Tuesday I got to model for Mary’s portrait series at her gallery! We’d been planning it for a long time and it was an awesome experience. Not hard, just cool. Some of the paintings and drawings were amazing, including Mary’s, of course.
A plaster cast and Motorola smartphone were unlikely casualties of a cross-country cousin in-bath videoconference Wednesday. A surprise gift from her aunt on Wednesday afternoon prompted Imogen Charlotte, 4, of Douglas, Alaska, to call her cousin, Stevie Jean, 5, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
The girls “hang out” on video chat often, so it was understandable that when Stevie headed for her bath, Imogen requested to take one too. Imogen broke her leg sledding on Feb. 27, so mom managed her waterproof cast cover while she grabbed her sunglasses and Barbie from Aunt Christina.
Everything was going great until Ansel Emmett, 2 1/2, wearing a Batman suit he’d also just received in the mail after preschool, stated he needed gloves. Gloves were found and rice was put on the stove, during which time the girls could be heard giggling.
As it would happen, Imogen had been ‘washing the ceiling’ (the floor, and, by extension, the phone) with a cup of water. It was noticed the valve on the cast cover had come open and the cover had water sloshing in it only once we had hung up the phone.
“Stevie was sad our bath was over, so I licked the phone and that cheered her up,” said Imogen, who has an appointment to get her damp cast replaced after school today. The bath was over, but not before a LOT of fun and laughs were had between the cousins, who live 2,900 miles apart and see each other in person once a year, and not at all in 2020.
The fate of the smartphone, a 2016 Motorola which was a wedding gift from Jacob’s friends, is not yet clear, but, having recently been adorned with a “Daddy Shark” sticker, its fate in the hands of his family seemed appropriate.
Everyone agrees there should be more cross-country cousin baths in the future.
Jacob is on the lookout for a new phone.
The year 2020 was when I started writing poems again. In November 2019, during the only two nights I have ever been without my kids, I went to a two-night writers’ retreat at the Shrine of St. Therese and met a group of women who helped me figure out what I wanted to say, and with whom I formed a writers’ group which is still going strong, meeting monthly.
My first poem since I became a mom ran in April. It’s about Imogen’s birth by emergency Caesarean, which was not what I had planned. The process of writing it showed me that I gained whatever power I’d presumed to have lost when the birth went another way by healing myself, my daughter beside me. After four years of trying to get the poem published, when I changed the title to include her, it was accepted immediately.
Also in April, my not-so-secret favorite month of the year, a poem of mine, “Christmas Girl,” about navigating toddlerdom, was published on bus #6660 in Juneau. I haven’t seen it, but it drove past me again today! Alaska Women Speak picked up two of my COVIDiaries-19 blog posts, and the piece I wrote about our retaining wall is meant to run in Ruminate yet this month. They even pay!
Aside from my artistic renaissance, 2020 has mostly been about improving the walls I have tried to keep my kids from climbing. Even now when I look at the picture of us holding the SOLD sign in February 2018, I can see so many things we’ve done: shored up and painted the deck, had the retaining wall and stairs replaced, updated both bathrooms, and replaced doors, just to name a few.
As far as work life is concerned, I’m going back January 11th for my second year in House Records at the Alaska State Legislature. I still can’t believe I had the perfect pandemic job, working from home for DW for five years, and lost it two months before the pandemic, at which point I got kind of a cool job… which then became remote. This year will start 75% remote as well.
So the biggest change yet for our family is coming as the kids are going to be out in the world, at their new preschool which emphasizes putting things away, TOGETHER, while Jacob and I toil away and he answers my myriad of computer-related questions. But that’s 2021: I’m getting ahead of myself; tomorrow is Christmas Eve and we still have to go shopping.
In 2020 I got to spend seven months as JUST a mom. The last two days culminated in making a cardboard rocket, which… looks like it was made by us. So far the kids have been to the swimming planet, the chocolate planet, the moon, and other places they can and can’t go. I hope they’ve got their wits about them and remember their manners. Fly off, little birdies.
See you all in 2021, here or, infinitely better, in person.
We cancelled our trip five days ago. Postponed being the preferable word. What is there to say? We’ve already been unsure, indecisive, mad, sad, disappointed, and, finally, resigned. When we broke the news, Imogen just said “But I want to see my grandparents!!”
And then we told her we could get our Christmas tree earlier, and that she’d have more time at preschool, and she came out okay, though she did try to erase with a dish towel the word “TRIP” she’d written in green magic marker on her calendar.
The third wave is upon us, and Winnebago County, where my side of the family all live, is currently experiencing a severe outbreak. All gatherings with folks outside one’s immediate household ought to be avoided.
On the California side, Sonoma County is faring better, but only a little. Everyone on both side had agreed to test the week before our arrival and hang out with just us. It wasn’t enough. In the end, we could have done our trip and been fine, it’s even likely.
But so was it possible that someone in our family would have contracted the virus and gotten sick during the time we were there or because of our visit. Taking that chance, and becoming part of the problem, in the end, was not something with which we felt comfortable.
It’s supposed to be sunny and mid-sixties our whole week in California, no rain: that’s beach weather for these Juneau kids who had already been granted permission to go barefoot with Gramps, who had even fixed up bikes for both kids.
On the Wisconsin side, we un-planned a trip to our cabin up north and to our timeshare in the Dells, sledding, swimming, water slides, as well as celebrations at my dad’s, my brother’s, and my mom’s. My brother and I had been prepared to blow our kids’ minds.
It is not too productive for Jacob and I to go too far down these paths of what would have been. We had a Thanksgiving to put together, and tomorrow starts Christmas, our own. For today, we found high bush cranberries, the sun was shining on the mountains, the sky blue.
Everything Jacob and I made turned out great. Imogen said Grandpa Dusty told her her bike would be waiting for her in California. Of course, it will, but this pandemic is actually affecting our kids’ lives, and we are not okay with that.
Preparing to do our big travel “triangle” (Alaska to California to Wisconsin and back) isn’t quite as simple as I’d made it seem in my last post, a Norman Rockwell-esque portrait of us all packing one duffel. This morning, Ansel woke me up at six. I switched on the radio in our still-waking-up kitchen. They’re talking about refrigerated trucks again. Morguemobiles.
Of all the states, it had to be Wisconsin. My home state is at capacity, as though it’s a Hootie and the Blowfish concert and not peoples’ actual lives and deaths about which they’re speaking. “But how many people have actually died from COVID?” My dad asks. Two hundred and fifty-two thousand. In this country. So far.
The past few days’ cold, relentless wind making whitecaps on the channel, snapping loose boats from their moorings, seems to have been testing me. Even my only fall decorations, these little crocheted pumpkins, my nod to the spiced-latte side of fall, seem to be a chore to move out of the way for each cobbled-together dinner.
How many things in life are meant to cause happiness but actually stir up misery? In summer I shoved the pumpkins further back in the closet as fall was some distant idea. Of course they came out eventually with the ramping-up of Halloween. We bought in, minus the friends with whom we would have gone trick-or-treating, plus buckets and buckets of rain.
We dragged the kids along in a downpour to the neighbors’ clothes- and zip-lined candy setups. Imogen, who had been trying to decide what to dress up as for a full calendar year, was a classic-beauty Elsa, completely saturated from head to toe, the double-lined fleece cape with ostrich-feather tie I’d made her, in the end, just weighing her down.
It was around this time we booked our tickets to California and Wisconsin, to go spend some time with our families we miss daily, even in summer, to have something to look forward to, to add another timestamp to our kids’ lives, to just get them off their own street and island and with their cousins and grandparents, even if just for two weeks. It would be enough.
So, after scheduling our COVID test, our family photo, dentist appointments for all four of us, and having to inform Immy’s preschool the day before Thanksgiving will be her last day, Alaska Airlines informs us we have to FLY HOME FROM A DIFFERENT STATE and I have to ask my brother to drive us to Chicago instead of to Milwaukee.
