Happy 15 Months!

Happy 15 months, Sophie!

Happy 15 months, Sophie!

Dear Sophie,

Today, you are 15 months old.

Today, you are 450 days, 10,800 hours, and 648,000 minutes.

Today, you wear a blue and white jumper and pink sparkly shoes.

Today, you have a vocabulary of 16 words. You can identify your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, tongue, belly, boobs and vagina. You can even attempt to say the word “vagina” as you poke you finger into mine.

Today, you turn somersaults on the grass and run through the house with glee.

Today, you are alive. You are full of energy. You are moving all day, just as you’re supposed to.

Today, you charge after our puppy with outstretched hands and a shrill screech.

Today, you are more beautiful than yesterday. You are smarter, kinder, faster. You are everything.

Today, you try to balance on a wooden pot, your bottle, and a white, plastic bowl.

Today, I turn around for only a moment and you have climbed up onto the coffee table, arms outstretched like a surfer, ready to catch an imaginary wave.

Today, you play by yourself and I watch you, amazed, enthralled, proud and so overwhelmed.

Today, you hug the back of my knees, my waist, and my neck.

Today, you give me 21 kisses ,12 hugs, and 32 smiles.

Today, you call me “mama” from 7a.m. to 7p.m. It is the best word I’ve ever heard.

Today, you are no longer a baby. You are growing into a little girl.

Today, I am so into being your mother, I know nothing else of what’s happening in the world.

Today, you help me make almond butter chocolate chip cookies and eat 13 blueberries and run through the house shouting “nana, nana!” until I gave you several bites of a banana.

Today, you nurse at 7:30 pm before pulling away and saying “night night” to let Alex read you a story and put you to bed.

Today, I get 37 minutes to myself, to sit down and write this, while Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis drones in the background and my hubby and puppy sit, curled beside me. And you, asleep in your room, a big girl at last.

Today, I honor you. I marvel. I blink and here you are, a fully formed being with shiny, blond hair, almond shaped eyes and 16 teeth nestled behind those pink lips.

Today, I think you are a baby genius because there’s nothing you cannot do or say or communicate.

Today, you wave hello to everyone you pass and several adults don’t see you or hear you. I call them assholes behind their backs and will people to look at you. How can you not see that my daughter is waving at you? Stop what you’re doing and marvel with me!!!!!!

Today, I am a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a granddaughter, an athlete, a nutritionist, a blogger, and an employee.

Today, I am quiet as I observe you, my daughter: Sophie Leona Holguin.

Today, as I have been every day over the last 15 months, I am entirely, completely, and irrevocably yours.

 

Wait, My Kid Has To Play With Your Kid?

Sophie's first haircut. Now she looks like Justin Bieber. Awesome.

Sophie’s first haircut. Now she looks like Justin Bieber. Awesome.

I have news (and no, I’m not pregnant).

My child is sleeping through the night. After 14 months of thrashing, crying and waking every 2-3 hours no matter what, the trick was this: shutting her damn door. That’s it. No laborious crying it out, no feeling guilty about her not being in bed with us or finding her wailing and running circles in her room (though this did happen a few times). All she needed was some darkness. And a bedtime routine that consists of eating, bath, milk, story time and Alex putting her to bed, leaving me time to sit on the couch with a novel or bad reality television (which is glorious). And shutting the door.

Over the past few weeks, I have been introduced to playground life – a strange hybrid of individuals who watch their children play while pretend to have things in common with the other adults standing next to them. We all ooh and aah at each other’s babies, ignoring our aching backs or the direct sunlight boring a hole in our brains. It’s all about slides and climbing and sharing! Oh my!

With the recent rain, my friend, Stephanie, and her cutie, Jones, met Alex, Sophie and I at Opry Mills so the tots could run around indoors. As we perused H&M, the little ones hid in racks of clothing, dancing to the loud music and throwing themselves to the ground with glee. Once they tired of that, we went to the indoor “play” area, which is tiny and houses benches all along the perimeter, so exhausted parents can sit and observe while their crazy ass children run, climb, and stomp all over each other.

Stephanie assured me it was never crowded, but when we walked up, there were over 40 children of various ages (six months-10 years old, easily). I could feel myself hyperventilate as the cacophony of tinny voices racked my eardrums.

