August is leaving, and with it I’d like to send my anxiety, this thing that has plagued me for so much of my thirties, the underside to the joy of all these babies. I’ve learned terms like PPA and intrusive thoughts and spiraling and I still can’t shake the feeling that I caught this, that it is late onset, that if I had mental health issues before, they manifested in a different way.
I am a strong, healthy, and confident mama of four. I am married to my soulmate. I make beautiful days and joyful evenings, then peaceful nights in our home. I am patient. I am making a mantra for a long life.
When I was in my twenties, after I had a baby but before I grew up, we were blogging. We were writing and we were posting it on the internet. We were talking about the language. We were creating an aesthetic to go with the language. Some of that was designed in visuals but a lot of it was designed out of words. Rikki had a blog called calm vibrancy. It wasn’t password protected but it wasn’t public, either. Calm vibrancy was the feeling you got from drinking kombucha. It was an anti capitalist feeling. The feeling of a body working and working well, but also being at rest in itself.
Farmer’s market day. I remember the sights and smells of last fall vividly, in the way early pregnancy amplifies and imprints all that is physically sensed. I remember being able to eat Patty Pan’s vegetables over enchiladas with joy when there was so very little I could eat at all. But this year already new experiences have layered over last year’s, and when we go back next summer I know those will be fresh in mind.
Remy starts daycare tomorrow. I came close to not getting this daily thought in today. I still have to finish the laundry. I’m not tired yet. I hope I can be tired soon so I can sleep and wake up early. It sounds impossible. We’ve had a weekend of getting up at the same time as the kids, and not even getting up, just waking up to Arden giving us kisses after having slept in our bed half the night, and Breya running in, and Remy stirring in the bassinet beside us. It will be good to start getting up before them again but I can’t comprehend it right now, or think how I’ll actually do it.
We are finishing up “second shift” as they call it, and it’s the night before Indi’s first day of school. We did it, we did today, and now the three youngest in the family are asleep (but barely so, I know Remy will be up wanting to nurse soon) and the three oldest are doing the bedtime-procrastination-linger. There are little things still to be done to finish the day but those little things might take longer than all the big things did, because it’s now nearing 9pm, it’s almost our bedtime. Today Indi and Breya set up the tent downstairs and had a fire playing on Indi’s computer and all their blankets and pillows and played down there for over an hour during dinner prep. Arden joined them for sometime too. I was wearing Remy in the ergo and had Mike take a picture so we could remember what it’s like to have babies in the kitchen while preparing dinner, a thing about this season that is fleeting.
I was doing the counter lean at our bathroom sink before I could fully go to bed. Wednesdays are a whirlwind, with soccer. The girls and I had a girls day today while Indi had his first day of school and Remy had his second day of daycare. We got our nails done. It was Arden’s first time. She was so sweet. She chose red for her toes and pink for her fingernails. Breya had an elaborate plan for multicolored fingernails and a rainbow pattern on her toes. It was so complicated the technician had to ask her which color for each nail. But she executed her vision.
Remy is 5 months old. I just read my diary entry from when Arden turned 5 months old. I want to be able to sustain this, this time. I didn’t remember some of the things I wrote about in that diary entry. But I did write how Arden couldn’t wait to join in on the big kids play, and now I am sitting here reading that and reflecting on how true that was and how she does that now. Just tonight I took a video of her with Indi and Breya in their room. All three of them were functionally playing with legos. She made a fairy house. What will be happening when Remy is that age, almost 3? Will all four of them play legos? I’ll have to watch and see. I am making a mantra for a long life.
Today was my last day ever of maternity leave. Remy was at daycare along with Arden and indi was at school, and I spent the entire day with Breya, but I didn’t have a maternity leave with her at all so maybe this was meant to be. We went to Starbucks (INSIDE, as per her request), we met with her teacher, Mrs. McShane, and Mike, we went to Seattle Pops in Wallingford for the first time ever even though the girls get their popsicles every week at the farmers market, we went to Paint the Town and Breya chose a Volkswagen bus, we went to the park so she could practice her daily monkey bars regimen, and we met Indi off the bus there. It was a full day. I know I’ll miss it forever.