And underlying all of it is should we go? “It will all be alright in the end,” my sister-in-law assures me. “What’s the alternative?” asks Jacob, in a calm moment. “You tell that little girl she doesn’t get to go see her cousins?” he whisper yells at me while on the phone with Alaska Airlines, as I’m gesturing to him that they can’t do this to us or we’ll cancel.
Meanwhile, we had our first solid pine door installed. If you are thinking a door? try working in 1100 square feet with a two- and four-year-old who just wanna have fun! and hollow-core doors. I’m so keyed up about this trip and the goddamn virus and its implications every time the handyman Ron’s air compressor sounds I practically have a heart attack.
And yet. Ansel somehow manages to fall asleep while I’m holding him, the kids and me cuddled in Immy’s bed with the laptop. We’ll go through that new door, then make sure Ansel can open and close it. Some days will be more difficult than others. We’ll keep going through it, together, again and again, and again and again and again.
Like many people, with the holidays fast approaching we were faced with the decision of whether to travel to visit our family members or “ride [the pandemic] out.” We weighed our options carefully. We can’t imagine not going. On what will have been a year to the day since we last left Juneau, we’re taking off again.
We found a good price on tickets with no overnight layovers in SEA-TAC budget hovels, and booked them with the caveat that we could always postpone or cancel, but as we’ve already told the kids and bought them his-and-hers headphones for the trip… cancelling at this point is unlikely.
As it’s possible we’ll both have jobs again by January ’21, it was the right time to go. So as has never not happened to me when I have some travel on the horizon, I’ve started to become more introspective, to take stock of everything, to see this trip as a milestone. I breeze past the diaper aisle; my kids now argue with me in complete sentences.
How will we go to Wisconsin, fourth-worst state in terms of COVID stats, and not get COVID? Who knows. We’ve been careful. We will continue to be careful. We’ve also been stressed, and will continue to be stressed. At this point I’m more worried about my mental state when I have to say goodbye to my family again than I am about getting COVID.
Imogen asked if we were going to stay in Wisconsin for a long time. We told her one week. She said she wished we could stay for twenty weeks. Wouldn’t you miss your friends here? We ask. She names her friends here, then goes back to rattling off what she would like to have matching with her cousin Stevie.
It was the same last year when we left California; she was inconsolable. Even if it is hard, and in a lot of ways because it is hard when our visit is over and we fly back to our little homestead, it is invaluable that, at least one time per calendar year, these kids take a seat at (or grab a cookie from) their grandparents’ table.
My neighbor walked by with her daughter, two years older than Imogen, when I was out shoveling. She said she liked my rabbit fur hat, which I bought at a flea market in Germany when I was newly pregnant with the four-year-old in the Disney princess dress light-sabering her brother as she launches herself off the couch. How fast it all goes.
This is how we will manage: one convertible car seat, one booster seat, and one army duffel at a time.
Anyone in Dr. Jane Carducci’s Shakespeare class would vouch for the fact that Carducci felt hostile toward me, but one had the courage to help. I got by by pretending I didn’t care, but it affected me greatly that she in her authoritative position would belittle me in front of my peers for seemingly no reason.
One day she actually scoffed while I was in front of the class doing a presentation. I could feel my face getting hot and I suddenly had to go to the bathroom, when Heidi Jo Jones, the teacher’s pet, asked Carducci, right in the middle of my presentation, why she had to try to put me down in front of the class.
The professor was dumbstruck as the class sat in silence, and then my student colleague turned back to me and told me to continue. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt a similar level of gratitude toward another human being before or since, and the incident taught me that it is not enough to silently disagree with mistreatment of others;
it is not enough to whisper under your breath you’re against an injustice while out of the earshot of the perpetrator, therefore not risking one’s standing: it’s the use of one’s standing, or privilege, handed down just as arbitrarily as another’s exclusion, that will actually affect change.
Sixteen-year-old Wisconsin Farms waitress me wouldn’t have believed that I’d never see Rita again, but when I left the barn, now a Kwik Trip, that was the case. I knew her slouchy leather purse like I knew my own mom’s. I knew her lunch: fish sandwich with Thousand, a cigarette, sometimes simultaneously; I was in awe of her. Eye to eye we’d conspire, her bad breath whispering how we’d handle the day. She got me drinking coffee: mixed with cocoa, the Poor Man’s mocha. We’d fill sugars side-by-side, roll our eyes behind the boss’s back when she swung through the door to the kitchen.
What would you like? From sunrise, to, on a double shift, sunset, catching a small glint through the windows of the barn-shaped truck stop restaurant at the intersection of Highways 41 and 44. Country music all day and who I was somewhere between there and the miles I’d drive home to my parents’ kitchen table and our pets. Eggs over medium. Biscuits and gravy. Cherry cheesecake. Rita one night, upon a fresh load of silverware being dropped in front of us after we’d carefully rolled what we thought was the last, stuffing all the forks in her apron to take home.
We’re done. Let’s go.
Usually I know all the photos I have, but last night I went straight to an old hard drive after the kids’ bedtime and discovered a folder in which I found some that I’d thought were lost, and which made me smile for sure.
Who knows if it’s the virus or the changing of the season or the downward spiral of our democracy or the dismantling of the post office or the west coast burning or police brutality or what, but I haven’t felt well lately.
These photos served to remind me who I have been and how, in a roundabout way, I got to be who I am, a full-time mom in Juneau, Alaska, doing my best to support my husband and keep my kids happy and safe.
So these photos are from around the time Jacob and I first got together, when we’d just made our way to Istanbul after two months’ traveling in Africa (we first met in Marrakech, Morocco).
I rented a room near Cihangir, a district that would become one of the flash points for the now-famous Gezi Park protests of 2013. I had lived in Istanbul nine years prior, so I had a bit of knowledge of the city but was at this time still getting reacquainted.
There was a feeling of revolution in the air in Istanbul in those days; even though the trees being protected in the park eventually would be razed, there was a lot of love and camaraderie and feeling that the good guys could win.
Ribbon leaves reaching like necks of egrets into the silky dusk, just last month with its dark purple flowers, the Siberian Iris my neighbor called “ancient” was lopped
by my favorite garden tool, which I use to great effect, especially these days, wherein I control what I can
and when the bugs have bitten through, have a beer.
Bachelor’s buttons, long grass, bramble, my neighbor’s alder branches, wild geraniums: not much escapes,
and I do think about police brutality, the financial system predicated on lies, the tumor inside my aunt’s brain
which allowed her just fourteen days, none of them with her young grandson.
From my sink I can see my ugly mistake: the Iris had been done flowering, but it needn’t have been hauled up to the brush pile in August
just because it had been within my control to do so.
Some things that grow are just beautiful. We’d waited so long.
“It’s starting.” We’d been waiting for the wall project to begin for eighteen months, and officially since July 20th. This morning, the excavation crew, the first of two teams of contractors, started speed walking around at 7:30 and the kids and I watched Jacob confirm from Immy’s window we would still be able to use our steps and that they were going to put in a full day. When we got home from our adventure, the neighbor’s concrete steps and our maple tree were gone. Around 3:30 p.m., the wall came down.
We’ve been talking about the wall a lot; if you know us, sorry about that. Home improvement projects (even scary, financially treacherous ones) are, like dreams, infinitely more interesting to those at the helm. But alas. In case anyone doesn’t know, our retaining wall is/had been failing, and it is going to cost about what we put down as a down payment on our house to replace it. Our house is on the mountain side and said mountain is being dug out and terraced back. We also live in a rain forest, and ever since they dug it out, it has been pouring.
We’re not going to get much sleep tonight. I just asked Jacob where he was at on a scale of one to ten as far as worry that we’ll slip and he said two; if he’d have said five or higher I’d either have us all sleep in our bed or I would sleep on the kids’ floor. Imogen told me today that she sometimes thinks there are ghosts in her room when she is in there by herself and I told her there was nothing to be scared about, so it would be better if I spent the night in my own bed rather than beside her on the floor.
