Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow - But Reunion Is Just Sweet

Over the past two years since Herb and I have been married, there have been a few times that we’ve been apart for a few days or more. Since his daughter lives on the west coast and we live on the east coast, there have been frequent occasions that he goes to visit her: the annual Father-Daughter Dance at her school, visiting colleges, cheerleading competitions, etc. This past weekend, he flew out to meet her in Colorado to attend her freshman student/parent college orientation. He was only gone for three days, so it wasn’t an especially long trip, but I still missed him terribly.

I was quite proud of myself that I didn’t cry when I dropped him off at the airport this time – I usually kiss him goodbye with a tear or two running down my face. I know I can manage fine on my own, and I’m certainly not worried about his safety, but I do feel very alone when he’s away. But Ryan and I waved goodbye (OK, Ryan had fallen asleep in the back of the car, so there was no actual waving, but had he been awake he WOULD have waved) and drove back home.

Although it was Sunday, the routine wasn’t that unusual. I’m used to being alone with Ryan until dinnertime on most weekdays. So nothing seemed too out of the ordinary until I was making supper for one instead of two, and eating by myself instead of with company. And of course, when Ryan’s bedtime rolled around and I was the one doing “tubby time” and tucking in instead of Herb, it seemed a bit odd – but kind of nice. I’ll admit I’m a bit jealous that Daddy is the one to do the bedtime routine every night, but it’s such a special time for the both of them that I don’t mind. And because Daddy is away (or just out late) every now and then, I do get my chance to have that special time sometimes, too.

In fact, even the quiet evening after Ryan was in bed, when I was puttering around and working at the computer by myself, didn’t seem that unusual, because sometimes Herb does work late, or is at a rehearsal, or having dinner with a friend, or is taking photos of a show, and I’m home alone in the evening. The time that I really felt alone was going to bed by myself knowing that I’d be waking up alone, too. I never sleep as soundly when Herb’s not home.

But the best part of his time away is always that wonderful moment when he comes home. I knew that his flight was scheduled to land in Boston at 5:01am, so I figured he’d get home around 5:45 or 6. So when I woke up this morning just after 5am, I crept downstairs and unlocked the door so he wouldn’t have to fumble for his key. I checked on Ryan, who was sleeping soundly, and then tucked myself back in to doze for a bit. Not ten minutes later, I heard a car pull up and then I heard the downstairs door open. Even in my mostly-asleep state, I felt myself smile, knowing that my sweetheart was home again, safe and sound. As I heard his footsteps on the stairs, I managed to rouse myself enough to welcome him home as he slipped into bed beside me. And as I snuggled close to him, I knew that the sweetness of reunion was worth every bit of the sorrow of parting.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I Think We're Gonna Need a Bigger Car

Last summer, Herb and I went camping at Lafayette State Park in NH. It’s a beautiful woodsy spot in the mountains. We set up our tent, cooked on an open fire, and hiked through the mountains. We had such a wonderful time that we decided to do it again this summer. But of course, this summer Ryan is on the outside instead of on the inside, which means a BIG difference in packing.

Traveling with a baby requires a lot of packing. And camping requires a lot of packing. So when you combine the two, we’re talking a LOT of stuff. In fact, I don’t think we’ll be able to fit everything we need into the car. Last summer the car was stuffed to the gills, and this summer we need to also accommodate a car seat, a Pack & Play, a stroller, a framepack for hiking, possibly a high chair, plus Ryan’s clothes, toys, diapers, and food. Plus, we have a bigger tent this year.

You’d think that living in the woods for a few days would be simpler than living at home, and would therefore require less stuff. Your needs are pretty basic, right? Food, shelter, clothes, and not much else. But food requires not only the actual food, but something to cook it in, something to eat it with, and some way to clean up afterwards. So pack the basic foodstuffs: cereal, milk, juice, peanut butter, jelly, bread, burgers and dogs, buns for the burgers and dogs, condiments, soda, and of course graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate (it’s not really camping until you’ve made s’mores, after all). (And will hard-core campers think less of us if we add to that list two filets mignon, fresh summer squash, red bliss potatoes and a bottle of wine for that first dinner? It’s a little tradition of ours.) But of course, a good deal of that needs to be refrigerated, so add in a larger cooler with ice. Then add in paper plates and cups, napkins, plastic cutlery, a few pots and pans, and a camp stove (don’t forget the propane), plus a sharp knife, a spatula, and toasting forks. And then some dish detergent, a basin, a jerrican for hauling water, some sponges, and a dishtowel or two. Oh, and a kettle for heating wash water on the stove. Then comes shelter: a large tent (with fly and partitions), a tarp to put it on, an inflatable air mattress, two sleeping bags, two pillows, and a Pack & Play with its mattress and linens.