“Um, um.” I looked around, but Stephanie had already let Jones loose and was glancing back at me. How did she have that confidence? And where could I get some? I parked the stroller next to hers (was I supposed to just leave it here, unattended? This was an Orbit stroller. I would steal it if I found one just lounging around.) and told Alex to watch them. I passed by the antibacterial pump and pressed the tube. Nothing. Nothing!!! Sophie had already entered the mini-hell so I didn’t even have time to wipe down both of our hands. I sidled up behind her, realizing I was the only parent walking two feet behind my child with my arms extended. I stood up self-consciously and ignored my dire need for two bubble wrap suits to protect me from these infectious beasts. Snot, scrapes, scabs and coughs emanated from every open mouth and pore. I wished for my friend Lauren to witness this, as she would have yanked her son and Sophie to safety and been out of there.

I looked at all the objects there to climb, some so tall, that if Sophie got to the top and toppled off, she’d break her neck for sure. Who built this death trap? Could we sue if she fell? Had these toys ever been wiped down, or were they just loaded with viruses ready to attack?

I took my place on the bench beside Stephanie, wringing my hands in a ball. I glanced back at Alex, who was tucked safely outside this little prison, guarding our strollers.

“This is Alex’s idea of hell,” I said.

“Why?” she asked. “Is it nerves or all the kids?”

“Everything,” I said. “This is so hard for me, since I’m a germaphobe.”

She placed her hand on my knee (was her hand even clean?). “If this makes you too uncomfortable, we can go.”

I took a deep breath. “No, it’s good. This is good for her. I have to get over it. It’s my problem, not hers.”

I watched Sophie watching the other kids. She ran tentatively from one object to the next, always keeping her eyes peeled for me. My heart swelled as she climbed and played. I began to relax – that is, until this beast of a nine-year-old kept trying to run over the giant toy guitar Sophie was resting on, screaming, “Hey! Excuse me!” and even bumped her several times. It took everything I had not to hip check her right out of this little play area. Why would a nine-year-old even want to be in here? Shouldn’t she be texting all her friends or shopping for something? Wasn’t playing with babies when you were nine 2013 just so lame? I wanted to tell all of her friends. But I bet she didn’t have any because she was so mean and pushy.

We endured the play for a while longer before I captured Sophie and wiped her hands with fresh wipes. Stephanie and I parted ways and I counted the days until Sophie would get sick (if exposed to anything): probably two or three, which would put us just in time for the weekend! Great. And our friends were coming in town.

As Sophie passed out in the backseat, I fretted that she hadn’t even eaten anything, and I hadn’t packed her snacks. So she’d probably lose weight on top of getting sick, which would be my fault.

But as I glanced at the videos I took of her playing, her cheeks rosy, her limbs free, I knew that this was just the beginning. Playing was how she would learn about the world, and no germs could stop her from living the way she was intended to.

I took a deep breath and sat back in the hot seat, as we made our way home.

“We survived,” I said. “I can’t believe we have to be in the same vicinity as other kids for, like, years.”

“Did you see that one big girl who kept getting in Sophie’s way?”

“Uh, I wanted to punch her!”

“I wanted to karate chop her in the throat.”

I squeezed Alex’s hand. “Thank you for being so weird with me.”

“My pleasure. There’s no one I’d rather be so weird with.”

“Sophie’s going to hate us, isn’t she?”

He shrugged. “Probably at some point. But for now, she loves us.”

“Because we let her play with germy kids.”

“We played with germy kids. And we’re fine.”

“But I think kids are getting grosser. I’m pretty sure.” I spritzed some natural hand sanitizer on my hands. “I’m getting better, I think, though. With the germs.”

“Obviously.”

We drove the rest of the way in silence, listening to our daughter’s steady breath and the hum of the classical music she loved on 91.1.

A Cup of Joe

"Son, is that a panty on your head?"

“Son, is that a panty on your head?”

Having a cup of coffee is a rite of passage. Though I don’t drink coffee anymore (I am officially stopping decaf today – tomorrow at the latest), I love everything about it. The complexity, the shiny beans, the painfully slow drip process, the first scalding sip, the stray ground that sticks to my lip, placed like a misshapen freckle…it’s an intense love affair.

P.S. (pre-Sophie), one of my favorite things to do was to dip into a cafe and lose myself to the music, the thick brews, and the people also lost in their own reveries. I’d only shift my eyes skyward to stretch, often hours later, once I’d come out of my artistic coma or met an impending deadline.