I just wish it would stop raining. We’ve spent so much time, so many whole nights, talking about this project: the lack of communication, the financing, the delays… and now it is finally started and the weather is making it just as tenuous and nerve-wracking as everything else (i.e., the pandemic). But there are good things. Nana (mom) is coming to visit at the end of the month, she just told us today; it is good to know at any age that your mom will do what she can to come and see you (and her grandkids).
Juneau has received record rainfall this summer, and Imogen talks about flora here with such gusto and vigor even the most uninspired among us pay attention. She even asked me today if I remembered when we used to say, as winter made the long, arduous journey toward spring, it’s getting gre-en, which of course I do remember. And yet, I will thank her for the reminder. Winter turns to spring, even within our worries. There are ghosts, and terrible things that happen, but we needn’t live in fear.
My three-year-old daughter asks about being a mom
so now it’s her babies I live for
viewing through glass;
to whom I’ll attempt
to explain all of the different horrors
of not being able to breathe.
Jacob did our quarterly (seriously – some employees are mad about it, but we don’t have a membership and just use gift cards because we don’t go that much) Costco run last night and I have to say I was looking forward to breaking down those boxes before he even got home. After two months of quarantine I’ve grown both accustomed to and very grateful for being able to put something on “the list” (whiteboard on fridge) and having it appear. I’ve even been testing it lately (“huge organic lotion”): still everything and more (giant unsalted cashews, kim chi for days) is there.
Of course, having our shelves stocked and even our woodpile stacked doesn’t help the anxiety that is the most prevalent part of the “new normal.” An art therapist on a radio show recommended family members draw each others’ portraits without looking up from the page, opining never-before-seen traits would be revealed. The show’s host, without missing a beat, said “Even after two months quarantining together, wow!” I had smile at that. People are just pulling out whatever they can; I remember that exercise from fifth grade and it was a riot, I have to give the therapist that, but it’s not much going up against this level of stress. (Still, we’ll probably do it.)
Today, Jacob and I had dentist appointments back to back, rescheduled from March, and, after a bit of discussion realized the non-kid car would go to the first appointment, and the kid car and kids would be driven to the second appointment and driven home by the first patient. It was raining, which was wonderful and needed in the kind of way only rain can be. My 90 minutes away from the kids was actually lovely (the hygienist is a friend), and trading places in the car afterwards and seeing them in their car seats, smiling in their raincoats with hip hop playing, made my heart surge.
We dropped a little package we’d put together for a friend on our way home, two masked moms exchanging bags in the driveway of a house on which I had recently come to rely as a relaxation and decompression point. She mentioned doing an online happy hour. We probably will. But still. Imogen was given a little stuffed kitty (itself quarantined for three weeks) because my friend probably knew not being able to get out of the car would be a thing; she’s sleeping with that kitty as I type this. Imogen and the same friend, it’s worth mentioning, had a virtual pool party on Sunday.
When we got home Imogen wanted to make Christmas cookies: I envisioned my mom’s recipe and went through my ingredient list, confirming I did have everything; but I had taken the whole day off and had a job application all set up waiting to finish, so I reminded her we had just made chocolate chip cookies on Monday and set them up with paints (which was probably just as big of an ordeal as cookies). Then I waited just a little too long to put Ansel down for his nap so his drifting off coincided with Jacob’s arrival from Fred Meyer. The excitement of a few new clothing items, construction paper, and a new sketchbook meant Ansel was not going down for his nap, and the kids watched Peppa Pig while Jacob worked and I applied for a job as a paraeducator (teacher’s aide) with the Juneau School District.
When the rain stopped, Jacob put Ansel down easily and early, and Imogen and I watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which can be found on YouTube in its entirety. As usual, she was tickled pink by Cindy Lou Who, as one ought to be. And Christmas is not really about things, and everything will still happen without stuff. But making a grocery run after bedtime, and editing someone’s story from the dog food aisle at Fred Meyer because your daughter needed some new dresses, is love: maybe not hand to hand (we’re not there yet), but definitely heart to heart.
Happy four year wedding anniversary (tomorrow) to my love Jaco!!
During my time as a copy editor I read thousands of news articles. In December 2019 I was laid off and had to get a real job. The last articles I edited were about the novel Coronavirus. I worked in the Capitol just under two months before begging to work from home again. I couldn’t believe I had set everything up only for it to fall down.
My husband and I argued about the time we were allowed to work and the time we were allowed to sleep, and everything in between. But then we’d have a couple of easy days, where the kids would play and we would work, and it occurred to me what we had in fact set up was a little stress factory of our own making: we had set up a house of cards.
When “Mom started working at the Capitol,” she (I) had to be at work at 7:30, which meant I had to leave home at 7:10 at the latest (after scraping windows – this was January) and wasn’t able to help get the kids ready for whichever combination of care providers they were headed (three for Immy, three for Beeb, one for both together).
We had an hour together in the morning, during which time I would be worried about getting out the door. Later, I would be the last mom at pickup, no dinner plan would somersault into bedtime, and another day would be over. Three hours together per weekday, and that wasn’t even taking into consideration how much outsourcing cost.
We had a “joke” during that time that the weekends were harder than the weeks: our family quickly grew accustomed to being apart and, once reunited, we would either over-plan or spin our wheels or both. Frustration would abound and we would find ourselves looking forward to staring at our computers in relative silence again… separately.
Fast-forward to mid-April: we are both still working full time from home. We have no childcare because it doesn’t exist, but we have realized when we both work from home we can do without it. When the weekend rolls around we grab a few things and go to the beach for as long as we want. It’s the easy time again, the way it’s supposed to be.
Obviously, we weren’t able to do this a month ago when we were obligated to go in to work. But I know I am not alone in saying I wasted a lot of time at the office. I am much more productive at home, where I can take a break and pitch in when I am needed and where it’s obvious when I am not. My husband, as it turns out, never had to go in!
It is worth stating at this point that since we moved to Juneau in 2016 I have felt pretty isolated at baseline. It feels like a fail when, after a raucous holiday video conference with cousins and grandparents, our house is a different level of quiet. Video is a pretty meager substitute for spending time together with family, as everyone is now able to see.
We are making our own way, my husband tells me in these moments, as we bundle the kids up for yet another walk. You are making your own way, say our family members in California and Wisconsin. And of course, the nature: the ocean, the mountains, the view. It is fulfilling to be surrounded by such dramatic beauty, even if one has had to learn it.
The virus, awful, bewildering, and consuming as it is, has made some of my guilt go away. Mandated distancing has allowed me to relax about my kids not seeing family; I’ve been able to mom without feeling as though our choice to be third-staters has left our kids craving, stunted without the precious grandparent time that informed every aspect of my own child- and young adulthood.
This pause is a deep breath for everyone. It took me a while to see that personally, because I was in a necessary-but-indulgent I-have-to-go-see-ya mode. And just when we realized we didn’t need the racing or the expenditure, the talk has returned to reopening: before the worst of it hits; before it has run its course. I feel physically threatened by the impending media onslaught.
Yes, I want to be able to donate to The Salvation Army and pick up my inter-library loan books and participate in life. I don’t want to have social anxiety about my mask or the post office or my daughter waiting outside. But I am also not much of a consumer and I don’t want things to go back to the way they were.
And this is not just me, obviously, doing my loop-de-loops around Juneau. In Nairobi, from a skyscraper shaped like a glass bullet, the jagged peaks of Mt. Kenya are visible. In India and Pakistan, the Himalayas can be seen. Los Angelenos are breathing better air than they have in decades.
We’re being given a chance. We might do what’s right, but my guess is we’ll squander it. Until whatever happens happens, we will be at the beach, at home by the fire, repeat.
The three-and-a-half year old tells the almost-two-year-old a story, and gets him an apple from the fridge, while we shower, which is also the time we talk.
Turkey is spiking, 50,000 cases and over 900 deaths in the past month.
My grandmother, who is 90, looks out the window of her Wisconsin nursing home room, surrounded by her most valuable possessions, her bed made without a ripple.
