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We dog-sat our friends' golden retriever this weekend. Dog was displeased.






Monday, December 5, 2005

The other evening just before turning off the light I put my book down and reached over to take a sip of water, and there it was: a small insect, paddling weakly in its tiny La Brea world. I watched it for a moment, considered how often I wake up thirsty in the middle of the night and drink from my bedside cup. I thought, I wonder how many times that has happened. The insect, the water, and of course, the inevitable conclusion.

Some things will always remain a mystery, I guess.

Today there are men in our front yard hacking apart the giant maple tree that dwarfs our property. Towering and wide-reaching, this tree is the largest in the neighborhood by far. When we moved in, it had a tire swing on one massive branch. Every year it drops thousands of leaves, each leaf bigger than a dinner plate. I can hear the muffled thum of branches falling, the growl of chainsaws. It's beautiful and old and we're cutting it down.

It has to go in order for a garage to be built. We want to build a garage to help with our growing storage problems and so JB's mounds of dive gear can live out their mildewy existence somewhere other than our "office". The garage paves way for some remodel work to be done at the end of the house, including a larger master bedroom and one of those big tubs I've always wanted in the bathroom. And so it goes. Goodbye tree, hello refinancing.

Oh, the back and forth we've had over the garage. Should we or shouldn't we. And finally you just have to make a decision and hope it all works out okay in the end.

JB is on leave with me right now. He took two weeks when Riley was born, and he's combining the rest of his parental leave and some vacation to stay home from work until after New Year's. He's spending some of this time gathering bids from various contractors; concrete, electrical, drywall, the list goes on and on - god knows it's not in JB's nature to sit back and relax, this is why the man cannot make it through a novel without getting up and tinkering with the gutters or something - and we're hanging out together, playing with Riley, going to Starbucks, cooking bacon, watching Murderball.

This is just how I'd like to care for Riley; both his parents home, the house more alive somehow. We kneel on the floor and tickle his belly together, we exclaim over his accomplishments, we marvel at his sounds. We share everything, the bottles and the diapers and the fussiness and the sweet pink openmouthed grins. This is how it should be, you know?

But there are bills to be paid, savings to be saved, college funds to be stockpiled. When January comes, JB goes back to work and so do I. I'll be working three days a week, and so Riley will be in a daycare center on those days.

Our local news ran a segment on a home daycare provider who had a child die in her house recently. The provider - unwisely, I'm sure - spoke to King 5 news about the incident, showed the crib where the girl had died, strangled in a cord from nearby blinds. "I wish they had said something about the blinds," she said, referring to the fact that she'd recently had a successful home inspection. And I watched this, saucer-eyed, thinking Oh god, Oh god, Oh god.

I don't want to put Riley in daycare. I feel a tremendous amount of guilt about it - anything could happen! There could be blinds, dangling cords! There could be tears when I drop him off, or worse, tears when I pick him up! There could be accidents, diapers left wet too long, a hungry mouth ignored. Couldn't there?

Or maybe there won't be any of those things. Most likely there won't. But oh, shouldn't he be with me instead? Shouldn't he be in his home?

If money weren't in the equation, I would stay home. Because I would want to? Because I would feel like I was supposed to? I don't know where one ends and the other begins.

Staying home means hours of boredom, sometimes. Hours of feeling like the house has an echo and I never change out of my sweatpants and my teeth grow furry and I run the vacuum just to hear the noise. Months of letting the gap on my resume widen, maybe changing my job prospects forever. It means feeling thrust uncomfortably into a traditional role: wiping my hands on a kitchen towel when JB gets home, asking how his day went. Watching him carelessly drop the mail onto the freshly shined dining room table, track in wet footprints, leave his plate to be cleared. Building resentment inch by inch.

It means countless moments of joy, too. Watching Riley grow up before my very eyes. He is so incredible, now. A 3-month old is an entirely different creature than a newborn, and some of you are thinking well, duh, but seriously, the changes are staggering and they are coming faster and faster and don't bother telling me how fast the times goes or how quickly they grow because I know I'm new at this parenting game but some things you learn by osmosis, like closing your hand around wriggling fingers to thread a baby's arms through their sleeve, like perfecting the rhythm with which you gently bounce them when they're crying, like the fact that the hourglass is set on fucking triple-time.

So. I feel conflicted, about going back to work. But I get four days in a row with Riley each week, and that's more than a lot of parents can do. I'm grateful for that, I'm happy that my office has been so accommodating. They claim to be looking forward to my return, even, which I sort of doubt but I appreciate the sentiment.

Sometimes you just have to make a decision and hope it works out okay, right? And, here is what I say to myself: this isn't like the tree. Nothing is set in stone, or, well, chopped down with chainsaws and shoved through a wood chipper. We'll see how things go, me and JB and Riley.

Thummmm. I think that one fell on the house, I really do. I could be typing my last words before being crushed in my own home by clumsy tree-cutters. What would people say, reading this? "Oh my god, she ate bugs?"


He can't sit up on his own, but he can balance like a champ.

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