last night we attended a talk at rice university--it was a teach-in actually, about the new military commissions act of 2006 (the "torture bill"), and carl was one of the panelists. cosmo didn't really comprehend the gravity of the topic at hand, as he kept interjecting with shout-outs and guffaws while one of the panelists was listing now legal interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, induced hypothermia and prolonged sleep deprivation. as our friend iris would say, wagging her finger in disapproval, in-a-pro-priate. we had to step out of the room for most of the discussion.
it was a lot more fun for cosmo out in the gallery anyway. he got to climb on the swooping forms of rip-curl canyon and, best of all, he wandered around underneath the room-sized structure made of plywood and die-cut cardboard contours. it was a perfect environment for him. there was nothing he could damage, and nothing much that could hurt him either, so he got to crawl around freely, dipping under the low spots, giggling and sucking in his breath while simultaneously vocalizing at a high pitch (his newly discovered favorite sound to make). he wasn't disturbing anyone and he was having a ball(photo forthcoming).
we went back into the classroom and heard a few minutes of carl's talk. but once he heard his voice and saw him speaking, cosmo seemed to want to go down to the front to be with carl. he squirmed out of my arms and i let him crawl on the shallow steps leading down the side of the lecture hall. the little guy just couldn't contain his excitement though. his squeals of delight were too distracting, so we went back out--this time to the lobby for some dinner. he crabbed around a polished black bench, picking up camouflaged black turtle beans off the top, and occasionally a kernel of corn, or a bright green pea.
when the teach-in turned to Q&A, we ventured back in. i heard a student in a budweiser-logo-styled-padre-island t-shirt question the optimism of some of the "older" people in the room. he said that he found no comfort in the idea that the constitution would bounce back from this most recent threat, in about 15 years or so. he pointed out that he had come of age in this [post 9-11] climate of fear and illegal, unjust war. this current [insane] administration was all he had known. his comments got me thinking about the challenges his generation faces. i began to reminisce about my own college years, and the struggles we faced, the battles we fought.
i became highly politicized around my sophomore year as an undergrad in springfield missouri [sometimes referred to as the buckle of the bible belt]. it was the mid/late 1980s, the tail-end of the cold war era. we lived in fear of nuclear war, we were outraged about the arms race, and the military spending that was stripping social programs of funding. we tried to put pressure on the government to impose sanctions on the south african apartheid regime, we tried to draw attention to the US instigated contra war in nicaragua, and we were increasingly concerned about the environment-- raising awareness and implementing recyling programs on campus. i took classes on non-violence, and the geography of the homeless and volunteered at a battered women's shelter.
today on democracy now! there was a discussion about a new film set in apartheid south africa. the discussion made me remember a night right after i graduated from college. i was out at a club with my boyfriend in oakland california (i had just relocated to the bay area). a bunch of hippies and i were bouncing around on the dance floor to the cool rhythms of some reggae band. at the end of one of the songs were these words free. nelson. mandela. all the members of the band were singing these words, over and over...free. nelson. mandela. the audience joined in. soon the entire club was chanting free. nelson. mandela. it was a beautiful moment in and of itself, but it hit me in a particularly powerful way. everything i had been doing for the past two and a half years...all the organizing, meetings, mailings, flyers, fundraisers, film screenings, marches, peace festivals, state board meetings, green conferences, trainings, teach-ins, poetry readings, soup kitchens, anti-racism workshops...it all felt sort of futile...or not? it was uplifting to finally find myself in a room full of strangers who cared about the same sorts of things i had been working for, but somehow it was unsettling to know that so many people cared, and still it went on like this. change seemed impossible. i couldn't imagine a free south africa.
within a year, the apartheid regime collapsed, nelson mandela was free, and soon the berlin wall came down as well...the cold war was over too. these things happened, but it wasn't obvious to me that my work had anything whatsoever to do with those events. the times changed. the struggles of those days are not the same as the struggles of today. and yet, in some ways, they aren't terribly different, and in some parts of the world, not much has changed (i'm thinking of the israeli occupation of palestine for example). it's not as if my activism ended once i hit age 22. today's struggles are my struggles too. but the issues we face as we come of age seem somehow...formative.
before cosmo and i left sewall hall last night, we had watched some skaters doing stunts off the front steps, danced in front of the big mirror in the ladies' lounge, and cosmo had knocked his head repeatedly (but gently) against the glass wall of the gallery. he couldn't understand why he was unable to reach the brass strip which was RIGHT THERE, no matter how many times he tried, or how far along the wall he traveled! the stickers to prevent people from walking into the glass were way too high for a baby to see.
when the talk was over, we fetched carl and walked across the campus in the rain...
wondering about the dragons cosmo's generation will need to slay.
note:this photo has nothing to do with this post. sorry for any confusion.
