Saturday, October 29, 2011


Just after Opal was born, I made a sport of lying in bed at night while envisioning what she would look like when she was older: 6 months, 9 months, 1 year. On the adventurous (or just plain sleepless) nights, I'd allow my mind to wander to the image of my baby sitting upright, maybe with teeth and walking, but my imagination couldn't carry me much beyond that. It was next to impossible back then to conceive of what life would look like by the time she reached her toddler years.

Now here she is—a wildly beautiful, full-throttle toddler-version of herself.

It recently occurred to me that no era of her life is immune to slipping through my fingers as does the fine, silken hair I'm constantly ruffling on her head. There will never be an age she'll hold on to indefinitely or a period she'll have the means to blatantly skip. She is on a journey with her very own, completely perfect rhythm that pulses forward as steady as the ticks of a metronome. And this rhythm cannot be tampered with: no rewinding, no speeding forward, no freeze-frame.

The gradual progression of life is so apparent when there's a child involved. As an adult, it's easy for notable-life to pass by in bulk chunks: the 4 years I was in college, the 3 years I was at my job, and so on. But the act of watching a child grow and develop physically, mentally and emotionally offers the endless reminder that so much is happening inside the smaller shreds and dashes of time.

I can't help but to consider that perhaps our grandest moments of success are not so much born from fireworks and foghorns as they are carefully and quietly germinated within a substantial collection of minutes and seconds.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Opal's 2nd Birthday!

This year, Opal was old enough to know her birthday was approaching days before it actually arrived. What's more, she was old enough to know what a birthday is, having sung to multiple family members over the phone. She has also celebrated birthdays for many of her stuffed animals using a a shoebox with a gingham napkin and an LED candle, to switch off at the appropriate time of having been blown out. Cued by phrases like "How old is Opal going to be?" and "Who's birthday is coming up?" she learned to reply with gusto: Two ones! and Opal's birthday!

We brought up her new wooden kitchen from downstairs while she was sleeping the night before, something that stirred in me a hearty dose of sentimentality for how many times my parents had done the same for me. We covered it in a sheet with ribbons and bows. Colorfully wrapped gifts from Ama—wooden foods and pans, a pre-sliced felt pizza—were arranged artfully beneath it. Ama, who had flown in from Ohio for the occasion, woke early to be ready when the birthday girl emerged from her bedroom with feety-pajamas and bedhead. The adults of the house were giddy as hell that morning and nearly pounced on Opal's bedroom door when sounds of intelligent life emerged from the baby monitor.

Jesse and I went in together, singing Happy Birthday and tugging on one another like schoolkids hopped up on soda.
She took one look at us and started to cry.

In spite of this minor blip in the start to the day, it didn't take long for her to get a feel for this whole birthday festivity thing.
Blueberry pancakes? Well sure!
Gift after gift with my name on it? Sign me up!

We spent the whole morning playing Cafe' Opal in her new kitchen while sipping tea and coffee (ours was real, hers pretend) and listening to a stream of perky and shockingly nostalgic—The Muppets, Mary Poppins—children's music on Pandora. Occasionally Opal took a break from one thrilling game to climb into another one.

There are times when it feels like such a luxury to have no place to be. This was surely one of those times. We were on the floor in our pajamas, all of us, playing for hours until it occurred to someone that lunch may be a good idea. Three generations interacting as peers in the world of play and imagination, negotiating menu options for Clifford and Golla and discussing table settings in earnest. We cooked, brewed, arranged, conversed (with each other as well as through the stuffed-animals) as purposefully as though we were planning Thanksgiving for a score of friends and family.

We joined forces with our wonderful Boulder family—Grammy, Grampy, Alex, Will, Jamie, Dave and Lucy the doggy—to continue the festivities in the afternoon after Opal's nap. Opal got kid-friendly musical instruments and scarves from Grammy and when the music of Johnny Cash and Ray Charles filled the room, an impromptu dance party immediately ensued. We later went out to play in the neighbor's leaves and test the new Strider bike Opal got from Grampy! The day eventually concluded with cupcakes and ice cream, both firsts for Opal even though she'd been talking about ice cream for weeks before her birthday. She didn't so much enjoy its coldness, however, so she saturated the cupcake in the sweet, melted puddle it made on the plate. (I used to do that!) A woman of refined tastes, to be sure.