And we haven’t even gotten to clothes! You’d think those would be simple, but again, it’s more complicated than it seems at first glance. This being New Hampshire in the summer, you need to plan for all contingencies of weather. Could be 40 degrees, could be over 100. Could be sunny, could be rainy. So you pack shorts, jeans, T-shirts, sweatshirts, a windbreaker, a rain poncho, warm pajamas, cool pajamas, sneakers and socks, hiking shoes, sandals, and a bathing suit (don’t forget the towels). Multiply that by two adults and a baby (who often goes through multiple outfits a day) and there’s another whole carload of stuff right there.

Then of course you have all the other bits and pieces: toothbrushes, hairbrushes, soap and shampoo, first aid kit, paper towels, tinfoil, an extra backpack, cooking spray, salt and pepper, flashlights, a lantern, bug spray, sunscreen, matches, firestarters, citronella candles, a few board games, folding camp chairs, and a crossword puzzle book or two. Luckily, most of that stuff is small and can be crammed into the nooks and crevices between the larger stuff.

But of course, the biggest difficulty is when you’re headed home, and despite the fact that you’ve eaten most of your foodstuffs, thrown away a bunch of paper goods, and used up a lot of your toiletries, everything remaining has magically expanded so it no longer fits in the car. Many families I know upsized to larger cars or even a minivan or an SUV after they had kids, and I pooh-poohed the idea. We can easily manage with our existing cars! But camping might be the one thing that sends us over the edge. Unless of course, we just bring both cars. Hey, that’s not such a bad idea, come to think of it…

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Family Resemblance

This past weekend was the annual summer picnic for my husband’s side of the family. Not only were most of my mother-in-law’s siblings and their spouses in attendance, but many of their children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren were there. And since my mother-in-law was one of eight siblings, that’s a LOT of uncles and aunts and cousins to recognize and remember, especially because there’s such a strong family resemblance everywhere you look!
Ryan, being the youngest family member in attendance, was a hit with everyone. He happily splashed in the lake with Daddy and a bunch of the younger generation, he sat on a towel on the beach and grabbed fistfuls of sand, looking at them wonderingly, he allowed himself to be passed from person to person. He was especially interested in several cousins wearing shiny necklaces and bracelets. He spent a good deal of time gazing intently and seriously into each face, as if looking for glimpses of his own face there.
And he certainly saw those glimpses! Several people commented on the bright blue, almond-shaped eyes he shares with his Bammy and his Aunt Holly. Others remarked on his broad shoulders and height, noting that he was likely to be tall and solidly-built like Uncle Harold’s boys. I myself noticed one or two sets of familiar dimples on various cousins.
Coming from a small family myself, I consider my family quite close-knit. When you only have 5 cousins, you naturally know them better (and get together with them more often) than families with dozens and dozens of first cousins. But I find it delightful that the large Simpson clan makes such a concerted effort to get together often and to be close to each other. Branches of each family passed along news of their members who weren’t in attendance; messages were sent back home from the attendees to cousins and siblings who didn’t make it this year. Older cousins compared stories about their children; younger ones shared summer plans and commiserated about the past school year. Thanks to Facebook, some bits of news had already been passed around – which was a wonderful help for new family members like me who are still trying to remember which Kate just graduated from college and which one is still in high school, or which uncle and aunt are the grandparents of the baby twins who couldn’t make it, or who’s up visiting from Florida and who just moved back to California.
After all, I need to make sure I know what’s going on with all these people who look like my son!

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Dreaded Diaper Rash

I have officially discovered the most unpleasant thing about parenting. It’s not changing diapers, or suctioning snot out of noses, or even sleep deprivation. It’s diaper rash. We managed to escape it for nearly eight months, but now here it is with a vengeance.

