Friday, December 28, 2012

Successful* family self-portrait session, Christmas 2012

*if "successful" is defined as: laughing and laughing and laughing, getting smacked in the face by a baby a lot, and not ending up with one picture out of nearly a hundred that portrays us as mannered, civilized people.

(We are not big on celebrating Christmas--basically we spend it like we do any holiday, celebrating the fact that we have a day off at the same time. This Christmas we stayed home all day. Kamal giggled at almost everything I did; Adam cleaned the kitchen and made amazing spaghetti and meatballs and my favorite-of-all-time cake, Gramercy Tavern's Gingerbread; and we spent about twenty minutes attempting to commemorate such a lovely day together with some photographs, but couldn't figure out how to fit ourselves all in the frame, get the baby to stop punching the grownups in their mouths, or quit giggling. The result is a bunch of blurry, off-center shots that show, I think, a family that loves each other fiercely, plays together joyfully, and is unapologetically überdorky. Quality photography? No. Accurate portraiture? Totally.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Kamal's Christmas present to us

The first time Kamal rolled over from his belly to his back I posted about it here. Adam and I were as excited about that sudden, accidental-looking rollover as we were about the fact that we were both home and watching him in the instant that it happened. That we both got to witness that milestone, together, felt like an incredible gift.

Then we waited and waited for him to do it again, and when it didn't happen, we figured that rollover had just been a bit of a fluke.

Four days before Christmas, Adam had run out to the grocery store for just a few minutes. I set up Kamal for some tummy time on the yoga mat. He looked up from the mat, beaming at me, and he was so cute that I ran to get my phone to snap some photos.

Almost as soon as I was back and parked in front of him with my phone poised for picture taking, this happened:

rock rock rock rock rock

wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle

that's how i roll.

Each of those stages lasted a good several seconds, with Kamal flailing his little arms and legs around like a turtle trying to right itself. It was clearly no fluke; rather, it was a very deliberate act. It was the very first time he'd rolled himself over with any sort of detectable intention, and only the second time he'd rolled himself over ever. I was as thrilled to capture these moments as I imagine any wildlife photographer capturing some rare animal's covert grooming ritual might be.

Much later that night--actually really early the next morning--Kamal and I were up in the big orange chair, nursing. There was an enormous clap of thunder. I started, Toby cowered, and Kamal went on nursing peacefully as though nothing had happened. A few minutes later, I changed his diaper, then set him down in his playard and went to wash my hands. Just as I came back and was about to picking up there was another enormous clap of thunder. I looked down at him expecting him to be terrified, or at least startled.

And he laughed. He laughed again after the next clap of thunder, and the next. My very first thought was, "He's talking to God." I don't exactly know what my position is on the existence of God, is the thing--but it felt really clear that he was talking to something. He was talking to the storm, maybe, or to the sky. The conversation was obviously delightful.

I know he's only a baby. I know he's not yet five months old, unable to talk to us or understand exactly what we say to him. But he does communicate, in ways that sometimes make me forget he can't talk. He has an outrageous sense of humor and an outpouring well of love. He's connected, online, so much more than just a little bundle of milk-need and sleep-stealing. He perceives things, I feel certain, in a way that maybe all babies share, in a way that we adults just don't quite get. Whatever frequency Kamal listens to, it assured him that this particular loud, house-shaking noise was no threat, that in fact it was a friendly sound, or a celebratory one.

And I can't help but think that Kamal saved his first flukey little rollover for a moment when he knew that both his dad and I would be watching. I can't help but think he waited till I had the camera ready to capture his first deliberate, effortful rollover so that his dad could experience it through the photos, and so that we could share it with our friends and family, all of whom would maybe be almost as thrilled as we were. It was our wise little baby's gift to us, generous beyond price and freely given, and it was as perfect a gift as anyone could want.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Yay, Offbeat Families!

When we were planning our wedding, I was all about Offbeat Bride, and I was so thrilled to rediscover Offbeat Families when Kamal came along. After feeling hugely burned out on online parenting communities that I found cloyingly precious/anachronistically heteronormative/kinda judgey, Offbeat Families has been none of those things--it's just been a refreshing, faith-renewing reminder of why I actually really like the internet.

