Dezesseis Meses

World Cup fever has come and gone in our household as Molly became Brazil’s biggest fan (after Josie, and after Ulisses, and after a whole bunch of people in Brazil). She was great luck until Brazil had its epic meltdown during Molly’s nap, a clear sign that she was having a bad dream.

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Much like Molly Ringwald in “Sixteen Candles,”* our Molly at Sixteen Months is experiencing a new found sea of emotions around growing up. We’ve seen her have attachments.

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We’ve seen her get emotional and well up with tears over random things such as “Twinkle Star & Owl” (thanks for finding that out Leah). We’ve seen her showcase her will, usually defiantly.

It’s really amazing to see how much changes in a short month. Between garbled sentences of gibberish there are clear enunciations of HAT, HEAD, TOES, CAT, and BALL. This along with previously mastered HELLO, UP, and APPLE and we’ve got a good communication framework going here, even to the point that we talk about our wishes together.

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There have been epic “Flashdance“** parties.

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There has been some pretty serious coffee talk.

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Even though Molly seems to be entering (e.g. already in) a full-on Mama phase, it’s amazing to watch how fast things change in 4 weeks. I’m expecting a thesis by month 18.

* I fully pat myself on the back for the Molly -> Molly and 16 Candles -> 16 Months reference here. If I’ve learned anything it’s that I can apply the 80s to everything.

** 80s again!

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“She wept when they gave birth to daughters, knowing that to be born a woman meant a life of humble hardship.”

-Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Bullshit, I thought, the first and second and seventeenth and thirtieth time I read the above passage. There’s nothing humble about being a woman. Women are fierce and strong and powerful and can do anything men can do. My parents raised my sister and me to believe this truth, and we married men who believe this truth, and there’s nothing harder or more humbling about being a woman than a man. Maybe in the past; maybe in turn-of-the-20th-century Brooklyn, but not in my lifetime. There’s nothing to fear, having daughters, today.

And yet.

When the ultrasound tech said “it’s a girl” and I said out loud “I KNEW it!” and Lee and I smiled at each other with joy in our eyes, a very quiet voice in my head said to a very small ear tucked into the corner of my heart, “oh.” And that oh bore all of the weight of the universe, contained in the knowledge that I was going to have another girl, and no matter how far we’ve come in equality and feminism and fairness, this girl, this some-day woman, is still going to be born female, and we’ll have not just one but two daughters, and this knowledge puts a weight on my heart that I need to write about.

The honest to God truth is, we live in a world full of men who hate women; of men who think that women are theirs to possess and own and do with what they please, and yes, this happens in America too. We live in a country where Molly and her sister are going to be (and Molly is already) faced with an onslaught of messaging about their looks and their bodies and their weight that can lead even the most confident girls down a path of at best self-doubt and at worst self-harm. We live in a city that is better than most in terms of equality and equity, but where there is still overt sexism allowed, all the time, even here.

Sian says from the day your baby is born a piece of your heart lives outside of your body forever. And now there will be another one – another girl – another daughter – and a part of me thinks, well, if Lee and I and do our job right maybe they’ll band together to create a protective shell around themselves so that all the messaging out there will deflect off of them and they’ll grow into adulthood unscathed, and meet the right kind of partners, and have babies of their own and if those babies are girls then maybe, just maybe, they’ll worry a little less than I do.

And yet.

I walk down the toy aisles at Target and I can’t understand why the girl toys are all pink and the boy toys are all blue. I resisted telling people the gender the first time around because I was wary of the pink clothes, the “Daddy’s Little Princess,” the “Math is Hard“, the multitude of dolls (however, to give credit to the amazing people in our and her lives, we have gotten exactly zero gifts that have made me think, oh no, I won’t be giving her that). I automatically respond with “and smart and strong” when a stranger tells me how beautiful Molly is. She is beautiful, without a doubt. She is so beautiful that sometimes looking at her makes my breath catch in my throat. I so want her to know that she’s beautiful, to instill in her the confidence to look all those negative messages out there about women and girls in the face and, like her mama does, call Bullshit. I just don’t want her to believe that her beauty is where her value lies; and I fear her growing up to believe that her beauty overshadows, or should overshadow, her other qualities.