My mom warned me that when I was teething, I always got terrible diaper rash. And when Ryan’s first two teeth started coming in, he had a tiny bit of redness down below every now and then. But now, as we’re waiting for the next two teeth to make their appearance, the poor kid’s backside has suddenly transformed into raw hamburger.

I feel terrible for him every time I change his diaper. As soon as I put him on the changing table, he starts to sob hysterically and locks his legs together so I can hardly get his diaper off. Not surprisingly, he apparently dreads the ordeal as much as I do. The worst part is wiping his backside – I had a hangnail one day and realized that even the non-alcohol wipes sting like the dickens, so I can only imagine how painful it must be when I touch his raw backside with the wipes. I’m tempted to take my husband’s suggestion and just hose him off in the bathtub every time I change him, but unfortunately that’s just not logistically possible. (Keep in mind, he weighs 32 pounds and he’s VERY strong. I simply can’t physically haul him in and out of the tub – against his will - five times a day and still walk upright by bedtime.) Plus, the only thing I can imagine that would be more painful than what he’s got now is to add an infection on top of it. So I go with the best weapon I have: diaper rash cream.

We have several types on hand: Desitin, Aveeno, and good old-fashioned petroleum jelly. We slather it on his bum like frosting on a birthday cake. (My somewhat conservative husband jokes that it’s about the only thing he does “liberally”.) We do the best we can to create a thick seal over his tender skin. I wish there were a way to tell him that the salve will make him feel better, but all he knows is that touching that broken, rashy skin is agony for him.

I remember as a little girl, whenever I had the flu my dad would tell me, “I wish I could be sick instead of you.” I never completely understood what he meant until having a child of my own. But right now, if I could take his pain on myself, I absolutely would. At least I know that it won’t last forever. At least I know that some of the short-term pain will actually help the long-term pain. At least I know how to help myself avoid making the pain worse. But I guess that all I can do is keep slathering him with soothing lotion and just wait for those teeth to arrive.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Earth, Air, Fire, and Water

It doesn’t get much more basic and primeval than those four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. So last night, when we were sitting by the pool with friends and their baby, smelling the green earthy smell of the garden, watching the smoke curl up into the night sky, warming our feet by the fire pit, and listening to the quiet gurgle of the water, it made me feel such a connection to eons past.

Think about it: for thousands of years, people have survived, and taught their children to survive, with those simple elements. They planted crops in the earth, dug wells to water their gardens, their livestock, and themselves, gazed up at the bright daytime and the dim night sky, and warmed themselves, cooked their food, and staved off marauding animals with fire. How many mothers, like I did last night, have cuddled their children by the warmth of a fire? How many have pointed out the stars in the dark sky to their little ones? How many have cooked dinner over a fire and then offered bits to a baby just learning to eat solid food? How many have splashed their little one’s feet in the water and laughed along with the baby’s delighted laughter?

Being a mother has given me such a sense of connection to the past. Whenever I struggle and whenever I find delight in taking care of my baby, I wonder about all the other mothers over the course of time who must have felt the same way. Mothers living in log cabins on the American frontier must have sighed with exhaustion and relief when their babies finally took a nap and they could do chores unencumbered for an hour or two. Mothers in the Dark Ages must have felt a pang of fear at hearing a baby cough in the middle of the night. Mothers in ancient Israel must have delighted in seeing their babies crawl for the first time. Mothers in prehistoric times must have looked in awe at their sleeping babies and carefully counted each finger and toe. Those feelings are so deep-seated and primal that I’m sure that mothers have been feeling them ever since there have been mothers. I’m sure Eve herself slept lightly, listening to Cain and Abel’s nighttime breathing.

This weekend, when we take Ryan camping in New Hampshire, I know I’ll feel an even stronger connection to mothers of the past. Mothers who never had a solid roof over their heads. Mothers who never had refrigeration for baby bottles or microwaves for baby food. Mothers whose only source of heat was a fire of burning logs. Mothers who tramped through the woods carrying their babies every day as a matter of course.

I’m just glad that I won’t be having any direct experiences to share with all the mothers who never had the convenience of modern diapers, or baby wipes, or pre-packaged baby food, or even portable cribs. I love connecting with the past, but I do have my limits!