The next morning, we celebrated further with some of Opal's little friends who have birthdays very close to hers.

The weekend was a veritable love-fest. We sang, we ate, we danced, we played. We all-out roistered in honor of this little girl who has brought so much joy, delight, spontaneity and technicolor vision to our lives. It's as if, upon arrival, she tore down the drapery from all our eyes and declared Good Morning to you all!

And she does it again and again.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


The other night as Opal and

I sat in her rocker,

buried in a mound of stuffed animals and books

and reading The Very Busy Spider,

something struck her fancy and

she began to laugh.

And laugh and laugh.

I caught it upon contact,

the laughter, and there we were

like two birds squawking on a branch,

seamless in our feathered delight.

As the sky faded to a reflective black

in the window behind us,

I could no longer tell where her laugh

ended and mine began.

Jesse was just outside the door,

sitting and listening

until we were quiet again

and we had exhausted ourselves into

two sighing heaps.

He said: It was like the most beautiful song

I have ever heard!

So here's a day to celebrate all the

precious kiddos out there

as well as all the adults who

are along for the dynamic and

enchanting ride!

Love to you all,

Heather, Jesse and Opal

**This was the email that was sent to family and friends

on Opal's Birthday, October 22, 2009.**

Friday, October 21, 2011

Gratitude and Conclusions.

A few months ago, I awoke to the usual sounds of my toddler calling mama! mommeee! and in my state of pre-dawn orientation, having jostled my limbs and flesh from the residuals of sleep, the following thought occurred to me:
Opal's blog will conclude on her 2nd birthday.

There it was.

This is not to say that I subscribe to each and every early-morning hunch that occurs to me before I hoist my rickety, pillow-creased body from the sheets. For example, I effectively bypassed the idea that I should dye my hair as purple as a gum drop the time I was abruptly stirred from a Willy Wonka dream last week. I also scrapped the inclination to buy a flock of chickens, which followed a particularly lucid morning-dream where I moved to the country to sew my American-Gothic oats.

But this notion was different; a simple headline to inform me that this poignant, incredibly beneficial chapter of life was coming to a close, just like any other.

The fact is, I have written copiously and feverishly for as long as I could hold a pencil. I have boxes of journals that date back to my elementary years to prove it. I won a creative writing contest in the 4th grade and my teacher reported me as having "an impressive grasp on the English language." (I would say the same about Opal now.) I wrote poetry in high-school to avoid burning cars and carving the initials of boys into my thighs.

My mother-in-law had my (astrological) chart read when Jesse and I were still early in our relationship. She came back with a lot of forgettable information that flitted around the following hulk of a statement: She has to write. She simply has no choice.

Until this beloved blog, my adult writing-life consisted of a stream of writing classes and workshops, cranking out story after story (easily hundreds and hundreds of pages) with no real purpose, most of which wound up as sedimentary layers in a desk drawer or box in a crawl-space. Fewer than a handful of people actual read what I had to say. This created a distinctly unsatisfying holding-pattern in the writing process. I never felt like I was finished telling a story.

Like with any art, the creating of it is only part of the puzzle. There is really so much more to the equation. Sharing what's been created, feeling heard and gotten in some sense, receiving feedback and subsequently growing and expanding while under the gaze of loving (and at times, not-so-loving) witnesses are indispensable factors in the process of self-expression. Arguably as important as the actual act of expressing oneself. This blog has provided a place where the inception of those additional pieces could finally occur, and with a rhythm and a predictability that was and is indescribably satiating. Hallelujah.

I'm convinced that the continuous efforts to discover and re-discover a curious and genuine voice for this blog worked to buoy the last few—often difficult, often confusing and overwhelming—years of being a new mother. Surely there were times when all I wanted to do was sleep, bitch and eat sweet potato chips dipped in Guinness while journaling about a boring stream of life's inadequacies. But—and I say this from a great amount of experience—that deflated state of mind is about as fulfilling to write about as it is to undergo. And if it ain't fun to write, it sure as hell ain't going to be fun to read.

So, without changing the truth of the matter, content-wise, it became a ceaseless practice to write about these days, these trail-blazing experiences, in a way that was quenching to me. The act of typing became a method to shed light on the humor of a situation or strip back bad curtains to reveal something deeply fascinating about a moment or, gasp, myself.