Stupidly, I figured when we moved to Nashville, I’d get this piece of my life back. I even found a new favorite cafe (which is beyond expensive, doesn’t carry decaf and sells $10 bars of chocolate). But the atmosphere makes me think I’m stepping back in time, maybe to Paris, or maybe just to some pretentious place in Portland, but I love it here.

Em and the munchkin at Barista Parlour

Em and the munchkin at Barista Parlour

Having just baked a fresh batch of carrot spice muffins, thanks to Oh She Glows, I brought some to my mother and asked if she’d like to get a cup of coffee there. She only drinks Americanos, and I’ve grown to like their decaf lemongrass tea, and I thought it would be a brilliant plot to get Sophie out of the house so Alex could get work done.

Um, yeah.

Crack muffins.

Crack muffins.

The line snaked out the door as we entered. Sophie, aready tired of being in her stroller, kicked her long legs and let out a series of prehistoric roars. I surveyed the packed grounds, looking for a few spare stools. My mother instantly struck up a conversation with a man who drove all the way from Gallatin for some macaroons. Her ability to engage in conversation is one of her most endearing and baffling traits. The shy person in me always averts eye contact with strangers, or I take it upon myself to make direct eye contact and smile too brightly, which is just creepy. If a conversation does ensue, I use filler words, such as “totally” and “absolutely,” or “totally, absolutely” like it’s one thought – the only thought in my head.

As I stood in line with my mom talking to this stranger, I wondered how exactly I’d explain stranger danger to Sophie. Isn’t everyone a potential threat where kids are concerned? Maybe we’d put her in jiu-jitsu early or train her to be a ninja, so if she got in any sort of precarious situation, she could run that shit. That’s what we’d do, I decided. We’d train her to be a ninja.

As a table opened up, my mother took Sophie while I stood in line over 20 minutes to order. Once I got to the small bearded man with the pretty tattoos taking orders, I ordered my mother an Americano.

“We don’t do Americanos. We just have two-ounces of espresso.”

“You have two ounces… like, total? Like in the cafe? You can’t add some hot water to a shot or two of espresso?”

The guy looked at me, solemn. “No no, I’m afraid not. We might consider it down the line though. We’re thinking about it. The Americano. But if you like that, you can do a regular coffee.”

“You’d think that, but this is for my mother, and she’s just weaned herself off of lattes, so for her to like the Americano is a big deal and she doesn’t have a lot of time, and I told her how great this place is and now you don’t have Americanos.” I gave this stranger a big, creepy smile. “It’s fine. I guess I’ll just get a shot of espresso. And a decaf iced lemongrass tea. And this bar of chocolate.”

I was buying my mom a bar of Mast chocolate with almonds. Alex and I had eaten this brand on our “honeymoon” when we stayed at the W hotel. I knew it would take the edge off the strong coffee.

“That’s $17.”

“Say what?” I quickly retracted the $10 bar of chocolate and made my way to my mother, the wooden man with the letter “E” table marker gripped firmly in my hands.

Sophie was out of her carseat, bucking wildly, demanding to be let down.

“Good news! You’re about to get real Parisian,” I said.

“Why? What do you mean?”

“They don’t have Americanos.”

Silence.

“So I got you an espresso instead. Isn’t that fun?”

“Um.”

“It’ll be like we’re in Paris again!”

My mother’s Parisian memories weren’t as warm or fuzzy as mine, but still. Everyone wanted to be in Paris – or at least pretend to be.

I could see the disappointment – my mother is particular about her wine and coffee, and this mini-date of ours was unraveling already. All I wanted to do was sit, talk, and take a few minutes to decompress. Instead, I walked Sophie around while we waited for our drinks.

“Oh my,” my mom said when it arrived. A small glass of sparkling water and a free bar of chocolate sat on the plate by her delicious espresso.

“I hope this doesn’t hurt my stomach.”

“It won’t hurt your stomach. It will make you invincible.”

She took a delicate sip and made a face. “It’s citrusy.”

“You mean complex. Let me smell it.” I gripped the cup and inhaled the dark, acidic brew. I wanted to douse myself in it. How could she not appreciate this?

“How can you not appreciate this? I could drink a bowl of this.”

“It’s good… it’s just different.”

I watched her – with envy – as she sipped on her drink and broke the chocolate apart. Meanwhile, I racked my brain for conversation that could be had in two word increments. Every time I started a sentence, Sophie yelled, threw something, stomped her feet or demanded to be put down, picked up, flipped upside down, or tickled.