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Isn't It Ironic

Yesterday was Father’s Day – and it was Ryan’s first Father’s Day, if not Herb’s. Naturally, Herb had outdone himself in celebrating my first Mother’s Day last month, so I wanted to make Father’s Day extra-special for him this year. Plus, having just seen his daughter graduate from high school, I think this year Father’s Day was a little bit bittersweet for him.

So after having spent a long weekend up in Hanover NH at his 25th class reunion at Dartmouth College, we got home in the early afternoon on Father’s Day and almost immediately turned around and headed back north to drop Ryan off at my mom’s and have a lovely dinner in Newburyport. I know, I know, the irony of having dinner WITHOUT the baby on Father’s Day does not escape me. But after a weekend of hauling the poor kid hither and yon, taking his naps in car seat or stroller or wherever he happened to be when the nap attack hit, eating on the run and staying up past his usual bedtime, I think Ryan was as ready for a few hours without us as we were for a few without him.

As I’ve said many, many times before, he is an incredibly laid-back, easygoing baby. And 95% of the time, he is an absolute joy. But when he finally does run out of steam and melt down, it is incredibly stressful for his tightly-wound mother. And he’d had several nights over the course of the week when he woke up at 3 or 4 in the morning and cried for an hour before going back to sleep – which is stressful in and of itself, but when you’re staying in a hotel and trying to not wake up either Daddy or the neighbors, the stress level is increased about tenfold. And since, in just the short break between arriving at home and heading up to Grandma’s, Ryan had had an hour-long meltdown that had my last nerve completely frayed, I think that even if we had planned to bring him along I would have found some way to leave him behind.

(he looks so sweet and innocent, doesn’t he??)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore my son. I’d throw myself in front of a bus for him. But boy, was I ready to throw him through the window yesterday. The irony is, of course, that if I didn’t care about him, I wouldn’t be bothered by his crying and it wouldn’t stress me out. But since it upsets me when he’s upset, I get frustrated with him when I can’t figure out or fix what’s bothering him.

But I guess there’s a lot of irony in that kind of love. I’ve heard it said that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. Love and hate are more like sides of a coin – so closely linked that and you can’t have one without the other. And I think that love and anger are the same way: the more you love someone, the angrier you are able to be at them. Think back to some time in your childhood when you did something really stupid and dangerous. Your dad chewed you up one side and down the other, didn’t he? He was absolutely furious at you. And the reason was that he loved you so much – once again, love and anger go hand in hand. So the next time I get angry at (or frustrated with) my little boy, I’ll just have to keep reminding myself how much I love him.

I just hope it isn’t because he just did something stupid and dangerous...
Who, me?

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oh, I'm a Travellin' Man

Before we left for our California trip, I was quite apprehensive about how Ryan would manage. The long plane trip, the time change, the unfamiliar surroundings, the change in feeding and sleeping schedule…even for such a laid-back baby, those are an awful lot of changes all at once. But I am pleased to say that he came through like a champ!

Our flight out had 4 other babies on board, so I was relieved that any apprehension the other passengers might have about a baby crying would at least be spread around. And I was even more relieved when Ryan fell asleep just before takeoff. Unfortunately, that nap didn’t last too long – but in general, he was very well-behaved when he woke up. Out of the six-hour flight, I’d say he napped for two hours, fussed for one, and played for the other three. As I predicted, he charmed the flight attendant and at one point when he was fussy, she took him for a walk up and down the aisle. Being the social animal that he is, he was quickly distracted by looking at all the people on the plane. He was soon grinning and humming and flailing his arms with excitement, much to the delight of the other passengers. Phew, hurdle number 1 was over.

Then came the hurdle of the time change and sleeping schedule. Ryan was awake but completely spaced out while we took the airport shuttle to pick up our rental car and loaded him in to drive to the hotel. Once we got him fed, changed, and settled in to the crib, it was 11:30pm local time, which meant it was 2:30am by Ryan’s body clock. Not surprisingly, he zonked out immediately. And then, at 4:00am, my worst fears were realized: his body clock told him it was 7am and time to wake up, and he started crying. But I laid down with him on the spare bed and snuggled with him, and he soon fell back to sleep as exhaustion got the better of him. He woke up again at 7:30, and I hoped against hope that his internal clock had been reset.