All of my blogs are and have been (aside from checking for spelling and grammar edits before posting) first-draft pieces, much rougher than an article would be, much more personal and exploratory. A little brave. So much fun.

But good things need a beginning, middle and an end and Opal's two year birthday seemed like a good place to transition to the next thing. And though the specifics of that next thing are uncertain, we can be more than sure it will involve my busy little fingers clicking out a stream of words and letters. Perhaps I shall focus on the print-publication of parenthood articles. Perhaps I shall hone my fiction chops. Perhaps I will stumble into the genre of comic-books or screenplays.

Without hesitation, I'd like to offer a sweeping thank you to everyone who has read one, two, or all 97 (!) of these blogs. Thank you for sharing these amazing first two years of mamahood with me. Thank you for your soup-bowl ears and supportive comments to remind me you were out there. If you'd like to keep tabs on my future writings and publications, please email me at Otherwise, go boldly.

Take the next obvious step and then read the tea leaves is what a teacher of mine once said.
So here we are, my friends. Pull up those argyles, lace up those boots and away we go.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Poignant-Funny-Clever-Abstract-Genious Channel.

My, how she has evolved into a burgeoning conversationalist over the last many months.

Words ripening like fruit in the sun...
~From Opal wantom to Opal like some.
~From Uncle Kees to Uncle Quis.
~From Notha to Another.
~From all done to Opal finished now.
~From Golla to Gorilla.
~From Tella, Tar and Pider to Stella, star and spider.

~Play wiss me! Play wiss kiddos! No kiddos, iss Opal's B!
~Mama eat blueberries Opal. (Mama eat Opal's blueberries.)
~Mama fell raisin! (Mama dropped a raisin.)
~On the toy-phone: Hi Tella! Opal change dippy! Here mama, talka Tella!
~Mommy made this. What dis mama?
~What daddy doing? Where motorcycle go?
~No doggie, that's Opal's food. Doggie have OWN food.

Illuminated interactions with her world...
~A chat with B wile on a walk: Opal hear birdie chirping. Does B hear birdy chirping? Me too!
~After throwing food on the floor: B did it!
~After farting audibly at the dinner table at Grammy's, wearing a sly grin: Who did DAT?
~SomeBODY trees? SomeBODY car? (where DOES it all come from?)
~The butterfly is blue. He flew away in the sky!
~Beautiful dress mama. It new? You buy it?
~Beautiful flowers. People plant them, people happy.
~Bright light, mama, I wish you would turn soon PALEEZ!

Descriptions and common one-liners...
~What this is?
~I go shopping! I go buy shoes! Daddy come wiss me!
~Holy moly.
~Everything that happened before NOW occurred yesterday: I pet da horsey yest-a-day.
~While on a hike with mama: Giddy up, mama!
~While gingerly caressing mama's face: Good boy, mama.
~Emerging from the bathroom: I had PRIVACY!
~After being repremanded for not following instructions: I'LL CO-OPERNAPE!
~When she sees someone in a book who is sad: You're ok. Where his mama?
~When she bumps into the table, even if it really hurts: SORRY TABLE!
~Mama like some? Mama hungry?
~Where Horsey? He reading book in da living room.

Still more hilarious exchanges and verbal offerings...
~Opal: Who dis, mama?
Mama: This is the muppets.
Opal: (After some consideration) Oh, I ate muppets for breakfast yesterday!

~When mommy got into a light fender-bender in daddy's car: Mama bonka daddy car head. Kiss it!

~After returning from a grocery trip where daddy forgot his wallet in the car: Opal went to store with daddy. Daddy push Opal in BIG cart. Daddy no wallet. SILLY daddy!

~While spending time at Grammy and Grampy's house, she came across some of Lucy's do hair on the couch. She walked it over to Lucy and said: Lulu, I have something of YOURS...

~She is huge on naming anything and everything, though the names often change from one moment to the next. A few such names that have stuck, and that slay us to pieces, are the ones she gave to her three barnyard puppets: Pig-lick the pig, Hoo-hoo the horse and Beep the sheep.

