Saturday, April 30, 2011

Opportunity Cost

I like advice columns. Always have. Sometimes I like them because I can disagree with them, but most often I admire advice-givers who are able to see through the slobbery mess that someone puts out there and hone in on the real issues, then give guidance. (Not tell someone exactly what to do-- in many cases, that's not helpful. Guidance is better, unless you need to be really direct in situations like "call the suicide hotline," "call children's services," "move into a shelter NOW" or something along those lines.)

One of my long-time favorites has been Sars at Tomato Nation's The Vine. Some of the letters she gets are hilarious, some are heartbreaking, but Sars has a way of seeing what matters. She seems to tackle less significant topics lately, and the focus of the site has subtly (or not-so-subtly) shifted, which is a shame. But I'll still dig through old Vines sometimes, for inspiration or encouragement or common sense.

A more recent discovery has been Dear Sugar. She's just as practical as Sars, although you can tell she's a writer rather than a journalist; her flowery style isn't for everyone. But under the style, the advice she dispenses is excellent and deeply thoughtful. Her most recent column (#71) hit home.

My great-grandmother (Elle's namesake) would every so often take her prayer book, let it fall open, and read the prayer that appeared there; she believed that accidental page was something meant for her to know that day.

I kind of feel the same way about Sugar's most recent column-- it appeared just when I needed to hear it. (Maybe you should go read it as well, or the rest of this won't make as much sense. The comments on the entry are fascinating as well.)

The state of Colorado has been running tourism commercials locally. I love the mountains in Colorado with an intensity that is probably not entirely healthy. I don’t think of myself as a particularly brave or fearless person, but I’ve taken seven-hour hikes in the backcountry entirely alone, simply because the hike needed to be done. I pore over trail maps. I take copious notes of each hike. I can sit by a Colorado river (or the Colorado River) for hours and not notice time passing. High on a mountain, sweaty and hot, wearing my beloved hiking boots and carrying a half-ton of water in my pack, I feel closer to God than almost anywhere else I’ve ever been.

(Completely illogical, given my Midwestern roots. But there it is.)

I was stopped in my track by one of the Colorado tourism ads the other day, just before I read that Sugar advice column. I had the strangest feeling, watching it. I brushed it off.

Now I know what I was feeling-- that sister life, that life that is no longer mine, brushed past me as I watched.

If there's anyone out there who doesn't feel they have a "sister life" running alongside of the life they actually live, I probably don't want to know them. And that doesn't necessarily mean the sister life is one they prefer.

But I think that part of being a self-actualized adult is recognizing that all your choices, even the small ones, set you on a path that is different from the path you might have otherwise taken. There's a reason that so many people enjoy stories of alternate universes-- the movie Sliding Doors is one that comes to mind (underrated, I think), or the classic Groundhog Day. And just about every science fiction television series has at least one episode along those lines.

We all wonder, sometimes, where different choices would have led us.

Becoming a parent is not a small change, obviously. Anyone who has become a parent understands how dramatically everything shifts-- everything. As I was a non-parent for far longer than I've been a parent, I can say with absolute confidence that there's no way that a non-parent can truly understand how immense the change is. I'm not making a value judgment there, or saying non-parents are somehow less, because that's not the case.

But people without children do not, cannot understand the magnitude of the change that occurs when someone hands another life over to you. It doesn't matter whether you give birth, or adopt, or become a stepparent, or a foster parent; the how doesn't matter at all. It's that it happens, and you cannot be the same person once it does.

(Some people don’t seem to change much, and that’s a topic for another day. That’s not what I’m focusing on here.)

Sugar's column made me think about that. About choices that aren't mine any more. About new choices I have to make, every day.

I do not, for a moment, regret becoming a mother. If that's what you, the reader, take from this blog entry, I'm doin' it entirely wrong.

But I think I had a moment where I turned a corner from my old life, and moved fully into my new one. You might have thought that would happen during childbirth, or when I held Elle for the first time, or the first night we were up all night walking the floor, or any one of a thousand other things that have made up her first ten months of life. Apparently, you'd be wrong.

For me, it was a commercial for Colorado.

There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore.

Thanks, Sugar.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The universe steps in (sometimes)

You get lots and lots of adorable baby clothes when you're having a little girl. (You get too many, actually. One of the few pieces of advice I give to people I know who are about to be first-time parents is that you do not need anywhere NEAR the amount of clothes you think you're going to need, unless you have a spit-uppy baby or do not have in-house laundry. You can take many of those clothes back and get credit for the future, when it's three days to payday and you're short and that Target gift card gets you the diapers you need.)

I should have done far more of that-- I can't tell you how many things Elle wore only once or not at all, and the credit at Target or Babies R Us or Kohl's would have done me a lot more good, financially speaking, than another cute romper she just didn't need.

Despite the overabundance of clothes, though, every time Elle starts going up a size I worry there won't be enough. This is silly, but I can't help myself. And there is some validity to the worry now: the clothes I got as gifts when she was born are now running out. People buy you clothes up through about the 9/12 month mark, and after that (as a friend said to me) your kid's gonna be naked.

We had a big consignment sale at a local charity recently, and I was able to get some cute summer clothes for her at a fraction of what I'd have paid new... yet I still worry.