I already feel tired approaching the week ahead, and it’s only Saturday. I’m hoping that’s because I faced the mental load of next week today, instead of waiting until tomorrow night. I didn’t do anything amazing tonight, but I did support the girls in their near complete exhaustion to go to bed, and I did the dishes, and prepped the coffee, and tidied up, and Mike folded all of the laundry. I did my workout this morning and I just uploaded my photos and I’m writing this daily note now. Mike brought out the fall and Halloween decorations and I set them up. Tomorrow I have to thaw Remy’s milk, prepare his swaddle and bibs, finish packing Arden’s school things, help Breya with her homework, pack Breya’s backpack, make sure Indi packs lunches, and all of the things I did today again. And I’m sure many other things. I had big dreams of organizing tonight for a fresh start but that isn’t real life. Real life is doing the things that need to be done in order for us to have a decent shot at functionality the next day. We have a decent shot tomorrow, and I pushed myself to get us there, and now it’s almost 11 and I have to yield to my tiredness.
Farmer’s market day, Mariah day. I’ve done the things I said yesterday I would do today. I’ve nursed Remy about 1000 times and changed his diaper about fifty times for a poo, so maybe he senses the week is about to being as well. We had a great day today. It was still summer weather, but we put out all the Halloween books. Breya actually starts kindergarten in the morning. It feels like the last week was a very long journey to get here. Today Arden said when we got home “Indi we’re gonna play wii! I’m gonna join you guys.” And she also started saying “it’s amazing!” to describe anything great, or anything surprising. I beat Mariah and Indi in Tetris and then Mariah beat Indi and me. Breya got magic confetti from Mrs. McShane to put under her pillow and she told me “I can’t believe it’s actually magic. In Harry Potter he is magic but this is my first time having something actually magic.”
I had just started listening to my audiobook when Mike and Indi got home from soccer practice, and I was going to keep listening while I did chores but Indi was chatty. He said they watched “CNN10” today at school and the main topic was 9/11. He wanted to know where we were when it happened. I know we’ve talked about it with him before but this was the first time he brought it up. I could tell his wheels are turning in a new way. It’s surreal being asked about a historical event that you were alive for, by your child. It won’t be long before Indi is as old as I was when it happened.
I’m having an impromptu book club with my mom and sisters. We’re reading Tom Lake. The main characters are a mother and three daughters. I told them this, and that it was getting great reviews, and suggested we might read it together but I didn’t think that would actually happen. Now it is happening. I didn’t know anything else about the book and didn’t think there would be any other parallels, but there are several: the mother’s grandmother owned a sewing shop with a cutesy name, and so did my mom. The youngest daughter is going to college for acting, like Sienna. One daughter lives on her parents’ farmland and is dating the son of the family with the adjacent farm, and his character reminds me of Tim. The play Our Town plays a central role in the book, and comprises the main subject matter of the opening chapter, and I had no idea before starting the book. Sienna played Emily in high school, and we were all so moved we got tattoos that say every every minute.
I’m building stamina for this new routine. Last week I melted a lot earlier on Wednesday than this week. I still feel exhausted and everything since 7pm has been teetering on the edge of melting down but I’m hanging on. I made pasta and broccoli for Breya but I made it the wrong way. She wanted pasta and sauce with broccoli on the side. I combined the pasta and broccoli and didn’t make any sauce. I told her I’ll have to try again next time. I brought food I’d packed to her soccer practice and Arden did eat, but since Breya didn’t have time they both still had to eat when we got home. I brought them to practice early so they could play on the playground first instead of after, but then we got in trouble since the playground was still reserved for after care. After practice, both girls were totally confused when the rest of the kids ran to play. “The playground is closed” said Arden. It’s not closed anymore, I answered. I couldn’t believe she’d tracked that and remembered. We stayed until 7 so they could play, then I had to put Remy to bed right away when we got home, then I had to help them eat forever and ever, and then put them to bed. And now I’m almost done with my tasks for the day and I need to put myself to bed.
Today was really, really hard. If yesterday was still in the realm of building stamina, today was totally off the rails. I can’t even say that it was hard in a good way because it was just hard. Arden was wearing the wrong shoes. Indi forgot his lunch. Breya forgot her backpack. I missed Remy too much. I had an echocardiogram in the morning so I didn’t work enough but was still away from the kids a whole work day and nothing that happened, nothing that I did was joyful or fun. Breya cried when I picked her up because I had a meeting so we couldn’t go to the park. Mike took her to the park but she cried anyway because her blisters hurt when she tries to go on the monkey bars. Breya was so upset about trying to match Mike’s pajamas that I couldn’t make dinner and then there was no adult dinner. Arden cried so much at bedtime because she wanted to snuggle me in my bed.
The kids did happily eat the eggs I scrambled them with plain tortilla chips and plain challah bread because we have no butter, and since Remy still only nurses I guess I succeeded in feeding 4/6 people in the house dinner.