The endless commentary is like having the radio set on the poignant-funny-clever-abstract-genious channel at all times.
If that's not enough reason to have children, I frankly don't know what is.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Due date and the Maple.

Here I sit.

The blessed maple, currently a pungent shade of salmon, undulates in the wind out front as if it were trying to make it home after an evening of spiked punch. It changes drastically in hue this time of year as if to celebrate our wedding anniversary and Opal's birth, as if it gets all dolled up in streamers and boas and blushes from head to toe in honor of the occasions.

Once early November rolls around, it will decide it's had enough and abruptly shed its adornments and be left standing there so vulnerable and bare-barked like a naked man in a heap of discarded clothes.

But at the current moment, it is still fully clothed and filtering paper-diffused sun through the front window-box, shadows of dancing leaves scattered across the carpet like playing cards.

Today was the official due date in 2009, which means Opal will turn two in 5 short days. Hallelujah.

I decided to look back through some of my old pregnancy writings—of which there are multitudes—and stumbled across this journal written 10 days before the due date. It has inspired me to look back more thoroughly through that 10-month almanac of growing a child, to perhaps edit and compile those pieces in a more cohesive way to share with others.

For now, I will share a brief excerpt from my internal world at 38.5 weeks pregnant:

What to say? I’ve got two animals curled up like cinnamon rolls on their respective chairs. Day three of being home from work and I must admit I am getting used to this. The maple out front is a citrusy shade of blood orange, only a few degrees from its final encore of psychedelic pink. I am feeling pretty weak at the moment and I honestly thought I would’ve had a baby by now!

No intention of rushing things over here, of course. I know this will happen in its perfect time. We are now ten days away from the official due date of October 17th and I have always intuitively felt that she would come early but who knows exactly what that means.

Last night was interesting. I became very shaky after dinner and had to lie down in the bed.
At which point I was instantly out of breath—simply from lying there. I melted into the covers, yawning deeply, eyes watering, and sincerely felt as if I was not physically able to get up and change out of my clothes. It was as if every muscle in my body was working intensely on other projects sent from higher management.

At one point, I decided to climb into the tub. My upper back ached and I asked Jesse to pour warm water on it, drape a washcloth over it, as I sat there, breathing audibly. I felt more like animal than human, all body and sensation with very few thoughts and a quiet internal world.

I just continued to breathe and lead my mind to consider Bigger things. The cottony sky of this time of year. The ocean and its rhythmic lapping. The earth and its rotation towards the sun and away again, boundlessly comforting in its predictability. The bulb of Moon that, when full, floats slowly into the darkness of night like a balloon on a string.

I wanted to dissolve into dust on the lens of such majesty. That way, Trust would not even need to be a conscious decision, it would be inherent. Leaves don’t need to decide that falling is the right thing to do. They don’t need to be convinced each year that they will reappear in the spring.

Again, I felt better once morning came. But I suspect one of these mornings very soon, the discomfort wont subside—the animal panting, the groans, the reorganization of organs like furniture in a room—until I am left holding a beautiful baby girl in my arms.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Long Version.

We had some friends over last night and I admittedly coerced them—albeit gently—into watching the video documentary of Opal's first year.

As Opal's first birthday came and went last year, I painstakingly spent dozens of evenings editing the footage from upwards of 40 hours of Opal-video into an hour-and-a-half long film. And then when THAT seemed too lengthy for the family members with shorter attention spans, I painfully edited it even further into a half-hour teaser.

The short version became the most widely viewed of the videos, to my chagrin. The music accompaniment for the longer version is by far superior, truly where the blood and sweat of effort for the project is apparent. But alas, I suppose every fine artist experiences a time when the thing they are best known for is not that which is their best work. Perhaps it is a bold cameo on a butter commercial or a pop-song written in the basement after having ingested one too many pot-brownies that proves to clumsily outshine the artist's subtler, more masterful works of art. Could be anything.

But, the fact is, the longer of the two films—the one that involved hours and hours of methodical effort— rarely gets watched while the short one that emerged at the 11th hour after a few heavy-handed editing evenings comes out quite often.

Jesse stopped the film last night after less than ten minutes, in spite of the fact that our friends—who were, incidentally, the same dear soon-to-be parent friends who the previous blog was written about—were clearly not pained in watching. They fogged up the screen to Jesse's I-Pad and cooed in all the appropriate places. In movie-time, we made it to New Year's 2010 by the time Jesse pulled the plug, clocking Opal in at just over 2 months.