I shouldn't, I guess; the universe seems to step in and provide. I had lunch with a friend the weekend before Easter, and she brought two bags of hand-me-down clothes for Elle from someone she works with. This same person gave me a bag of maternity clothes back when I was pregnant, and is now passing on clothes for Elle. She's never even met me. Then yesterday on, a single mom friend offered hand-me-downs from 18M through 2T. And for Easter, my mom showed up with a stack of adorable summer clothes she found at an outlet mall, on sale.

I've written before about how amazingly generous people can be. This is another reminder. Elle is now set through fall, with the inevitable fill-in purchases here and there.

I am trying to continue the tradition. I did sell some baby clothes in the consignment sale I mentioned, but I've also been giving clothes to friends who just had a baby a couple of weeks ago. They'll probably benefit from Elle's sharp dressing for several years to come, assuming their daughter doesn't grow at a rate far out of step with Elle, and I'm glad there's someone who can take advantage of it. (And it gets them out of my house. Double bonus.)

Some days it feels like there's so little we can do to make things better in this world. And some days, passing on a stack of onesies is enough to make it a better day.


Elle's first Easter was a lovely celebration of what is my favorite (church) holiday. Our church does a whole procession with streamers and everything, and she was transfixed. The church was also more crowded than usual, and the choir was extra loud, so she was pretty enthralled throughout.

Very serious-faced, though, even with all the people coming up to us and wishing her happy Easter and commenting on her Easter getup. (She looked ridiculously adorable, really.) She just gazes at people with her big dark eyes, sizing them up. If she knows you, she smiles. If you're new or new-ish, she just checks you out. It's pretty funny.

I even cooked dinner (my mother took care of Elle) which I really enjoyed. I love to cook, as much as that's just not practical right now. I didn't make anything especially difficult or complicated, but it all turned out well and tasted delicious. And I now have leftovers. Mmm, leftovers.

Elle probably thought it was just another day, but it was a special first Easter for our little family.


I am going to try and include some photography here and there, FYI (note the new header picture, which is the wrong size because I can't find anything that tells me what size to make it and I'm not able/willing to keep resizing it until it fits-- I do not have TIME), but I am not someone who's comfortable putting pictures of my kid(s) on the internet. I'm just not.

It's really not fair, since I get so much pleasure out of the pictures of other people's children online. Some of my favorite blogs (many linked in my sidebar) often feature pics of the blogger's child/children, and I've gotten so much pleasure out of their kids and out of watching them grow. That's just not me, though. Which is a shame, because Elle is adorable. (Not that I'm biased, or anything.)

So there will be silhouettes and backs and fingers and toes, because I do think photography adds to a blog. But my ingrained intarwebs paranoia wins the day on this one.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

In her Easter bonnet

I really wanted to find Elle a pretty Easter dress for her first Easter. I'm a pretty practical mom; I don't put her in a ton of fancy clothes or giant headbands or anything.

But Easter is different. Easter is when you doll up for church. It's also my fave religious holiday of the year, so when I say "rejoice," I want to rejoice.

Surprisingly, though, it was tough to find an Easter dress. Oh, there are tons of dresses out there-- but they look more like pretty dresses, not Easter dresses. At least in my mind.

Apparently, I had a specific mental image of what a child's Easter dress should look like. Who knew? It needs to be pastel, of course. Eyelet is good but not required. A crinoline is nice. It should not look like the child is about to head off to prom, a christening where they are the featured guest, a quinceaƱera, or their own wedding.

These requirements were surprisingly hard to meet.

I ended up finding a dress at the last place I looked. It's a sunny yellow that will look darling with Elle's dark hair and eyes. It has a little crinoline. It has a ribbon around the waist with a bow in front. She's going to look like a little Peep, and I couldn't be happier.

What am I wearing? Who knows.

We all know who rates in this house. :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Jewelry and reflections

I ordered a mother's necklace from a seller on Etsy. I've been looking at them for a while, but they all seemed so very similar and processed. I finally found a designer that made them small, simple, and affordable, and am looking forward to having it around my neck.

Among other things, it will have a little disk stamped with a sun, because Elle is my sunshine.

(I love that I already have a "jewelry" tag. At least I'm consistent.)


Tooth number two is on its merry way, so let's just say last night was less than restful. And when I wake up from a dead sleep in the middle of the night because of a baby that's screaming as if she's being tortured with hot pokers, let's just say I didn't have the presence of mind to remember that Tyl.enol would probably have helped.

Tonight, should I need to remember, I will remember.


Being a parent is this vast amazing thing, and at the same time it's so very tiny. It's small things like how your daughter's cheek feels against your lips, how she'll rest her face against yours and you can feel her smiling, how her neck smells. And it's big enormous things like wondering who she'll be someday, who she's becoming. Realizing that so much of who she is is already there, coded into her genes, like the little wispy curls her hair is turning into.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I talked to a friend tonight and though we originally talked about some sad news, we ended up chatting about many other topics-- far more pleasant ones. When we hung up, I realized how nice it had been to talk to someone on the phone that didn't have to do with work.

I don't know about you, but most of my friends now communicate via e-mail and text. I see people live and in person all the time, but phone calls have become rarer and rarer. And by the time I get home, get Elle fed and bathed and put to bed, wash bottles, and have something to eat, I'm usually too tired to do anything but check e-mail, maybe watch something on the DVR and collapse into bed.

It was good to just talk to a friend.


Elle was very tired tonight. I have to remember that the week takes a lot out of her, just as it takes a lot out of me, and we need to make sure we do some recharging over the weekend. The coming weekend is very booked, and... I need to not do that.

Our little family needs to not be on the go every moment of every day.