Monday, March 4, 2013

a beast of a post

All the old tricks weren't working.  We read one book, said goodnight to Hazel and papa, read another book just the two of us, she read a book to me, I scooped her up in my arms, hugged her and kissed her forehead, she rang the ancient-looking bell on the grandma-felted mobile, I dropped her splash! into bed, I kissed her and hugged her, she kissed me and hugged me, I turned off the light, I sang a song about our day, I scared away the spiders or the giant poop or whatever it was that night, sang another song, softly reiterated instructions on how to count sheep, and then...No, mama!  But I'm not sleepy! I'm afraid!  I'd completely exhausted my nighttime repertoire.  So I crawled into her tiny toddler bed, springs groaning against my weight, and snuggled up with her.  She turned her body into mine, we touched foreheads, I wrapped my arm around her back, tucking my hand just under her body, locking her into place, the way we used to.  We looked up at the ceiling.  I told her what a nice, safe room she has.  All the glowing stars and moons and planets; the dancing ladies above her bed, the felted mobile.  I told her how lucky she was to have such a cozy, warm, safe bedroom.  She fell asleep almost instantly.  I lay there, her soft, heavy breath against my cheek, an ocean of guilt washing over me.

It's the same guilt I've tried to wad up and stuff away in the sock drawer.  It's the same guilt that comes spilling out every time Juniper is afraid and asks to sleep in our room.  Too many big changes, too close to the birth of a new baby.  Two months before Hazel was born, we moved.  For the first time, Juniper had her own room with her own bed.  She continues to be the only member of our family who does not sleep in our room.  That fact alone makes me sad and lonely for her.  
In the middle of the night she awoke screaming, something about spiders.  We brought her into our bed, we always do.  In the morning, I awoke with a foot in my face.  There has always been one thing I've known for sure: I want my children to feel welcome in my bed.  Not--when they're no longer babies--as a matter of habit, but when they need to.

Once Hazel was born and, by the nature of newborns, every ounce of my body was poured into hers, I ached for Juniper.  It was a deep, visceral, heartbroken, physical longing.  Although that ache has waxed and waned over the last 15 months, it continues to resurface.  Like a buoy, or a guidepost, a lighthouse in the fog, it reminds me that this guilt will always be present, leading me back to my firstborn, keeping our connection strong.  

Lately--like, for the last month or so--Hazel has carved out her comfort zone in the curved C of my right hip.  Most of the time, she is happy nowhere but there.  If I set her down for anything--to prepare food, do dishes, use the bathroom--she has a meltdown.  I'm all about baby wearing.  I love that I can give her that simple comfort right now, of simply being held.  But.  Damn, it gets exhausting.  And aggravating.  And mostly, I feel bad for Juniper.  She is so tolerant.  So patient.  So good at occupying herself by playing preschool or merry-go-round or ice-skating or save the whales, or stripping off her clothes and playing "at the beach".  There is so much I'd like to do with her, but mostly I end up pacing, figuring out life with my left hand, fruitlessly trying to find things to interest Hazel besides being perched on my right hip.  It's hard.  Trying to balance the two very different needs of my kids right now.

But the one thing we can do is go outside, hang with friends, and watch horses and people do crazy things.  Hazel loves it because she gets to spend the entire afternoon on my chest.  Juniper loves it because she gets to play with her friends and watch horses.  So, for the last three weekends, we've gone to the races.

:: Two weeks ago: The Cutter Races.
I've known about these fundraising chariot races for 15 years, but this was the first time I attended.  Holy hell, these horses are fast.  They scream down the track and poof! disappear into a puff of powder.
In between runs, there is a lot of complicated betting going on which I never fully understood except that all proceeds benefit the Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake City.      
 ^Juniper and her friend Q who, incidentally, became a big sister one week after this photo was taken.^   
In between runs, attentions spans wander, kids clamber around, disappear, and in the case of my kid, return with a hotdog.  Juniper went through a bashful stage that spanned about two months on either side of her third birthday.  That stage is over.  At the races, she was like a lost dog wandering off to the neighbor's house who keeps fresh bacon on the front porch.   Needless to say, she found the place to get free hotdogs and beer.        
Also, she tied in with some big kids who let her sit on them and pound their chests.  Oh, and make castles.  
Hazel: happy as a clam in high tide.  Me: happy that they're both happy.  Added bonus, by the end of the day Hazel learned to say horse, "orse", accompanied by kicking me in the thighs, pointing excitedly, and making the O face.