13 October 2006
13 September 2006
this is a story from a few weeks ago:
it was time for cosmo to take a nap. he had been taking quite regular morning and afternoon naps. i had noticed the night before, that if he took his afternoon nap too late, he didn't want to go to sleep around his bedtime. i had noticed two days earlier that if he skipped the afternoon nap altogether, then dinner was impossible, in fact he'd be rather fragile emotionally for the whole evening. so, i was pretty set on getting this afternoon nap in sometime between 2 and 4pm.
there is one thing that i have learned about babies in my brief tenure as a mother. they don't work on YOUR schedule, they work on their own. they aren't trying to be obstinate, they just aren't as predictable as we think they are, and the don't really have a concept of the future (i.e. if i don't nap now, i will be cranky later).
anyway, he was looking tired. we did our usual nursing session 'til he falls asleep, then bring him to his hammock bed, and put him in for the duration of his nap. i tried to lower him into the bed, but he woke up, and started wailing. i tried this a few more times, then he seemed obviously UP, chipper, and not interested in napping at all. it was a bit early, so, i thought we could just try again later. we did. same thing. no luck. so, i thought maybe if we drove to the co-op, he might just fall asleep in the car, which he'll often do if he's tired. he was bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed all the way there. i put him on my back in our new carrier. sometimes he falls asleep there too. nope. well, then, perhaps he would fall asleep on the way to the supermarket, or, IN the store if i left him in his car seat. he has GOT TO be tired, i reasoned. he did not sleep in the car, and when we got to the store, i put his car seat in the shopping cart, and it was tilted so far back, i figured he wouldn't be able to see much, would be relclined, and therefore INclined to drift off to sleep. in the produce section, he was straining his abs to lift his torso up so he could see what was going on. i actually had to laugh. he was working really hard at not falling asleep.
i noticed that i had been getting frustrated, anxious, annoyed. cosmo was not cooperating. he was not doing what i expected him to do, what i thought he NEEDED to do, and there would be consequences. but at that moment, as he was reaching, lurching and careening to catch a peek over the sides of the car seat, he was obviously wide awake, happy and curious; i realized that everything was just fine, and i was stressing myself out for no good reason. cosmo sleeps when he needs to sleep. he does not sleep on command. most people don't. and that's okay.
if i remember correctly, he got cranky and wanted to nap soon after we got home. it was too late for a nap, so we decided to just wake him up after 45 minutes. that worked out just fine. other times, he just skips his afternoon nap, and goes to bed early. it's not a big problem. recently he was sick for a week, with high fevers, and general discomfort. his sleeping schedule was all messed up. but now he's better, and things are returning to the level of routine that is possible with a 10 month old. he generally has two naps each day, he generally eats dinner around 6pm. he generally has bath and story time around 8:30, and goes to bed close to 9pm. not always, but enough to make it a pattern...of sorts, and that's good enough for us.
not long after this i found myself stressing again about night-waking, and night nursing. is it harmful for his development to not know how to put himself back to sleep by now? should he be sleeping through the night? should we be sleep training him? then i reminded myself that the way things are right now is working for me...i get plenty of sleep, feel rested each day, and don't resent the night nursing. he also seems fine, and happy with the current arrangement. he won't be a baby for very long. this precious time in our lives will pass so quickly. there is no need to rush anything, especially if there isn't a problem.
if it ain't broke...
so, for me, one of the great gifts of motherhood is learning to relax; forgetting to stress about all the things i used to think were so important and so pressing. and also, finding ways to calm down now, and accept that this is all going remarkably well. sometimes in spite of me.
23 August 2006
click on the image to see it enlarged.
chuck's blog, by the way, can be found at http://longlonglongride.blogspot.com/
25 July 2006
i remember seeing ida jane on christmas day. she had just mastered the pincer grasp, and was picking up tiny objects between her thumb and fore-finger--precisely, and delicately. it struck me as such a sophisticated thing for such a young baby. she was also cruising around on two feet, moving from coffee table to couch, getting ready to walk, but i was most impressed by the pincer grasp. cosmo was just a month old at the time. his new skills included: smiling. cruising and finger foods seemed ages away. now, only 7 lightening-fast months later, he's doing those things too. i'm so proud of him. and i feel so blessed, in so many ways:
i have a beautiful, sweet-spirited child, a loving & supportive partner, strong friendships with amazing people and...starting on friday, cosmo will no longer be in daycare. i'll be caring for him during the day, for as long as we can make it work financially(probably less than a year). i remind myself everyday of my incredible good fortune. while i revel in it, i am also struck with pangs of guilt, and a feeling that it's "just not right." it's not that i don't feel like i deserve such luck, it is that i believe we all do. and there is so much needless struggle and suffering.