An unfortunate thing to end to the film so abruptly when I hadn't seen it in so long. What?! So soon?! I think I said. I considered faking sick and retiring to the bedroom to view the rest of the film by myself, the long version, with a down comforter pinning down my lower half and a freshly blended smoothie in hand.

But I figured I could always do that later. Hell, Linnie's coming into town for Opal's birthday and we know for certain that she and Grammy Zeb will not require the slightest bit of arm twisting to get them to watch the long version together.

In those few minutes of last night's viewing, I was inundated with a swarm of nuanced feelings. The kind that are akin to memory, weakly painful and somewhat separate from the experience remembered as well as the experience of attempting to remember, only partially penetrating like dew on a windowpane. You see yourself in the images, you know you were there, you know it must have been monumental to be standing in some of those moments, ordinary in others. But you can't go much further than trying on the recollection like a dress or a shoe.

I suppose the distance is there for a purpose, though, or we'd be too weighted in nostalgia to move forward.

There I am in the first scene of the movie, so beautiful with my bedhead and my hospital gown, telling the audience with an exhaustion-induced lisp that I had indeed given birth that morning at 8:41am. We follow the spotlight of the camera through the room before it settles on our child—OUR CHILD— as she sleeps soundly in her clear-plastic hospital-issued bassinet. Her face is unspeakably beautiful, swollen and slightly bruised over the left eye, draped in a head of Liberace-hair. She is swaddled tightly in an envelope of bleached blankets that enhance her shockingly Asian appearance. We stand there in a stupor, completely oblivious to the disruption the video camera bulb must have caused her. We are frozen. Opal shudders without opening her eyes and breaks our spell.

You woke her up, I say to Jesse. My first official experience of deferring blame as a way to cope with her momentary discomfort.

I am familiar enough with the footage from those first few months that I can draw particular clips from the files like songs from a Juke-Box: dialog, instilled background music, all of it.

There are the scenes of her grandparents rocking her for the first time. How Brian tried to nab a quiet moment with her in her bedroom but was unsuccessful when I followed him in with Zebby to speak loudly and obliviously about inconsequential things. In hindsight, this was a mother who was desperate to fill the space, who was not yet ready for silence and the drastic change in reality that such a gap would force her to recognize. I also didn't see it at the time but the film shows Brian tilting his head back into the glider as he rocks her, tuning us all out completely. A look of bliss on his face like he is thinking about sunbathing as a child in a chocolate waterfall.

There are those scenes that were shot when Jesse first went back to work and I invited the camera in as if it were a bridge partner. Having been just me, the dog and this new little human being for whom I was entirely responsible until the day I die, the tiny video recorder turned out to be quite comforting to report to like my own tiny documentary crew. Hours and hours were spent breastfeeding in the beginning and I could drift into a state of such loneliness if I weren't conversing continuously with someone or something, camera included. It was as if I were combing out the thoughts and overwhelm like a mad heap of windblown hair, to keep them from getting too tangled and unmanageable.

These were the weeks before I began to write this blog, when I used verbal reporting as a way of rising to the part of Narrator Of My World. From this vantage point of investigation and disclosure, whether it be verbal or written, I was able to avoid sinking too deeply into the confusion and enormity that came with those feelings of being a new mama. I was able to step back just enough to gain some perspective, to crack a window and stretch my limbs. I gratefully still am.

The next shot in the video was a brilliant one of Opal having tummy time with a perfect naked baby-butt exposed to a drenching of winter-sun through the window. Having been only a few weeks old and tucked into herself like an Easter egg, I couldn't help but wonder if that's what she looked like inside my womb.

There were some shots from the sacred territory of our bed: when she slept between us in that tiny little mattress, when Jesse propped her up in his lap and tapped her belly or whistled to her, when he held her up by her tiny little arms as her head bobbled around like an acorn in a stream.

And like I said, video-wise this was just the first few minutes.
She was profoundly new to the world in those first few months and has long since sloughed off her baby skin for that of a free-roaming, free-thinking dynamo of a toddler.

She sure has grown over the last two short years.
And she most assuredly is not the only one.