So there will be two. And Lee and I, and our friends and our families, will try our very best to create safety nets for our girls, to instill in them the belief that they can do anything, be anything; that there are no limits as long as they are willing to work hard enough. We’ll read them stories about strong girls and amazing women and tell them cool things about math and science and engineering. We’ll let them play with dolls and trucks and draw and paint and cook and climb trees and learn about whatever they are interested in. We’ll tell them that they can love whomever they love as long as that person treats them with respect and kindness. We’ll let them know that the only types of princesses we expect them to be are warrior princesses. We’ll tell them they’re beautiful and smart and strong every day. We’ll try our hardest to pick them up when they fall; to cast away the shadows of self-doubt and insecurity and hurt, and if we try really, really hard, maybe they’ll grow up believing in themselves; believing that women are equal; calling bullshit on all the media and the misogyny and the messaging because they know what’s what.

And yet.

My heart. A piece of it lives outside of me now, and in 5 months another piece of it is going to leave my body, and I worry. I worry for my girls. I worry for my daughters. I worry for the women they’ll be, some day. My heart aches and I’m burdened with the weight of it – this humbling hardship of womanhood.

 

 

The Post About Gender (*Spoiler Alert*)

15 months!

I’m writing this post while camped out at my cousin’s house, since Molly is napping and our house is currently being shown. Also, my current view is laptop and belly:

Second pregnancies. So much belly so quickly.

Second pregnancies. So much belly, so quickly.

Anyway, on to Molly, our little sponge. Here’s an example of life with MJ this month: we were back east visiting my friend Matt and he asked, “does Molly know any animal noises yet?” Ooh, does she ever. The next 15 minutes consisted of “Molly, what does a dog say?” (“bow wow wow”), what does a cat say?” (“merow”), “what does a snake say?” (“ssssssssss”), and on and on and on (including cows, monkeys, faces for pigs and fish, elephants, and sheep), followed by “what does a car do?” (“vroom, vroom”), and “where’s your nose?” And where are your eyes? And where’s your head?  And now in Portuguese, cade sua boca? cade sua nariz? cade sua cabeça?

Girl is brilliant.

Everything is still very much pointing to “this? this?” because she wants to know what everything is. She’s very curious about the world around her and picks up new nouns almost immediately. She has also been enhancing her vocab – apple (and randomly, applesauce), fish, horse, again, no (that is, no no no no while vehemently shaking her head), yes, ball, all done, Elmo, and, maybe just once, Josi! We are trying (and failing) to be really careful to watch our language around her, now that she is picking up words so quickly. The first time she drops an F bomb I’m totally blaming Lee.

The highlight of the month was a trip back east to see best friends, babies, and Ulisses!  Unfortunately MJ ended the trip by getting the worst cold of her short life, which left her lethargic for days.

So sleepy

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Trust me, I’m tired too.

But otherwise, the trip was so fun. There were SO many babies and I really do think that there’s something extra special about meeting the babies of college friends; friends who you’ve grown up with and shared incredible experiences with and now you get to meet their children and watch your kids and theirs interact. When I wasn’t squealing with joy and taking 1,000 pictures I was basically choking back happy tears.  First up, Lilly!  Matt and Amanda’s daughter is the cutest 5-month old and unfortunately I don’t seem to have any pictures of her (probably because Molly was *not* having either Lee or me holding her for one minute. I thought she was too young for jealousy) so you’ll have to settle for her playing in a sprinkler with other kids. And yes, she was naked. California kid, what can I say?

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Oh, and she also experienced her first boat ride! Followed immediately by her first popcorn. Not sure which she was more enthusiastic about but likely the popcorn.

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I’m on a boat!

Post ride snack

Post ride snack

Next up, Sian and Jimmy and their three kids, James, Charlie, and Francesca! I was especially excited to meet Francesca since she and Molly are exactly two months apart and I was so curious to see what I had to look forward to come July (babies change quickly!). Molly had an absolutely fantastic time with all of the kids and they loved her right back!

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James and Molly

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Jimmy with the girls

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Bath time!

