31 May 2006

new eyes

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 someone 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 (they had just moved in) 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

super powers

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

texture tour

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.