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The dance of the mobile

The miracle is
We took a house outing for his 8-week birthday - the 6 of us hopped in a borrowed minivan and drove to the hill where we wandered around running errands and feeling generally joyful.

Alex got to carry Phineas in the baby carrier, which is like getting a perma-hug. It does the trick, whatever the problem.

Liz, Jay, Patty, Phineas, me, and a couple thousand of our closest friends went to the immigration rights march for May Day (not the one that "turned violent", the one you didn't hear about at all because it didn't "turn violent"). Our sign had been decorated with characters from Cats and broken down cars by our new friends, a family from Jay's organizing group. It was pretty sweet. Kiddo got hungry right as the march started, so I'm nursing on the go!

It looks like he's smiling here, but in fact he is just trying to eat his blanket, which is our main and enduring impediment to tummy time. Him trying to eat whatever surface he's lying on. He IS smiling here however, a heart-melting, earth-shaking delightful new development. We die. (He got a big round of vaccines on Monday, and was pretty upset the rest of the day, fevery and in pain, and Jay and I were both feeling pretty awful without really understanding why. Then we decided to give him a bath, that maybe a soak would do him some good, and as we got him ready, he woke up and gave us both this huuuuuge grin, and we instantly felt better - I seriously almost cried - and it really felt like he was taking care of us. Thanks, Dude. Smiles.)

My dear dear old friend Eric had the amazing and generous idea to come pick me and Phineas up every Wednesday and take us to our shared art space in the international district. We hang out there and catch up, Eric works on pottery, I work on drawing, Phineas takes in the incredibly interesting and always changing sights... then when Jay gets done teaching at the jail a few blocks away, he picks up Kau Kau barbecue and joins us for dinner and arting, and then Eric rides us home again. It's turning into a lovely part of every week, and it's exactly the sort of the thing that wouldn't happen without our community. Incidentally, another dear friend, Gabe, shared this discussion of community with me this morning, and I've been thinking about it:

"If we are going to use the word 'community' meaningfully, we must restrict it to a group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to rejoice together, mourn together, and to delight in each other, making each other's conditions their own." - M. Scott Peck

Community as more than those who passively surround us, but really an extension of commitment. Although it's sometimes scary to ask for so much from our loved ones, I think we have to ask, we have to share our conditions for it to be meaningful.

We've had the great pleasure cum chaos-iducer of having our friends Andy and Melissa and their kids Curran (1yr) and Esme (3yrs) staying with us in our attic suite for a week or so this month. It's a real insight into the future that awaits us, with these toddling, language learning, inquisitive volitional souls wandering around the house. Esme in particular requires 100% of your attention 90% of the time, but it is SO SO worth it when you're able to give it to her - I feel like I learn so much and just get to see the world newly.
Andy and Mel are friends from Jay's poeting life, and a few other of his poet friends have been in town lately too, so the other night everyone gathered round while Jay read out loud his whole latest poetry manuscript (his second! it's great.) A line that stood out and has been bouncing around in my head, especially around Mother's day, is:

The miracle is the miracle is ordinary

You know, this great swirl of life around the planet, the joy of the senses, the confusing pain of death and disease, the irrefutable fact of child birth, people coming into existence from WHERE?, stars at night, trees in the city, our chickens giving us eggs, being loved somehow for who you are... the miracle is,the miracle is ordinary.

cait and me


Growing up, throwing up from Caitlin Rippey on Vimeo.

before and after eating diptych

Before from Caitlin Rippey on Vimeo.

After from Caitlin Rippey on Vimeo.

What a beautiful face I have found in this place!
So much changes in just a few weeks! A term in one of our books is "settled baby," which doesn't refer to a specific age or single developmental milestone, but which I understand as a shift in babiness from truly newborn to being a person who has a way of being in and approaching the world. Phineas has definitely become a settled baby in the last couple weeks, and we have become settled parents. Days - and especially NIGHTS - are more predictable; we take care of our selves and our business around him with relatively little hassle or negotiation; he makes his needs known with little squawks and squeaks and occasional crying; it is a good new life. As the settling process has happened, we've been out and about much more. Jay and I went on our first honest to god date the other night. Our housemates Liz and Mark babysat while we went to the Hideout, where our other housemate Alex was bartending, and then to a Jeff Mangum concert at the Moore with Helen, Sam, Sara, and Marc. It was beautiful and moving and a perfect first baby-less foray into the world together. I found I kept having the disconcerting experience, as Jay and I rode the bus and walked down the street holding hands, of feeling so normal that I forgot we have a baby now, and then getting thrust back into the reality of our parenthood. Startling that it could leave my mind for even a second, you know? We also took the "train" to Portland (the train was cancelled so we were on a bus actually) to welcome my brother Piers back from Zanzibar, visit my mom, and have a Pie and Projects date with Portland friends maria_sputnik and her awesome spouse.

We all felt so refreshed and happy after that - a proper vacation. Phineas was amazing - loved the bus ride down (what's not to love? vibrations, engine sounds, windows, lines, mama and papa... he was a bucket of smiles and curiosity the whole time.) and slept great in unfamiliar digs.