Breya, in bed snuggling with Mike this morning:
“Dad, why do you have hair on your body?”
“I just do. That’s something that happens when you get older.”
“Will I grow hair on my body?”
“Well, the great thing is, when girls get older they will grow nini pods.”
A little later, after we all laughed -
Mike: “I love Mom’s nini pods.”
Remy rolled over for the first time today. I’m on Whidbey Island for Sienna’s bachelorette weekend. It’s just me, Remy, Sienna, Sara, Nicole, and Nicole’s baby Junie. I took Remy for a morning walk in the carrier and now we’re all eating breakfast and drinking coffee while the babies play. He was laying on a quilt spread between the kitchen and living room and he started to go and stopped three quarters of the way there until he finally flipped over all the way - just as I’d turned away for a split second, of course. Now he’s been rolling all over the blanket, as though he just unlocked this new trick and now he wants to practice it over and over. A couple of hours ago, he couldn’t roll yet. Now, he is a baby who rolls.
In the ferry line. A one boat schedule today due to staffing shortages. I’ve been in line since 1:30 and I should be boarding around 4:30. Not ideal but I’m taking a minute to snuggle Remy and process Sunday scaries. I need to be able to be present for my girls when I get home and relieve Mike who must be exhausted and there’s also so much to do to prep for the week. Indi has homework and there will need to be groceries. And dinner. Did I say earlier in the day that I’d roast chicken and veggies and make pasta to go with it? I always have the best laid plans for dinner but struggle to carry it through and the window of time to get dinner made expires so quickly. Remy smells so good, like milk and sunshine. This time tomorrow I’ll be at work.
Here’s a memory I’d like to hold onto forever: in May of 2013, when Indi was still a baby in so many ways, enough ways to take a trip, I went to the Olympic National Forest with Sarajane and Rikki. We stayed in a one room cabin in Sol Duc and hiked and ate and drank wine and saw waterfalls. We loaded Indi’s car seat into the back of Sarajane’s black Honda Fit - she still has it, in Charleston now - and drove to the top of Hurricane Ridge. We were listening to Shovels and Rope. As we crested the ridge, and there were no other cars around, going up and up and up, the last song played. And every chord, every lyric, filled the whole car with light and deep sound. Looking back, it feels like each of our future selves was in that car, like angels, pressing in as hard as they could on our hearts without killing us, telling us there may be hard and lonely days shortly ahead but brighter days lay ahead of that. Such bright, bright days - more than would ever fit in that car now.
Well, I had an awful dream
I laid your bones by a shallow stream
I carved your name in a willow tree
And I beat the ground
With water clear and sun abright
I let the tears alone to dry
I raise my arms up to the sky
And challenged God
He had no prose, He had no right
To take my dove, my little light
Half of my soul, half of my sight
My beating heart, my precious wife
Have you no answers?
Follow you no more
I'm on my own, this means war
When I awoke, when I came to
My whole perspective was brand new
I made a vow, and I keep it true
Hold very close what's given you
Keep very close what's given to you
A lymph node. A small one. Not concerning. I am a strong, healthy, and confident mama of four. I am married to my soulmate. I make beautiful days and joyful evenings, then peaceful nights in our home. I am patient. I am making a mantra for a long life.
Last night I melted away in the bed while sidelying nursing Remy when I had meant to get back up to wash the dishes etc etc etc. I kept waking up and surrendering right back into sleep. That’s the phase of life we’re in now, where the need to sleep is that powerful that it takes over. I ended up having to get back up at 11pm to wash the bottles and pump parts, and take milk out of the freezer for today. I’d hoped to accomplish a lot more tonight but I think I have to stop after the functional minimum on the seven things. Cardio, photo, journal, dishes, laundry, tidy up, prep coffee. I did my cardio in the 5s this morning. I took the photo. I’m doing my journal now. The dishwasher is running, the bottles and pump parts are washed, the milk is thawing in the fridge, the cooler packs are back in the freezer. The laundry isn’t folded, and I’m not sure I can, but we might need it in the morning. The living area is tidied, enough, everything is completely disorganized but it isn’t spread all over the floor anymore like it was. The coffee is prepped for the morning.