Finally, I let her shove her hands into the leftover ice in my cup of tea. She smiled and palmed a giant hunk of ice into her mouth.

“She could choke on that,” my mom said.

“Could she? Won’t it just melt?”

This was not a good sign – that I was passive about choking, the one thing I was crazy about, since we’d had a few treachorous choking scares.

Sophie managed to shift the ice over to her inside cheek and bark for more as we discussed money, jobs, my father, the weather… I could not string a complete sentence together.

After five minutes of one word responses, picking up tossed toys and a baby shoe that had hit the toe of a very stern-looking patron, I began to laugh. A deep belly laugh that shook my entire body and had me doubling over in the middle of this very hip cafe.

“I have officially lost it,” I gasped. “Will shit ever be normal again? Will I ever be able to carry on a conversation in public with a person that doesn’t involve babies or toys or screams?”

My mother shrugged and gave a soft smile. “Someday. Though I’m still tired.”

“Great. So I’m going to be tired forever.”

“No, this is just a phase. It will get better.”

“Better? Do you remember me as a teenager?”

“Okay, then it will get different.”

Not being able to sit in a cafe, to most people, is no big deal. But as a writer, I need this down time, I need to see people, to feel something other than frustration or mind-numbing fatigue. I need to be alone at least for a little while everyday.

As I gathered Sophie back in her seat and pushed her to the car, I tripped on my flip flop and almost went flying onto the pavement. When we got to the car, I realized I had left it unlocked. I put Sophie in and started the car, cracking the windows to let the heat unfurl.

“Um, don’t forget your stroller base.”

“What?”

“Your stroller base. It’s sitting in the middle of the street.”

“For fuck’s sake,” I mumbled. “Am I that far gone?”

“No. You’re just dingy.”

“You should know.”

“Thanks to you.”

I waved goodbye. As I looked in the rearview mirror, I wasn’t even sure who was staring back at me. The real me? An imposter? A blend?

I drove the short distance home, dying to devour another muffin.

As I explained my insanely relaxing coffee time to Alex, he replied: “At least it’s Monday.”

“What’s so great about Monday?”

The Bachelorette.”

Instantly, I perked up. “You’re right! Something to live for.” My brain was already on overdrive: What if Des didn’t find the right guy? The previews from last week really made it look like the guy she loved didn’t love her back. What if she was left all alone? I’d spent all this time watching! I was invested!!! 

I gave him a kiss and shoved an entire carrot muffin into my mouth. Sophie, unbuckled from her seat, began to run laps around the kitchen. I loved the sounds of my little family… there was nothing better.

Alex scooped Sophie up and went to her room to play.

I walked down our hallway, feeling the bottoms of my feet slap the hardwood floors. I opened the door to the office,  shut myself inside, and began to write.

Meeting of the Moms

photo
Today, I decided to take Sophie to a MOM group, despite my reservations (based on my previous experience). I feel like Sophie could benefit for numerous reasons:

1. It’s important for her to get other kid stimulation. A great way to learn!
2. Doing outdoor activities is better for her lungs!
3. I am going out of my fucking mind, and if I have to listen to one more children’s song or play hide-‘n-seek or talk in a high-pitched voice as I maniacally trot behind my daughter because she is just learning to run so really playing hide-‘n-seek is fruitless at this point – I might internally combust.

So.

I pulled up to the beautiful community center exactly one minute past the starting time. No matter that this was Sophie’s nap time and she hadn’t yet fallen asleep. No matter that she hadn’t had a mid-morning snack and she was grunting at me as I tried to hoist her out of her car seat. We were doing this, dammit. I needed to meet more moms.

I entered the community center, feeling my heartbeat escalate. I always get nervous in new situations, especially when I don’t know anyone (hence being called a teacher’s pet most of my youth. Why? Because adults would actually talk to me instead of being stupid fucking kids with smart mouths, bad hygeine, and overly obnoxious ways of being. Who wants to play with that? Oh, yes, please make fun of me and call me names. That sounds like an awesome way to spend my once in a lifetime childhood.)

I entered the room and a pleasant (if somewhat harried) mother introduced herself and her children before slapping a name tag on my chest. I looked down at my tank top, realizing there was dried milk on both sides of my breasts. Perfect.

