Monday, December 13, 2010

And Then One Day, She Became a Little Girl

Sometimes I forget and still call her a baby. But she's not. She's a little girl.

I don't remember when it happened, but when I look at Hadley, I only see a faint hint of the baby she was. She tells jokes. She teases us. She expresses her opinion. She has enough hair for pigtails, for heaven's sake.

She chooses her own pajamas (from two options) every night, and she prefers any jammies that have monkeys on them. (This reminds me of a short but serious time in my childhood when I desperately wanted a monkey for a pet. I planned to put a diaper on him and carry him around like a baby. I think I was about six. Good thing nobody gave me that monkey.) She remembers her friends--asks for them, even, when she misses them--and calls people (mainly Papa, Mumsie and her friend Harper) on her pretend phones.

Hadley, the little girl. When I was pregnant and thinking about being a mom, I knew I was ready because I didn't just dream of having a baby. I also dreamed of having a toddler with a quirky sense of humor (check!), a kindergartener with an affinity for crafts (so I hope), a fifth-grader who wanted help with her homework, even a teenager--I dreamed of the whole child.

But I never guessed how much fun it would be to see a person grow up, to get to be so intimately involved in her life every day.

Tonight, for example, she wanted me to get up from the dinner table and play with her while I was still eating. She said, "Mama, play." I said, "No, Hadley, I'm finishing my dinner. I'll play when I'm all done." So she walked right up, put her little arms around my waist and tried to lift me out of my seat. She even grunted to show just how taxing it was. Thanks, Had.

And even when she's not being cute or funny, even when she's fussy or tired or sad, I love helping her grow, being the mama to this little girl who is growing up with spunk and humor and grace, in her own little girl way.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Whole Bucket of Gratitude--and Questions

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There's less hype than at Christmas, plenty of food, good company (if you're lucky), and a reminder to pause and give thanks. It feels so simple and lovely and honest.

But to be frank, giving thanks is challenging me these days. That's not quite true. I think I live with a grateful heart. I'm keenly aware that my life is full of really good things: a loving family, wonderful friends who know me and love me well, a good job (which I just quit, but more on that later), a home that's safe and warm, a kitchen full of food, a child who amazes me, the capacity to take care of her...The list is very, very long and includes less obvious things like books by Joyce Carol Oates and Ian McEwan, chocolate-filled peppermint sticks, and the way it feels to sit beside the fireplace on a cold night and talk with Jason for an hour about the funny and wonderful things Hadley did that day.

Therein lies the rub for me right now. I'm wondering about this God who has blessed us so wildly, so abundantly, so lavishly.

During our trip to Chicago a few months ago, we were out walking on Michigan Avenue one night when we passed a woman, sitting on the sidewalk with her two children. One was a young teenager, the other, probably six or seven. The little one had fallen asleep on her mama's lap, facing the tide of tourists shuffling by. I could barely breathe looking at them. Can you imagine putting your baby to bed on your lap in the midst of a group of strangers? And that teenager...It's hard enough to deal with that crazy transition to adulthood without announcing to the world that you have no home. Can you imagine? No privacy, no place to agonize by yourself over zits or boys or the way your ears suddenly seem to be sticking out. No place that feels safe.

The mama-love got me. (My friend Lauren, who is expecting her second child any nanosecond now, told me once: "Being pregnant the second time is different because you already know the mama-love." So I must give her credit for that absolutely perfect phrase.) I started to cry, and we stopped by a store to buy some food. If I'm honest, it wasn't sacrificial giving; we bought the food more for me than for them. I needed to feel better. I couldn't go to sleep knowing that a mom a few blocks from our hotel would wake her children up in the morning and not have a meal to give them.

I still feel the ache in my heart for that little family. Maybe that mom did something terrible to end up begging for money on a busy sidewalk. Maybe she didn't. It doesn't much matter to me. I believe in personal responsibility, but there are plenty of good things in my life that I didn't do a thing to deserve. And the sad corollary to that fact is that people endure bad things they don't deserve either.

So I don't quite understand the blessings imbalance. I believe in a very big God, a very loving God, a God who is powerful and true and kind and just. I suspect that some day, we'll understand why the world is the way it is. But for now, in the midst of feeling more gratitude than I've ever felt, I feel more puzzled than I've ever felt.

I'm hoping I figure this out, reconcile it in my mind, because one day, this person who shares my genes is going to wonder why one mama gets to blog and post funny pictures of her baby online, where a sea of at least five people reads and posts nice things, while another sleeps on the street. What will I tell her?

I don't know, but for now, I will join Hadley in appreciating simple things, like pigtails, Elmo, treats (her new favorite word), twinkly lights and the 24-hour-Christmas-music radio station.

