This Thanksgiving, rather than offer my annual homage to Sarah Josepha Hale, I wanted to reflect on things I'm grateful for. I've gotten so many kind, concerned, reassuring responses to my last post, both on and offline, and I really appreciate them, but I want to let everybody know that anxiety doesn't singlehandedly define my life these days. I'm definitely an anxious person, but I'm also really thankful.

I'm thankful for my family--the little bitty family of Biffle, Maybelle, and I (along with Baxter, Benya, Zooey, Inky, and George Jones)--and the expanding layers of family that surround and support us. I'm getting to experience the importance of our parents and siblings in a whole new way now that we have Maybelle. It's really cool to see my brothers and sisters-in-law become aunts and uncles. And our friends have moved up in importance, too--we're getting the kind of unconditional love and help from them that I associate with family. Although life with an infant can sometimes feel isolated--when you're sitting in the bedroom, trying to get a baby to fall asleep, for instance--but we're certainly not isolated. Maybelle is part of a big, fat community that loves her, and I'm really grateful.

I'm thankful that I have a job I love. It's a job that gave me the fall off, and that's an incredible benefit that I appreciate, but being away from work has shown me just how much I love my job. I'm eager to go back in January. (I'm sure I'll have some posts here about my mixed feelings about leaving Maybelle with someone else during the day, but right now I'm focusing on the positives.)

I'm thankful for my relationship with Biffle. I've always liked him fairly well, but it's such a gift to get to experience him as a father. It makes me love him more. Plus, I can't imagine doing this parenting thing alone.

And I'm thankful for Maybelle, who is expanding my consciousness about as quickly as she herself is expanding (note that today she outgrew the outfit she's wearing in this picture, which was taken three days ago). Biffle and I decided we wanted to be parents because we wanted to have a larger world, richer and more meaningful, and Maybelle has already started us on that path.


Anxiety, perfectionism, and control, or How parenting brings out all my character defects

It will surprise no one to learn that I'm an anxious parent. I've always been a sort of high-adrenaline person in almost every facet of my life, and parenting is no exception.

Actually, I will say that it has surprised me a bit. I had this idea that I'd be what one of my friends terms an Adventure Mom--intrepid, carrying Maybelle with me out into the world, fearlessly facing what comes with her strapped to my back, all good attitude and high spirits. And while I do have traits of the Adventure Mom--not a day has passed since Maybelle came home that we haven't gone out and done things in the world--in many ways I'd be better described as a Control Mom than an Adventure Mom.

Having Maybelle in my life has shown me just how ingrained some of my character defects are. For one thing, I'm realizing how much I like things to be predictable. While I don't want a life where every day is the same, I do really like to have a sense of how things will probably go, and why. This, of course, is about control: predictability means being able to chart a path and determine an outcome. And this level of predictability and rationality just doesn't seem to apply to life with an infant. Experienced parents have told me this in lots of different ways. My mom assures me that as soon as you settle into a pattern with a baby, it changes. When I expressed my frustration over Maybelle's suddenly new bedtime habits to my friend Jay, he said, "Get used to that feeling." Virtually all my friends with kids have said, "Welcome to parenthood" when I've shared any of these anxieties.

In some sense these glib responses are comforting, because another source of anxiety for me is my sense that there must be a solution that I'm just not coming up with. So I often believe that if I think or work just a bit harder, I'll solve the problem. The constant reminders that I need to get used to feeling frustrated are reality checks, reminding me that this just isn't how parenting works. My anxieties or frustrations aren't evidence that I'm doing something wrong--they're just part of the ride. I guess the thing I'm doing wrong is expecting this ride to be different than it is.

And here's a happy Maybelle update, with video: she seems to be learning to smile!


Thoughts on a Sunday morning

Well, Biffle got up early this morning and laid the dog-poop newspaper trap for our Sunday paper thief, but alas, the thief didn't come by. The poop-filled paper still sits on our porch, unmolested. At least we got the real Sunday paper and got to hang out drinking coffee and reading it together. As Biffle mentioned, it's not a great paper, but it's usually entertaining. This morning's edition featured a glowing letter to the editor about the Bob Hope tribute a woman took her mother to see ("The ending of the show was magical. While the cast sang 'God Bless America,' one by one the audience stood and joined in singing. There wasn't a dry eye in the place.") and an article about the International Clown Ministry, which the Post & Courier apparently loves because they've featured them before.

We've also helped Maybelle with her morning workout, which we documented in a video.


Sunday Papers

Well, our paper is being stolen again. Alison--and me, too, to some degree--has hung in there with the actual paper paper. Although it's a really, really bad newspaper, we continue to get The Post and Courier seven days a week.

The deal is, though, we've long had the tradition of sitting in the morning drinking our coffee, and--even in these post-Maybellian days--we play editor for each other, reading stories we think the other might find of interest. This morning, for instance, i read Leonard Pitts. We both like Leonard Pitts.

We don't want to give this tradition up.

A paper that's particularly important to us is the Sunday edition: nothin' goin' on on a Sunday, you just sit and enjoy. Only problem is, for the past two weeks we've woken up and found our beloved Sunday paper gone missing. Now, while the Post and Courier may be a lousy paper, Charleston is still a tiny town. This is the kind of town where you know your mail carrier's address. The personal delivery service of the paper is exceptional. On mornings when there has been rain our delivery person even knows to throw the paper a little left of the front door--a small puddle collects in the usual spot. So I know it isn't their fault. No, there's mischief afoot and i know it because our squeaky iron gate, which i close behind me without fail whenever i come in or out, has been slightly ajar for the past two Sundays. And besides, we've been through this before...

This same thing happened when Alison and i lived on Lischey back in Nashville. We let it go on for about six Sundays. We suspected some local sexton--on their way to turn on the church's heat or a.c. as the case may be--was dropping by and casually saving themselves a couple of dollars. After all, who else is up that early every Sunday?

Fed up, Alison and i decided to lay a trap. We figured the paper showed up somewhere between 4 and 5 in the morning, and we set the alarm clock accordingly.

The alarm went off at the appointed hour...and we promptly turned it off and went right back to sleep. Somehow, however, old eagle-ears Piepmeier heard the tell-tale thump of the paper in the yard a little after 5. Alison shoved me awake and we jumped out of bed, ran out into the yard and grabbed it. We shook it out of its little blue plastic bag and laid that morning's paper on the kitchen table. We then took a big pile of recycled newspapers and made a convincing maquette of the real thing. We even put some shiny circulars from Circuit City in there. The last step was to go into the backyard and find the previous night's best gooey pile of Baxter shit. This we plopped right into the center and topped that with a couple of litter-encrusted cat turds. We then folded the paper up, slid it into its bag, and put it back in the bush where the less-than-personal Nashville delivery person perpetually threw it.

And our paper never went missing again.