Refrigerated trucks idle outside New York hospitals.
Pink mountain! My daughter runs full speed from her room, almost falling, bringing the news: out her window, sunlight reflects off clouds.
Now there is community transmission in Juneau, a new term for everyone, plus at least one case in the prison, where the luxury of distancing is not afforded.
I go to the window. The mountain is indeed pink, and it makes me proud of my kid and of myself for noticing, caring, existing.
No longer as worried about myself or my family getting sick from COVID-19, I briefly considered the feeling my friend aptly described as an armadillo sitting on her chest may be grief; now I understand: it’s anger. Yeah, I’m mad.
I’d been in sitting up in a rented upper in 2003, trying to relax between a night of tending bar and a morning of assistant-teaching preschool when I heard the U.S. had started dropping bombs on Iraq. I’d come up as short of breath I feel now.
When I moved into my apartment in Uptown, Minneapolis, in 2008, I ate catering leftovers from the Republican National Convention (RNC): even though the convention was at about one-eighth capacity, they’d bought out the entire restaurant. So. Much. Waste.
In 2013 in Istanbul I’d had to dance around riot police blocking my street on my way to get copies. When I was done teaching, a tear gas canister went off right in front of me and there I was in black, running with the capulcular, not looking back.
By 2018 I was in my house with my husband and two kids in Douglas, Alaska, tele-editing the German news website and making mostly comfortable mortgage payments. Around Christmas, just before I would begin editing my last articles for the website, which were about something called the Corona virus, I got an email my position would be eliminated.
A friend in the Alaska State Capitol helped me make some contacts and I was able to start working as a House secretary the day after the website job ended. It took four different configurations of childcare but Jacob and I figured out how we could both work full time.
And then, the closures: first our daughter’s preschool, then our son’s daycare, and finally our daughter’s daycare; all of our lovely places. It was the right decision, of course, but at a cost to our kids, who are very social and miss them, and yet… many places haven’t closed, managing to devalue those that have, in accordance with Governor Mike Dunleavy’s cowardly half-measures.
He’s gonna shut it down, I have been saying for over a week about the governor whose recall petition was graciously delivered to me in my car when my son was sleeping, when his decisions were in a way so much more theoretical and not so heavy-hearted. I really have no idea why I expected him to do the right thing.
Last night, The Alaska State Employees Association said office workers who need the jobs the most are the most vulnerable. Public health crisis notwithstanding, we can’t #stayhome if it has not been mandated, and we need the money, end of story.
The U.S. drops bombs; you leave the country and make lifelong friends. You take all the food you can carry from the RNC, give half to your brother. The police burn your tent when you are sleeping in a park to try to protect it. You run away with your friends, laughing.
But this is something completely different than any of these aforementioned scenarios in which I had F*ck the Establishment moments once every five years and then returned to regular life: COVID-19 is regular life, and it hits a bit harder when my daughter asks about her teacher, still not able to understand where she went.
Grocery shopping on my lunch break, red-rimmed, masked folks steer clear of me in shelf-stripped Foodland. I am dazed, seeing for the first time the emptiness, and feeling the widespread panic, when I gravitate toward laughter among the deli workers; I find my voice catches when I thank them for still making sushi.
Back to work.
It’s probably been [in Juneau] for awhile, my colleague surmises for the second day in a row, adding that in the U.S. and in Alaska in particular we don’t have enough test kits to know for sure that it is not, and people aren’t being tested for colds.
Sorry, I just got back from China, a man said after he got off the elevator and sneezed. He meant to be funny, but it wasn’t. I now walk the nine flights up, because of the fresh air and because no one is sneezing on me.
I guess I should have ordered extra of everything a week ago, the grocery store manager says with what registers as desperation. I’m on my lunch break and get a text from Jacob, who is allowed to work from home but can’t get Ansel to nap.
He co-produces the top story on ANN about the U.S./Canada border closure when I get home. I want to #stayhome, too, of course, and do silly projects with, and protect, my babies, who have been taking turns screaming out in the night.
It’s not serious until the bars in Wisconsin close was my meme-tra last Saturday, joking over corned beef and cabbage… until it happened when WI hit 72 confirmed cases three days later, on Tuesday.
Gardening is not cancelled is my new one. In front of the Capitol, next to the only door in which workers are “allowed,” yellow crocuses stubbornly push their way into the world despite it all, the hardy little bastards.
I made thin pancakes and sliced up a mango, which I was delighted to see Imogen roll up in her pancake. Some friends came over to play in the snow and we had Girl Scout cookies, cinnamon rolls, and chili. Everyone slid on our outside play house. Imogen watched Secret Life of Pets 2 on the projector and I folded laundry until Ansel asked me for a pickle and an apple and, wanting neither, went down for his nap. When Jacob came home I went to the library to write and just sat there and zoned out. We’d been at friends’ houses Thursday night and Friday night, and had skiing and a birthday party on Saturday.
I’d woke up one-eyeing Ansel who had been switching my lamp on and off, and Jacob saying Happy Women’s Day, with Imogen in the crook of my arm. Ansel had woken up before 5:00 a.m. for the second day in a row. It was 6:15 and already my turn, but Jake had left the pancake batter, coffee, and a fire… the same fire that is still burning now, as everyone sleeps and I sneak a little bit of time.
God Bless us all.
Getting ready for the party starts when I bring her a clean shirt and she barrel rolls off the side of the bed, getting her leg stuck between the frame and the wall, then insists I change her into a dress because her friend might be wearing a dress (that friend, as it turned out, had come from snowboarding and was wearing a base layer).
When I ask her to put her boots on she runs into the closet, but we finally get down to the car and soon she’s kicking her brother’s seat, and then she kicks his fingers and he cries. By the time we’re on the main road they’re both crying.
She’s saying Mom Mom MOM and I’m just looking straight ahead not changing my expression. It’s snowing and slushy and I don’t feel like indulging her. She keeps it up until we get to the turn off to the party and I head the other way, back toward home. She knows it and tells me she’s going to calm down.
We get to the party at the gymnastics center and she snags some butterfly wings someone had left out, and her friend won’t say hi to her until she has some too so we find some more and they run around in circles like ribbons. I’m dizzy when she runs over and gives me a big hug.
We hear the happy birthday song and she almost loses it again because she doesn’t have her wings on even though she had just asked me to take them off. She sits down and has a cupcake and is incredulous that her friend is allowed to have two.
Leaving is almost as big a scene as arriving. She doesn’t want ANYONE to go. The birthday boy’s mom, who is also there with her 1.5 week old baby girl, finally calms Immy down, telling her everyone has to go, gets her some chips, helps me get coats.
When I get them buckled in and look in the mirror I am sweating and have frizzy hair and boogers. Having lost my center would have been a nice way to put it.
It’s done snowing and I take a sip of my coffee even though it’s five p.m. The sun is setting behind the clouds. It’s actually orange and I realize I don’t remember the last time I’d seen that.
When we get home Jacob has grocery shopped and made some halibut our neighbor gave us. He puts the kids to bed and I clean the kitchen. When we debrief, the main idea is that the past month has been just as hard for our kids as it has been for us.
I had been saying at the party that Imogen’s situation has changed the least of the four of us: now, as my husband tells me, I’m different, not in a bad way, but I have less time to do what I was doing at the time, cleaning and organizing the kid play kitchen; i.e., being around at every moment for my kids, and it hits me that my starting a full time job, to my kid, is another way (of many) that I will show her that I am not just hers.
How was it? Jacob had asked our daughter when we got home.
I wore butterfly wings and hugged mom, Imogen had said.
So, that was her takeaway. This time, I’m going to make it mine too.
That hug, and the sunset.
I always feel the need to post when transitioning, so why should this time be any different? The job I’ve had since August of 2015 ends Wednesday, and on Thursday I start a new position as a committee secretary in the Alaska Legislature’s department of House Records. It’s never easy to change jobs, and the logistics can seem a bit tiresome to those not directly involved, but to Jacob and me and our kids it’s maybe the biggest change since we’ve moved here! This position is only guaranteed through May but of course I’m hoping to be asked to stay on. Just have to do a good job!