I think it's fabulous that people start out as babies, not yet ready to ask life's biggest questions, because mamas and daddies need time to prepare. For that, I am thankful.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Belated Halloween Photos

Ah! We were so busy buzzing around here, I forgot to post Halloween photos on Halloween weekend. We celebrated on Saturday the 30th at the Children's Museum's Trick or Treat Street.

Hadley rocked her costume all morning long, antennae and all.

And then she saw pumpkins--"pimpims"--which was very exciting, as you can see:

She played games...
...and rode on the choo-choo all by herself--TWICE!

She cracked us up by "steering" the whole time. I'm pretty sure she was thinking, "Man, it's a good thing I showed up to drive this train."

She also waved and yelled "hi" (it's two syllables for Hadley, like she's been raised in the South: "hi-ii) to almost everyone she passed on her choo-choo ride. Maybe she also thought she was in a parade.

She got a few treats in her bag, and she relished a lollipop so enthusiastically that she quickly learned the word "pop." Smart girl.

This photo is one of my favorites. I can just feel her round, soft face in my hand.

Now we're looking forward to Thanksgiving. We're working on the words "turkey" and "pie"; my bet is that she masters "pie" and leaves the turkey to someone else.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This is the part where we celebrate...

[NOTE: I started this post at 9:21 on November 4, but it has taken me a while to get it right. I think it's about as close as I can get to telling the best story I have to tell.]

Eighteen months and two minutes ago, Hadley was born. She didn't arrive as I expected her to, but I suspect that's kind of how parenthood goes. Kids rarely do what you expect them to do, even when they're not even born yet. They're tricky like that.

I remember when the doctor told me, after 20 hours of labor and three hours of pushing, that I needed a C-section. I told her I'd keep pushing. She told me I couldn't keep it up much longer. She was right.

I cried. I cried because we had to leave the warm, friendly labor room for an OR that was cold and white and sterile. I cried because I had imagined THAT moment, when I birthed her and the doctor put her on my chest, and Jason and I cried happy tears together. I cried because I believed that women birth their babies; they don't have their babies pulled from their bodies. It just wasn't right.

And the C-section was kind of scary. Where the labor had been painful but casual, this was so...formal: The doctors announced my name, and the time, and the reason for the C-section. ("Failure to descend"--sounds so ominous, don't you think?) Nobody warned me about that. Then the doctor said, "Hilary, we're beginning now." It was so strange to know someone was getting ready to cut into my body behind a thin blue curtain while I laid still on the other side of it, wondering if I was going to hear gross squishy-body sounds.

A few minutes in, the doctor said, "You're going to feel some tugging." "Some tugging" is what you do to pull on your favorite jeans that are a bit too small. C-section tugging felt like someone was trying to pull out my ribs, and then I heard...crying. Our baby crying. Jason said, "That's her! That's our daughter." And I said--I remember so clearly--"That's the best sound I've ever heard." It was.

I heard her Apgar scores--8 and then 9--and I thought, "Good. So far, so good." Jason went to see her, and he or a nurse brought her over to me to see. I can't remember, but I see so clearly in my mind's eye her abundant dark hair. I said, "Hi, sweet girl. Happy birthday." Then Jason and Hadley (who wasn't yet Hadley because we hadn't named her) left. I wasn't ready for that part either. I remember thinking, "Of course they can't stay," but part of me wanted them to. They were off to do daddy-daughter things already, and I was stuck with a numb lower half and an open wound. Fabulous.

I remember asking how much longer it would be before I was sewn up. The anesthesiologist told me (kindly) to relax. Apparently I didn't do a very good job because then he gave me something to relax me, and I think I fell asleep. The next thing I remember, someone said, "Hilary, you're all done," and they hoisted me back onto a rolling cart to deliver me to the recovery room.

I was desperate to hold Hadley, and after a minute or two, Jason walked in with her. She was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. I could not comprehend that this person had grown inside me, and I know that I will not ever be able to explain to her what that kind of intimacy means to a mama. Maybe one day she will know if she has babies of her own.

My mom and dad were in the recovery room. I remember my dad saying, "She's a beautiful baby, Hilary." It was a gentle reminder that my labor ended with the best possible outcome: a healthy baby girl. It didn't matter how she got here. I couldn't respond; the cries were caught up in my throat, and I was afraid if I said a single word, they'd just come pouring out, and then my eyes would get all blurry, and I wouldn't be able to stare at the amazing creature lying in my arms.

And today, here is that amazing creature, expressing her creative streak, her preference for choosing her own style, her happy heart.