yesterday, on the way to work i heard a story on the radio about a lebanese family (one of three that day) who had followed the israeli instructions to flee their home before israeli bombs struck their town. en route, their car was struck by an israeli (US supplied) bomb. an eight month old baby was wailing in the background. she had suffered severe burns and other injuries. her 10 year old brother was nearby, trembling from shock--also burned. their father and uncle had been killed in the blast, the mother, i believe, was also injured. the point of broadcasting a story like that is to bring the crisis home; to make it something that everyday people can identify with. when i heard there was an 8 month old baby, i immediately put myself in the shoes of the mother. what would i do if i lived in southern lebanon, and i received the warning and instructions to evacuate or be killed? how would i decide between fleeing with my baby, or heading for a bomb shelter? especially with only 2 hours warning, knowing that everyone else would be on the road, and that roads and bridges have been bombed, or are otherwise unsafe. the truth is that i cannot even imagine. try as i might, it is impossible. remember the catastrophe on the roads out of houston when the region was threatened by hurricane rita? what a nightmare, and yet nothing compared to the 12 days of devastating bombardment and destruction of infrastructure all over southern lebanon. it is a man-made disaster on a scale that we in the US cannot comprehend. oh, but the us is sending humanitarian aid. even the vice prime minister shimone peres had the gall to say "israel will do all it can to avoid a humanitarian crisis in lebanon." how is it that you can simultaneously cause, and avoid a humanitarian crisis? i don't get it. i don't understand war, i don't get "rules of engagement," i don't understand how, as we did in afganistan, a nation can drop bombs and aid packets at the same time. call me naive, but war of any kind, makes no sense to me.
it seems criminal to celebrate the blessings of my own life, while so many lives are being strained and destroyed. i comfort myself with the thought that my happiness contributes to the overall level of happiness in the world. when possible, we create around us the kind of world we desire. my little world makes the world a better place in some small way. i have to believe that.
13 July 2006
It is not just a milestone. I guess none of the moments we mark and celebrate are mere milestones, but crawling is huge. Now, he can want to be somewhere other than where he is, and he can attempt to (often with success) get there. He has will, and he has motion to back it up. Right now he does not seem to have too much object preference. He likes certain kinds of things, but mostly he just seems to explore everything, and what is new is often what is most interesting. He appreciates difference.
His personality is changing too. He is becoming somebody. Somebody in particular. Cosmo. His gaze has more force, more presence than it used to.
Each moment with him is astonishing. Like nothing else, ever.
19 June 2006
two nights ago i had a dream: i was holding cosmo over the toilet, or near a toilet, and i accidentally dropped him, or he slipped or squirmmed out of my arms, and fell into the toilet. though it all happened in a split second, i remember how it felt in the dream. i knew exactly what to do without thinking about it, and i did not pause --i began to act quickly. i reached into the toilet to pull him out. he was considerably smaller than he is in waking life, and part of his body had gone down into the opening at the bottom of the bowl. i had to turn his head a little to get him out, but i did manage to pull him out fast, and then i instictively held him upside down, and patted his back. he was coughing and sputtering, so i knew he was alright. i knew he was getting air. i put him on his back and started pushing on his tummy, like i had seen in a flinstone's episode as a kid. in the cartoon, the water came out of barney's mouth like a fountain. not so much in my dream, but some water did come out. i don't recall the rest of the dream, but cosmo was fine.
i know, it sounds like a really awful dream. i have had many like this one. near misses. dreams where something terrible almost happens. sometimes it involves water, sometimes it involves me leaving him somewhere, and then realizing that i am not sure if i have left him in anyone's care or not, and i am frantically trying to get back to him. in the end, he is always okay. this particular dream was different in that i felt completely confident through the whole ordeal that i could save him. i think these dreams represent (if indeed, dreams represent anything) the doubts and fears i have about parenting, and my anxiety about leaving him with others, and this specific dream is also an affirmation of the overall confidence i feel as a mother.
another toilet issue i wanted to mention is that cosmo has become quite accustomed to using his little potty chair. when we are home together, i give him the chance to use it as soon as he wakes up, either in the morning, or from naps. he almost always pees right away. i have also become quite skilled at noticing when he is about to poo, and when i bring him to the bathroom for that, he just goes! it is so cool. i haven't had to change a poopy diaper in quite a while now. hats off to miah raj and lila for the EC inspiration!
check out their green parenting blog
13 June 2006
cosmo is in day care. it is his second day. i did ok yesterday, today i am a wreck. i feel so far away. it's too long, too many hours too many days. he begins to feel distant, like a memory, like this wonderful little guy i know, but where is he? i will see him this evening.
no. this is absurd. to drop him off at 7am. to pick him up at 5pm.
how is this a family? i am his mother and he should be with me.