Throughout the week, he was terrific at managing naps wherever he was when he needed them, without getting too horribly fussy beforehand. He napped in the car, in the stroller, in my arms – wherever he happened to be, he just dropped off. And he almost always woke up calmly, without yelling or fussing. He would just sleep long enough to refresh himself, then wake with a happy smile for whoever was nearby.

His good behavior continued nearly every time we were out socializing and introduced him to a group. He was contented and friendly when we had lunch with friends at Apple Computer (although he did get quite solemn when Steve Jobs came through), he was reasonably quiet during a friend’s graduation ceremony and was happy to play with everyone at the post-graduation party, he definitely had on his party manners for his sister’s graduation and post-graduation dinner, and he could not have been sweeter at the barbeque and croquet party for the graduates the next day. Even during our visit to the Monterey Aquarium, he was quiet and curious and enjoyed watching both the fish and the other children. And of course, the photos from our family photo shoot are evidence of what a happy boy he was during that particular outing.

But the trip home was his pinnacle of perfect behavior. We were sitting in the second row of the plane, and had sat him up in the empty seat between us (with his seatbelt securely fastened, of course), and he cheerfully grinned and cooed at all the passengers as they got on board, chortling and slapping his knees with delight. Even the weariest-looking travelers gave him a smile or a wave in return. Once everyone was on board, he settled in with his bottle for a few minutes, and promptly fell asleep as we were taxiing to the runway. He slept soundly for the entire flight, waking only when Daddy put him on his lap to prepare for landing – and as he had all week, he woke with a smile. He spent the last few minutes on board staring out the window at the runway lights in absolute fascination.

He’s too young to remember this trip when he’s grown up, but judging from his behavior on this one, he’ll have many more wonderful and enjoyable trips throughout his lifetime that he will remember!

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Brothers and Sisters

We've all seen siblings playing together, and it's always adorable (at least, until the scratching, biting, and hair-pulling starts). Two little kids sitting side by side, sharing toys and genes. It's heart-melting. But you know what's even cuter? When the siblings are years apart in age, no toys in common, no hand-me-down clothes passed from one to the other - but still having a grand old time playing together.

Go-Kart racing!

Graduation party!

Hanging out by the Jacuzzi!

Poolside kisses (and hair grabbing)!

Rosemary adores her little brother, and as you can see by these photos, the feeling is clearly mutual. He gazes into her face in rapt attention - is he comparing her features to his own? He twines her hair around his fingers - is he noticing the similar color? He chortles when she tickles him - is he amazed that she knows the exact "family tickle spots"?

Ryan is a very social baby, and loves attention from anyone at all. And Rosemary is great with babies and little children, and is very good at entertaining them. But there's something very special about the two of them playing together that goes beyond the usual gregariousness. It's just that they're brother and sister. And it doesn't get any more special than that.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Massachusetts Is from Mars, California Is from Venus

I just flew back from a weeklong trip to California (and boy, are my arms tired!), and I’ve never been so happy to be back in my own house. It was a difficult trip partly because it was our first long trip away from home with Ryan – complete with 3-hour time change, two six-hour plane flights, a lack of refrigeration for formula, and no set schedule or rarely convenient napping or diaper-changing places – but mostly because California is just a different universe for me.

Honestly, if I didn’t know I had gotten there on an ordinary, run-of-the-mill, standard issue airplane, I’d have been convinced I had just landed on an alien planet. Just walking through the airport made me feel like I was in a sci-fi movie. I’ve never seen so many skinny, tanned, attractive blondes (of both genders). I’m not sure where they hide the ugly, fat people in California, but they weren’t much in evidence anywhere I was except for my bathroom mirror. Seriously, I’m not heavy by anyone’s standards and although I’m not cover model material I’m not bad looking, but in California I feel like Quasimodo lumbering through the streets. I do get a bit of a kick out of the irony that a state so dedicated to the green movement (reduce/reuse/recycle, go organic, be natural) is so replete with fake nails, fake boobs, and fake tans.