So this morning I was scrolling through OF's blog posts, and lo and behold: our very own Small Kamal got a little spotlight action on Offbeat Familes' Monday Montage!  Holy moly, did it bring me a thrill to see his little face beaming out at me from my monitor.

Check it out!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Completely delicious (and GLUTEN-FREE!) chocolate quinoa cupcakes. No, really. No, YOU shut up.

I made these cupcakes and they are so, so good.

Look how pretty and chocolate-y they are! Don't you want one? Besides being pretty and delicious, they're gluten-free. Neither Adam nor I have any sort of wheat allergy or gluten intolerance, but we have lots of friends that do, and it's nice to be able to bake for them, too.

Besides, even though I wouldn't by any means call these rich, incredibly moist treats healthy, using quinoa instead of white flour adds protein, fiber and magnesium to the recipe--so I think I can safely say that they are somewhat healthiER than your average chocolate cupcake. (If you're allergic to wheat or gluten, though, these are definitely way better for you,obviously.)

I took the picture above to show you, in case you had any doubts, that the recipe produces cupcakes with a very cake-y, totally legitimate crumb. In fact, I think I like these better than a typical wheat-based cupcake. The very picky Adam and a couple of friends taste-tested these, and everyone liked them. Major props to Cake on the Brain for my new go-to cupcake recipe!

Bonus: The whole recipe got made in our new old Vitamix! I did have to turn it off and poke around in it a bit to get the dry ingredients to sink enough into the wet ones and mix properly, but I'm thinking that might not be an issue in a newer Vitamix. Either way, not a big deal, and still super-easy cleanup.

Also: I found that this recipe made me 16 cupcakes, instead of the quoted 12. It is possible that my batter pour is just miserly, though. 

Lastly: I made this recipe a second time, subbing coconut oil for the butter. They weren't as good. Follow the recipe. Butter is your friend.

Okay, really lastly: These look so dark and gorgeous in these pictures because I used Black Onyx cocoa powder for a third of the cocoa powder the recipe calls for. For the other two thirds, I used Dutch cocoa. What makes Dutch cocoa different from other cocoa powder is that it's alkalized, which results in a milder, smoother chocolate flavor. Black Onyx cocoa powder is much more heavily alkalized, which makes it very, very dark and chocolatey. I got mine at our local Savory Spice Shop; if you don't have one near you, they sell it online, right here.

Here's the recipe, as published at Cake on the Brain on February 13, 2012. 

adapted from Quinoa 365:  The Everyday Superfood
Makes 12 large scrumptious cupcakes
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, cold (see note below for instructions to cook quinoa)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

*1 muffin tin (large cups, large cupcake liners) with 12 wells.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line the muffin tin with the 12 large-sized cupcake liners.  
  2. In a Vitamix, Blender or Food Processor, combine:  milk, eggs, vanilla.  Blend until combined.  Add 2 cups of cold cooked quinoa and the melted butter and continue to blend until smooth.
  3. Dump in the sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the Vitamix.  Blend well to combine.  
  4. Pour from the blender directly into the cupcake liners, evenly distributing the cupcake batter between the 12 liners.  Gently tap the tin on the counter to ensure there are no air bubbles.  Smooth the tops with a small spatula (or your finger!)
  5. Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 30 minutes.
  6. Test the cupcakes for doneness with a toothpick or cake tester.
  7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Remove from the pan and allow the cupcakes to cool completely on a rack.
  8. Frost if desired with Swiss Meringue Buttercream using a 1M Wilton tip.  Decorate with the chocolate lace hearts (see post above for the easy method I used).  Bling it up with dragees if desired.
  9. Cupcakes can be stored sealed in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.  But I don't think they'll last that long.