I love her like I've never loved anyone. She couldn't do anything to get outside of my love, to shake it off or diminish it.

Today, we celebrate Jason's birthday and Hadley's half-birthday. It is a very good day for me. The best of the whole year, really, because no matter what Jason and Hadley think, I got the best gifts of all.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Papa!

Hadley's paternal grandpa is turning, ahem, 39 in a few weeks, so Grandma rented a house outside of Winter Park, and we all trekked up to surprise him. The best surprise of all was Hadley, who is crazy about her "Papa" and loved the three-day party.

She was fascinated by the snow, and she didn't seem to mind the cold. She's a Colorado chick--and in a few short years, I think she'll be beating me down the mountain on her skis. But that's another story.

I love seeing Hadley reflected in other people's eyes, particularly people who know and love her. Clearly we're all biased, but who cares? If your mama and daddy and Grandma and Papa and Auntie and Great-Granny don't dote on you, who will?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Five Minutes with Hadley

The blog world is enough to make a mommy feel slightly inadequate. There are more than a handful of mommy bloggers who post detailed descriptions of how to sew elaborate Christmas dresses--complete with 100 pleats and silk sashes. (Show offs.) Others share the recipes they just happened to create for wine-poached salmon and spinach souffle. ("Just whipped it up between coaching the soccer team and volunteering in the soup kitchen!")

Not to be left out of this high-performing crowd, I would like to present our own contribution to the creative-mommy realm: the wrapping-paper hat.

The wrapping-paper hat is good for a lot of things, such as entertaining your almost-17-month-old for five minutes. Here is a photographic account of those five minutes:

"YES! My wrapping paper hat rocks. So does my blue crayon. Also, I am making my pirate face because nothing says pirates like Williams-Sonoma wrapping paper."

"Catch me if you can. My hat makes me super-fast. It's magical."

"Wait...What are you looking at?"

"Ah! Are you laughing at ME?"

"I don't care. Now I'm plotting something very fun for my hat and myself."

"But first, I must gather all of my toys into the big chair. Beary and Snail are gonna want front-row seats to whatever happens next."

"This hat makes everything much more fun. Do you see that gleam in my eye? Oh, yea. Big plans. You should be afraid."

"I look rather distinguished with wrapping paper on my head. Don't you think?"

"Hee hee hee...Close your eyes for just one minute. It's party time."

And then, five minutes were over.

Those silk-dress-sewing, flambé-making mommies have nothing on me. Tune in next week for a step-by-step guide to building a fort with pillows. It's very complicated, you know.

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Kind of Town

Jason and I went to Chicago for a long weekend, and I thought my heart would explode from the anxiety and sadness I felt about being away from Hadley. Really, I thought that my arrhythmia would come back--since it's been relatively tame since I got pregnant with Hadley--and somewhere in my mind (where reason clearly does not reign), I concluded that having Hadley somehow healed my heart, so being without her for three and a half days would break my heart--literally--again.

It didn't happen.

Here's what did happen: I left Hadley early Thursday in Mumsie's arms. She wouldn't kiss me goodbye. She knew. But I put on my happy face and skipped out the door...and cried in the car on the way to the airport. I feel like I don't get enough time with her as it is, and I couldn't bear the thought of giving up precious days with her. I told Jason, "I'm not going." He said, "Yes, you are." That Jason, he can really be a tough cookie when he wants to be. Everyone thinks he's such an easy-going guy, but try ditching him at DIA when he's about to get a big fancy-pants award from his big fancy-pants Fortune 500 company, and he turns into Mr. Serious. So I went.

As the airplane was racing down the runway, I had two thoughts: 1) I'm literally racing away from Hadley at about 200 miles per hour. 2) Please, God, don't let anything happen to this airplane because Hadley's mommy and daddy are both on it.

The ride was, ahem, bumpy, and all I could think was, "Are you kidding me? You can't cut a sad mama a break? I'm already stressed about leaving my baby girl for days on end, and now, I'm bouncing and pitching my way through 1,000 miles of clouds? Fabulous."

But we arrived safely--and early--and by the time I was cruising in the black Lincoln Towncar toward our five-star hotel on the Gold Coast, I was feeling better. It's amazing how a little pampering can heal a broken heart.

Thursday was the hardest. By Friday morning (after 11 hours of sleep), I felt better. We got ready for the awards ceremony, and cruised down to the fifth floor of the hotel to the banquet room.

It was a wonderful afternoon--sincere, intimate, lovely. Jason's company did an excellent job honoring the award winners with a great combination of humor and sincerity, and I almost cried when the time came for the company's president and COO to talk about Jason. I think Jason is really glad I didn't actually weep because, really, I'm not a very discreet crier.