Being pregnant with Breya was like being pregnant with a sprite. She was so tiny and spindly and kicky and taut against the skin, especially in the latter half. It had been so long since I had been pregnant that my body had healed over and over the vulnerabilities of the mother body before, my first mother body. There are so many thoughts like this throughout the day that I want to write down, and most of them I cannot due to doing the business of living a life. I think about Ann Patchett writing about writing and how it’s like trying to trap a butterfly and pin it down onto a board where it can be seen, but it will never be seen in exactly the way it was in the air, ephemeral and fluttering. And that’s how I feel about the thoughts that come to me throughout the day that I want to write down, but can’t. The purpose of this journal is to try to catch one a day, just a brief, fluttering image.
Last night was date night. We went to Salvatore in Roosevelt. We’d never been there before. Indi was with Mikey and Rikki, we had Alicia babysit the girls, and we brought Remy with us. He slept and nursed the whole time. First we went to Indi’s curriculum night and I decided I want to be like all of his teachers when I grow up. Salvatore was amazing, a completely nineties vibe in the best way, we ordered two appetizers and a salad and three entrees and dessert and ate it all. In some ways having a date night feels like growing up. I remember friends and coworkers throughout the years who were further ahead of me in marriage and kids talking about their date nights and the importance thereof. Last night we left the house a disaster mess to go on our date night. And it was completely OK and fun and the right thing to do.
I am amazed by Breya’s form on the monkey bars. I watched her today after soccer pictures and her game, and she keeps her legs almost totally straight while she swings from one bar to the next with perfectly targeted arms: every movement exactly the right amount, no extra or wasted momentum, calculated to get her just far enough and no farther. From bar, to bar, to bar. On this structure she had to land on the straight narrow top bar of the ladder on one side, and steady herself on the side bars of the ladder before turning to swing back across the other way. On the other side she had to swing her feet forward to land on the platform of the play structure, and then curve the rest of her body forward over her legs until she could reach a graspable part of the structure even further forward with her left hand. Other children swing wildly from bar to bar, nothing planned, limbs flailing everywhere. They are amateurs, and Breya is a professional.
Sunday. I was slow on purpose this morning. We did Sunday morning cartoons and free play and snacky breakfast (raisins). We didn’t rush to the farmers market and didn’t hurry around once we got there. Mariah came for dinner and brought Italian wedding soup. Breya and I went for a walk in the rain before she got here, and she showed me her “new move” of twirling her umbrella in each direction and then putting it back above her head.
Last night we talked about the first night Mariah and I met, at her place, and the second night, at zoo lights, and it felt like a secret insofar as a secret is something precious and close to the heart. Something amazing about everyday life to hold onto, a story to know for so many years, and not talk about too many times so as not to wear too many grooves in the memory. The secret of life.
Arden helped me at daycare pickup today by carrying her backpack and Remy’s milk bottle bag. With one in each hand she reached her arms up and said “I’m a strong girl and I have so many muscles in my arms!” Then she started crying because she forgot the telescope she had made in her cubby. We went back to get it and in the car it fell beside her and she said “where is my skellotope?”
Nigel and Emily arrived. We got the house ready by the skin of our teeth. We put 24 Coors Lights in the fridge. We hugged even though Mike and I have colds. Nigel started analyzing Mike’s Switch to see if it could be modded in a certain way. Emily and I talked about the plans for tomorrow, about work and school. Normal life things. Nigel forgot his iPad on the plane, extending our record for some kind of catastrophe associated with seeing each other to three straight visits. But they made it, they’re here, we are here together.
I spend about thirty minutes every night washing the bottles and pumping parts. Every night, the same routine over and over again. This is on top of the other seven tasks. The eighth task. It’s not the same as doing dishes. It’s not the same as haphazardly rinsing, and sometimes not rinsing, and tossing diagonally, and sometimes inappropriately stacked dishes into the dishwasher, and putting the detergent in and closing it and pushing a button. With this task every part has to be washed thoroughly with lots of soap by hand. Every part has to be placed in the drying rack, a special drying rack designed for bottles and pumping parts to absorb the water overnight. All the labels have to be peeled off by hand. These tasks have to be done every night to make sure that Remy will be able to eat the next day and that I will be able to pump milk for him the next day. In the mornings I have to put the thawed milk in the bottles and label them again by hand and put them in the cooler bag with the ice pack. I have to reassemble my pump and put it into the pumping bag with the ice pack. I have to reassemble the pumping bottles, and put them into the pumping bag with their ice pack. I have to make sure that I bring everything with me. I give Remy’s teachers his bottles that I remember to pump at 10:30, 130, and 430 every day. But I love this tedious task because I know it will not last forever. As Remy gets closer and closer to six months, as we near that half year mark, I know I’ll miss this so much. And I’ve shown myself that I can do this, that I can do something like this every single night, when I am tired, when I am sick, when I don’t know if I can do it, I can do it, because I do it. And I’ve been thinking about what might happen in a little over six months or seven months or eight months. I’ve been thinking, when I don’t do this task anymore - because this task will end, it won’t be something that I do every day - what will I do? Will I replace this 30 minutes every night with something else? Could I replace it with another eighth task? Something like making dinner for the next day, perhaps? I don’t know. I don’t attach a morality to that answer whether it’s yes, or no. But I do wonder about what I might be strong enough to do, what I might be conditioned enough to do, at that time.