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I think Charlie wins the “who does Molly have the biggest crush on?” contest

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Already up to trouble, these two ;)

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Best babies!

And then, after a whirlwind day at the Baltimore Zoo and lots of fun with babies, we got to see Ulisses! And meet his mama!! And his nana and aunt – so basically we didn’t see Molly once we got to his house :)

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Best buds

 

Familia brasileira de Molly

Familia brasileira de Molly

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Still the best manny ever <3

Even with the dire illness, it was a great trip and we are so lucky to have all of these fantastic people in our lives.  All of them. The best.

Some other snaps from this month:  kicking it with Josi, Sesame Street Live, and general MJ awesomeness.

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Air travel. Fun for everyone.

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Water baby

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Checking out the elephants at the Baltimore Zoo

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I will hug and kiss this pole.

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Sesame Street Live. Obviously Lee is the most excited.

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Being fierce with Josi

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<3

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Pigtails! Thanks to Auntie Sian

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Say cheese!

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All smiles

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Oversize sunnies, very Hollywood

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Ball pit action shot

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A Pause Between Changes. One Might Even Call it a Pregnant Pause, if One Were so Inclined.

“We make plans, and God laughs.”

So says my dad, via Woody Allen, via an old Yiddish proverb.

We had plans.

The plan was for Lee and I to start trying for our second baby next summer, during our fabulous 10-year wedding anniversary vacation which was going to be a river cruise from Bucharest to Budapest. That plan would have put Molly and her sibling at 3+ years apart, which, we decided, was a great age gap.

The plan was for us to pay down our mortgage for another year or two and then sell and move to a bigger place, once the second baby came along.

The plan was for Molly to be a big cousin before she was a big sister.

The plan was for me to be in my new job for more than a year and 1/2 (minus a maternity leave); to spend some time focusing on finding and maintaining the balance between having a career and having a family.

The plan was for Lee’s business to really take off before we made any major life changes.

The plan was to give us some more time; time with Molly and time with each other, to continue to navigate this rocky road of introducing a third person into our family and onto our team.

We had plans.

And then, just a few days after Molly’s very first birthday, all the plans stood still.  And I swear to you, when I looked at that pregnancy test, locked in a stall in the Ferry Building, that I heard a chuckle, from somewhere up there in the heavens, along with a voice that sounded unquestionably like it was saying “so much for your plans, you sweet, innocent idiot.”

We tried so hard for Molly. We tried for almost two years before I got pregnant. We tried and tried and I remember having this same feeling, that I had no control; that what was going to happen was going to happen no matter how hard I willed it or wanted it.

I should have learned then, that planning is all well and good until life unfolds the way it’s going to anyway.

These days, our plans are logistical – what will we do with the cats while our house is on the market? Who can babysit Molly during open house time, which is also her nap time? How are we ever going to come up with enough money to cover moving costs, let alone a down payment, let alone taxes on a bigger house, let alone childcare for two kids? What neighborhood do we want to live in (and where can we afford)? Is a backyard or a third bedroom more important to us?

And then there is the bigger question: How are we going to manage with two kids under two? What’s our plan?

We have until mid-November to come up with, if not a plan, at least a map. And it will undoubtedly be a map peppered with twists and turns and roadblocks and hurdles because that’s the beauty and the terribleness of living, isn’t it?

Lee and I are lucky – so lucky – to be bringing a second life into the world. We’re giving Molly a sibling, a little brother or sister whom she’ll never remember what life was like not knowing. And we’re so, so, so very blessed by that. So unbelievably blessed that sometimes I can’t believe it, because it all feels so random and doesn’t make any sense and why? Why us? Why now? This pregnancy was not in the plans!

And when I find myself caught in this spiralling line of questioning, it’s then that I hear that voice again, that booming, resonating voice, saying, “quiet, child…you’re not the one calling the shots here, after all.”