After the luncheon, several people stopped by our table to congratulate Jason and introduce themselves to me. They all said the same thing: "We love Jason." "Jason is amazing." "What they said today, that barely begins to describe your husband. He's incredible." I was struck by how eager they all were not to talk about Jason's ability to manage his business or drive profitability; they just wanted to talk about what a great man he is. I hope I didn't make weird faces as I fought back my tears--again.

The rest of the weekend was fantastic. I had forgotten how much I love walking in the city at night, watching the El cruise by (so long as I don't have to ride it), smelling the odd chocolate scent that wafts through the air just north of the river, and eating my way through the day. We met Graham and his girlfriend for lunch, trekked down to the Museum of Science and Industry, walked down the Mag Mile after dinner one night, watched movies in our glorious hotel room, perched ourselves in the hotel lounge every night for dessert and entertaining people-watching--and it was good. Even though we missed Hadley like crazy (and spent half of our time talking about her), the freedom not to watch the clock was f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c.

By Sunday, we were ready to see Hadley. I was impatient traveling home, eager to be here and hold Hadley. Do you ever have those dreams when you can't move quickly enough to get away from something that's chasing you? I felt that way, like no matter how much energy I spent, I couldn't make us move any faster. I actually got irritated at DIA while we were walking to the car. "Getting out of this airport takes forever. Whoever designed it (actually, I know who designed it) did a terrible job. Morons." I'm pretty sure I saw Jason stifle a smile.

We got home (finally!) around 2:30, and when I picked up Hadley, she hugged me long and hard...and patted my back. I will remember that hug for the rest of my life. It was like a cool drink of water after a day in the desert.

Mumsie and Granddaddy were tremendous, fielding my (very frequent) calls, taking Hadley on adventures, telling her that we'd be home soon and making her feel loved and secure. She bid them a happy farewell on Sunday afternoon--I think she was glad to have her mama and daddy back--but I was waiting for the backlash, the fussiness or clinginess or general unease. Nothing. She's been her usual happy self.

While we walked around the city, I kept thinking about how Hadley has changed our lives. The last time I was in Chicago was three years ago. I had just finished a post-graduate fellowship. We were living in Evanston, eager to head West, uncertain about how our transition to Denver would go. Most of all, I was tired of the city.

But this time, I saw the city with fresh mama eyes. I imagined Hadley's first visit; I longed for her to see the American Girl store. I dreamed about how she'll react when we take her to the Signature Room at the top of the John Hancock building. I wondered what I'll say when she asks about the homeless people who dot Michigan Avenue.

I remembered why I loved Chicago, and I began to love it for Hadley, too. The next time I go roaring out of town in a plane headed for the Windy City, she'll be along for the ride, too.

[We don't have any photos because we left the camera at home. It's funny. We've taken photos of Hadley's first EVERYTHING, but we don't have a single shot of our first trip away from home. Oh, well. Just imagine us looking fat and happy in front of most of Chicago's famous landmarks.]

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Just Can't Get Enough

Early in Hadley's life, there were days when I had had e-n-o-u-g-h. Enough poopy diapers (ah! There! This is an official mommy blog now that I've said "poop."). Enough night wakings. Enough feeling like such a rookie. But I cannot get enough. I cannot get enough of her funny faces, her curiosity about her world, her sweet snuggles, growing vocabulary and her fabulous disposition.

I cannot believe she has only been in the world 16 months and a few days. It would be fantastic if we all grew and learned in 16 months as much as brand-new people do. There are plenty of 16-month increments in my life when I didn't change much, but Hadley, well, Hadley has learned the following:

--How to tickle carrots. Tonight, when I suggested she eat a carrot, she put her hand in the bowl and said, "Tickle, tickle, tickle."

--How to pretend to feed a picture. She likes to have a photo of Grandma and Grandpa in front of her when she eats dinner, and she feeds them. Tonight, it was ketchup. Two nights ago, apples. A well-rounded diet.

--How to dismount. Hadley likes to play in our bed--rolling around on the pillows and pretending to go nigh-night. When she's done, she positions herself near the edge, slides around onto her belly with her legs behind her and slides down.

--How to feed herself ice cream. Her technique: one spoon for each hand.

--How to dance. Very important in our world.

--When to say such things as "oohhh" and "whoa" and "uh-oh" and "ta-da." She identifies a "mess," says "bless" if someone sneezes and is eager to "pray" before dinner. I'm amazed.

This age is my favorite. Even though Hadley is exerting her will and choosing when to obey us, she's so interesting and fun that I just love our time together. Human development is fascinating, isn't it?