So I started working for Deutsche Welle’s English service as a freelance copy editor in 2015, just days after moving to Bonn from Istanbul. The “German BBC” office was a ginormous, sparkling labyrinth. There were very strict rules in the cafeteria. I got a thrill out of riding my bike to and from there for work and German language classes, and eventually it occurred to me that I could do my job from home, so when I was about eight months pregnant with Imogen I began that phase. The only time I went back, 2mo Baby Imogen was in the wrap and I asked if I could continue to do the job from Alaska. They said yes! So we packed everyone up and telecommuting 4900 miles commenced.
A little over three years and one more baby later, the “gravy train” has finally come to a screeching halt, as myself and the other four copy editors were simply informed in a few-sentence email that there was no longer budget for us. Ansel had just turned 20mo, the same age Imogen was when she started DaveCare, her “tribe” down the street, two days a week. As luck would have it our neighbor, a SAHM and face painter-for-hire, agreed to take care of Ansel during the time before he can join his sister, and at our house, no less, with her daughter who is almost his same age. Off we go!
And, as often happens when everything is thrown into sudden upheaval (i.e. no mortgage payment would happen on one income; no second job would happen on no “Beebcare”) and then it manages somehow to sort of-kind of-maybe work out… everyone, especially Jacob, got very sick. Fever and chills. Vomiting. Fatigue. All the blissful January perks. And I see how.much.he.helps… and how small our place is. So Beeb is also very congested and not up for a rain scramble, even in the right clothes, and Imogen is on the mend but growing and tired… so when my mom friends are traipsing up to Eaglecrest, we’re at Mickey D’s. Just catching up, hanging in there, whatever verb phrase works.
All the love this transition and always, to all of us. I hope we all make it.
you gotta be you gotta be, you gotta be you gotta be, you gotta be you gotta be, you gotta be you gotta be ready – Dolly Parton, I Believe in You
After Imogen and dad’s yard camping night, which required base layer, bear robe, crocs, waterproof mattress, and books, we made the plan: beach, which required pistachios, macadamias, the kite, swimsuits for three of the four of us (remember her face when you got into swimsuit; don’t think about how cold the water is…), swim diaper for Beeb, all the buckets,
commence her running into and out of channel, jumping on a crab pot string, squealing with delight, pulling crab pot around, trying to touch fish head inside said crab pot, giggling, laughing, more running in and out of the water. Rolling around in the sand. Flying the kite, again and again and again until the plastic tail feathers are too wet and sandy. Allowing me to dry her off, put dry clothes on her, wrap her in a sarong and snuggle her while she eats pistachios and watches her brother and dad watch yet another cruise ship come into port.
Dad carries home most of the way. Hot dog lunch. Youtube “Jolene,” many versions. Another plan, another beach: a long-sleeve because enough sun is enough. A “mom” hair tie. Tears over which shoes. Tears over wanting to go, but also wanting to stay home and pluck raspberries off the neighbor’s raspberry bush. Mom holds; decides everyone should stay home. Neighbor gives handfuls of raspberries and two crabs caught in the pots with which she’d been playing.
Happy again: cracking, scooping crab, eating meat with fingers. Tricycle riding, all the way to the elementary school down the street: owl helmet, warm back. Absolutely not letting mom help steer. Ready for bed. Shampoo and Conditioner. Look at the ceiling. We didn’t get soap in eyes. Yes we did. Clean sheets. Books. Dolly, who leads me back to ready.
It’s late September in southeast Alaska and the tops of the mountains are already covered in snow. I hope it’s only been a day or two that they have been, although it’s very possible they’ve been that way for a week and I’ve only just managed to look up at them.
It took about a month for our co-op nursery group to iron out all of its own kinks, as it does and has been doing since long before I’ve been in charge of it. One “kink” was my realizing Ansel wasn’t quite ready as he still naps at this time, which is how I’m able to sit down for an hour before we pick up Imogen.
Any new thing is hard, especially at three, especially something as structured and multifaceted as preschool. As is usually the case, I wasn’t able to prepare my daughter in advance for all of the changes this would bring, not only for her but for all of us, but I suppose that is how learning takes place: on the fly.
A parent is allowed to come with the new preschooler the first time they spend a whole day there, so I did, and I watched her pretty much sail through meeting the Guinea Pig Stumps, dress-up/play time, group story time, snack time, and outside play time. She was ready. And she had so much fun!
Her first day by herself was her third birthday. We opened presents first thing in the morning, and by the time we headed out the door, first me and the baby, then the birthday girl in her rainbow unicorn headband holding her new kitty from Nana, and finally Nana behind her holding 20 ‘worms and dirt’ birthday treat, Imogen was so keyed up she fell headfirst down our stairs.
Thankfully, I was just the right distance in front of her that she didn’t tumble, and, amazingly, she didn’t get hurt at all save her pride, which is what seems to take the most bumps on the road from toddlerdom to preschool kid, the first of many times in life when you’re not little anymore but not really big yet.
A friend was driving by at that time and sang her a little song, and pretty soon she was telling Miss Mary that they were real worms in her treat, and it was all okay. I’d heard that there could be some ‘backsliding,’ but thought we were good… except suddenly she didn’t want to go.
Our nursery room is right down the hall, and after we left her she followed us there, squeezing real tears out of her eyes. I reminded her our group was for the littles… and now she was a big who got to go in all the other rooms, and reminded her that Mary said she could ask her anything, and somehow it worked.
She started walking away from me, back toward the preschool. She sniffled and looked back. There was no one around, so I told her to run. She did.
One of the best things about our first summer in our new home is that literally every time I take the time to take a proper look around something new and amazing is blooming.
It makes me really look forward to future summers when I am able to take more time with this. All I can say about this summer is bravo. And you are a little bit overwhelming/outta control as the best ones always are/have been…
Happy month one to Beeb.
The alarm was set for 5:00 but I was up at 4:00 cuddling with a restless Immy, then showering with a special surgical soap, the remainder of which I left in our shower stall for a week after I’d been home, a reminder of reality which had been once again, all rearranged.
Jaco and I left our house at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, May 9th, 2018. It was the type of morning – alive, earth-smelling and green – that made it easy to understand why so many people speak highly of May as the time to give birth.
In September when I found out I was pregnant I’d hoped to have a VBAC birth, but after a lot of consideration took the advice of my obstetrician and scheduled another C-section as close to 40 weeks as we could, and I made it as far as I possibly could have (39w 5d).
When we got to Bartlett we were very happy to see my room all ready, my name and the nurses’ names on the little white board. I hung up my coat, put on a hospital gown, and climbed into the bed I’d stay in for two days, minus the time of the actual surgery, and signed the consent forms.
Everyone was smiling and professional, asking me if I had any questions. I asked the anesthesiologist how long it would take for the spinal block to take effect: “seconds.” Finally in came Dr. Newbury, all bright-eyed and bushy tailed. We were ahead of schedule and would have our baby within the hour.
We’d found out, to our great delight, at my last prenatal appointment, that Dr. Newbury had convinced the powers-that-be to allow music in his OR. He actually asked us if we had a request for his Pandora, and we decided to go with Bob Seger. And with that, this birth took on its own vibration…
I was allowed to walk into to OR myself instead of being wheeled in as I’d been last time. A nurse stood eye-level with me and talked to me while I was given the spinal block. She was also the one who convinced everyone to let Jacob, peering in the window in his shower cap and paper slippers, in already.
