Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Seasons are Changing

Dear Ellie,

I've begun to notice that the days are getting shorter.  It's the first time I'd noticed the changing seasons since early January.  I was looking forward to January and February while your mother was pregnant with you.  I was looking forward to early Twilight and the cool days of a Florida winter.  To your mother bundling up in 50 degree weather, turning off the heater, and the two of us pretending that it was cold.  All the while we'd imagine the following Winter, with you pretending to be cold with us.

A few days after your mother went on bedrest in the hospital, 22 weeks gestation, we had our first real cold front.  I remember walking out of the hospital on my way home to get a few items.  Calling customers to tell them I had to cancel.  Giving family members updates.  I didn't notice the chill in the air.  Or the length of the day.  Or how the crisp air of a cold front sharpens the luminosity of the stars.  This past Winter, Spring, and Summer all escaped me, somehow.  I felt like there was only one season.  A season of fear, accompanied by an unchanging climate inside of the hospital.  While inside, the days never got longer or shorter.  The colors never changed and there was no smell of jasmine by the front door like at home, just the scent of hand sanitizer.  Even after your release, it felt like we were locked in some seasonal stasis.

But then, just the other day, I noticed that the sun was dipping below the horizon before I could get home from work.  That the first stars greeted me before I walked through the front door.  While I was jogging last evening, I even noticed a cool breeze.  I've finally noticed that the season is changing and I wonder if perhaps it is because you are changing.  Just a few months ago, you were just an eating, pooping sack of human protoplasm.  But now?  You watch us carefully, as though contemplating, and you miss us when we've gone.  You talk to us.  You smile and laugh and every chance you get.  I wonder whether every baby is this jovial.

Here you are, smiling away

To see you change is joyous in itself, but it is also proof that you are growing.  That your mind isn't stunted in some fearful way from your trials in the past.

Having noticed the seasons, I got to thinking about your childhood.  I want the seasons to be pronounced, noticeable, something to look forward to.  I want to infuse each one with special traditions and I fill them with happy memories flavored by that time of year.  Seasonal decorations amid the house and cool afternoons in your grandmother's garden during the Autumn planting.  Late Winter nights far past your bedtime, watching the Milky Way as it is rarely seen in our humid state and sweltering Summer days in the cool shallows of the pool.  And of course, I want to write you seasonal stories.  Like a story about autonomous pumpkins or strangely gritty Christmas tales about Santa's 14th, rogue reindeer.  A reindeer who delivers presents to even the bad children, against Santa's will.  I want to create a seasonal mythos just for us, and just for you.

And why?  Because in many people's lives, its easy to be daunted by an uncertain future, but no matter how far one might imagine into their own future, there will always be more Winters and Summers, Springs and Autumns.  I feel that if I can make each one of those seasons joyous throughout your childhood, you can always look to the future and with each passing season, feel that it will be filled with that same joy.  That same consistency, as reliable as the flit of a page on the calendar.  

Up until just a few weeks ago, your mind was as yet so unformed that it didn't seem like these subtleties and nuances could mean anything to you.  It was easy to table these parental efforts for a later date.  But now, I find that this is quickly changing.  All of these things that your mother and I plan on doing at some point in the future are quickly becoming things that we need to do now.

Yesterday, I got to thinking about the very first things you might notice, and I realized this was food.  Given that you will be eating solids not too long from now, I thought it might be prudent to start there.  As you get older, I'd like to develop a seasonal menu: specific dishes for specific times of the year.  With that in mind, I headed off to the grocery store with you in tow.  It might sound a little bit funny, but one of the parental milestone I looked forward to the most was taking you along to the grocery store.  Yes, trying to convince the cashier to give us a cute baby discount was one reason, but taking you to the store with me had a deeper, special meaning.  For the first time, you weren't just the focus of my life; a thing demanding my time and attention.  Instead, you were a part of my life, accompanying me on a regular part of my day.  Plus, it was a great opportunity to show you all of the colorful curiosities.

It was a bit tricky taking these pictures, since you were packed
into the Ergo.  On the left, you are examining a colorful, organic
box of broth.  Intriguing... In the picture on the right, we were passing by the
dairy section, at which point you became quite exciteable.

