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Thursday, March 2, 2006

I like to think that someday in the future Riley will be interested in reading these website pages, although by then the internet will doubtlessly have morphed into an all-powerful neural system controlled by our Polyimide-based intracortical Google nanobot implants and HTML will have long been replaced by APSE (Amino Protein Structure Etching) and we'll all finally have some freaking jetpacks, by god.

I don't write anything with him in mind, though, because I have a feeling if I did so on a regular basis this journal would quickly turn from Lighthearted Fulfilling Hobby to Burdensome Sentimental Public Embarrassment, but since Riley is now six months old, I thought I'd mark the occasion by changing my narrative, just for today.


Bitsy pookums My sweet baboo Fruit O'My Loins Hey you

Dear Riley,

You were born six months ago, back in August when the sun was shining and the weather was warm and I was oh so very ready to meet you. I have to say, that particular experience didn't go quite as I'd planned (someday when you're being a very bad teenager maybe your mother will tell you all about magnesium sulfate and how she has suffered enough at YOUR hands, young man), but the end result was more than good, it was perfectly perfect in every way.

You have grown and changed immensely from the tiny, sleepy baby you once were; I can't tell you how much easier it is to hold you now that you're so strong, because frankly, it was a little terrifying for a while. You were so delicate and seemingly breakable, I worried constantly that I was going to bonk your head into a doorway or that I would bend one of your arms the wrong way while threading it through your sleeve or that you would somehow slither out of my arms and drop abruptly onto the cold, hard floor.

By the way, those things never happened, but I will tell on your father and confess that he allowed the diaper wipe container to fall onto your head once.

I've learned, though, that worrying is the name of the game, I can't help but worry about you. I worry when your little nose gets stuffy and you start to sound like a congested piglet when you breathe, I worry when you manage to scratch your own face despite the frequency with which I file the edges off your freakishly sharp fingernails. I worry because in a flawless world you would never feel discomfort, you would never experience a moment of pain, I worry because I realize there is only so much I can control and none of us live in a flawless world.

Your father once said offhandedly that he thought you were going to grow up to love gadgets (you were studiously examining the TV remote control at the time) and I immediately had a flash of dismay as I began to worry about a future gadget-loving you, because people who love gadgets are constantly watching their toys grow obsolete as newer and better gadgets become available and wouldn't that potentially made you sad? And I didn't want you to be sad.

Sometimes, Riley, I think motherhood is one long dizzying, wondrous dip into insanity.

At six months of age, you have become a bright and beautiful little boy. I look into your face and I see flashes of your father, I see glimpses of my own self, but mostly I see your unique visage - the features and expressions that are all your own - and I am constantly amazed by your physical charm: your sparkling, curious eyes, your sunny smile, your delicious soft-focus cheeks. Let's be honest, kid, the fact that you're so astonishingly adorable sometimes helps to make up for all the angry pre-nap howling you tend to do.

I read a lot of books when you were first born about baby development and milestones and so on, but lately I think it's far more enjoyable just to watch you, instead of flipping through a book and checking your progress. Here's some of what you're doing these days: you can roll over, raise yourself up from your belly in a kind of pushup, and you're getting close to being able to sit upright on your own. You sleep through the night, every night, and I'd like to thank you quite sincerely for that. You like to babble, and blow raspberries, and just recently you've taken to ending each solid food meal with a rousing chorus of "ba ba ba ba ba ba", mouth open, with a spoonful of mashed bananas spraying out as you do so. And speaking of eating, you suddenly are devouring everything in sight, three full jars of baby food (fruits, mostly, but also peas and carrots and sweet potato) mixed with rice cereal daily, plus at least 5 or 6 bottles. I won't discuss your diapers, son, but let's just say the output has increased exponentially.

You are inquisitive about everything around you and now you grab anything within reach for a close-up inspection. You aren't crawling yet, but the other night when your father and I were watching television and had you lying on the floor on a blanket, we suddenly looked over to see that you had teleported halfway across the room and were reaching one purposeful hand towards the complicated interface on our stereo receiver. We looked at each other in abject horror, your dad and I, as we realized just how close you are to becoming the mini Godzilla to our Tokyo, and ever since that moment I now see our living room not as a restful place where we keep the couches and the TV, but rather as a tempting and dangerous collection of electrifying wires, pointy corners, brick ledges, heavy books, overstuffed outlets, poisonous flora, and tumbleweeds of dog hair.

I apologize in advance for the months you will likely spend in some sort of plastic cage. I promise I will put toys in the cage.

There are so many things you do that make me laugh. The openmouthed happy smiles you gift us with, the frowningly thoughtful manner you exude when you bash on your exersaucer, the utterly hilarious wiggling-and-kicking routine you launch into every time I put you on the changing table (which never fails to delight me, even when it makes dressing you near to impossible).

Even better, though, is making you laugh. We play a game called "Shark Attack", where I zoom my face up close to yours and say (surprise) "Shark attack!", and you laugh your funny, staccato "Heh-heh, heh-heh" laugh, and I could play Shark Attack all the livelong day long and night, Riley, just to hear that glorious sound. Your dad plays a game where he lifts you up in the air and addresses an invisible audience with: "I'm proud to accept my Riley Award, it's a fabulous reward and I'm very grateful to receive it," and it always works, even if you're cranky, you always laugh for the Riley Award game. You love "Superbaby", where your dad flies you around above his head and says "It's Suuuuuuperbaby! Superbaby!" then he says in a falsetto tone, "Superbaby oh no I'm being robbed, please come and stomp out crime!" and THEN he swoops you down into a standing position and says in a deep manly voice, "I have come to stomp out crime ma'am. Stomp stomp. Have a good day. NowImustGO!" and then you fly off again, and oh, I guess it's hard to describe, so you'll just have to believe me when I say that game makes you laugh too.

There are times when you get very irritable, especially when you're tired, and the process of getting you to sleep is a long and arduous one, with much crying and jiggling and walking and rocking, and at the end of some of those hard days, when you finally go down for the night it's a great relief. But here is the truth: when you're not with us we miss you. Even when you're in bed sleeping comfortably and we have finally have time to ourselves, your father and I miss you. It's just not the same when you're not there.

I started to love you when I first knew of your presence, when you were a microscopic dot that prompted me to eat too many Cheetos. I loved you when you were a tiny creature who kicked the inside of my belly for hours every day, I loved you when you were a red-faced newborn who woke me at 2 AM and again at 4, I loved you when you started developing the ability to scream louder than a Boeing 747 at takeoff, I love you now that you can pinch me with the grip of a monkey wrench.

You've impacted my life in a million ways I can't articulate. You make me more confident, you make me happier, you make me stronger. The light you create shines into all of my dark corners; you blow the cobwebs off my ambitions.

If I have one wish for you as you grow older, it's that you get back some of what you have given me.

In the last few weeks, you have started raising your arms to us when you want to be picked up. This is awfully effective, I'll have you know, being as cute as you are the raised-arm plea is extremely powerful. It's completely disarming, it's got the potential to flatten armies, and we always, always respond immediately. I know you won't do this forever, you won't even do it for very long, and it certainly won't be many more years before you no longer want me to hold you at all. But Riley, I want you to know something: for the rest of your life, if you ever hold your hand out to me, I will always be there. My little boy, I will always, always be there, I will always be reaching back to you, no matter what.

These have been the most challenging, most amazing, and the best - oh, the very best - six months of my life. I am so grateful for you, and I love you more than all the words can ever say.

Your mom



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