furthermore, i cannot even afford to pay for this. i had to borrow the money until i find a job that pays enough to cover day care (thankfully, someone was kind enough to lend me money). naturally, once i wrapped my mind around the fact that this had to happen, i wanted to find the best possible place for him to spend his days. i knew that i could survive this if i liked the people and the environment, and i knew he would be learning and growing in my absence. i researched all of the montessori schools in my area, only one had an opening, so that's where we went. the philosophy is right-on, the caregivers seem sweet, and the interaction with the other babies should be fun for him. i think it is a good place. the monthly fee is more than i pay for rent each month. it is like renting two apartments, a one bedroom and a two bedroom, and just living in the one bedroom. but it's not like renting two apartments. it's like sending your child off to be raised by strangers because you cannot come up with a better solution, or you don't have the means, or you didn't plan ahead, or this society/culture/government/nation does not support a mother needing to care for her baby.
"I believe that government has a responsibility to help strengthen
Washington's reaction came quickly last night, shortly after the 379-to-35 House passage of the Decency Enforcement Act. Within an hour of the vote, President Bush issued a statement saying he was ready to sign the bill into law: "I believe that government has a responsibility to help strengthen families," Bush said, adding that the bill, which boosts indecency fines 10-fold, "will make television and radio more family friendly."
--from Decency Act Vote Gets Quick D.C. Reaction
Brooks Boliek, The Hollywood Reporter, and Tony Sanders
i personally can't think of a better fucking way to strengthen the holy goddamn sacred family than fining dinky little low-watt college radio stations $325,000 for each "fuck" "cocksucker" or "muthafukkin'shit-eater" that appears in a goddamn fucking hip-hop rhyme.
thank you mr.president man. i love you. thank you for making this world a better place for our children. thank you for putting the family first. no child left behind. that's right. thank you.
31 May 2006
one of the most wonderful things about traveling through the world with cosmo, is that i begin to see the world through his fresh and curious eyes, rather than my own jaded world view. for instance, this weekend we went to visit his little cousin at her maternal grandparents' house in a wealthy suburban enclave of dallas. these folks live in what i would call a mcMansion. its a new gated community, their property sits alongside a man-made lake. the place is huge and sprawling, they have a pool etc.
normally, upon visiting such a place, my mind would be filled with judgmental thoughts and outrage at the conspicuous consumption, and disdain for their glaring lack of taste.
but i had cosmo with me.
i tried to view the environment through his sensibilities. there was a marble floor in the entry way--it must have felt great on his feet--so smooth and cool. there was a big formal living room with no furniture and plush carpet. the ceilings were high, windows huge with satin drapery. the pool in the back had fountains and colored lights.
it was cleaned with sea salt rather than chlorine--the water felt so fresh and soft. the grass was bright green and fine.
while i may have felt totally out of my element in that space, cosmo was clearly having a ball. it can be very freeing to allow myself to focus fully on cosmo and his experience, and drop all of my self-righteous judgments or self-conscious nervousness.
new eyes CONTINUED (06/06/06)
on the other hand, i have to wonder...have i lost my critical edge? last night, valerie and i were talking about the library renovation. she was saying how disturbing she found the new environment to be. she said it feels like an airport, or some vacuous big box store, and she now hates to spend time there. i tried to imagine the new space, and evaluate it from my own training in architecture criticism. it occurred to me that i had not really thought about the renovation from that angle. when i first experienced the "information super hallway" i had cosmo with me, and he loved the shiny stainless steel and bright light stripes. there are lots of new and distinct surfaces and textures for him to explore with his feet and hands.
I was also thinking of the new circulation area in terms of convenience and functionality. some things worked decidedly better (the little cubicles behind the half wall behind the front counter are a perfect place to nurse, or express milk, and still remain tuned-in to what's happening at the desk) while other things are worse (the kitchen area is too far from the desk, and the desk itself is too narrow for everyday transactions such as check-ins and checkouts...).
what has happened to me? have i become just another ordinary consumer of architecture? someone who evaluates a space based on whether or not it is entertaining for my child, or functional for my daily work?
then again...perhaps delight and practicality are perfectly acceptable criteria for judging a building. still though, valerie's comments tug at my brain. what is the overall vibe of the place, and what kind of message is being transmitted about what a library is, and about what one does in a library? these too are important questions.
while it is nice to be able to refrain from negative judgment from time to time, i want to remain critical. mcMansions are tacky, and furthermore, they are sided in stucco coated styrofoam panels-and ten years from now, when the stucco begins to wear off, chunks of those once fancy houses will begin to peel away from the flimsy particle board structure. those emerald green, meticulously manicured yards will be trailed with little white styrofoam beads, floating and swirling-making fluffy white eddies and pools in the cul-de-sacs...
i bet cosmo would like it.
