Day mug

Poor Emilia is having trouble sleeping these days. We know she is teething — one of her lower teeth just arrived this morning — which is very painful, and we know that babies on the cusp of developmental leaps can experience unquiet slumbers as well, and Millie has been up on her feet a lot lately preparing to cruise, and generally getting her hands on items at levels that not so long ago represented distant planes. Today we have whisked potted plants and lamps and important papers off of table tops that she only began reaching this morning. It could also be that she is being revisited by the gastric discomforts that plagued her first weeks.

If she can reach it and it's loose, it goes on the floor.

In any case, she wakes up a lot, and in particular she wakes up unhappy several times between the hours of 4 a.m. and 7 a.m, when I am accustomed to getting the kind of sleep that is most restorative to me. I can be up at 1 o’clock and 2 and even 3 without serious fallout the next day, but for the past two months or more we have been wakened at 4:45, 5:30, 6:10, the kinds of times you associate with train schedules in romantic adventures.

Again, and I can’t remember how many times I’ve said this, our trials are small ones, and joyful on the whole. I know some of you have it a lot worse. And we signed up for this, we totally did, and I wouldn’t trade it — the payoff is not even a distant future one, it’s right now, when Emilia sees me come in the door and smiles with her entire head and lifts her arms because she wants me to pick her up.

Nevertheless, we are tired. Parenting a baby is physically demanding, and it quite knocks the poop out of you when you’re closer to 50 than 40. And I’m not even necessarily talking about GOOD parenting, I’m just talking about the basic business of keeping the offspring alive, like any rock troll would do.

Angela was teaching tonight, and so after I rough-housed with the girls on the living room floor (modulated to a gentler version when Millie piles on, which she does with gusto) and after Millie’s routine — feeding, diaper change(/slap fest), more feeding, books (optional, depending on how tired she is) — and after Mara’s routine — cleaning up toys, herding into jammies (this will never happen without a degree of wrangling), teethbrushing (she still likes to sit on my leg as I kneel and have me do them, because it is an intimate tradition), potty break, fetching nighttime lovies from around the house, filling water sippy, books, and sometimes a story — and after going to soothe Millie several times with a shooshing sound we do that settles her down, I began clearing dinner plates and doing the dishes.

I saw my Day mug.

The Day mug is a mug that my Aunt Jean gave me one year long ago, when I was in my thirties. It was made by my cousin Sue, or rather a woman named Sue who was once married to my cousin John. I didn’t know her well at all, and I don’t know that I’ve seen her since my aunt gave me the mug, because she and my cousin went separate ways shortly afterwards, and thereafter she did not accompany John and their kids to the family reunions. I would not know her in a crowd today, and I would feel odd calling her my cousin, though “by the chart” she still is. 

A gift within a gift.

The mug is an off-white color, larger at the bottom than at the top, a little like a garden watering can, and has a simple design of two narrow blue stripes with a broad yellow one between them. I don’t know when I started thinking of it this way, but during my loneliest days before I met Angela, when I was struggling to make ends meet as a freelance writer and my life seemed to be consistently visited by unfavorable winds, it occured to me that it is not for nothing that the sun rises and sets each day, that every morning we get another chance to work out our salvation, to do our best, to make things right if that’s what’s up for us, or to fling ourselves into the adventure if that’s our thing. And this simple design — a broad yellow swath of cheery day enclosed and sealed by two blue bands of absolving night — reminded me of that truth. I started referring to it as my Day mug, because it looks like a single day and reminds me that I have everything I need — enough energy, enough love certainly — to get through one day, which is all I ever have to do.

I saw my Day mug on the counter tonight and it did what it was supposed to do. It lightened my load. I wasn’t even drinking out of it. Thanks Day mug. Thanks Aunt Jean. Thanks Sue, wherever you are. You have no idea what the clay you spun with your hands has become.