Note:  Bring 2/3 cup raw, rinsed white or golden quinoa to boil in a heavy saucepan with 1 1/3 cups water.  Cover, reduce to simmer and cook for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and leave covered saucepan on burner for another 10 minutes.  Fluff with fork and allow the Quinoa to cool.
Rice Cooker Method:  Cook rinsed quinoa as you would rice, following manufacturer's instructions and the indicator lines for appropriate water levels.    I made 1 cup quinoa and found it had enough leftovers to make another dish.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Email dated August 5, 2012 (two days before going into labor)

sent to my very dear friends Jenjen and Mayumi:

I am, at this moment, literally SURROUNDED by teeny-tiny clothes. This is a serious dose of reality. This is more laundry than I do for myself in, like, six months. This is a giant puzzle: why do clothes labeled "3-6
months" look sometimes the same size as newborn clothes and sometimes the same as clothes for nine-month-olds? For that matter, why are newborn clothes a separate thing from 0-3 month clothes? How do I figure out how many of these from each stage to keep? Everyone says you can't have too many onesies, but there has to be a
limit, right? What about hats, how many hats does a baby needDoes a baby need a balaclava? I don't know! I
have a baby coming any minute now and I don't understand anything about his wardrobe and clothes are, like, my

I am in over my head. Almost literally, the way these clothing piles are growing.



A little over four months in to the parenting experience, I'm a lot (a LOT!) calmer about the whole infant-wardrobe gestalt. Turned out to be quite a bit simpler once there was an actual small person to dress. And as it turns out, a baby DOES need a balaclava--or at least, as Kamal proved today, it comes in really handy on a long walk with a lovely friend on a very chilly day. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

These are the good old days

Today Kamal and I danced to Rodrigo y Gabriela while Adam vacuumed the house and then took pictures of us.

Later, after a Facetime chat with Adam's parents during which Kamal giggled and burbled and then fell fast asleep, Adam and I stole kisses.

When you have a baby, everyone tells you to enjoy every second of it. And some days that's really hard to do; some days you're barely able to keep your eyes open or from bursting into tears. There are days where trying to enjoy every second just feels like one more task to complete, on top of and simultaneously with cleaning spit-up off of everything and changing a diaper and breast feeding and returning work emails and scheduling doctor appointments. 

Today was not one of those days. Today was an ordinary day, no more or no less sleep-deprived and spit-up-filled than any other, but today was golden. I was with my family, we are all healthy and safe and sound, and I know that one day, when Kamal is too big to carry while we whirl together around our cozy cottage, I will look back at Sundays like this with wistfulness. I will remember clipping Kamal's tiny nails while he slept in my lap. I will remember Kamal screaming with laughter while Adam nuzzled his chubby neck. I will remember Toby swiping his huge tongue over Kamal's face before I could intercept, and Kamal's little hands reaching delightedly for Toby's big, grinning, furry muzzle. I will remember dancing with my baby, the impossible softness of his hair under my chin, his fingers wrapped around my finger, his unique Kamal smell, like cocoa and violets and vanilla and lambswool. I will reach back in my memory for this golden day, and I will find it and know without a doubt that even if I had only lived this one day, more joy was mine in my life than I ever knew anyone could expect. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Posted by my friend Tony on Friday, December 14, in response to the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting

To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the woods and waters wild,
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than
you can understand.

from "The Stolen Child," William Butler Yeats, first published in 1889 in The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fresh, homemade coconut milk

The coconut milk that I used in my spinach-blueberry smoothie comes from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. I recommend this cookbook to every patient that tells me, when during an Eastern nutritional consult I suggest particular dishes that would be therapeutic for them, that they can't cook.

Beyond being able to fix the foods for yourself that I or any other healthcare provider might prescribe, becoming a confident home cook is, in my opinion, the single most empowering step you can take towards achieving optimal health. It's also a remarkably efficient way to contribute towards environmental and ecological preservation.  Learning to cook from scratch substantially increases your control over what you consume and substantially decreases your dependence on processed, packaged food. (And folks in the dating scene? Throwing down a lovely dinner is also a seriously player move, guaranteed to score major points. Adam and I have been married for twelve hundred and seventy-nine nights, and most of those nights he's fixed me dinner, and I STILL get all twitterpated. Every. Time.)