As the block began to take effect they laid me back on the table, and as Dr. Newbury and his assistant came into the room with their hands scrubbed up to the elbows i.e. McDreamy and -Steamy, I am not even joking, “Night Moves'” “I was a little too tall, coulda used a few pounds…” came on
and like actors in a one-act play, the nurse, anesthesiologist, and Jake were all right there by my head, I lost all feeling in my toes within minutes but was still able to joke around with Jacob about the songs: “Gonna take a freight train:” Marshall Tucker played at the Hotel, I know; Skynyrd, “Simple Man;”
“Don’t tell me they are going to take the baby out to ‘Witchy Woman;'” “Rocket Man’s” ‘I think it’s gonna be a long, long time…’ but it wasn’t – about five minutes after the surgery was scheduled to begin I was told there would be a lot of pressure, and then we would meet our baby.
We’d elected not to find out the gender ahead of time this go-round, and it was not an easy thing to do! Of course, we wanted to know so badly, every day. But making ourselves wait was the right thing to do as it really and truly was all about that one MOMENT our baby entered the world: “It’s a BOY!”
Welcome baby Beeb!
We lost Alex this week after only having had him eight months, same age Imogen was when we adopted him.
From the beginning he proved himself to be a capable babysitter…
Most of the photos in this post are all from the first month or two. I keep thinking about how happy he made all of us, especially her.
Jacob liked to say that he acted like a reincarnated old miner, the way he held down our corner of 12th and Irwin. True to form, he managed to carve out a huge space for himself in a very short time. He leaves a huge hole behind.
This is random, but notice the cat-shredded bar stool in the picture below:
RIP in kitty heaven.
On our last trip to the local supermarket, we hit every aisle. Imogen made me laugh growling at the cats and dogs on the bags of pet food and the Charmin bear. Maybe I should get her out more!
In the checkout line, the guy behind me held two large energy drinks in the same hand. While heaving our purchases onto the belt I for some reason felt the need to explain to him that it was a big shopping trip (“Ya know, ya put it off and ya put it off and then one day ya just gotta do it”); he’s like sure lady, whatever.
Our cashier Paul – who a year ago worked the front desk of the Alaskan Hotel where we’d spent our first two nights in town – rung up our purchases almost patiently. Meanwhile, Imogen had kicked off both boots and wouldn’t take her pacifier, which Mr. Energy Drinks pointed out was lying on the floor.
Outside in the parking lot, I propped the cart against our Subaru jalopy when a voice from a couple of spaces complimented my red coat. I smiled and thanked her but carried on with keeping Imogen from erupting like a volcano. I offered her my keys as a distraction and she chucked them between the painted white lines of the parking lot.
Later, when the house and the baby were quiet, I took a moment to remember the first time I had been in Foodland IGA with her. It was almost exactly a year ago, when we’d been brand-new to Juneau – a time for which I have found myself waxing nostalgic of late just for the simple fact that at that time our lives in Juneau hadn’t really begun: the community was an unknown, giving it a sense of unlimited potential.
We were renting a 600-square-foot cabin about a mile outside of town which was as challenging in as many ways as it might have looked attractive in pictures. I’d carried her to her dad’s new workplace KTOO for this red carpet concert (you can see us in the background at 7:42!), and then could not get her back into the carrier for our walk back to the cabin.
It was getting dark when she started crying inconsolably. I’d forgotten fresh diapers so found myself in the baby aisle of Foodland IGA laying her on my coat on the tiled floor only to discover that she was dry. But I’d shed our winter gear which was heaped in a pile. We moved to a bench by the exit, where we wouldn’t be as much of a navigational hazard for other shoppers, to recombobulate. Imogen fell fast asleep in the process.
I sat almost motionless on the bench with her asleep for about a half an hour. It’s not an exaggeration: every person who walked by us at least smiled, some stopped to have a full conversation.
One lady who’d been observing the situation from her checkout line had even come over and talked to me about how every person had stopped. By the time I was done chatting with her I was ready to try putting Imogen in the carrier again, which was easy this time, and we’d left feeling fully warmed – and welcomed.
A year later it’s the same supermarket. We have a car now; not just a baby carrier. I get into the driver’s seat and, Imogen buckled in and quiet, I look over at the lady two parking spaces over. We make eye contact. Only then does she pull away. Was she waiting for me to regain composure?
Maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe it’s a special place. “My” Foodland.
A fisherman was selling spot prawns at the docks and I told Jacob that Imogen and I would go and get some for our dinner that night. He and I had taken her down to Harris Harbor to get shrimp in the spring, so I sort of knew the deal.
She’d dropped her sunglasses into the water that May day, and Jake had hit the dock and scooped them out just before they disappeared from view, eliciting a round of applause (from me, because I’m his biggest cheerleader even though he says I don’t like anyone).
As it would happen on this cold and rainy fall day, Squigs and my walking buddies Erin and Auggie wanted to go for a stroll too, so I suggested we all go down there together to get prawns. Afterward, we all climbed aboard Erin and her partner Chris’ boat to warm up.
As these things sometimes go, NOW I’m pretty sure I know what it was – her not-completely-dry cloth diaper against her skin, compounded by the fact that we were out in the cold and the rain was hitting her face – that made Imogen completely lose it as we were walking back to the Flats from the harbor.
At the time, though, for as much of a frame of reference as I had, I felt like I might as well have never done anything, traveled anywhere, met, loved, or birthed anyone: it took fifteen minutes once back inside, for her to warm up and settle down.
Walking back, I’d pried open her icy, red fingers and closed them again around a piece of bread hastily torn off the loaf I’d bought to go with the shrimp: why do I keep her on this island in the rain? Who the hell do I think I am hoisting her on and off of boats in her stroller? Am I even qualified to do this at all?
But it was another mom lesson, or a bunch of them in one, hard because they are meant to be: use disposables for even short-ish outings outside in winter (check), get a stroller with a rain cover when you live in Juneau and walk everywhere everyday (check)… keep moving on at the pace of life.
His beautiful voice, and suddenly it’s 1999: I’m emptying my apron after work at the Trempealeau Hotel and find a “Keep this coupon” on the back of which my friend had written “Eva Cassidy” — I do keep it, for eighteen years.
In April 2017 I go to my dad’s house with the intention of having a look at the gifts from my baby shower that I wasn’t able to take with me the last time I was home.
I am so excited to do this but once there I lie down next to my daughter and text by lamplight the friend still in town who has since moved, and felt so peaceful, but never did go through the stuff.
In 2013 one of my favorite poets visited me at my home in Istanbul, and he shouldn’t have been sick even part of one of his days in Turkey, but he was able to come out and walk around the island and eat fish with us.
Man, that is far away now, but I really had pulled the cot in my room on top of the island right up to the radiator and watched the snow fall while worrying about then-boyfriend Jacob in Donetsk, Ukraine;
and Jacob is the husband who not only got me the ticket to this show, but told me to sneak in a beer which I’d scoffed at but which was the right move: no one is going to take a beer from a mom on her first wedding anniversary.
Who knows where the time goes: by Eva Cassidy as I once knew it, by Richard Thompson… every one-syllable word is weighted: sometimes with just a time, sometimes with just a place, sometimes with both,
like my grandparents arriving at our house on Christmas Eve in the eighties, and twenty years later driving my grandma home through town to look at the lights for the last time.
And now I wear her wedding ring on the hand that’s holding an Alaskan beer in a coozie as I write in my journal at a show, but that’s how we become, by little leaps, and by big bounds.
Imogen Charlotte turns one year old a week from today! At first I was a little peeved at Jake for setting up a Labor Day trip (albeit a mini one) in between Ted’s visit and Mom’s visit, but I decided (not to just roll with but) to try to get excited about it.
Then I started to pack, and, even though we’d only be gone one night (I have said this many times before) we needed everything – clothes for every type of weather, every electronic and its corresponding cord, e.g.) we would need for a week or more.
Somehow, by 7:15 a.m. we’d started the 4 1/2 hour journey to Gustavus, gateway to Glacier Bay National Park. On the ferry, Imogen enjoyed alternating back and forth between saying “hi” to everyone and speed-crawling toward the bolts on the bottom of the benches, which she liked to lick.
In Gustavus we checked into Jan and Ela’s Wild Alaska Inn which I would totally recommend as they and their place are very warm, especially on the rainiest of days (that take a bit of gumption to get out in, I might add).