 

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14 months in the ‘ole ’14

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14 months…. toddler time all the way. The last month has been an epic leap from babyland to mini human (or toddler). Running, jumping, climbing, more climbing, falling, more falling, but never crawling, Molly is in full locomotion. Singing, screaming, chatting, “bow wow wow”, “apples!”, “UP DOWN”, “Elmo!”, Molly is also in full vocab expansion mode. At first I thought she was merely parroting sounds but she absolutely knows that when you point at an apple one should declare “ABBLE!” This also means it’s now time for the adults to watch the potty mouth around the house. Swear jar here we come!

One thing that has been not so epic is that Molly seems to have regressed in sleeping habits. I don’t really feel like we have changed our approach but she now needs to scream at the top of her lungs for 15 – 20 minutes before falling asleep. It seems like we have gone backwards in time to when she was around 4 months and refused to be put down without constant attention. Our hope is that this is merely a matter of some serious teething. Molly now has a near complete set of chompers that are capable of tackling bacon, corn on the cob (probably the cutest thing ever to watch), Dad’s fingers and nose, and large plastic items (kidding… maybe). Now with 12+ teeth we can say that we are more than 50% done with teething which is a reassuring tidbit. Here’s a tip of the wine glass to that tidbit meaning silent nights in all of our futures.

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13 months and a family trip to Mexico!

Well, I missed 13 months, mostly because I didn’t have commemorative stickers (but now I do!), but we just got back from Mexico so let’s write about that!

Actually, first – Molly has gotten like four new teeth in the past month – one molar on each side, one molar on the top, and her missing 8th bottom tooth finally came in. On the plus side, her smile is getting bigger every day! On the minus side, molars are excruciating for her (and, by extension, for us). She also has a bunch of new words – fish, gato, this, book, bird, and knows front and back (rubbing her belly and patting her tush), pats her head, pulls her ears, and just tonight learned that dogs say “woof”. She understands everything we say to her (whether she listens to us or not is besides the point) and is basically the most brilliant girl I’ve ever met. Oh, and every morning when Lee asks her what she dreamed about she says, “Mama!” She’s the best.

Okay, Mexico! Well, the trip was supposed to be with Kristin, Mike, Connor, Leslie, Ulisses, Ulisses’ entire family, my dad, and Laurie. Instead Ulisses got a job researching the AIDS vaccine (needless to say, he won’t be our manny again. Sad, but so proud of him! Plus he promised he would dedicate his Nobel prize to Molly) and didn’t have vacation time to take. And then his family decided that they weren’t going without him. And then Mike got deathly ill and ended up in the hospital the night before we left, so no Jasmin family. That left us, the grandparents, and Leslie to represent all those people in spirit.  We tried our best.

Molly seriously had the best vacation.  Considering the fact that I got sick literally the moment I stepped off of the airplane, I actually had a great time too. We got to go to Chichen Itza and swim in a cenote, I napped on the beach every day, we swam in the ocean and the pool and ate all the papaya and generally had a lovely and relaxing trip. Molly absolutely loved the pool, the sandbox, the mariachi music, the ice cream (ahem, grandparents), and all the other kids. The ocean, not so much (maybe next year) but she did like the sand! Our little vampire even got a nice tan (much to Lee’s chagrin).

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One million pictures below. ¡Viva México!

 

 

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And Then She was One

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And all of a sudden my little baby is a little girl – a running, jumping, giggling, talking little girl, who will bring you a book, turn around, sit in your lap, and demand to be read to. A little girl who will hold your hand while she walks; not because she needs you, but because sometimes she likes to know you’re there (and sometimes she wants you to walk faster). A little girl with her first molar.* A little girl who says “roar” like a lion, “moo” like a cow, and “ah ah ah” like a monkey, who can say “at” for cat and “ba” for bird (specifically, parrots. Girlfriend loves parrots) and “duck” for duck (well, how else would you say duck?) and still slays us with the “Mama” and the “Dada.” A little girl who will give me a kiss on demand before I leave for work in the morning; who is sweet and affectionate and hilarious and who gives the world’s best hugs.

