was inconsolable.  One little puppy jumped onto his hind legs and clawed at us through the case hopefully.  Penelope burst into giggles and bounced up and down in rhythm with the dog.

There have been so many milestones since my last post.  Her Hungry Caterpillar themed first birthday party: How I cried when everyone sang her Happy Birthday while she just stared at everyone blankly, her first taste of chocolate, how she's almost walking, how she hugs toys and says 'Aww baby!', patting them on the shoulder.  But the biggest joys in my days are these kinds of moments-- where she brings a new freshness to something as annoying as going to a mall.  The best illustrations of how beautiful she is are these moments.  And just as beautiful are the promises that tomorrow will be filled with even more.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

9 months

My baby is 9 months old today.  She's now spent just as much time breathing with her lungs as she spent  getting her oxygen through that alien placenta thing.  She's no longer dependent on my forcefeeding myself green beans (for the folic acid), and bribing myself to eat salads using avocado, bingeing on cadbury eggs and then fasting from cadbury eggs.  And in spite of her mom taking a little trip down some stairs, getting all panicked about some gestational diabetes, or walking through Chicago traffic, Penelope toughed it out.  And continues to prove herself to be a tough girl through the weekly falls and crashes she takes as she gets more and more mobile.

Now she dances to just about any rhythmic noise.  But especially the theme music to Angry Birds:

She head bangs while panting like a dog

and smiles a gummy drooly smile whenever she sees me.

She gets around the room by doing the break dancing move 'the worm'.  She's learning to wave, and clap.  (Although currently when she claps she is only opening one hand, the other is still a fist, so it looks like she's gleefully threatening to give you a pounding.)
We're working on self feeding.  Whenever I give her a piece of banana or a soft green bean she shakes it like a maraca and then flings it on the floor, staring down at it in silent astonishment, like she's in the blue man group.  Of course today she suddenly felt motivated to begin self feeding without my prompting.  I saw her chewing and jumped to the floor where she was sitting, making my finger a hook like I read in Parents magazine to fish out the chunk of paper that was stuck to her gums.

Even on one of the more challenging days as Penelope's mom, my life is so rich and abundant.  I'm not bragging as if it's due to anything of my own power, but bragging on behalf of The Source of Life itself- which cannot be bound by prediction and is best appreciated when you let go of trying to control anything outside of your own attitude.  What I mean to say is a challenging day with Penelope is still full of laughter, kisses, and goes by way too quickly.  It probably starts with waking up before my dreams come to a conclusion, the feeling of rest and relaxation long forgotten for the next 7-10 years or so.   Every day is sandwiched with moments of frustration when she won't let me put her down ("Can't mommy just go to the bathroom??!!"), and  moments of utter overwhelming love-- the cliche kind that everyone tells you about that you think you understand already, but really don't. 

Every day that goes by she looks less and less like a confused cannellini bean and more like a little girl with her mom's hair and her dad's eyes.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Coloring in the lines

There have been a lot of milestones since my last ramble.  Penelope celebrated her first Christmas- which was a 3-day-long extravaganza of grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and wrapping paper.  If she was able to put a sentence together she may tell you that wrapping paper is her favorite food- or would be if the cruel taller people weren't constantly stealing it away from her tiny fists.

Then we rang in her first New Year's Eve with tears and consolation.  She'd been asleep until the moment the ball dropped and she awoke from her nap in a strange dark place- her grandparents bedroom.  So I celebrated 2013 with the world by rocking my bigger-than-ever- 6 month old.  A year prior I'd celebrated by drinking club soda and artificially flavored mixers, holding my belly and not knowing what a Penelope was.

Right now a Penelope is someone who lifts their left leg straight up into the air every time she drinks a bottle.  A Penelope sweetly reaches up her hand to my face as she drifts off to sleep, slowly caressing before suddenly grabbing whatever she can fit in her fingers and palm and squeezes with every bit of strength.  The pain makes my eyes water.  If I offer my hair instead, she innocently twists it around her fingers and releases a few times, or waves her hand in it like she's testing out a cool stream, then quickly grabs, her eyes still half closed and tries to bring me down to her face by the hair.  Or she flat out just suddenly, with ninja speed, slaps your face, without any malice or ill-will, just maybe to hear what kind of sound it would make.  When she's not physically abusing me, she's grinning at me so huge, with drool seeping out of her mouth.  She laughs at my every attempt at humor.

Every night when she goes to sleep, I miss her.  She's like that present you got for Christmas that you couldn't wait to play with when you woke up in the morning. Luckily I don't have to miss her for long because lately she's forgotten how to sleep.  When I was pregnant the most common comment I got was 'Hope you don't like sleep." And then when she was born the first question I got, and continue to get--usually with a smirk is "Getting any sleep?".  And I used to be able to say, "Yes. She's a terrible napper but she sleeps great at night."  Well, my darling princess must have gotten sick of my complaints about her lack of napping because for the past 4 nights or so, she's been waking up on average- once an hour.  And she doesn't just want her pacifier, which was what had satisfied her for the last 3 months.  Now she won't be pacified unless we rock her.  Sometimes she won't even tolerate us sitting down to rock her-- which is the meaning of true suffering at 3 am.  Isn't this how war criminals are questioned?  By waking them up every hour and forcing them to stand up, holding a screaming twenty pound weight?  Danny reassures me by saying, "It's only temporary." Which then fills me with sadness, knowing that time is still fleeting, and that in a few years I'll look back on this time and wish she was still a sweet baby.  So I try to enjoy even the sleepless, back-aching moments by staring at her face that's cute even when she's Miss Sleepy Grouchster Groucherson.

A less festive milestone was when Penelope visited her great grandma in the hospital.  She stared in disbelief and wordless fascination at my weak grandmother and then drooled on the poor woman's bed.  Then she was distracted by the beeping machine keeping grandma alive and wanted to push some of the flashing buttons.

A relative I hadn't seen in a while saw me and Penelope at the hospital and told me the way that I mothered Penelope made her flashback to how my mother was with me when I was a baby.   "You don't look like your mom, but just the way you are with her is so much like your mom was with you.  It's uncanny." I was moved and grateful for the statement.  It was a good reminder that in an unexpected way my mom lives on.  Also, loving my daughter as much as I do is a reminder of how much my own mom loved her daughters.  And maybe only just a fraction of how much our Mother God loves us.

I think Penelope is starting to recognize me as a mom more, and less like a giant buffet.  She stares into my eyes as if hypnotized, (and then, reminiscent of Elle from Kill Bill, snatches at my eye ball as if to keep it as a trophy).  She's started to reach her arms toward me, and more and more when I leave the room she cries.  I peek my head back in and she grins again, I leave and she cries.

The first few weeks, or maybe even months, after I delivered Penelope, I didn't feel like a mom.  I didn't feel like much of anything- I felt diminished, invisible, confused, non existent.  All that existed was this beautiful tiny baby and the baby's food source, which was me.  But lately, I've noticed I feel like a picture in a coloring book, that's started to get filled in.  Tonight at her grandparent's house, Penelope was getting sleepy and I said we should go home and get to bed.  Danny asked if she would play for a little while before bed and I said, "We'll see."  P's grandma Sharon laughed and mimicked my tone. "'We'll see'?  That's such a mom thing to say!" she teased me.  "Did you ever think you'd say that someday?"  I blushed but felt a sense of pride at the new colors filling in my temporarily grey scale self.  I like these new colors- they feel good on me.