:: A couple of days later: a carousel exhibit at the Museum of Idaho ("History in Motion").  It was a holiday and free and packed.  There was one carousel open to riders.  We waited in line along with the entire population of Idaho to ride that one carousel.
^The carousel Juniper is trying to touch was from England, circa 1870.^
^In line with a friend.^

The thing I've noticed with Juniper: the more she anticipates something, the more likely it is to backfire.  It's like she gets star-struck and lapses into a tongue-tied, whole-body paralysis.  It was finally her turn, she was second in line to pick out her very own horse, there was even a horse with a pink saddle blanket, but no!  All of a sudden, she melted to the ground and wanted nothing to do with riding a horse on a carousel.  After all the horses had been bagged by eager children, the only thing left was a little cart.  So Hazel, Juniper and I squeezed into a cart while we watched the rear-ends of carousel horses go up and down.
J bug continues to be obsessed with the merry-go-round and every night we sing a song I made up--Here we go round the merry-go-round, up and down on the merry-go-round....  The first night I sang it, Juniper pointed out that *we* did not, in fact, go "up and down" because we were in the cart.  Fair enough.

:: One week ago: Ski Joring. 
Same track as the cutter races.  Possibly the same horses and the same crazy people.  Not as fast (but still *fast*), not in chariots, but on skis.  

Juniper's favorite part: hanging with friends we don't see often enough:
Saving "baby whale brothers" (and you thought it was a snowball):  
And playing tag:

:: Yesterday: annual sleigh ride on the elk refuge.  I think we finally went, in the nick of time, to get an actual sleigh, versus the bumpy wagons we've ridden in the past.  (It rained all day today and I'm guessing they've now switched to the bumpy wagons.)
Like Juniper two years ago, Hazel was all full of excited suck-in squeals, exhaling "orse!" and pointing with full force.
And, like Juniper, she learned to say elk, "et".
Hazel was mostly interested in the horses.  Juniper found the idea of a "pretend fight" (sparring) intriguing, but she was mostly interested in the horse poop.
Despite my torn feelings about her predilection to my right hip, Hazel is truly the most lovable, adorable little monkey.  It melts me the way she wants to do everything just like her big sister.  From sitting on the potty and wiping with toilet paper, to the bingo game they gave Juniper on the sleigh.  It is indescribable how adorable these second-borns are in all their effort to grow up even faster than the first.
^Short bus ride back to the car.^

:: And lastly, tonight.  Playing merry-go-round.


  1. Ahhh- the mama guilt- it is all consuming. I have only had 6 weeks of sharing myself but feel heavy in my heart when I can't put my tiny baby down to free my hands to meet my first baby's needs. She needs me to make mud pies and tie the back of the fairy costume. Not fair!
    Getting out is the answer to everything here too! Xx

  2. Mama guilt weighed heavily on my mind this weekend, too. It is hard to juggle the needs of two totally different stages. I think just saying that and allowing it to 'be' is how it will melt away. Of course time helps. :) Love all the winter activities going on - this post felt so wild West! Hang in there, Mama. I know you're doing a beautiful job, even if it doesn't always feel like it. x, Katie

  3. We just had a lovely holiday in Japan - the bedding - all in a row on Futons was fantastic - lots of space to spread out but all together , my daughter loved it too. Our bed at home is too small for 3, but I felt so guilty turning down her the first night home when she asked to sleep in our bed, still at 3 am when she got in bedside me I squeezed over and let her sleep with us for the rest of the night. Watching my friend on holiday with us play with my girl brought on the guilty feeling - I need to do that more with her myself. The mother guilt is always there.

    Love your photos in this post and did you knit Junipers cardigan in the carousel photo - it is beautiful -looks like Noro yarn?

    1. Yes, I saw your photos from Japan, it looked like a fantastic holiday. And YES, I did knit the cardigan and it is Noro yarn--a silk/wool self-striping blend in bulky (apparently they've now discontinued the line). It was *expensive* yarn and I tried to stretch it out by adding some Lamb's Pride bulky in with the stripes. I think it looks really good but in retrospect, I should have just purchased another skein of the Noro, it would have been less hassle what with weaving all those ends in! Pattern is "Ragman" on Ravelry. xo Gretchen


What say you? I want to hear it!