25 May 2006
last night, as i was placing cosmo gently into his hammock bed, being careful not to disrupt the early stages of sleep, i recognized a new emotion...or awareness. i felt, in that moment, like a super hero--with super powers. he was having difficulty falling asleep that night. obviously very tired, but unable to shut off his urgent curiosity, he kept pulling away from nursing, scanning the room with his eyes, then looking up at me smiling. it was very sweet, but it was way past time for bed, and after a couple of unsuccessful tries, i was determined this time to get him to fall soundly into sleep. I did not employ any special tricks really, i just considered his mood, and the environment, read the situation, and made subtle changes to match where he was, and voila! within moments his breathing became deep and steady, his limbs became still and relaxed...he had fallen asleep.
i know there is nothing particularly extraordinary about putting a baby to bed at night. what makes it feel so incredible, must be that somehow i know how to do this, and many other things that pertain to cosmo, and the WAY that i know them is through intuition. yes, i am the kind of person who does a lot of research about anything big and challenging that i take on (like having a baby, for instance) and i read about stages of development and learn tricks and secrets about childrearing from friends, bloggers or so-called experts. but i find that most of what i know i haven't heard about or read about--it just occurs to me. probably just like it has occured to mothers of babies throughout the history of humankind.
last night i was filled with pride and confidence and a recognition that what i am doing is profound and extraodinary, while being quite simple and quotidian all the same. maybe the reason i feel like i have superpowers now, is that i feel more capable (and powerful) than i ever have before--about anything. a friend of mine, from many years ago, wrote a song--the lyrics return to me now:
...i don't know all i know
but i know i've known it long
long long time
before i ever
cry cry cried...
i know things now that i never learned. and know them deep inside of me, i don't really need to think...they just come to me. i can tell the difference between a hurting cry, a hungry cry, a tired cry, and a "pay attention to me" cry. though i could never really describe the difference. while cosmo is constantly surprising me, i can sometimes quite accurately predict what he will do next, or notice when he is about to pee (for instance). sure, i have learned these things from being around him day after day, but there are times when my response matches his need so precisely, that is seems almost super natural.
and...cosmo himself is pretty amazing in terms of what he seems to know and be able to master, with no one really teaching him. i never taught him how to roll over...he just did it. i didn't know how someone of his shape, size and strength would actually accomplish that. his technique was a big surprise to me. when he first got in the pool, he kicked his feet and waved his arms (as if to swim). now he can support his torso with straightened arms, and sort of get up on his knees into a pre-crawl position. did i show him how to do this? not really. he never sees me (or anyone else for that matter) crawling around on hands and knees, yet he seems to already have this in him. and during the split seconds during which he has maintained this posture, he looks quite proud of himself, and there is a gleam in his eye, as if he has some inkling of what this new capability might hold in store for him (MOBILITY!).
i guess this is all just animal instinct, and nothing truly remarkable. yet i can't help but respond with wonder and awe at the complexity, the ease --and the inevitability-- of learning, growing, becoming a person...
and becoming a mother.
18 May 2006
cosmo has a walker, which lives at carl's apartment since he has a lot less furniture than i do, so there's more room to roll around. once in the walker, cosmo embarks on the texture tour. he moves from object to object, touching the surface, sort of scraping it with his finger tips. he moves from the "vote today" sign, to the black vinyl chair, to the book shelf, delicately caressing the spines of the books...then on to the tires of the jogging stroller, the door (which he has also figured out how to close) and the wine-colored upolstered chair. the table upon which sits the stereo, is smooth, while the tree stump serving as an end table, is very rough, and worthy of extended touch. he's fairly skilled at moving towards his destination, though sometimes he just circles around in place.
one afternoon, the sunlight was streaming in as a bar of bright white across the floor. when cosmo passed throught this band of light, he noticed it, and paused. he kept reaching for it, like he wanted to feel it. this reminded me of one of the children's books i found for him a the thrift store. it's called the noisy book, and it is written by the author of goodnight moon, with a different artist. it is stranger than goodnight moon. it's about a little dog named muffin, who has an eye injury, and is forced to wear a bandage for a day, as he moves through the city streets. all of the sounds that muffin hears are described, then there is a page that says, "then the sun began to shine...could muffin hear the sunlight?"
can cosmo feel the ray of sun? does it have a texture?
the next day, he found his shadow on the wall. he approached the wall, and touched the place where his shadow fell. i guess he was wondering what a shadow feels like.
is cosmo a synesthete?