 How to Cook Everything is an excellent first cookbook--its clear, straightforward instructions make its recipes easy to follow and approachable by brand-new cooks. It's also an excellent cookbook in general--more experienced home cooks will also appreciate its varied and original recipes. I consult it frequently, and have happily made (and eaten!) many of its recipes.

Like Bittman says in his book, you can totally buy coconut milk in cans,

"...but it's relatively expensive and, for me at least, more trouble than it's worth. On the other hand, a pound of dried coconut costs about two dollars at the natural foods store and will make gallons of coconut milk, thick or thin, with little effort."

This milk also tastes a lot better than the canned stuff, which isn't surprising--what doesn't taste better fresh than canned? I put it in my rooibos tea every morning, and when I once tried doing that with coconut milk from a can, I got a gross oil slick across the surface of my tea, and a distinctly tinny taste. Not so with the fresh coconut milk--it blends in as smoothly as cow milk, and tastes delicious. And since I'm using it primarily in tea and smoothies (versus desserts and curries) I make it on the thinner side, which isn't really an option for canned coconut milk.

Most importantly, when you're making coconut milk at home, you don't have to worry about BPA from cans insinuating its scary self into your body.

Here's how it's done:

Put about two and a half cups of water on to boil.

Measure two cups of dried, unsweetened, shredded coconut into a quart jar (Bittman uses a blender, and going forward I'll probably use our new old Vitamix, but in these photos I used  the Bamix immersion blender I got Adam for his birthday a couple years ago.)

A canning jar funnel is one of the handiest tools ever; if you use mason jars for everything, like we do, it's in use every day.

When the water comes to a boil, pour two cups of it over the coconut.

If you're using an immersion blender, go ahead and immerse it here. Start and stop your blender a couple of times, being very careful not to whirl boiling water all over the place. Then blend for 30 seconds.

Then let it rest for ten minutes. (Hey, you could start some bread right now!) While it's resting, set up your straining situation. I just use a mesh strainer over a jar funnel, both set over another quart jar.

Pour the contents of the blender (or first jar) into the strainer; press down on the coconut solids to squeeze out all the milk. At this point, you have the option of pouring a little more boiling water over the coconut in the strainer to extract more milk and thin the milk a little.

Voilà: creamy, foamy, scrumptious coconut milk that works beautifully in tea, smoothies, soups, curries, desserts, and whatever else amazing coconutness you can think up. 

Bittman explains this recipe way better than I do, though. You should buy the book. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

New old Vitamix, and drinking my spinach

We needed a new blender. After doing a little bit of research, I decided the best use of our blender budget was to buy an OLD blender--specifically, a Vitamix 3600 Plus.

These absolute beasts of blenders were made in the 1970s, and at least according to the internet, most of them are still running now. Besides their being powerful and time-tested, I love that the pitchers are made of stainless steel instead of plastic, and I totally dig their retro-Jetsons-spaceship-y looks.

I scored a complete 3600 Plus in perfect condition on eBay for a great price. When it arrived, I couldn't open it right away because I was taking care of Kamal--so I asked Adam to break it out and set it up. Isn't it pretty?

So excited this machine is going to enjoy a renaissance in our kitchen. 

Back when she was editing the Hawai'i Women's Journal and I was a contributing columnist there, the brilliant Jenn Hee wrote a piece about green smoothies. Then I read more about green smoothies on Jenna Weber's stellar Eat Live Run blog. Both Jenn and Jenna wrote about the health benefits of these dubious-sounding drinks in terms glowing enough to overcome my skepticism and pique my interest. I adore greens and happily eat piles of them--but usually sauteed and once in a while in salads. I couldn't imagine how drinking them would be good, and so in spite of my curiosity, I kept putting off trying them.

Then our new old Vitamix arrived, and a green smoothie seemed like the perfect maiden voyage. 