I’ve been thinking about how precious written words are. I’ve been thinking about how much recorded words have meant not just to people as a people, but to people as individuals throughout history. I’ve been thinking about the personal significance of words. I’ve been thinking about how some words are so precious that one might repeat them, read them over and over and over again until they are part of oneself. The idea of memorizing the words so they become written on one’s heart is a religious one, but also a transgressive one. I’ve always had a personal experience with memorizing words. I’ve been tasked with memorizing Bible verses as a preschooler, as a young child. It was always religious. Then, when I studied creative nonfiction in college memorizing words took on a different significance. They became a way to remember something without an attachment to time. Because when you memorize something and you can say it over and over and over again for however long the memorization lasts, , you can always enter that moment. You can stop time. Is this different from memorizing the lyrics to a song? I’ve been doing that since I was really young too. I remember in high school I would write down the words to the song and that would help me memorize it so much faster. I’m wondering about the relationship between writing and speaking words, speaking and writing words.
I’ve discovered voice dictation on Ulysses today. I’m not writing this down or typing it with my thumbs. I’m speaking it into a little blue microphone that hovers just like a cursor on the page. But the page is not even a page anymore. It’s a rectangular white screen that glows a little bit, and has haptics, and can receive my words and record them as I’m talking. I am literally speaking onto the page. I don’t know how I feel about this yet. Can I capture more butterflies this way? Is that a good thing?
I remember when I transitioned from writing by hand to typing. It was when I finally learned to type faster than I could think. What had before been a barrier now became an accelerator to getting my own thoughts and ideas down on the page. I still write by hand when I’m trying to work something out. But mostly I type. Will dictation take the place of this? Can I talk faster than I can think?
Sienna and Eli’s rehearsal dinner. Toward the end I was talking with Addie and Emily H and Emily H was telling me how she became friends with Breya and they were chatting about Frozen and somehow we got around to the topic of how Breya has been having a hard time settling in at kindergarten, and she said that she believes Breya will channel that energy of not following directions when she doesn’t agree with the directions into a beautiful and successful energy later in life. And she also said that, being a female, she will probably learn to codify her behaviors to succeed in society. And I said I’m not sure if she will. I don’t know if generation alpha has that. I think there is something about being a millennial mother of daughters, that we had to do that coding so much that what was hidden has passed into them. The rage has passed into them. That’s where it went, and the ability to filter is gone or simply isn’t there.
When we got home Breya asked again if she could watch the family talent show. She’s been learning the song from frozen two that I sang in our family talent show in March 2021. I finally found the video tonight and played it for her. I didn’t think that she would like the way I sang it since it doesn’t really sound like the movie. But she loved it. And she loved seeing herself at age almost 3 dancing with me. Then when I put her to bed tonight, she cried and said I want to be a baby again. I’m sad because I can’t go back. I can’t be zero or one or two or three or four ever again I can’t go backward and cried. I told her I know and held her and in that moment we felt everything.
Sienna’s wedding day! Of course, the thing about weddings is, every wedding that has ever occurred before this one is layered into this day. Especially the weddings of all the people who are at this wedding. And so on this day I’m thinking not only about my wedding, but about other weddings I’ve been to. About Addie and Tim’s wedding, about Savannah and Kevin’s wedding, even about Chris and Patrice McLeod’s wedding when we were kids. I don’t even know if I was actually at that wedding, I probably wasn’t, but I remember that Savannah was a flower girl, and that was something I always wanted to do. But we didn’t know anyone who wanted me to be their flower girl. And now, today, my daughters are flower girls in my sister’s wedding. They are not wearing anything the childhood me would have thought a flower girl would wear. No pink or white ruffles today. They are wearing rainbows and checks and plaids, but still with bows and ruffles. I am in this wedding, too. The last day of the month. I was married on a month’s last day, too. Goodbye, September. Goodbye, flower girl dream deferred - you have been realized today, in my daughters. Goodbye, to the heavy things we carried this month. Hello, to this joyful day about love. Hello, October.