12 May 2006
...i find time to write something. i can't believe the last post was february. so much has happened, in cosmo's life, and mine.
with increased visual capacity, cosmo discovers the big world. his eyesight is probably better than mine at this point, and he is very curious about everything around him. he can grab things and pull things and reaches for anything bright or otherwise interesting to him. in the past week or two he has begun to explore textures (wanna do some texture?). he places his open hand on an object or surface, and opens and closes his fingers, sort of scratching at it. he does this to his own body, my face, any floor surface, and all sorts of other objects that cross his path. he is exploring with his hands, and of course, if possible, most things must also be tasted.
speaking of taste, he has begun to try a few foods. so far he has sampled rice cereal, bananas, pears, plums-- plus a tiny bit of guacamole, a smidgin of the inside of a french fry, and barely a lick of amy's ice cream. he makes a funny face, almost a grimace, but then he reaches for the spoon, and puts it back in his mouth. i have a feeling he is not going to be a finicky eater. he seems genuinely curious about the textures and tastes. he's not really eating solid food for nourishment at this point, just exploring new sensations.
cosmo is decidedly a very social person. he smiles at pretty much anyone who gets in his face and interacts with him. he gives so much back, he makes everyone feel special, and this has made him quite popular. he has a big fan club at the library, and he's won over at least half of the anthropology department at rice. he also often giggles and squeals if someone makes an especially exciting sound or face, and he's stretching his vocal cords with strange yells, screeches and caws. he babbles and moves his mouth as if attempting to articulate words. he seems to be mimicking the pace and tone of conversation or song.
one of his favorite games, which tish first introduced to him, involves silk scarves. he enjoys just feeling them and holding them, putting them in his mouth, but he especially loves to lie on his back and have the scarf draped over him, then pulled off. he flaps his arms (sometimes almost quivering), and kicks his feet in anticipaction, then squeals with delight as it falls across his face and body. it's a rather elaborate version of peek-a-boo.
he has learned to roll over, from his stomach to his back first, then from his back to his tummy. for a while he was rolling all the time, now he seems less interested in it. he gets very frustrated on his tummy, and sometimes forgets how to roll back over. he plays with all kinds of toys now, though he still lights up when he sees his bee, or mr. smiles--like visiting an old friend.
cosmo's legs and tummy are very strong. he stands solid (with support of course) and he's sitting up for longer and longer periods before tipping over--especially if he is occupied with a toy. his arms seem to need a bit of strengthening, but since he avoids tummy time, he's not getting much upper body work out...
he's been in the pool almost every day since mid april. he really seems to enjoy being in the water, and doesn't care a bit what the temperature is. he glides around with my hands under his tummy, and kicks his legs and splashes with his arms. a few times he has dipped his face in the water, as if wanting to taste it, and comes up coughing and sputtering. he does a lot of singing and cooing in the water, and seems to get a little pissed when we get out. swimming also makes him very hungry!
he's been teething for over a month now, and two days ago (may 10) his first tooth broke through the gum, with very little fanfair. his gums aren't swollen, and he hasn't seemed to be in too much pain over it so far. if this is teething...not too shabby...
when i first introduced solid food to him, i have to admit it made me a little sad. "the end of an era" is how i explained it to carl. of course i am excited that he is growing and changing, but there is something very beautiful about the simple system of breastfeeding. sure, he will continue nursing, and i will remain his primary source of sustanance for some time, but this is the beginning of the trajectory towards independence. as a parent, my job is to help him along this path, and it is a joy to witness his growth and maturity. but i get it now, why people always say "they grow up so fast" and why strangers approach me in the grocery store to stare and coo at baby cosmo. they miss the precious moments of infancy that their own children have long since passed through. already i feel drawn like a magnet to babies i see who are younger than cosmo. nostalgia is probably the appropriate word here.
another development, inspired by raj, miah and lila (who practice elimination communication-EC) is that cosmo frequently uses the toilet. if i notice he is about to pee or poo, i take him to the bathroom and hold him over the toilet. more often than not, he goes immediately. it's not potty training exactly, and we aren't really saving on diapers, but it is easier to clean up, and rather satisfying for me. he doesn't seem to care one way or another, but he seems to be developing an association between the toilet and elimination, which can only be a good thing, i suppose.
i feel so blessed in terms of cosmo's overall disposition. how did i get so lucky to have such a cheerful and easy going child? he's happy so much of the time, and when he is not, he can easily be moved back in that direction with a little bit of animated song, crazy dancing, tickles or blowing raspberries on the soles of his feet (one of chuck's favorite tricks). in the car he is soothed by loud music. be it belle and sebastian or public enemy, turn up the volume, and cosmo stops crying. we'll get to try this technique out later this month on the long drive to nani's house in wichita falls.
i hope to keep up with this blog more regularly. reflecting on and recording this wonderful time with the cosmonaut is important, and enjoyable.
26 February 2006
Cosmo has a new friend. Bee.