I readjusted the name tag and did a once over, noticing the rubbermaid bin of communal toys I knew Sophie would make a beeline for. Fat babies, thin babies and older children milled around, slamming toys into the concrete or looking generally disinterested. I met southern mom after southern mom, wondering where my people were. This was East Nashville, right? Where were the tattoos? The attachment parenting? The moms who didn’t look old enough to be my conservative aunt? Where were the women I could relate to?

I readjusted Sophie on my hip before reluctantly setting her down to run free. She sprinted to the toys and practically heaved herself inside of the toy bin, salivating on every ball, ramming colored pencils down her throat and palming giant wooden toys. I hovered over her, hoping she wouldn’t slam a cute baby in the face with the block she was holding.

I watched as all the moms – obviously comfortable enough with each other and their children to let them roam – sat and actually conversed. Instead of doing the same, I followed Sophie from room to room, as she tried to play with the big kids and screeched like a hyena as I tried to take her back to where the babies were.

Once the meeting began, we had to go around the room and introduce ourselves and talk about a milestone our child had just reached. Milestone? What milestone? I racked my brain. Sophie is literally cutting eight teeth at the same time, so she hasn’t slept more than three hours at a time in over a month. We got her out of our bed, finally, but would these moms think I was weird for co-sleeping that long? She could say a handful of words, do sign language and would mimic anything you showed her on the first try. But I didn’t want to come off like my child was too smart.

I listened as the moms discussed their three-year-olds writing poetry and handwritten letters and swimming a whole lap at the pool; one-year-olds talking and saying “dog” over and over; six-year-olds getting into prestigious schools; and then my turn. What was my milestone?! And where the fuck was Sophie?

While I was busy worrying about what to say to impress these women, all of their babies had magically transplanted themselves from playing back into the safe, plush laps of their mothers. My lawless child was over in the corner of the room, farting and stuffing a blue plastic ball in her mouth.

“Um, hi. I’m Rea. That’s Sophie over there. She’s 13 months. A milestone. Well, I’m really happy to report – and I think it’s a milestone but maybe it’s not a milestone but I feel like it’s a milestone -” (It’s over, idiot. You lost them already.) I cleared my throat and began again. “We haven’t changed a poopy diaper in over five months, so that’s something.” I shrugged.

All eyes bored into me. One mother rolled her eyes. One mother asked if I’d come over to their house. One mother said, “I have a three-year-old who’s not even potty trained.” Staring. Accusatory.

I began to backtrack. “Well, it’s not 100%. We just started when she was six months. And she caught on. It’s been easy.”

Accusatory mother’s eyes bulged. “Easy?”

“I mean for her. It’s easy for her. It’s very time consuming. You have to be able to be there, like, all the time. And she wears cloth diapers, so…”

So? So what? Now I sounded like an even bigger asshole who did nothing but trained my daughter to go on the potty like a “big girl” and cared so much for the environment that I only put my baby in the best cloth diapers.

“Is there a bathroom?”

Someone pointed out the door. I gathered my purse and Sophie and trilled, “I shall return!” before bypassing the very public bathroom and pushing through the glass doors. I kept walking until I was to my car and had Sophie safely buckled into her too-expensive completely yuppy Orbit car seat.

I felt my hopes dashed as I drove the short distance home. I was hoping to bond, to find a nanny, to make a new best friend who would magically also be my next door neighbor and just happen to have everything in common. And it wasn’t the women – they were all pleasant and lovely and sweet. They obviously meant a lot to one another. I just wasn’t one of them.

I suddenly missed Lauren (my Chicago soul sister) with a ferocity that shook me to my bones. I missed our walks and talks and disdain for all things organized mom. If she were here, we could grab a coffee and talk about how hard our lives were and how we never got anything done and if there was some way we could get a break so we could get some sleep then everything would be better.

I pulled up to the house and ran inside, the rain pelting my shoulders and Sophie’s freshly washed hair.

“Back to the dungeon,” I said. She looked at me and deposited a kiss on my arm.

“We’ll find you some friends. I promise. Mommy won’t ruin everything.”

I set her down and she took off toward Alex. He scooped her up. “How was it?” he asked.

“Don’t ask. I suck, I think.”

“You don’t suck. How do you suck?”

“Just in general.”

“You don’t.”

I shrugged. Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. But I knew out there, somewhere, were like-minded moms. And I would find them. I would.

So ready or not, here I come.

A Letter to My Former Self

Three peas in a vacation pod.

Three peas in a vacation pod.

