31 :: 365

snack bot 31_365

When the girls go to to Gommy and Boppa’s house, Gommy always has a project for them.  Today, Jeffrey and I walk in the door and they are all around the kitchen table, assembling snack bots.  As Gommy gathers the materials and the girls embellish their creatures, I see how attentive Gommy is and how patient.  I admire her patience.  Jeffrey is patient like this too.  Patience, especially with children, is such gift.

 

29 :: 365

baby love 29_365

As I mop the floor with a sleeping baby wrapped up on me, I am thinking about a grant application that needs to be revised.  It has been on my mind all day.  But what do I do instead?  I set up the tripod and fiddle around with the timer settings on my camera.  And when this sweet baby boy wakes up from his nap, I put on a fuzzy cardigan and cuddle him in the light.

Taking timed photos in front of my office window feels a bit awkward, but later in the day when I upload the photos, I am so glad to have this image.  This is true reflection of our days together.  We spend our days very close.  Wallace likes to be close — close when he is awake and close when he is asleep.  When my body grows tired with so much closeness — so much holding — it helps me to revisit one of my favorite articles by Peggy O’Mara.  She says:

[My baby boy] was a baby who liked contact, who demanded contact, who wanted always to be in touch, who in every way is a very physical person. We are often impatient with babies because they are so physical. The popular media suggests we have to train our babies to control themselves, to be independent, to sleep, and to obey, as if these were not things that had intrinsic value and would be learned naturally, as a matter of course, in human society.

How dangerous for our society that we distrust the very behavior that is the most necessary for human survival. It is those babies who demand to be attached who are the most evolved. And it is the most securely attached babies who will have the best chance to be the most resilient adults. Resiliency comes from having internalized the functions of an empathic mother and father.

. . .

Our children are born hardwired for survival. Their needs and wants are the same. They know what they need, and they demand it. In hunter-gatherer societies, being in the arms of the mother meant that the infant was safe from the tiger. In modern times, being held in another’s arms still means survival. The single most important factor responsible for an infant’s normal mental and social development is physical holding and carrying. Infants need to be in arms. They know it, and they let us know it.

Current fashions and customs conspire against these natural and necessary needs of human infants. Devices such as the plastic infant carrying tray, pacifiers, cribs, and bottles are ways to distance ourselves from our babies, to gain a respite from the intimacy they require for full human development. Trends in perceiving the life of the home as servitude and drudgery, as well as lack of economic support for the family, also conspire to separate us from our loved ones, as these trends quite literally put physical distance between us.

Human infants don’t like physical distance. They like constant physical contact. They expect it. They need it. And they’re totally content when they have it. But how do we learn to surrender to this fierce need when others warn us that we must teach our infants to sleep, to be independent-and certainly not spoil them?

It is obvious that dependency is feared by many adults. Many are hungry for intimacy but afraid to surrender. Yet, life with infants is a surrender. When we just give up and give them what they need, it becomes so easy. It reminds me of the true meaning of the Sabbath-a day of leaving things just as they are, not trying to change them, and not doing anything. With infants, we are but humble servants to what is.

. . .

Don’t stand unmoving outside the door of a crying baby whose only desire is to touch you. Go to your baby. Go to your baby a million times. Demonstrate to your baby that people can be trusted, that the environment can be trusted, that we live in a benign universe. The crisis of the first year of life is trust or mistrust. Which will your baby learn?

— Peggy O’Mara, In Their Hands: Editorial, Mothering, No. 85, Winter 1997

27 :: 365

sniffing the air 27_365

It is still pitch black outside and the house is quiet when the phone rings at 6:30 am.  School is on a two-hour delay.  I turn off the light downstairs and go to the window, squinting to see out.  As the sky begins to lighten, the magical world outside take shape.  Every limb and tuft is frosted white, and the girls want to go out immediately.  Breakfast first!  After pancakes and hard-boiled eggs, we bundle up and enter the fairy land that is our front meadow, where each little cluster of trees and bushes is a new hideaway.  Hours pass.

By the time we should be packing backpacks and heading to school, the girls are fully immersed in creating a snow castle.  I use the authority of motherhood to declare a family snow day.

snow

plans

keeping watch

his girls

snow ball tree

snow mountain

seven

26 :: 365

with grandmommy 26_365

Our day had an unexpected turn of events and now we are here, and he is in Grandmommy’s arms.  I am watching her snuggle him and thinking about how many babies she has loved and nurtured.  Coming into her space — into my parents’ home — is so calming and comforting.  I was dreading this week a bit, but now that we are here, I find myself feeling grateful.  I am so grateful for my parents and for their great love for home.  Their home is light and warm and filled with books.  It is a place we’re welcomed into for delicious meals and thoughtful conversation.  It is full of inspiration, creative projects, and — very often — the sounds of happy little people.  How grateful I am that my children are growing up with Gousty as their home away from home.

25 :: 365

queen anne in winter 25_365

It’s gray and colder than I thought it would be when I was inside looking out.  I really wanted to go outside to take photos today, but now that I’m outside I want to go back in.  I’m longing for sunshine or at least a little more light and warmth, but I am standing in the midst of the front meadow among familiar shades of gray on white.

I think about Garen’s beautiful photos of dead plants.  Plant skeletons bathed in light.  He has a couple images of Queen Anne’s Lace flowers that I particularly like.  I love Queen Anne’s Lace in all the seasons; the tips of the faded flowers are just visible now above the level of snow.  I bend down to look closely.

January is nearing its end and I know that February is usually a month of winter light.  Here in northern Michigan we really notice the shift in February.  Even the chickens start laying eggs again.  But I remind myself that we’re still in January and I don’t want to wish this month away.  I want to be present here; that is a big reason for this 365 project.  So I take photos with my cold fingers of naked Queen Anne’s Lace against the white landscape.

24 :: 365

in the mirror 24_365

It’s bedtime.  We have been occupied all day long and I realize that I haven’t picked up the camera.  Well, actually, I remember now that I did take it outside . . . but with the party and the sledding and six little girls tumbling in the snow and the baby —  I just didn’t find a moment to take a photo.  So when I catch a glimpse of my big girl and little boy in the mirror, all cozy and ready for bed, I think, “Yes.  Today, this will do.”

22 :: 365

stretchy man 22_365

Baby boy, I am trying to catch you in a stretch, after a nap.  I love how you arch your whole body, squeeze up your pudgy face, and extend your “plush little legs,” as Amie calls them.  Then your expression changes — so quickly.  Oh, baby love.  I may try to capture this fleeting time, but I know I can’t.  Not really.  And so today, I will hold you and hold you and hold you.

stretchy man looks

stretchy man laughs