There is certainly a strong dedication to looks in California, as evidenced by the average strip mall. In Massachusetts, a strip mall is something like: Dunkin Donuts, Dollar Store, Subway, KFC, mom & pop convenience store, ATM. In California, it’s more like: Pilates studio, tanning salon, hair salon, nail salon, tae kwon do studio, waxing salon, flipflop store, Starbucks. And again, the irony is that California is so much more casual than Massachusetts. No-one in California ever wears pantyhose, even to the most formal event. Flipflops are the footwear of the day for all occasions. “Business casual” means you should probably wear shoes and a shirt. "Casual Fridays" are unheard of - you can't get much more casual without getting obscene. The only person I ever saw wearing a tie was my Massachusetts-born husband. Jeans, shorts, and T-shirts are acceptable dress just about everywhere.

And to get back to the “green” thing for a moment, California is the mother lode of green living. You almost never see a trash can without a recycle bin next to (or part of) it. Everyone carries their own reusable shopping bags. There are bike lanes on all the major roads so everyone rides their bikes to run errands or even to commute to work. And as for cars – well, let’s just say our rental was a Prius. We didn’t ask for it, that’s just what they have. It wasn’t a bad car, although it took us about 5 minutes and a look at the user’s manual just to figure out how to start the engine. And we had to make a mental note of the license plate, because everywhere we went there were a bunch of identical gray Priuses (Priusses? Prii?) in the parking lot. I managed to drive it once (about 2 blocks) and lived to tell the tale, although I wouldn’t want to do it on a regular basis. I find it hard to trust a car that doesn’t need a key in the ignition and whose gearshift doesn’t stay where you put it (you flip it into the desired gear and it bounces back into neutral position).

I guess I’m just a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander - or, as my husband would explain, I just prefer the familiar. I do enjoy the weather and the lovely tropical flowers and shrubs, and even some of the interesting Mexican-influenced architecture, but I’ll admit up front that I’m much more comfortable amidst my own familiar Massachusetts surroundings. Fat, ugly people and all!

Oh, but just for the record – it was totally worth the trip.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere

The past few days have been full of water adventures – some falling down from the sky and some (much more pleasant!) in our pool.

New England has had some impressive thunder and lightning storms passing through over the past week, and even though I love thunderstorms, there were a few bands that passed through that made me a little nervous. Several nights I woke up in the middle of the night to flashes of lightning so bright I could see them through my eyelids, thunderclaps that literally shook the house, and rain and wind worthy of a natural disaster movie. It was a great relief to wake up in the morning to not only sunshine but electricity. And after the first storm, there wasn’t even much loose brush to get knocked into the pool.

Ah, the pool. Herb opened the pool a few weeks ago but the water was very cloudy, and eventually he discovered it was because there were several holes in the filter. After a number of phone calls, he found a pool supply store that had replacement parts for our “antique” (I prefer to think of it as “retro chic”) filter and managed to rebuild the whole thing. Before we knew it, the pool was beautifully clear again and although we’re not planning on turning on the heater for good till we have more time to spend in the pool (I’m predicting somewhere around mid-July), he put it on for a couple of days just to make sure it was working. So when we went in the pool last night (in between passing thunderstorms), the temperature was a glorious 88 degrees – just the way I like it!

And, apparently, just the way Ryan likes it. He had his first pool experience last weekend at my sister- and brother-in-law’s house. They keep their pool considerably cooler than we do, plus Ryan was overtired and a bit cranky, and he didn’t enjoy his “swim” quite as much as we’d hoped. But his second pool outing, and his first in our pool, was much more fun!

One of the fun parts (for Mom and Dad, anyway), was his cool “Aussie” swimsuit. It looks like a tiny wetsuit and is much easier to get on and off a non-cooperative, wet little body than you might expect. And it makes him look like a grown up little boy! I half expect him to stand up and grab a surfboard when he’s wearing it.

But the real fun began when Daddy actually brought him IN the pool. He hardly reacted when Daddy dangled his toes in the water, and looked interested and not at all concerned when Daddy lowered him in up to his tummy. And then when Daddy started zooming him around in the water and helping him float on his back, well, that was when the REAL fun began!

One of the advantages to being such a chunky monkey is that he’s absurdly buoyant. When he leaned his head back and relaxed his feet so they weren’t sticking up out of the water, he hardly needed any support from Daddy to float. All that chub had him bobbing about like a little blue cork!