Dear Rea,

You really need to start blogging regularly.

You need to explain to your daughter that sleeping more than two hours at a time is more than acceptable at this age. It’s just what people do, so grow up already. 

You need to start drinking heavily.

You need to stop leaving the toilet paper on the holder, because every time you turn away, Sophie has unrolled it, a tattered white streamer billowing across the expanse of the living room.

You need to pay bills, return emails, and make more money.

You need to shave your legs and go to the dentist and get a haircut.

You need new workout gear, new summer clothes, new shoes, and new makeup.

You need to laugh more, have sex, and buy a lawn mower.

You need to read poetry and novels and take a real vacation.

You need to teach Sophie the alphabet and find her some fucking playmates so she will stop whining at you.

You need to stop saying, “I need to,” “I will,” “I’m going to,” “I must.”

You need to get your damn dog from Chicago and befriend every vegan so your book can become a best seller.

You need to stop eating peanut butter. Really, this time. And stop eating so many fucking vegan desserts.

You need to find a good gym, stretch, and stop saying fuck so much.

You need to take out the fucking trash and stop looking forward to The Bachelorette as though it’s the most important thing you can possibly do on a Monday night.

You need to go to the farmer’s market, plan a real book release party, and get some vitamin D.

You need to get up, sit down, rip that spoon from your daughter’s mouth while she’s walking, clip those talons she has for fingernails, comb her hair, and figure out what that rash is on her leg.

You need to meet more moms and use your damn backyard.

You need to stop taking pictures of Sophie and start taking pictures of the entire family, because one day, you will regret not seeing this haggard, happy version of yourself.

Every time I look at my daughter’s face, as she blows kisses, as she smiles and rests her head on my lap, I am pigeonholed by love.

Seeing Sophie at the ocean for the first time, her pale, pebbled toes sinking beneath the pearly sand, her alabaster legs being swallowed by sea foam, her bright eyes squinting from the harsh sun – it was magic. She took to the water without fear, dipping her body in, being lifted and nursed and fed fresh, sweating plums beneath a yellow umbrella.

Plum Eater.

Plum Eater.

On vacation, I read only one book (a paltry number, considering I brought seven). I did not sleep in once. I worked out daily, I cooked and bought groceries and did laundry and cleaned. I spent time with five other members of my family and watched as they all bonded with Sophie.

I paddle boarded with my brother and then with Alex, both of us rising early to take to the ocean, a glinty fin darting by my board upon first entering the ocean.

I stalled and turned to Alex. “Um, there’s something in the water,” I said.

“No shit,” he replied.

We made our way out into the surf anyway, suddenly too far out, as I struggled to turn and look back at the distant horizon of the shore. A gaggle of onlookers was gathered in a tight knot, all of them motioning frantically for us to come in. All hands were shielding their eyes, shaky salutes of morbid curiosity and Floridian concern.

Apparently, we were surrounded by sharks, as they traversed across the sea, right in our path. I felt my body tremble and struggled to stay on my board as I dipped my paddle into the water.

Behind me, I heard a splash. Alex had fallen in! With sharks!

I kept moving forward.

We flew in toward the shore, every man for himself, and rode the small waves in as people ran to us, informing of us of the obvious: We were out there with sharks!

I felt exhilarated in a way I hadn’t in years. No thoughts of diapers or to-dos or nursing or what we’d eat for lunch. I just had to figure out how to get from point A to point B without dying: my simplest task in over a year!!!

“I fell off!” Alex exclaimed, as he caught up to me. “And you just left me!”

I blinked. “I didn’t want to startle you. Or get eaten.”

“But you left me! You didn’t even turn around to see if I was okay!”

“You’re here, aren’t you? Would you rather your daughter didn’t have one parent or two? I was just saving myself.”

I placed my hand over my mouth, tasting the salt there.

It’s been so long since I’ve thought about saving myself or doing anything for myself… couldn’t he give me this? Wanting to escape the shark-infested waters without losing my balance while I strained to see him flailing in the water? I resisted the urge to tell him to work on his balance as we returned to our spot on the sand, Sophie tucked tightly in my father’s arms.

“We made it!” I said.

I stared out at the empty expanse of ocean, not a soul in its greenish blue claws.

We waited ten minutes.

“Want to go again?” I asked.

Alex looked at me, a grin lighting his tan face. My heart flipped.

“Yes,” Alex said.