Bee is a small cloth rattle than can be worn on his wrist or ankle, but Bee usually lives on one of the clips on his mobile. Cosmo is very taken with Bee. Often he will just lie on his back and gaze at Bee, following it as it rotates around his head. He flaps his arms frantically, kicks and stomps his feet. He coos and squeals with delight, then yells and whimpers in frustration. He has invented new sounds from his vocal cords to express the unique feelings he has for Bee. A few times i have seen him become still, staring, clasping his hands in front of his heart--appearing to pray to Bee.
Cosmo responds more to audio stimulus now than before. He listens to music, and loves the tinkling sound of the Baoding balls, which is not surprising, since Justin and i used to jingle them all around my belly while i was pregnant.
yesterday he started to really reach for and handle objects. i had mentioned this in the last entry, but yesterday seemed different than before. There is more intention. He seems to get it that he can touch the things that he looks at. This cognitive leap seemed to be a bit overwhelming for the boy. He was inexplicably cranky most of the day. I guess it makes sense...as Kate said, "forming new neural pathways must be pretty exhausting...i know trying to re-route them sure is!" of course, i am probably over interpreting...but it really seemed like this was a big deal for him. to suddenly realize that he can possibly "have" the things he has previously only desired from a distance...must be mind blowing.
so far he has not attempted to reach for Bee.
16 February 2006
i guess one of the most exciting things about living with a baby is the rapid change. Every day it seems like something new happens in Cosmo's development. today, for instance, he began reaching for his favorite toy, and attempting to hold it (his favorite toy, by the way, is a plastic "flip book" with a yellow smiley face--i like to call it "mr.smiles"). a couple of weeks ago, i was amazed to discover the way he responded to the simple design. he stares at it with great fascination, then begins to smile, giggle, coo and "talk" to the face. nowadays, he will do this to live faces too, like mine or his friends...even new people he meets, especially if they smile at him, or speak in animated tones, directly in his face. today i also discovered that he enjoys it when i make a kissing sound at him. he throws his head back and just laughs and laughs, then he will get still again and study my mouth, as if he is trying to figure out how i do it. so far, he has not done much mimicking, though he will sometimes experiment with his tongue if you stick your tongue out at him.
i was noticing today how we have moved on from various phases already (in his very short life). there were standard responses and practices we had developed, for particular cues and problems...and already they have changed. for instance, holding him up, with his head and arms over one shoulder, facing behind me, used to be his favorite way to be held. holding him this way, and patting his back rather aggressively, was once a sure way to calm him. now, he doesn't even seem to like it for a second. it is also now possible to distract him out of a bad mood with a change of scenery, lights, something bright or a high contrast design. he has recently sat through the reading of 3 books in a row, staring at the pages, responding to the inflections of my voice, and following as i turn the pages. he no longer responds to the shhhushing sound in his ear, something that used to really calm him down if he was crying. i guess he is getting over his attachment to the womb and is now beginning to be more interested in this exciting world.
it seems that he is what some "experts" would categorize as a calm baby. i am surprised and delighted about this. he is curious and alert, but can enjoy simple visual entertainment on his own, and has the ability to self-soothe at times. i really expected to have a demanding, over-active baby...but this does not appear to be the case. cosmo just likes to chill.
16 January 2006
milestones for last week:
cosmo is getting better at holding his head up, and he has been practicing his "baby push-ups."
he attended his first thesis review at the rice school of architecture, and even got a sort of champagne toast from Lars, the dean. his robot shoes were a big hit with the fashionistas.
the next night Cosmo attended his first art opening at CSAW (commerce street artists warehouse). it was a great show, and he got to meet some talented artists and friends. we enjoyed a small birthday celebration for vicki in her studio.
my favorite of all Cosmo's recent milestones however, is the cultivation of the full body smile. nowadays, when he is gazing up at his mobile, or even looking at me, or one of his friends, he begins to giggle, coo, and wiggle his whole body in a pure expression of delight and joy. it is a marvelous thing to witness.
I spend a lot of time contemplating the kind of environment i create for Cosmo. I think less about how "stimulating" it is--i feel confident that there will be enough stimulation in everyday life, and in everyday objects. he has plenty of those brightly colored, busy-patterned toys, and i am sure he will receive more of them as gifts. i've noticed that babies and children enjoy ordinary tools like measuring cups and keys as much as the well designed "infantstim" toys.
what i think about more than stimulation is something i will call "object memory." i have very distinct memories about the things that were in our home growing up. familiar sights, textures, sounds...the quality of the objects remain very vivid in my mind. when i look at photographs from my childhood, i search the context--the furnishings, clothes, rugs and wall paper-- and i recall the feeling of the place and the events that happened there.
so i wonder about the environment that i create, and what elements of it will Cosmo hold in his memory? what kinds of associations will he make with the objects he is surrounded by? i consider the texture of the rug in the living room...the scratches on the arm of the futon frame, and the stories behind them (fire and palm tree construction...)