Daddy even helped him get used to putting his head underwater by blowing gently in his face so he took a breath and closed his eyes, then bobbing him under for a split second. I was terrified the first time he tried it, but Ryan popped up out of the water, nonchalantly blinked a few times, then looked around as if to say, “Well, that was interesting.”

I’m delighted that he’s such a water baby already! I foresee a summer spent happily bobbing in the pool for hours on end until both he and I are blue-lipped and pruny. (OK, considering the pool temperature, probably not so blue-lipped.) He’s already more comfortable in the water than I am, so maybe he’ll spur me on to be braver in the pool! In fact, we may even need to have a race to see who can go down the water slide without holding our noses first. Although I’m pretty sure he’ll always have me beat on that one.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Shopping: Men vs. Women

When I was a little girl, every December my dad would take my sister and me Christmas shopping for Mom’s gifts, and then my mom would take us shopping for Dad’s gifts. The trip with Dad would go something like this: “First we’ll go to Lechmere and get her a new clock radio, then we’ll go to Service Merchandise and get her a silver heart locket, then we'll go to Sears and get her a navy turtleneck, size medium, and then we’ll stop at CVS on the way home and get her a bottle of Jean Naté.” The trip with Mom would go something like this: “We’ll start at the Mall.” That pretty much summarizes the difference between the way men shop and the way women shop.

The difference is especially pronounced when it comes to clothes shopping. This point was really driven home for me yesterday when H took a long lunch break and went clothes shopping with me. Forgive the tangent, but I need to throw in this explanation. I weigh exactly the same as I did before I got pregnant with my son, yet many of my pre-pregnancy clothes no longer fit. This seems to defy the laws of physics, because I still have the fabulous baby boobs, plus I seem to have a good deal more “junk in the trunk” than I used to (apparently contents settle during childbirth as well as shipping), not to mention a somewhat rounder belly than I remember. Something on my body must be thinner than it used to be, but I’m not sure what. But the bottom line is that most of my summer clothes from two years ago are going back into the attic and I need to get some new summer clothes!

H was mystified the first time I went into the dressing room with the exact same pair of jeans in two different sizes. He was even more mystified when I came out and announced that they didn’t fit. He simply couldn’t comprehend that there was not a size of that style of jeans that would fit me. It didn’t occur to him that one size could be too small in the thighs and the next size up could be too big in the waist. This is not surprising considering that 75% of his wardrobe comes from Costco. For those of you unfamiliar with Costco, it is one of those “big box” stores where you can buy anything from snow tires to a wedding cake to a chainsaw to suntan lotion. They also sell clothes – but they don’t have dressing rooms. This is not a problem for H (nor for most men), because he knows what size he is. He can pick out a pair of pants in any style at any store in the country and if they’re a 38 long, they will fit him. I, however, have pants in my closet in sizes 6, 8, and 10, and they all fit me. And I’ve tried on other pants in those exact same sizes that absolutely do not fit me.

So of course women shop differently. We have to! We don’t have the option of planning out a trip ahead of time and deciding to buy a pair of khaki pants from store A and a red cocktail dress from store B. We may have to go to stores C, D, E and F before finding khaki pants that fit right, and we might end up with a green cocktail dress from store B but then have to return it after finding an even better purple cocktail dress at store G. Women have to be more open-minded about these things, or else we’d end up walking around in ratty old jeans and white T-shirts every day.

Actually, that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. If only I could find a pair of jeans that fits…

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Calm After the Storm

Ryan doesn’t have meltdowns very often (although since he’s been teething, it does happen just a bit more frequently), but when he does I always feel terribly helpless. There’s not much I can do to calm the storm, I just have to wait until it passes. Usually it passes because he’s fallen into an exhausted sleep. And I must admit, the sleep after a meltdown is the most beautiful, most peaceful, calmest thing I have ever seen.

I love watching Ryan sleep at any time, because either he’s being funny and singing to himself or making faces or wiggling like a puppy, or he’s out cold and as limp as a rag doll. But when I see his tear-streaked face relax into peaceful slumber – ahhh, there’s nothing more wonderful than that.