Smiling is the newest most exciting thing. For a while he would give us these cute half-smiles which we think are mostly related to peeing or particularly satisfying stomach gurgles, and then started in with big open mouth sparkly eyed grins upon seeing a particularly charming corner or edge of something, but now he completely grins in response to faces, especially smiling ones, and he gurgles and coos, at which we are putty in his hands.
We try to get him outside as much as we can, which he seems to feel at least neutral about. Had a big picnic with my big brother Josha and his whole beautiful family, my mom, Piers, and Jay's mom. Phineas wore his lavender sun hat to great effect.

and a couple bonus pics:

this is post bath, which he's started taking in the big tub with mom or dad, since he outgrew the bathroom sink - look at that belly!

Flying baby! With one sock on! Skeptical about the whole business! But holding his head up pretty well!

With his great-grandmother. So lucky!

Alright. This is the face that means, that's enough for now! We listen, and obey.

Stay-in-love mom

Today makes it 5 weeks that we've been parents to this little creature - 35 days and nights, which is not very many. I've done a lot of trivial and/or sucky things 35 times without even noticing. But 35 days of raising a little human changes a lot in your heart and brain and life.

Life has become just regular enough that we can "work on" stuff - like, he tends to sleep more at night than during the day, so we are working on improving his sleep (where improving means that we sleep more; as always, he's doing fine). We can tell when he's having a good day for gas or a bad day for gas, so we are working on figuring out what contributes to that. But the crazy pace of development of a newborn and the myriad of external and internal changes means that life is absolutely not regular enough that any of the things we're working on produce a consistent result. It's a constant exercise in living in the present. When he sleeps easily for 3 or four hour stretches throughout the night, it's so dangerous to think, great! we figured out his sleep! we can count on this now! Instead I have to remind myself over and over to just be grateful when that happens, and be accepting when it doesn't, without projecting meaning into the future or pulling meaning from the past.

Helping with the laundry

Yesterday I went to work for 4 hours, which felt like a coup. Jay took great care of him at home, I pumped before leaving and once at work, and I got to spend a happy few hours living a life of the mind and being with people other than my family, housemates and close friends. I have been surprised at how much I love my work - I find myself eager to look at my data, plan experiments, troubleshoot, present my research. Part of me had been afraid that when I became a mother I would discover that my old life held nothing for me, and I would have the option of continuing on an onerous academic and career path that had lost its luster, or quitting a program that I've spent seven years working hard at, and upon which my whole vision of the future is based. So far, huge relief that that is not the case. Of course, a huge part of that is having a very understanding PI who is willing to accommodate my schedule, an incredible husband who took 2 months leave and will work part time to be able to devote as much time as possible to child care, and the support network of our home, family and friend network. If I had to jump back into full time work at 1 or 2 months, Jay had had to start back after 2 weeks, we lived alone and had to put the muffin in day care which we couldn't afford, I would probably feel much less enthusiastic about my job.

Working from home

The other real excitement of late has been working on the garden in anticipation of spring. We are going to have a truly epic vegetable garden, ladies and gents. Unending props to my cousin Elias who has spent days on end with spreadsheets and lunar calendars figuring out our planting schedule.

The secrets of the universe: he knows them. Love y'all.

oh OK I guess
cait and me
online gif creator
Online gif creator


Pinky finger papa from Caitlin Rippey on Vimeo.

We seem to have an exceptionally squeaky baby.

Untitled from Caitlin Rippey on Vimeo.

Hours; fatherhood
cait and me
As a new parent I find my sense of time is adjusting, both in body clock-- I'm sated with three consecutive hours of sleep, gorged with four--- and in my experience of the hours I'm awake, the texture (cotton from nylon, oils from watercolors) those hours have. On Finn's fourth night of outside life, I put on a loop of wave-and-heartbeat sounds and held him on my knees while Cait drifted off. He wasn't fussing, but he also wasn't ready to sleep. Instead, he was looking around the room, self-possessed, attentive, and totally serene. He's not mobile yet, not even in full control of his limbs, so his life consists, in a way, in nothing but sight, appetites, and the integration of the two. Maybe this is why his gaze is so intense-- sight is the fullness of inedible world, all he has to go on.

He looked at my face, my shirt, the shadows cast by our lamp, the white noise like the sound of his sense perceptions entering his tender brain, the thousand inrushing qualia, and I was so sleepy, so, so, sleepy, but totally absorbed by his eyes, thinking to myself that they weren't a color I'd ever seen before except from ferries crossing the Sound, that oceanic cross-current violet, an almost violent color, wave broken on a bow. Then he got hungry and Cait woke up to nurse, but I feel more of my days are taking on this quality, of tidal baby-rhythms, experiences measured out in units of baby-perception. It matters less that today is his fifth Tuesday of life so far.

I find I'm having to make up for myself what fatherhood means. The culture is full of (problematic, somehow quaint-restrictive-and-impossible-at-once) ideas of what it is to be a mom, ideas that take much of their foundation from biology, giving birth and breastfeeding. For the few days after Finn was born, I was feeling lost: like one partner among many in meeting Cait's and the babe's needs. It was a while before I was aware that that primary feeling underneath, the heart's unalterable oh-yeah I get holding and smelling him, imagining him as a charming fat generous-hearted forty-year-old (2052!), being terrified and delighted about his snorfly breathing and arbitrary self-startle motions of his limbs, monologuing to him during diaper changes, WAS fatherhood: the thing that made my relationship to Finn what it was. It was there all along. I now feel like telling strangers, apropos of nothing, "Don't worry-- I'm a dad."