Into the pitcher of the Vitamix, I threw:

Two big handfuls of fresh spinach, including stems
Just shy of a cup of homemade coconut milk (recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything)
Half a cup of frozen organic wild blueberries (from Trader Joe's)
One smallish Granny Smith apple, from Ray and Barbara's orchard
A very heaping tablespoon of natural, creamy peanut butter
A tablespoon of black chia seeds

Most of the green smoothie recipes I've seen call for ice, but consuming very cold things is not recommended in Chinese medicine--they are thought to slow down your digestion and adversely affect your overall health. So although I'll make the occasional exception for, say, Adam's homemade ice cream, I mostly stick to room-temperature beverages. (The half-cup of frozen blueberries I used wasn't enough to make the whole smoothie very cold.) Also according to Chinese medicine, black foods are tonifying to the Kidneys, which, as I explained in my granola post, are need extra replenishment after childbirth. That's why I always buy black chia seeds (and black sesame seeds, and black lentils, and...) when given the option. 

I blended up all the ingredients--the Vitamix did an amazing job of smoothing out all the bulky stuff--and poured the resulting dark-greyish sludge into a mason jar, screwed a lid on, and schlepped it with me to work, where it sat on my desk looking absolutely revolting.


I saw a patient, looked at the sludgy jar, felt skeptical and mildly grossed out, saw another patient, got hungry, screwed up my courage, and took a sip. And it was delicious.

Seriously, you guys. It was really, really good. Creamy, lightly sweet, fresh-tasting. And incredibly filling! I felt terrific after drinking it, too--energetic and focused. I'm a convert. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A still, sweet, simple place

Last night, unbelievably, Kamal slept for eight hours straight. Of course that meant that after five hours I was startled wide awake by the unfamiliar sensation of not hearing fussing. I checked on Kamal, then tried to fall back asleep.

Instead, I started thinking about my father, and how difficult our relationship can be, and how much I want it to be easier. I thought about how my love for him is deep and loyal, but also muddied by guilt, tattered by anger, chewed by fear. Lying in the dark, I felt my love for my father fettering me to all those other awful feelings. I resented the fetters. I wondered why love gets such good press.  Thinking about how I love my father and what that love does to me, I got more and more agitated, and further and further away from sleep, and guiltier and angrier and more fearful. 

Then Kamal stretched and sighed in his sleep, and it was a like a door swung open to a clean, quiet room. 

Have you seen that movie, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"? In it, an entire town has nothing to eat except sardines, for years and years. And they're sort of okay with this, sort of making the best of it. Then one day, all kinds of delicious food starts raining from the sky, and the townspeople suddenly realize how hungry they are. 

That is how I love Adam. My love for Adam is the gluttonous, disbelieving hunger of someone who has always been fed enough love to live on but never, until now, given a good, square meal. Loving Adam is a gift instead of a sacrifice, as healing as bone broth, as decadent as truffles, as little-girl-hand-clappingly delightful as layer cake. As with any romantic love, it is sometimes haunted by the ghosts of past relationships, complicated by the catalysts of physical intimacy, clouded by the day-to-day realities of living a partnered life. Still, it is a perfect fit for two growing people. 

So if my love for my father is a battleground in a long and questionable war, and my love for Adam is an oasis from which I just barely glimpse the specter of a pitiless desert, then my love for Kamal is a still, sweet, simple place that I walked into before I even knew I was seeking it. Resting here, within this pure, easy love, my love for Adam rises up and away from the clutches of old irrelevant griefs, and my love for my father swells with the plausibility of forgiveness. Loving Kamal is the softest pillow, the gentlest bed, a blanket fort with room for all of us. 

Loving Kamal as he slept last night washed me clean of angst and sadness. I curled up inside that love and found a place to rest. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Teeny-tiny bathrobe

PEOPLE. I ordered a daiquiri, like, EONS ago. Let's get it together, mmmkay?

I found this robe the other day at Sprout, a completely fabulous store in Healdsburg that consigns and carries previously-loved baby, children's and maternity clothing. Kamal follows my Rules of Ethical Clothing Shopping (RECS), too, and in his case it's especially critical, since he only wears anything for about two weeks. This robe meets RECS #1Buy used clothing whenever possible. 