We did one short trail and tucked in for the night. (Woodstove and cedar-plank salmon.) As it would happen, the next day (today, Tuesday) was gorgeous and after we both finished our work went for more of a proper walk to check out “town.”
And I had been thinking (the whole past year, but especially this month) about Imogen’s birth and the anger and hurt I unfortunately still feel toward my midwife who completely phoned it in, but also about the fact that people can be such hypocrites and phonies,
when a car went by with the sticker that looked like one of those stick-figure families, but it was either a snake or a pile of poop, that said “let that shit go” and I had to smile; it was just about the right amount of toughness and truth.
…and today’s project and the finishing touch except for one knob I need to find for the closet door…
Let’s not move for a little while… unless something really great comes up. 😉
Lovely family staying with us occasioned an outing for Jaco and me last evening, which, as it happens when moving from one far away place to another, and being new parents to boot, was just the eighth we’ve both been away from Squigs, who turned eight months old on Friday.
She has one tooth and has been waking up in the night in some pain, but we frankly don’t have the chance to go out ever so we took Rick and Heather up on their offer to babysit and drove downtown in the rain.
We chose the correct bar (Alaskan of course), and had no sooner sat down with huge black beers and begun to exchange stories of chasing the legacy of Walter Cronkite (as you do when hanging out with journalists) with Rashah when we get the text that she’s ready for us to come home.
We are really trying hard to be good parents, we don’t hover over her unnecessarily, but Rick and Heather weren’t us and she wanted us, and we sped back home, arguing about which way of two ways to go, and were home in less than ten minutes.
And the next thing everybody knew we were listening to that piano version of “The Wheels on the Bus” in her nursery as she drifted back to cozy town, my coat laying on the ground outside her door.
And I know we’ll have to make decisions about her education, and bigger things than that, but last night was about racing home in the rain to a little girl, polar bear jammies and piano tunes, and having never been as happy about anything else in my life.
One of the best things about our new place, a south-facing bay window with a view of the mountains, was almost totally obscured by whatever you call these heavy sliding blind things that, even when open, took up more than half of the window.
But a blank slate is a blank slate and can always be looked at as an opportunity. I took it upon myself to frame those mountains à la full DIY… and it ended up being fun and worth the effort to make curtains.
The 8 feet of PVC ($2.29 each) at the same height on each side mostly give the illusion that the windows are the same size (especially when closed). And those are up there with garment hooks we got at the hardware store, and on little rings with clips (to give the “gathered” effect).
They are lined with queen sheets – I found a new-in-package “used” set of 6 and cut the hems off those, so the curtains are nice and heavy. Now we just need some furniture!
We started our craigslist odyssey with this antique bed, which was found in a hunting shack in South Dakota thirty years ago and fixed up by a car painter… we love it.
(So does Squigs! And because I’m sure some of you are wondering, she hadn’t yet mastered rolling over onto her tummy at the time this picture was taken)
It is quite interesting moving into a three bedroom place that is COMPLETELY empty, when you also don’t really have anything (furniture). But we are just taking it one step at a time.
So for this room (our room) I added the war quilt, our Mexican flags, and curtains I made by lining a queen size flat sheet I got at Salvation Army with another queen sized flat sheet, and hung with some PVC and garment hooks.
And a tiny room only needs a 15 watt bulb…
Nursery is next! I just have to decide where to hang something…
When my friend of almost twenty years and fellow rummage- and estate sale aficionado Kristen Dickenson of Infinitage and Poshmark Infinitage told me that she had some vintage baby girl clothes for me, I had a feeling I was in for a treat.
The box from Winona, MN revealed a carefully curated collection of 100% cotton, Made in USA, original Carter’s and Sears baby outfits, bloomers that fit over cloth diapers… let’s just say it’s gonna be a good summer baby clothes-wise.
So without any further ado let us begin the first official baby fashion show of 2017 starring Imogen. First we have a white cotton peasant shirt embroidered with tiny red snowflakes (label below). This shirt is especially good for pulling up over one’s head.
Next we have four sets (button-down shirts with matching leak-proof bloomers), the first and third of which are homemade, the second Carter’s, last Sears. The first (below) is unbelievably soft and I really hope it still fits come Alaskan “summer.”
And, last but decidedly not least,
Wrapped my sewing machine in Jacob’s and my auxiliary coats, packed Imogen’s new stuffed animals around it, shipped it to Juneau in a Rubbermaid, and after channeling my 7th grade Home Ec teacher Mrs. Goode here I am on this side of one baby dress and a couple of Celtic knot turbans! (Interested in these because Imogen’s name is Celtic in origin!)
Mom actually sent me this fabric AND THE PATTERN which she had saved over forty years. With great appreciation I got to work, and must say I love the final product, especially the big bows on the shoulders and thickness of the fabric for this particular dress. (Didn’t get it on her yet – waiting for spring – but here it is with the pattern and hanging in her closet.)
For my second project, I wanted to make a few baby turbans and Celtic headbands I had seen on Pinterest – there are some sweet tutorials if you are also looking for a my-baby-is-asleep-at-bedtime activity. For this one just had to convince Jake to sacrifice a couple of old, soft (well-loved) t-shirts and wa-la! Baby headbands.
Finally (for now), our family is featured backup dancing in this video featuring Marian Call and Laura Zahasky at 7:40. And it’s a good show too!
In Istanbul I didn’t see the play “Faust” in Turkish, though it was always one of those stories with which I felt I “ought” to be familiar; “The Bodyguard” was playing when we lived in West Germany but only in German, a language I didn’t have the chance, at thirty-eight, to learn:
when I heard the Perseverance Theatre was going to show “They Don’t Talk Back”, I knew that – yes, even though we had a five month old daughter and didn’t know anyone else in the town to watch her, and probably wouldn’t leave her with anyone that long yet anyway – we’d find a way to go.
She attended a concert in Holland in utero, and we did take her to a comedy show when she was a month old (cramped venue, but Ted and Christina were visiting and we wanted to do stuff) and even ended up on one of the comics’ Twitter feeds, but how we’d do a play with her had us stumped.
First, we thought we’d just go to separate shows – Jake would go Thursday, I’d catch the Sunday matinee – but as he works long hours during the week, the weekend is our time together and that was how we wanted to spend it. A special matinee on Saturday was announced and we got tickets.
Despite leaving over an hour early we still walked into the darkened theater a bit late. Jacob had reserved seats near the door and I was happy to see there was another woman with a tiny baby sitting in the next row. Imogen was sound asleep in her car seat.
When she woke up halfway through the first act in the cozy theater, I simply got her out of her seat and moved her to my lap. She liked the drums and dancing; she seemed to be actually following the lead actress’s monologue… the one thing she didn’t quite understand is that you have to be quiet.
We think she liked the energy of the play and that is why she started cooing, but at any rate I ended up first standing in the back, and then sitting just outside the theater on a comfy couch for the second act so Imogen could coo without distracting art patrons.
The woman setting up coffee and snacks, and running the theatre, asked Imogen’s name, and when I also mentioned her nickname (Squigs), the woman painted a lovely picture of Imogen being on a talk show someday, divulging her early nickname to chuckles from the crowd.
When Jacob came out with our things, I told him he should stay in and watch, and that we were content to have seen as much as we had, the woman told me that I should come back the next day and catch the second act. I thought this very kind of her and decided to do just that.
At this point you may be wondering what the big deal is about this post: “okay, you went to a play with/without your baby, got it,” but if you’ve ever moved to a new city and/or shared a tiny space with just your husband and baby, you have an idea what is was like to attend a play by yourself.
It took about thirty seconds for me to get completely lost (in the good sense) in the play. A “coming-of-age” story and so much more about a (Native) Tlingit family, a mother who lost a daughter; weather, music: I felt at once a part of my new community, as if it showed itself just to me.