I don’t write here often because I’m not home much, and when I am home I’m trying to spend every second I can focused on Molly and Lee (and the cats. Our poor, poor neglected cats) but this blog is a space to talk about our family, and I will say this: this year was full of joy, yes, but it also housed a lot of pain. The postpartum year is not only difficult because of the new human you’re responsible for keeping alive, but because you have to do so while your body and hormones are stabilizing (and by stabilizing I mean spinning out of control). So there is stress, and there’s not the same ability to handle the stress (hormones, you beastly, beastly things), and then on top of the stress and the hormones, there was a family tragedy, and then Ulisses had to leave, and honestly, there were several times this year that I felt like I was drowning; like I couldn’t quite pick my head up above water to get enough air into my lungs; like it was only a matter of time before I got caught in the undertow and lost myself forever. These were the times when I looked at Lee with tears in my eyes and said, over and over, I’m just really overwhelmed and I don’t know how to get better. These were the times when Kristin picked up her phone and all I could do was wail; when she had to remind me to breathe because she had just been through the first year with Connor and it really does get better. These were the times when Bibi pulled me aside and said that I needed to reach out to her, and if not to her than to someone, when it got too bad, because she could read on my face how badly I was struggling.

The truth is, you lose a part of yourself when you become a parent. To love someone the way I love Molly – the all-consuming, overwhelming way that parents love their children – to put that energy into a human being that you grew inside of you, it’s just not possible to love so big without giving up a part of yourself. Even the thought of her hurting is enough to shatter me absolutely, so that when I even think of her in pain, or scared, or lonesome, my bones start to ache. The power behind that emotion has caused a shift in me – an uncomfortable, awkward shift. I’ve lost the part of myself that was able to compartmentalize, to push aside, to focus on myself only and not worry about anyone else. It’s been a hard, complicated year, and I need to write this down, here, to remember, because it hasn’t been easy. But. That picture at the top of the post is our family. Our family of two imperfect, complicated, brilliant, amazing, strong adults and one fiercely loveable little girl – and that joy captured in that family picture – that light – that glow – that has made it all worthwhile.

*They said we wouldn’t really know teething until the molars came in.  They were right…teething is the worst.

1 Year Old!

Semi-toddling

And just like that 365 days passed and Molly went from looking upon the world with true innocence to a personality filled near-toddler. Molly’s birthday celebration was a Brazilian blowout, thanks to Manny Ulisses and an authentic menu of treats consisting of:

Coxinhas

  • Esfirra de carne(ground beef cooked in bread)

Esfirra di carne

  • Empadas (chicken & olives in pastry dough)

Empada

  • Risoles de milho (corn & cheese croquette)

Risoles

  • Brigadeiro (Chocolate bon-bon) & Beijinho (Coconut bon-bon)

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Mannyama

Molly’s favorite friends and family came out to celebrate in style including her Aunt Jodie who was also celebrating a birthday of her own.

Birthday Ladies

Then after much celebrating/cake-eating it was time to take a short interlude to appreciate the local flora.

Official Dandelion Inspection

Presents were opened and in good time since it decided to start raining. All in all it was an epic first birthday party (even though technically it was held two days before Molly’s actual birthday).

So when the next day came around, Leah and I decided to celebrate Molly’s birthday by taking her to the science academy where minds were blown.

Lastly a photo review of the 30ish days between 11 & 12 months!

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11 Months

Eleven months and a bit, because Molly had a stomach bug and then Lee was traveling and I was solo-parenting, and that’s tiresome. And then I got sick, and then Lee got sick, and then last night when we were finally both feeling better we decided that instead of working late into the night, as he has been since he started The Electron Shop a few months ago and I have been essentially since I came back from maternity leave, we would pull out our new sofa bed and lay on it together watching the Olympics. So we did that, and it was glorious. And then we went to bed and Molly woke up at 5AM and screamed at us until Lee got her and brought her into bed with us, where she proceeded to alternately snuggle and smack us in our respective faces until he put her back, she screamed at us for 5 more minutes, and then we finally all fell back to sleep.

All that to say, this post is late.  Also, I’m very tired.