And the best part is that when he wakes from a post-meltdown sleep, it’s as if the meltdown never even happened: he’s happy and cheerful and wants to play, and grins at whomever he sees when his eyes open. It’s as if that peaceful slumber has purged all the unhappiness from his mind and body, and he has a completely fresh start.

Even as an adult, every once in a while I have a really, REALLY good night’s sleep and I feel like the woes of the world are all washed away, and I have a completely clean slate. Waking up in the morning after sleep like that is one of the most joyous sensations I’ve felt. And Ryan gets that nearly every day! Babyhood has some rough moments, but there are benefits. Boy, are there ever benefits. And joy every morning is one of the best benefits of all.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Party Manners

Like any baby, Ryan has good days and bad days. I'll admit that he's a particularly good-natured and easygoing baby, so he has many more good days than bad days, but I'm very glad that he tends to use those good days at times and places where it's most appropriate.

For example, although he often wakes up from a nap with a startled cry, when he falls asleep in church he tends to wake up very gently and quietly. In fact, on Easter Sunday he slept quietly through most of the service and when he woke up, he simply turned his head and silently listened to the choir singing instead of making a loud protest. When we've had company visiting, he's generally in a good mood and happy to play and do his best tricks for them. When Bammy and Pappy, or Grammy, or Aunt Holly and Uncle Jim babysit, he's usually on his best behavior and plays and eats and naps without too much protest.

I'm hoping against hope that this trend continues for our upcoming trip to California. We have so many events to attend and people to visit with that if he's on his best behavior every time, he won't have a free moment for a meltdown! Between the plane trip, his sister's graduation ceremony and graduation party, another friend's graduation ceremony and graduation party, get-togethers with family and friends, and a side trip or two to the park, the zoo, and the aquarium - not to mention dealing with jet lag and unfamiliar surroundings - it'll be a miracle if he is able to be his usual sunny self for the whole week.

But even at his fussiest, his sweet self shines through. He can usually be jollied into grinning through his tears, pausing mid-wail to pat a favorite toy or watch a new friend, or at least falling into an exhausted sleep before giving his mother a nervous breakdown. People naturally gravitate to him no matter what mood he's in, so even when he doesn't have his party manners on, he still draws a crowd. He's just that kind of sweet soul that can't be kept down, no matter what.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Stormy Weather

Okay, it’s probably not exactly the storm of the century, but right now I’m listening to some pretty impressive “thundah-boomahs” (as we call them here in New England). There’s a big Rubbermaid trashcan right outside my window that’s doing a fantastic drumroll impression as the rain pounds down. I’m not sure that wind can technically blow directly downwards, but that rain certainly looks like it’s falling faster than mere gravity alone could account for.

We’ve had several storms like this over the past few days. On Saturday night, we were setting up the function room for the Hazel Boone Studio Centennial Gala when a storm came through and it was raining so hard that it not only puddled up and overflowed through one of the window frames but it came right down the chimney and poured across the dance floor before we managed to staunch the flow! And last night I woke up with a start in the wee hours of the morning because the lightning was flashing so brightly and the thunder was literally shaking the house.

Fortunately, I love storms, so I was quite content to lie in bed with my eyes closed and enjoy the sound of the rain and the long rolling peals of thunder. And even more fortunately, Ryan is a heavy sleeper and never even woke up. (Herb has the best of both worlds, so if he did wake up – which I doubt – he’d have lain there enjoying it as well.) Although as I’m watching Ryan nap on the monitor right now, he’s getting a bit wakeful and the last loud thunderclap didn’t even make him flinch, so it’s possible that he did wake up last night but just laid quietly, enjoying the sound of the storm like I was.

There’s just something so magnificent about the power of an electrical storm. Lightning can knock down trees, short out power lines, and even kill people or animals with its strikes. Thunder can rattle windows and shake walls. Pounding rain can overflow riverbanks, wash out roads, and flood basements. There’s no denying the power of a storm. And yet, it’s not something I feel the need to be afraid of. I’m safe and warm and dry in my cozy house (or car, or even tent). In fact, hearing a storm outside makes me even more aware of how safe and warm and cozy I am, and maybe that’s why I enjoy storms so much. I’m even a little disappointed to hear this one fading away into the distance.

Lucky for me, it’s summer in New England, so there are bound to be plenty more thunderstorms ahead. And I can hardly wait!

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