20 Responses to “Day mug”


  1. 1 kiwidutch May 12, 2011 at 00:20

    Himself and I endured interrupted sleep for at least the first year for *each* of our kids, and were exhausted zombies a lot of the time.
    We distinguished ourselves by the drastic measure going to bed at 7.30pm sometimes simply because knowing that our offspring would be certain to awake at least 4 times in the next 12 hours and were never quick to get back to sleep and we *needed* to get at least the minimum amount of sleep in-between times to function the next day.
    Like you, we do not begrudge our children for an instant, but their first year was hard hard hard going.
    One small hint on teeth brushing: our strict dentist insists that all his patients who are parents brush their kids teeth really well once a day until they are 10 years old, preferably the brush before bed.
    That Mara sits on your knee for tooth brushing is excellent for this, apparently the difference in standard of brushing will make more difference than you can ever imagine to the state of their teeth.
    Parenting is teamwork and it IS tough, you have yet to endure the tired quarrelsome loooong car journey scenario and other parental rites of passage, but the sleepless nights are more the norm than most parents let on, so hang in there, it *will* get better.

    • 2 Matt May 12, 2011 at 08:00

      KD,
      Yeah, going to bed earlier would help us a lot, but it never happens. Usually I don’t get done with the dishes until after 9, and Angela makes a batch of formula every night and also sees to the needs of our two LOUD cats, and then when it’s all done, we just want to sit next to each other and watch a few episodes of Dark Shadows to see if the actors can get through their lines without sneaking a look at the prompter. That wind-down is OUR routine, and we have a hard time trading it for sleep even though we need sleep badly.

      The 10-year parental brushing rule surprises me. When I was a kid we were brushing our own teeth as soon as we were tall enough to spit into the sink. One of my earliest and most enduring visual memories is the metal ring around the sink drain with the word PEPCAL etched in it. I used to ponder that word, as the toothpasty water swirled over it and I’d note how many letters you’d have to change to make it say PENCIL. What were we talking about?

      • 3 kiwidutch May 12, 2011 at 10:48

        Matt, your post today inspired not just one post but two from me. Watch my blog tomorrow and the next day and all will be explained.
        Naturally, I linked back to this post… yep like you I was left to my own devices on the tooth brushing front, but teen and adult habits are FAR better, as are the state of the teeth if a parent has been brushing for the first 10 years.
        Our kids have textbook perfect teeth so far and our strict dentist is very happy so so far so good.
        Like you both, I’m a night owl, but often when the kids were babies I was so short of sleep I didn’t even know or care any longer if it was day or night LOL.

        • 4 Matt May 12, 2011 at 11:45

          I’ll certainly dash over for a read tomorrow. I was just over on your blog this morning and realized how long I’d been away…so many great travels and mouth-watering food pics. I’ve put you in my RSS reader so I’ll get reminders when you post.

  2. 5 Janet May 12, 2011 at 06:07

    Good writing about the mug. You always set my mind awandering in all sorts of directions. Mugs and cousins, or ex-cousins. Hmm. Time for a sip of coffee from my The Party mug – a mug with a commercially reproduced picture of a cover on a Ladybird Learning To Read Book from the 1940′s or so. Said mug purchased from a local shop in Dublin, not long ago and when I had absolutely no need for another mug to add to the collection being shipped to Seattle.

    • 6 Matt May 12, 2011 at 08:12

      Thanks for this little vignette, Janet. We haven’t collected mugs in a while, but we used to be real mug-heads; we’d bring them back from our adventures whenever we found good ones, and like you, we usually had no need for more of them. The trick is to decide which of the old ones goes into the garage to make room for the new.

  3. 7 Mom May 12, 2011 at 10:08

    Nice!! Well said. Did you get the e-mail about the African Cats movie??

    • 8 Matt May 12, 2011 at 10:15

      Thanks Mom. No email, but I saw your message about it on your FB wall. That movie sounded fascinating. Doubt we’ll get to it in theatres, maybe a rental… :)

  4. 9 Kip May 12, 2011 at 17:08

    I can feel your sleepless pain my friend, as can Ami. Claire has been a bit under the weather of late, and one or both of us were up with her since our last trip up there. We’d get her upright and hopefully the coughing would stop. I am lucky, I get home on average about 2pm, so on most days both of us can snag a nap, and if BOTH kids nap, then it’s a long Sleepy TIme Time for us both. I try to be asleep by 10:30 for the 4am alarm, and Ami is usually up till midnight…again, depending on Claire, sometimes she’s up even later. And yes, it is SO worth it when, during normal waking hours, the kids are a joy to be with, play with, giggle with! I still enjoy the tooth-brushing ritual, and will gladly do it till the kids are 10!!!!!!