It's also redonkulously adorable. Does a baby need a bathrobe? I mean, really? Of course not. But could I bring myself to leave the store without it? Well, come on. Could you? 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Post-run refuel

After I came back from my run yesterday, Adam and Kamal were still, adorably, napping in the big orange chair. 

Kamal on a more active day in the big orange chair

So I took a nice long hot shower. And after I came out of the nice long hot shower, they were still adorably napping, and I was starving.

Since I've started breast feeding, protein is a really big deal. If I have a meal without protein in it, it kind of feels like I haven't eaten at all. This leads to situations like the time I put half a can of tuna on my plateful of Adam's amazing pasta alla vodka and completely scandalized him.

As far as I knew, I only had a few minutes before Kamal woke up and wanted to nurse, so I hustled to get a meal together. In a little bit of coconut oil, I scrambled an egg, a heaping tablespoon of live-cultured cottage cheese, and a huge handful of spinach. Then I cut a thin slice from a loaf of our homemade no-knead bread, cut that in half, and assembled a little sandwich. This is a meal that I make a lot; for its small size, it packs a whole bunch of protein--and it can be eaten with one hand, in case I'm breast feeding.*

*Sometimes I get crumbs on the baby.

Added a grapefruit, sprinkled with a teaspoon of sugar, from the orchard of our friends Ray and Barbara.

Kamal very considerately slept until I'd finished eating. Running, eating with two hands, AND blogging? This parenting thing is a piece of cake. Once in a while. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Slow learning

Before getting pregnant, I ran a few times a week most weeks and sometimes every day, and I loved it. I loved how it made me feel strong, how it quickly and effectively it balanced my mood and cleared my mind. I'm a believer in moderation in all things, and have never been a distance runner or competitive about it at all. I'd usually run two or three miles each time, rarely more than five, on the creek trail behind our house or the treadmill at the gym. I also cycled two miles to and from work every day, and did errands largely by bike, too.

My ride, a 1970s Schwinn Suburban, parked in front of the historic DeTurk Round Barn

Then one day, late last fall, I had just started what I'd planned to be a thirty-minute run on the gym treadmill. I usually started at a ten-minute mile pace, gradually speeding up so that I ran the last few minutes at a seven-and-a-half-minute mile pace. But after a minute or so at my usual starting pace, I felt unusually winded. I slowed the treadmill down. Long story short: I ran for twenty minutes at a twelve-minute-mile pace--so a much shorter and slower run than usual--and it took a lot of probably stupid determination and what felt like most of the oxygen in the building to finish. When I got off the treadmill, gulping air and freakishly sweaty, I thought I was going to DIE. I felt so sick and exhausted I actually thought about going to get help, but when I started towards the front desk, everything started going spinny and black at the edges.  Mortified and not a little freaked out, I plunked right down on the floor with my head between my knees until I was mostly sure I wasn't going to throw up or pass out, and then I cautiously went on with my day. 

I figured I'd caught a virus or something. A few days later, I took a pregnancy test and laughed out loud when I saw the plus sign. I didn't connect my near-collapse at the gym to being pregnant, though, until a few days later when I started out on a trail run that turned into a trail walk after about fifty yards. It just felt wrong--so hard, so jarring, so tiring--and I couldn't shake the feeling that the little being inside of me was pleading for a smoother ride. 

A full year later, it still blows my mind that, even when he was smaller than a pinhead, Kamal was teaching me a lesson I'd struggled with my entire life, preached incessantly to others and yet never quite practiced: how to be gentle with myself. 

Kamal lounging around at 12 weeks' gestation: the size of a plum and already a master of chillaxin'

So the rest of my pregnancy was all about walking instead of running, literally and metaphorically. I stopped running entirely. After a few dizzy spells, the bike went to hibernate in the garage. My daily yoga practiced mellowed and shortened. During my first and third trimesters, when drenching fatigue was a constant companion, I worked four instead of five days a week. And even though slowing down was a challenge for me, I found taking it easy got easier and easier as I got rounder and rounder. 