will he remember pepe, the fiesta sign parrot on the wall in the dining room? of course, everything he takes in now will not remain in his conscious memory...but it will exist in his implicit memory...and which is more important?
last week i watched two DVDs about intelligence. one was about a practice called "hothousing," where parents become obsessed with their child's early development and learning. these parents push their children to learn math and reading skills very early, and also get them to memorize all kinds of facts and details, building an impressive encyclopedic knowledge about specific things...like how to recognize and name all the varieties of roses, or different kinds of military aircraft. the kids can do this stuff fairly easily...their minds are capable of it, and they even seem to enjoy the intensive learning sessions. but the film exposed the kinds of myths that proponents of hothousing operate under, and basically de-bunked all of them. one of the myths is a "use it or lose it" concept where if child is not exposed to certain kinds of stimulus at an early age, that those particular synapses won't get developed, and there will never be a chance to learn those things again. and there is a general myth about the importance of the first 3 years. another one is about the importance of offering a stimulating environment for babies and toddlers, to enhance their intelligence. the film argues that the current science on the brain and intelligence doesn't really support these myths. there is no link between the NUMBER of synaptic connections and intelligence, for instance, so encouraging more connections is not necessarily helpful. in fact, the goal may be the establishment of fewer connections, for a more efficient, streamlined kind of brain activity. also, it has not been proven that children who learn things way earlier than other kids are at any advantage academically or otherwise, especially as kids get older. the ones who learn later, catch up rather quickly, and one has to ask, what did the kids who spent their toddler years performing drills and quizzes miss out on.
i personally feel like the development of encyclopedic knowledge is much less important than the development of the imagination, or sensitivity to others, for instance. and this brings us to the development of Emotional Intelligence...the topic of the second DVD. Emotional intelligence is often neglected in academic settings, especially with the increased focus on standardized testing. Yet these kinds of skills are far more important for a person's success, and i would argue--happiness, than the types of skills which can be measured in test scores. i think it is pretty obvious too that the pressure to perform can be very damaging. most of us have known people who are highly intelligent, yet lack useful social skills, and suffer tremendously for this.
the good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned and improved at any stage in life. it is never to late.
however, it is also never to early to begin teaching such skills, and i hope to be able to share this kind of learning with Cosmo right away. of course, one of the problems is that so many of us adults are lacking in these crucial skills.
good thing it is never too late to learn.
i highly recommend the book A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amni, and Richard Lannon.
09 January 2006
Today i went for my 6 weeks check up with the midwives. it has been almost 7 weeks since Cosmo's birth. i didn't really prepare for how emotional it would be to return to the midwives' office. all 5 of them were there, and they each got to meet Cosmo. I shared the pictures with Titi, and we hugged and talked about how great the birth was. Everyone remarked on how cute he is, and how big. Theadorah could not believe he was only having breast milk.
When we went into the examination room, i looked at the wall of photographs, and it all came flooding back over me. I had been in the room several times before, and each time i stared at those pictures and tried to imagine the day of our birth, and who Cosmo might be. Back then he was just an idea. a wish. i saw the gel used for the doptone device, the one we listened to his little heartbeat with, before we could ever look into his eyes. He was only a dream to me then. now, he is a live, real person, with features and traits. i am getting to know him, as he becomes who he is. while he is a full, real human being, so much is undefined. i am so significant to him that i will have an effect on who he becomes. this is the scary part.
when i remembered back to the last time i was there, i started to cry. so much has happened since then. again, this is all so hard to fathom.
the weather was beautiful. partly cloudy around 70-75 degrees. i felt so good, walking around by the museums today, boarding the train, being a pedestrian with Cosmo in the medical center. i feel so proud of him, and he seemed to enjoy the trip. strangers will strike up conversations with you when you have a small baby--even more so than when you are pregnant. i mostly like it.
on new year's eve i noticed cosmo holding his head up high, and for a much longer time than ever before. i decided that this must be the day for the milestone "holding his own head up"
in the airport, i put him down on a blanket on the floor, on his tummy, and he lifted his little head, and tried a few baby push-ups before he got all tuckered out. Cosmo tries.
he took a bottle for the first time on the trip too. twice. he took to it well. i found myself feeling nostalgic and wanting him to always only nurse at my breast. It reminds me of that Low song, "In Metal." of course i want him to grow and change, and it is so exciting to witness, but i can't help but feel sentimental about the whole thing. it is ridiculous, i know.
He is downright ecstatic about his mobile over the changing table. catching sight of it will pull him straight out of the grumpiest of moods. he is able to fix his gaze on objects now, and trace them with coordinated eye movement. Little genius!
he seems to get stronger everyday, and (and i don't know HOW he does this...) but also more cute.
ok. i've got to stop now. it's getting pretty thick.