    I have so many coffee mugs, Ami had put a ban on new ones coming in, but she did let me buy a new one. It’s a Beatles mug, the Rubber Soul album cover. It makes me very happy every morning, even before the delightful coffee goes in. Sleep well, my friends!

    • 10 Matt May 13, 2011 at 08:08

      I couldn’t pull the 4am up-and-attem, but I envy you the home-before-tea thing muchly. That’s like having almost another day to get stuff done, play with the kids, be outside in daylight. What an idea. And really, you love the toothbrushing ritual? Even though I love the intimate time, for me the actual job is a chore. Mara is a wiggly worm for one thing, and also doesn’t stop talking while I’m trying to brush her teeth, so that the brush flips out and splatters my glasses, and when she spits in the sink she spits on the faucet, or my hand if I’m rinsing the brush. It’s a comedy every night. Four more years? Hmmm…

  5. 11 angelsofbabysleep May 12, 2011 at 17:39

    It feels good to know I’m not the only one out there with a baby who has never slept through the night. I’ve learned a lot of tricks since I became a mom a year ago, and like you I wouldn’t trade a day (or night) with my baby for anything in the world.
    I’m having similar trouble with teething and my little guy loves chomping on a big cold cucumber. It’s anti-inflammatory properties and coolness calms his sore gums. Hope this might help Millie too.

    • 12 Matt May 13, 2011 at 08:03

      aobs,
      Thanks for stopping by and for commenting. Feel free to nap here. Our new baby slept throught the night for many months, and it only started changing with the teething. (We thought we’d gotten lucky again.) Great tip about the cucumber — I didn’t know it has anti-inflammatory properties. Do you just give him the whole thing?

      [angelsofbabysleep became a mom a year ago and writes about baby sleep issues. Click her name above to check out her blog.]

      • 13 angelsofbabysleep May 13, 2011 at 19:01

        Hey Matt! I don’t know what’s worse: they used to sleep well or they never have. Ha!

        Poor babies. It’s just not fair that they have to suffer so much cutting their teeth. Yes, I cut a big chunk of cucumber so my little guy can hold it in his grip. You should see how digs his teeth and sore gums. He nibbles away at it for 15 minutes and I find it rolling on the floor among his toys after that.

        Just make sure that Millie knows how to take bite-size pieces. I know some babies who will just shove the whole thing in their mouth.

  6. 14 Janet May 13, 2011 at 14:13

    My DIL had never heard about the cucumber thing nor had I. Cucumber is not her top favourite food so she doesn’t buy it but is willing to try it for her 9 month old who is dribbling all the time. (I wish they would change that wet T-shirt – or put a bib on him – but that’s just Grandma talking.) Maybe the cucumber will do the trick.

    • 15 Matt May 13, 2011 at 14:18

      Yeah, the dribbling. Dribbling and diarrhea and up all night and sticking fingers and everything else in the mouth. Poor blighters. Good thing conscious memory doesn’t really kick in until later or humankind would probably be a lot crabbier than it is already.

  7. 16 Rachael May 14, 2011 at 15:47

    Thank you once again for another wonderful, insightful read! (Not a parent, so I’ll leave teething issues for others . . . but . . . ) How many of us take the time to so closely observe a common household item, especially in our consumer culture in which such things are disposable? And to imbue such item with spirit-lifting symbolism is even more tremendous!

    Keep writing! You help to lift others from their daily lives!

    • 17 Matt May 14, 2011 at 21:50

      A kinder word about my fitful scribblings I could not have paid for [pssst...the checks in the mail]. Seriously, thanks for the affirmation, Rachael. Are there any touchstones like that for you, that you can use to reboot your frame of mind?


  1. 1 The Secret that No-One mentions to new Parents: Part One… « Local Heart, Global Soul Trackback on May 12, 2011 at 17:05
  2. 2 The Secret that No-One mentions to new Parents: Part One… « Local Heart, Global Soul Trackback on May 12, 2011 at 17:05
  3. 3 Exploding the New Parent Secret: Part Two… « Local Heart, Global Soul Trackback on May 13, 2011 at 17:06

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