We are coming up on a year and this past month has been a trip. I’m actually speaking literally, here – we went back east at the end of January because my esteemed husband bought tickets to a Rangers game at Yankee Stadium. He said he asked himself “what would Leah do?” and the answer that came to him was “buy tickets to an outdoor hockey game across the country in the middle of the coldest winter in years without thinking through any of the details!” That man, he really gets me. So we went, to New England, in January, toting our darling almost-11-month-old daughter with us. Here is Molly after the flight out, where she slept for a total of 45 minutes and we were crammed into two seats for a 5-hour flight:

2014-01-23 17.46.20-2The trip home was fabulous, in the end, as trips home always are, full of friends and family and a whirlwind of activity and lots of time visiting and general happiness. We even got to spend the weekend with Ulisses, who had flown up from Virginia (where, and why is a story too long to tell, he is very temporarily until he can come home forever), and seeing him and Molly and their connection after a month apart was truly incredible.  I mean, just look at these two! Besties for life.

2014-01-24 15.42.18Also, there were cupcakes. And Connor, Molly’s future husband (if she chooses…no pressure…just saying it would be the best thing ever, but seriously, no pressure…). And Sebastian, who is the cutest. But mostly cupcakes.

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And this one, just because.

DSC_0081So the trip was great, and on the way home we snagged our very own row of seats, which made all the difference! Here is Molly, happy for all the space.

2014-01-28 16.17.22-2Needless to say, travel is exhausting.

2014-01-28 21.52.41And no wonder we’re all tired – it’s been a whirlwind of a year! Molly (and her seven teeth) are continuing to talk up a storm (go ahead and ask her what a cow says) and eat everything in sight (the stomach bug was so unsettling, in part because she projectile vomited on me multiple times, but mostly because she didn’t have an appetite). She is standing on her own, pushing herself up, and getting closer to walking every day.  Oh, and sometimes she climbs into the laundry basket and has herself a good old time:

2014-02-03 07.55.52She is a silly goof and so funny, cracking herself and us up regularly. She has moved from “everything out” to “everything back” and cleaning up is her current favorite activity (mine, too!).  The other morning when we were done with breakfast she put all the cheerios back into the bag (most of them…every so often she would find one that was too tasty to resist).  She also continues to be the most loving, snuggly, playful little girl who genuinely seems to like us and want to spend time with us (may it last) – we play games and read together and she comes with us to museums and playgrounds and restaurants and walks and playdates with other babies. A little part of me is nostalgic for my tee tiny babe, but a much bigger part is so excited to see her personality shining more and more each day. Eleven months in, and my daughter has irrevocably changed my life for the better.

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Ten Month Post

To start, again.  The past few months have thrown me off for reasons I’m not quite ready to elaborate on – they are coming, these reasons, but not just yet. Suffice it to say, life changed for all of us on Halloween and I couldn’t bring myself to write – couldn’t keep on pushing forward, capturing the daily joy that Molly brings – for a little while. Even now, thinking back on the past few months, my throat starts to close.

Augusten Burroughs says that “we can be filled with holes and loss and wide expanses of unhealed geography – and we can also be excited by life and in love and content at the exact same moment.” It’s been dark, these past months. Dark and sad and hard. But. Molly is still here, no matter what else has happened – and she is still amazing every day. It’s a new year. It’s time to begin to try and find joy, again, in the day to day.

Molly.  Molly who looks at me and it’s like she’s known me my whole life, who makes me feel like there was a piece of me missing that I didn’t even know existed until she took my hand in hers and rested her head on my shoulder. Molly who pushed herself up to standing the other day and stood there on her own, smiling at us while Lee and I stared at each other in speechless disbelief. Molly who fights me tooth and nail when I try to change her diaper because UP, MAMA! there is too much to do and see to stay still. Molly who I found snuggled 5-deep in stuffed animals when I went to check on her before I went to sleep last night. Molly who run-crawls circles around us, pulling everything down off of everything and willfully ignoring us when we say, Molly, NO. Molly who has tasted cat food and leaves and pebbles and who will steal your bacon right off your plate. Molly who points to the ladybug on the page every time. Molly whose giggle makes my heart simultaneously explode and shatter into a trillion pieces. Molly who I fall more deeply in love with every single day of her life.

Molly, I am so incredibly grateful for you, my funny, stubborn, brilliant, strong, willful, sweet little girl. Thank you for getting me through these past few dark, difficult months.  Happy 10-months, love.

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