Makes me feel like I should adopt a new skill (sewing, I think) or brush up on my French or at least finish a crossword puzzle from time to time--you know, use this brain I've got. Clearly Hadley is using hers (and I'm afraid that before long, she'll be able to outsmart me).

On second thought, I think she already has. Those carrots she tickled? She didn't eat a one, and we were so amused, we didn't think twice about it (until now). Chalk one up for the Hadster.

And now for some photos from our most recent trip to Naples, where we celebrated Auntie Ana's soon-to-arrive baby and spent lots of time with Grandma and Grandpa. We even managed to visit with some of our old friends:

"Do you think Papa will share his toy with me?"

"Get DOWN party people! Why are you all so old?"

"Colton, do you know the cha-cha?"

Hadley: "This is great!" (The other) Colton: "If she moves one centimeter closer, I'm outta here."

"Really? We're STILL taking pictures?"

Just plain happy.

We managed to get a good one!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Want to Play Pretend?

I remember so clearly being four or five years old and asking my friends, "Do you want to play pretend?" Often, I was Annie (from the musical) and my friends had to be the other orphans. Sometimes I was the queen and my friends were my servants. Come to think of it, I wonder why anyone bothered to play with me at all. (I have a very clear memory of telling one of my friends to go get grapes because queens eat grapes. Ok, then...)

Hadley is starting to pretend. She takes her stuffed animals and makes nonsensical noises, like she's talking to them, and then they talk back. She picks up her plastic bee toy and says, "buzzzzzzz." Best of all, she's starting to love dressing up.

My godmother (whose maiden name is Hadley) sent our Hadley a purple crown of flowers and a purple leotard with attached tutu. It's just about the cutest thing I've ever seen, and Hadley likes to put it on and pat the tutu; she's so proud of it. (Photos soon, I promise!) She also likes to put random diaper covers on her head, as evidenced here:

"Diaper covers make very good hats."

And of course, she must try on other people's shoes and her ladybug wellies, which are three sizes too big.

There is something alarmingly go-go-dancer-ish about her pose, don't you think?

Sometimes she likes to throw on my clothes (here, she's wearing one of my pajama tops) for fun.

(I love that her hair is all wild from pulling that thing over her head half a dozen times before she got it just right.)

I am looking forward to many, many snowy mornings playing "queen" and singing our hearts out to old show tunes--and this time, I promise to share the spotlight (as if I'll have a choice)...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mommy Comes Home

Tonight I got back from two days and two nights in Telluride--without my baby girl. I went for work and took my mom, and we had a marvelous time: driving through Colorado; eating while gazing at the giant, silent peaks that surround the tiny mountain town; taking the world's very best Gondola ride; swimming in the hotel pool; and talking, talking, talking.

But I missed my Hadley. Achingly so. And it seems that every baby girl under the age of two was in Telluride this weekend. I had to talk to every single one of their moms, so that they'd have to stop and I could say, "I have a 15-month-old at home." And every single one of the moms smiled in a way that told me that they knew how hard it is for a mom to leave her heart at home, where it roams around and eats Goldfish and watches Elmo.

When we got home this evening, I rushed in to grab and squeeze Hadley. She was nonchalant about it all, as if she knew that eventually, I'd be back. She and her daddy had a fun weekend, I could tell. She gave one little inkling that suggested she had missed me: After her bath tonight, she gave me a long, happy hug and patted my back, as if to say, "Welcome home, Mama. Welcome home." I rocked her and put her to bed, and now I want to sneak in there and hold her for a few more minutes.

When Jason leaves on a trip, we say, "Daddies always come home." I said to her when I was leaving, "I'll see you in two days. Mommies always come home." Of course, that's not entirely true. Sometimes the world is a terrible, awful place, where mommies and daddies don't come home. That's a fact I knew but never felt until I had a baby.

But a mama can't just sit at home for fear of the world. It's a tough balance. I have plenty of wanderlust. I wish that Jason and I had made it back to Europe before Hadley was born; I'd like to see Israel, Bali, Bora Bora, Tahiti, Australia, Kenya--even Canada, for heaven's sake. For all of this eagerness to go, I feel a much stronger desire to stay. That's kind of new for me.

It's good. Really, really good.

Telluride was wonderful. Beautiful. Restful. But not so beautiful as holding Hadley--in her blueberry-stained T-shirt--when I got home.

And before too long, Hadley will have wanderlust, too. She'll ask about Paris or Montreal or... Idaho, and I hope we'll cultivate in her a desire to go, ...just as long as she takes her mama along for the ride, too.