I settled on butternut squash stew for dinner, with a side of roasted asparagus.  It may not be Winter yet, but I'm hoping to make butternut squash stew--- with its cinnamon and nutmeg--- a regular Winter entree in the future.  Also, it has the advantage of being nice and soft, so perhaps you might have the opportunity to eat it before Winter comes and goes.

Still perfecting the recipe!  Chicken, butternut squash,
sweet onions, cinnamon, nutmeg, puree of butternut squash,
baby carrots, and a touch of brown sugar... tastes like Winter!

Another little parental milestone I was looking forward to was cooking dinner while you bobbed around nearby.  Cooking has never been a chore, to me, but one of the many spaces that fill a quiet, contented life.  A time for creativity.  A time to think to one's self.  A time to listen to the sounds of a home.  Granted I hit that milestone with you a few months ago, you've become quite the little talker while I work the stove, and a welcome sound it is!  

Here you are, hamming it up with Grandma.

It seems like it should have been such an unexceptional thing.  Grocery shopping or cooking with my daughter nearby.  Maybe it was.  Maybe that's why I liked it so much.  It's these quiet moments that we fill the bulk of our lives with.  That might be why we want to create so many seasonal traditions, because if we do, these traditions can come to visit us every year and help to fill our lives with quiet, happy moments.


  1. Such an awesome post. It is so great to see how healthy and joyful you both are.

  2. Ellie, your smile is so beautiful and heart-warming. Let it be etched on your lips even during difficult times in your life. Such a brave girl you are !

    Dana, I wish you and your family shouldn't go through anymore difficult times. You should be proud that you managed everything so well. I could totally understand when you say how you lived those days without even knowing the seasonal changes. Now all the gloomy days are gone. I hope, all three of you will get to enjoy all four seasons of a year mindfully and happily for the rest of your lives :) And, when you have a sibling for Ellie, let beautiful spring be in your footsteps bringing in loads of joy.

    1. Thank you Manju, I sincerely hope that you'll have these sun-filled days in your future as well. As for a sibling for Ellie, we're still unsure how that might ever happen. The cycle that gave her life was so dismal and expensive that it was a miracle it even worked. We've been contemplating adoption for a long time, even before Ellie, but that's a process that is rife with just as much confusion and sometimes even heartache. Right now, we're just glad to have Ellie. It's a strange feeling, but while I'm relieved that she is finally here, it also feels as though she has been here all my life.

  3. Do you every just think "wow!"? She is amazing! I think back to the start of your blog and you would never guess she'd be the little chunker she is now!

    I just wanted to comment on the seasonal things. There are so many things I want to do and traditions I want to start also but remember you don't have to do it all in the first year! Sometimes it wasn't possible to make a parade that was a tradition for my family because X had an ear infection or some other oddity that came up. It has been so sweet and exciting this past summer at the age of two when he finally kind of "gets it" that I don't feel bad that we missed other things when he was younger. We are still building up traditions as we go and it is way more fun when they can participate!
    PS I love a babywearing dad! I'm glad she will eat that way for you! We did the whole walk around routine for a long time but X was not as heavy ;) He was also fascinated with a certian light I would stand under and he would eat better there.

  4. Love the new pictures! Ellie is so adorable, and it's such a blessing that that she's doing so well. We're into adoptions, too, as you know, so when you are ready to head that direction, we'll be happy to share information with you. :-)
    Enjoy that precious little one of yours!

  5. Hassels, I think it aaaaalll the time. :-)

  6. Deb, thanks. We've been discussing beginning the process just so we have our foot in the door. I've been doing a lot of browsing around on the internet for years, well before Ellie. She'll need a sibling sooner than later :-)

  7. Indeed, she will. Sometimes it takes a LONG time to process adoptions, too. We'd been on lists for 2 years, when Daniel basically dropped into our laps. We were "done" when we heard about Winona, and her adoption was a miraculous 9 months. Never hurts to get on some lists, and put out feelers.

    At the same time, don't be in too big a hurry. You want to enjoy the miracle that is Ellie!