Together, with our boards and a bit of bravery, we stepped back in.

Happy 1st Birthday, Sophie!!!!

May 30, 2012

May 30, 2012

Dear Sophie,

Today, you turn one.

Today, you look like I did as a child, hair in your eyes, food on your mouth, and your face full of wonder.

Today, you have your daddy’s smile.

Today, you are walking, smiling, playing, and getting into trouble.

Today, you smelled the trees and saw the birds.

Today, you are a paper eater.

Today, you said, “hi,” “bye,” “baby,” “mama,” and “dada.”

Today, you gave me hugs and kisses and squealed with delight.

Today, you are twelve months and a few hours old. You are 365 days, 8,760 hours, or 525,600 minutes old.

When I ponder our year together, I am floored.

How has it been a year since I’ve known you? How has it been a year of around the clock breast feeding, of co-sleeping, of being with you every day and night? How have I held your tiny hands, washed your bare back, rocked you to sleep and been there to greet you every single morning?

How have you grown from a spec in my body to a thriving litlte girl?

IMG_6503

A year ago, at this hour, I was in recovery. I had labored for 52 hours. I was sick with my first cold in six years. I was bloated, hungry, sore, and exhausted. And yet, there you were. Alive. Breathing. Sleeping on your blue flannel blanket. Warm. Mine.

First day!

First day!

And now, here you are – a ONE YEAR OLD.

Happy 1st Birthday!

Happy 1st Birthday!

Everyday, you change, and I change with you.

Everyday, I kiss your hair and breathe you in and smile until my face hurts.

Everyday, I fall a little harder, a little deeper – for you, for your father, for our new life in Nashville.

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Everyday, I thank the universe for giving me Lauren and Alejandra – two women I love, admire and adore (and couldn’t have gotten through this experience without).

Thank you, Sophie, for testing me these past twelve months; for giving me so many smiles; for making my new favorite sound the timbre of your laughter; for giving me more patience and stripping away the small things I used to dote on. Thank you for bringing me uncertainty, for allowing me to trust my instincts, for letting me do what’s natural instead of what friends or doctors or books say.

Already, you are the most amazing girl I know.

I am honored to go on this journey with you, to be your parent, and someday, your friend.

Happy Birthday, Sophie.

I love you more today than I did yesterday…

Smile, for you are loved.

Have Child, Will Travel

A Sunday walk with my girl.

A Sunday walk with my girl.

THURSDAY, MAY 16, 2013
NOON

I sat in the green room, tapping my heels on the floor. The fake leather vest I had bought at H&M clung to my shoulder blades. I was already sticky with sweat. After a brief wait, I was escorted down a nondescript hallway, people with headsets calling out commands. They sat in carved out rooms that looked like shoeboxes. There were no windows.

“This is where you’ll set up.”

The shithole hallway opened up onto what looked like a movie set. Green screens, desks, able bodies, and a table raised on a platform fanned before me. This was where I would do my FOX TV segment. I unpacked my superfood salad, the homemade dressing and the non-dairy pancakes. I fussed with the plating. I arranged and rearranged, wishing I had my own dishes, my own utensils… wishing I had prepared this dish at home instead of in front of strangers.

Alex, Sophie, and I had flown up to Chicago the night before. We were staying with a friend who had three other house guests, all of whom were sick and weird – or both. I had spent another sleepless night, tossing and turning in a bed that wasn’t mine, feeling displaced. I had only moved from Chicago two and a half weeks ago, and now, here I was, back again, to promote my book. The timing was awesome. Security deposit, first month’s rent, moving costs, renting a truck, two flights, shipping fees? Sure, no problem. We were made of money, apparently.

My publicist arrived a few minutes before I went on. I ignoried the intense urge to curl up and take a nap right there on the floor. I couldn’t think about anything other than what I was supposed to talk about… which was what again? A salad? Pancakes? Like, good foods and stuff?

As I prepared to go on, they asked me to count to 20 to test the mic. I began to count.

“Now recite the alphabet backwards.”

Normally, this would be no problem. But I just looked at them. Didn’t they know I only had three brain cells left? I knew they were kidding, but I was smart – they had to know I was smart!

Instead, I just started counting to 20 again. Apparently, my mic didn’t work. They rushed me back and swapped microphones, unable to test it.

3,2, 1… action.

My Fox Debut!