When I left, the woman who’d told me to come back told me she was so glad I had made it (seriously, why did she even care?), and (I realized after I got into the car how much I meant what) I said, “I can’t imagine if I hadn’t.” Then, she said, “your daughter is precious.”
Thank you Perseverance Theater and Juneau!
Cloth diapering IS as easy as they say, you DO save (quite a bit) of money, and you don’t feel terrible the way you do when you throw away a disposable. Some people even like the way they look and that they become softer and more absorbent with each wash.
When I was doing my research I couldn’t believe all of the options (and how much people had to say about them!) so in an attempt to counterbalance all of that business I’m just going to say what has worked for me and hope it clears it up for someone else.
Before my daughter was born I used Amazon girt cards I was given at my shower and ordered two packages of Newborn size prefolds (about $40 for 12 diapers). After I had her about a month I ordered two more packages of prefolds, this time in Regular size.
In five months I’ve essentially been given four packages (96) prefolds, three All-In-Ones (Mom), and nine covers (three new from Mom, six hand-me-downs from friends). I’ve bought five packages (about 150) disposable diapers, one of which remains unopened.
OsoCozy Unbleached Prefolds seemed the most straightforward, and I appreciated their website, that included pdfs on different kinds of folds. You simply fold them, using an ingenious fastener to keep them on, put a cute cover over them and you’re done.
I was advised to buy two dozen and not to skip the Newborn size: I’m glad I followed this as my daughter weighed 7.9 at birth and was in the Newborn size her first two and a half months. I couldn’t have put bigger ones on her at that time.
With two dozen diapers, you can pretty safely say you will be adding an extra load of laundry every three days. You wash them on hot with a pre-rinse, and an extra rinse afterwards. You don’t need to use a lot of detergent, and you don’t use fabric softener.
Another thing I love is that the more you use these, the softer and more absorbent they become. I dried mine on the line or on the radiators when we lived in Germany but now in Juneau I toss them in the dryer – where there is obviously less advance planning required.
As it happened, we made our almost 5,000 mile move from Germany to Alaska right at the time Imogen outgrew her baby diapers, so we used the disposables while we were traveling in December and busted out her Regular sized prefolds once we got to our cabin in Juneau.
I cannot imagine she would be a fan of these photos, but her proud mommy posts them regardless with so much love…
So there you have it, my journey thus far with cloth diapering… I am pleased as punch with this decision and my DH is on board as well… he calls it “diaper origami” when I fold her diaper but he actually does just fine.
At the beginning I was very overwhelmed, as I said… there are so many different kinds, so much of everything… I hope this helps someone. If anyone has a question please ask! I leave you with another picture of our sweet girl being changed in the back of a car…
Rain and sleet this week have been fairly legitimate reasons for not going stomping around in the woods, and the week before that I did go out there and get my “bearings:” while there were moments I enjoyed (getting a feel for the downtown area, e.g.) I’d say I thought about bears roughly 80% of the time.
My husband can no longer hide his exasperation on the topic: we spent the first several nights in the cabin after the girl was asleep discussing, again (we’ve been on the topic since Germany) what to do if you see a bear (“Hey, Bear! Get outta here!”) and stand your ground, and what not to do (run).
That said, the phrase “bluff charge” will not leave my brain. “You will never feel more alive,” my husband said (as when you stand your ground to a bear that is bluff charging you); I feel quite dim panicking about it after electing to move to a cabin in the woods in Alaska with my baby daughter who I don’t let out of my sight when I use the bathroom.
Now, while bears are an actual fear because they can be quite unpredictable, and they should always be given their space (even if you couldn’t help not giving them their space because you didn’t know they were there), it occurs to me that “bear” could be a metaphor of all of the things in the world from which I cannot protect her.
When I walked past riot police in Istanbul I would get that throat-constricting fear based also on being caught in the middle of an unpredictable situation, but actually we never know what is going to happen, and yet I know that we’re safer here than so many other places. No one is attacking anyone in Juneau; its politics are within my realm of understanding.
Having turned in before 10 pm on NYE, we were among the first ones up for breakfast on New Year’s Day, our second day in town. At the cafe we found, the waitress got down right in her face and complimented Imogen’s eyes. Even more awesomely, a lady at the next table offered to hold her while Jacob and I scarfed down our eggs. We let her.
I like watching our daughter look to the tops of the trees when we go for walks, and see along with her the way the mountains all around us turn pink at sunset. (Mostly-) imagined threats aren’t nearly big enough to cause these things to crash down anyway, new mom. Unless you wanna talk about avalanches.
We did quite a bit of traveling around in Imogen’s fourth month: San Francisco to O’Hare to Oshkosh; back to O’Hare, to Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos, and back to Cabo; back to San Francisco, to Petaluma and all over West (Sonoma) County; finally, to Juneau (where we are now).
Jessica and Nick were lovely hosts and it was a thrill to see their beautiful place Casa Real take shape before our eyes. Jess has an eye for design, and has assured us that the best is yet to come; if kerosene lamps and piping hot tamales are your thing, you’d believe her, too.
Our first morning in Todos Santos we headed for Las Palmas, a beach 20 mins. from Nick & Jess’s… you’ll just have to trust me that there were waves that were exciting without being scary, blue sky, warm sand and all the other lovely earthy beach-y things… because all I see is
and (last but not least)
It was our first family vacation, and while at times I questioned my own sanity trucking her around all over hell, Imogen liked the warmth, the sound of the waves, and her Grandpa Dusty’s long stories. I think she had the best time of all of us!
We finally made it to Juneau the early morning hours of the last day of the year. Had a ‘soft landing’ at The Alaskan Hotel and Bar , and then worked on getting our cabin set up. I’ll post more pictures of the cabin soon – it is a beautiful place for our first place here in Juneau.
My second chapbook, a collaboration of poems by me and paintings by my dear friend and graduate school colleague Susan Solomon, has been made available here through Red Bird Press.
It is entitled Catalpa after the tree and the title poem. For the rest, you’ll just have to see for yourself!
It would mean a lot to us if you would support our project by buying our book and/or sharing this link.
Also, please let me and/or Susan know what you think!
Lots of love,
Have you ever been on a flight in which an ordinary passenger made an announcement? I felt like standing up and telling everyone within earshot that it was my 3.5 month-old daughter’s fifth flight; holding her up in her tiger suit for everyone to see (I didn’t do this).
Imogen arrived at the Cabo San Lucas airport in her sea-green layered-lace onesie (Aunt Jenny) with sand still stuck to her, but I’d fed her (in the 4 Runner while Jaco and Jess got us burritos) and changed her (on the front seat), so she was fine through the check-in counter, security, and Jaco and my celebratory Pacificos.
Our flight ended up being delayed an hour and a half, during which time they changed our gate twice. At the first gate her dad bounced her over to Duty Free, and at the second gate she slept in her car seat until it was almost time to board at which time we swapped out her onesie for her flying tiger suit (Grandpa Jim).
On the plane she sat on my lap, fell asleep in her dad’s arms and on the seat between us, hardly cried at all, even as she was rubbing her ears on the bumpy descent, and not at all when we found out we’d also be waiting an extra 35 minutes on the tarmac before ‘deplaning.’
Her dad took her (‘baby tiger coming through’) and we were up and outta there (not a peep), through passport control, baggage claim, back into her car seat, meeting Dusty and Mary, into another 4 Runner, and out of the parking garage, where she was laughing with me,
and then fell asleep again while we accidentally exited into the city, and she made it all the way back to Petaluma without a meltdown, and then I fed her, and we gave her a bath, and put clean clothes on her… and left her on a bed covered in laundry with the light on, for everyone to see and play with, and went to eat a salad,
…at which time she started crying, hysterically, because I’d kept her up too late, and she’d held it together through *another* international flight with three hours of driving and three hours of waiting besides, and she’d had it, and she’d needed me to put her to bed and turn the light off, and I hadn’t held up my end of the bargain
but she taught me a lesson, and I turned the light off and put a heavy soft blanket on her, and thanked her for teaching it to me, but she was already asleep.