Feeling very round, and moving verrrrrrry slow

I walked to work every day, but I had to budget more and more time for that walk as my brisk stride turned into a slow waddle. I only missed one day of yoga practice through my entire pregnancy, but the practice grew slower, more meditative, less sweaty every day. The daily thirty push-ups I prided myself on being able to complete gradually all turned into the kind of push-ups you do with your knees on the floor, the kind I'd long felt awfully superior about not doing. I watched other runners, cyclists, even fast-paddling ducks in the creek with envy. I missed being speedy.

Then came the weeks after Kamal was born, where my doctors and midwife had strictly forbidden exercise and I was so addled with sleep deprivation I couldn't imagine exercising anyway. When Kamal was about six weeks old, I began practicing yoga again. Kamal hung out on the mat and got a kiss with every chataranga dandasana.

Yogi Kamal 

Gradually I added in weight-bearing exercises, bearing Kamal as the conveniently-increasing weight: lunges, squats, very careful bicep curls and shoulder presses. And then today, while Kamal and Adam took a fortuitously timed nap together in our big orange chair, I went for my first run in a year. 

Oh my goodness, it was glorious. To be moving that fast under my own power!  To be taking those deep, clean breaths of late-fall, fennel-scented air! To be not carrying anybody! 

Still, I held on to the lessons Kamal had so rigorously enforced while I was pregnant. I ran at a comfortable pace, which today was a much slower pace than my comfortable pace a year ago, and didn't push myself to go faster. I thought about doing a longer run, but played it safe and just ran two miles. And it felt so good. So, so good. 

Post -run, sweaty and gleeful

Kamal changes every day, and so no two days look alike. There is less daylight every day, and between work and Kamal, my days and nights are full and wearying and rich. I don't know whether I'll be able to go for a run again tomorrow, or next week, or the week after. What I'm learning, happily ensconced (and sometimes submerged) here in Babyland, is that while one day's challenge might be running a couple of miles, the next day's is forgiving myself for not finding the time to exercise at all. I can learn  from both challenges, and I can learn to welcome the lessons. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Today was a big day for our Small Kamal, and he took it all in his usual mellow, happy stride. 

He rolled over for the first time today, from tummy to back, a week or so ahead of the earliest time we'd been told to expect this. Where our baby books have all cautioned us that this particular milestone could be very alarming for a baby, Kamal looked briefly astonished, and then just pleased. 

 Kamal's pleased face

Later we put him in his Amby Jump Jump for the very first time, and he bopped around looking pleased. 

Then we took a stroll down the creek trail behind our house to check out how high the creek had risen after the recent heavy rains we've had, and he watched the rushing water and a couple of guys speeding by in a canoe, and he looked pleased. 

This is actually a photo from three months ago, of the very first stroll we took with Kamal down the creek trail, when he was twentysomething days old. Look how small he is!

Later we put him in a Bumbo seat for the first time, and he sat in it looking pleased. 

I'm amazed, daily, at the gladness and calm with which Kamal confronts a constantly growing, shifting, leaping-and-bounding perspective on the world. His wise, patient, gracious, enormous soul looms over and surrounds his tiny, his perfect little body. Transition after transition presents itself to him, and he moves through each of them with grace and a joy that's beautiful to watch. 

Of course, I guess after surviving being shoved, squeezed and, in Kamal's particular case, vacuumed out of the cozy body that's been your only home for your entire nine-month existence into a glaringly bright, noisy, weird-smelling hospital room that as far as you know is the whole entire world, most transitions after that aren't going to shock you. Whatever the reason for the remarkable way he welcomes this life he's chosen, he's a hero to me. 

Silly time is all the time

Somebody is stoked about wearing his onesie as a turban.

And is it just me, or does Kamal totally look like this (childhood-)self-portrait of Allie Brosh's over on Hyperbole and a Half?

I read Allie's crazy-funny blog obsessively while I was pregnant. I'm thinking that might be a substantive part of the reason my baby resembles an ecstatic cartoon.