On to the next activity. The next day was WGN. Arriving almost two hours ahead of time, my bags of groceries and food processor in hand, I walked the premises, taking in the BOZO THE CLOWN set and various other rooms. I was ushered to a kitchen on the news set. I unpacked my things, watching the tele-prompters from the corner of my eye. Did I have everything? What if the food processor didn’t work? What if I forgot what to say? What if they mispronounced my name, despite the fact I had told them it was Reeuh Frye?

I cleared my mind and got ready. As I was preparing for the mic, I realized I had a dress on, which meant I had nowhere to clip the pack to.

“Well, you’re going to have to go up my dress or down,” I told the sweaty guy. Thank God I had worn underwear.

He slipped his hand down the back of my dress, his fingers fumbling to find my bra strap. “This is such a pretty dress,” he said.

Wow, that’s not creepy, I thought. “You should see the bra I’m wearing,” I said. “It’s awesome. It’s a nursing bra.”

We filmed a few teasers (prepping, arranging, and squirting lemon juice in a citrus squeezer that flew into my eye) and then I was ready. The anchor introduced himself and told me he’d been vegan for 18 months.

“Do you feel better?”

He shrugged. “I’m old, so who knows?”

We chatted a bit and he told me he didn’t even want to do the recipe – he just wanted to discuss the book. I looked at him, mouth ajar. I had not only taken all the kitchen utensils to the UPS store to box up, but we had hauled it to the airport, checked it, and taken it up and down four flights of stairs; there were more peanuts and bubble wrap than I could count, and I had frantically chased Sophie around our guest room, ripping the styrofoam from her mouth; not to mention the $300 we spent at Whole Foods to buy groceries and the food segment ingredients, after which we couldn’t find a cab and had to schlep everything back to the condo. We were demoing the damn recipe.

“Ready?”

“Yes, sir.”

My WGN Debut!

With both TV segments behind me, I made an executive decision to cancel my book release party. We didn’t have alcohl or food or anything to serve the alcohol or food in – we were both exhausted, drained of money, and Sophie, the trooper that she was, just needed some normalcy.

Just the radio with WGN the next day, and then we were on a flight to our new home. Hooray for new beginnings…

And now, here we are.

Our new home.

Our new home.

As I sit here, staring out onto a fenced in backyard, glossed over by green leaves, a peach tree, and birds who, for some strange reason, keep ramming their little bodies into our windows at 4:45a.m., I am calm.

My Smith-Corona typewriter sits to my right, a copy of our new lease to my left. The house is quiet – finally – as Alex left to run errands and Sophie sleeps in her room.

As we finally settle, I am flummoxed by why we didn’t do this when I was pregnant. Watching Sophie traverse her adorable room, squealing in glee anytime someone comes by to see her – it’s magic. I am no longer cooped in my little shoebox condo on north Elston. I can put my feet in the grass and see the stars and breathe deeply.

Sophie's new room.

Sophie’s new room.

I can park for free on the street and have dinner with the neighbors and wave when someone walks by. I’ve seen friends and hung out spur of the moment, without planning a month in advance. Let’s just forget the fact that I was sitting with my friend visiting from London, Jamie Susan, and we were discussing middle names. “What’s Sophie’s middle name?” she asked.

“Leona,” I said. I stood up to grab Sophie, as she crawled to the office. “What’s yours?”

She blinked her large doe eyes. “Mine?”

“Yes. What’s your middle name again?”

“Um, Susan?”

Holy Christ, it appears I am still stupid. Hopefully some fresh air and the dream of sleep can cure that.

In better news, Alex and I went on our first date in almost a year last night. Eating, undistracted and uninterrupted, felt like bliss. Talking to my husband but more importantly listening to what he had to say without going, “What? What?” like an 80-year-old reminded me of the days of old.

And everyone is nice – so nice that it makes me wonder what they are secretly planning, or what they could possibly want. At night, instead of battling traffic or watching a show, we get outside; we smell our delectable rose bushes and prance around the neighborhood, gazing at the homes of different sizes and breadths. We have studied the history of them, traversed the rolling hills and felt like we were in Berkeley and not the south. We have dipped in and out of shops, met local business owners and had conversations with people on the street.

Our rose bush.

Our rose bush.

This feels… right on every level. I am wondering why we didn’t do it sooner – even sans baby, it makes such sense. The stress has lifted. We are excited again – for life, for possibilities, for new faces and old, familiar ones.

We are right where we should be.

We are home.