Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Up North

I read something recently that said we are so busy taking pictures, we aren't making memories. The article explained that memories form more fully if you actually live in the moment, rather than try to capture it on your camera (or your phone, in my case). I thought about that a lot a few weeks ago when I was on vacation in northern Minnesota.

We stayed at Golden Eagle Lodge on the Gunflint Trail. We've been there before, and it was just as lovely this time. It was cloudy and cold, but so beautiful. The colors on the trees were beginning to turn, the air was crisp and fresh. My in-laws were with us as well, and we spent a lot of time reading, playing cards, hiking and canoeing. I tried to really be there, to be present in these small moments with my family.

The first morning , Clare was in a great hurry to go down to the lake. I walked with her, wearing a hat and gloves and counting the minutes until I could go back to the warm cabin. Her excitement was contagious, though, and soon we were standing on the dock looking at the trees surrounding the lake. Clare was talking about everything she saw. Then, I noticed a loon swimming about 200 yards way. I crouched down next to Clare, whispered in her ear, and pointed. When the loon dove underwater, she was full of questions. What kind of fish does the loon eat? Where did it go? Suddenly, it surfaced, a mere five feet from our dock. "There it is!" Clare whisper-yelled. It was just really cool.

It was cloudy most of the weekend, but when the sun broke through on Sunday afternoon I grabbed my coat and Christopher and hiked down to the lake. The sun was hitting the trees at the perfect angle, making them somehow sharp and soft at the same time. The late evening light shows the beautiful north woods at their best. The lake was calm, the water reflecting the sun and the trees. I looked down the lake at the docks with the boats anchored to them, casting their shadows on the water. It was quiet, except for Christopher chatting and laughing in my arms. I kissed his cold nose and turned around on the dock, taking in as much of the lake as I could see.

That night, Ben's parents came to our cabin and ordered Ben and I down to the lake. We stood on the dock, staring up at thousands of stars. The Milky Way was crystal clear. Ben saw a shooting star. We tried to pick out constellations. Nothing compares to the night sky when there is no light pollution. It makes me feel so small, but also so awed. It is almost spiritual.

I don't have pictures of any of these moments, but I want to remember them. Writing things down helps me remember things in a way pictures can't. I suppose in the act of writing, I may also be altering the memory in some way. I just know that sometimes feeling present in the moment means putting away the camera.

Oh all right. I took some pictures too.

Clare at the top of Honeymoon Bluff.

Ready for the woods.

Clare on her canoe trip into the BWCA with Ben and my in-laws.

Fascinated by our fox friend. She helpfully informed Christopher not to be scared, because we were inside the cabin. 
My little man.

At Gooseberry Falls on our way home. Clare was thrilled by the "big lake." Christopher was not.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

First Day of Preschool


She did great. I barely slept last night (partly because of nerves, and partly because of a sick baby), but when I woke her up she seemed refreshed and happy to get ready for school. When we got there, she charged into the building like she owned the place, without so much as a backwards glance at me. I didn't even get a chance to give her a hug. When I picked her up, though, she came running into my arms. We went out to lunch (her pick: Noodles and Company) to celebrate. She told me all about her day, which included art projects, Spanish class, time on the playground and the all important snack. (Cheese crackers.)

I think this preschool thing is going to work out just fine.

Yesterday, I was not so sure anything was going to work out fine. Christopher woke up with a fever of 102.5 and was obviously sick. He was not himself at all. While at the doctor to check for a possible ear infection, Clare received her flu mist and acted as though her arms were being cut off. I had to pin her down while Christopher screamed in the arms of the nurse that was brought in to assist us. Later, Clare fell flat on her face, resulting in a bloody nose and lots and lots of crying. (I was worried she would look pretty gruesome for her first day of school picture, but her nose doesn't look too bad - just some slight bruising.) Dealing with all of this on top of some projects and housework I needed to do, it was a day. 

And Christopher. The poor baby has six (!) teeth coming in right now. I don't think that caused his fever (teething can cause fevers, but they are not usually that high). He seems much better today, but we had to miss our first day at ECFE. We went shopping instead. I don't think I should make a habit of this, but it was nice having just one child along for errands. Especially one that I can contain in a stroller.

We are going up north this weekend. I am looking forward to breathing some fresh, crisp air and celebrating Clare's successful first week at preschool. Assuming all goes well on Thursday. I think it will.

This silly face had Christopher in hysterics. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

11 Months

Eleven months. Sigh. My little (big?) baby is eleven months. I know I say this all the time, but he is just so happy. Nothing phases that kid, except hunger. Clare sitting on top of him doesn't bother him at all, but do not get in the way of him and his snack cup. This morning I was getting ready to go to a friend's house and I looked down to find that Christopher had dug his snack cup out of the diaper bag and was helping himself to some wheat puffs.

He has learned that he can take toys back from Clare when she takes them away. This weekend, she was trying to prevent him from crawling down the hall and he was actually dragging her along with him. It will not be long before he is sitting on her, I think.

Christopher said his first word at 10 months. "More." I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this. After all, eating is his favorite hobby. That, and trying to get the TV remotes off the couch or table. He desperately wants to play with them. When I take them away he acts like it is the worst thing that has ever happened to him in his life. Which, in his mind, it probably is. He also says "uh-oh" and "nana" (banana). He gives long speeches that are sprinkled with laughter. Whatever he is saying, he finds it very funny.

Christopher waves hello and goodbye, and waves when someone says the words hello or goodbye, even if they are not directed at him. He is into it.

He pulls himself into a standing position. He is still amazed by anything and everything. When he sees something he wants he throws his hands up into the air before slamming them to the ground and crawling as fast as he can toward the object. When he dances, he waves his little butt in the air.

He gives me kisses when I ask for one. Big, wet, slobbery, open-mouthed kisses. They are the best things in the world.

He has started showing some jealousy - if Ben takes Clare outside and he doesn't get to go, he cries. He tries to crawl after the big kids when we are playing with friends. It is hard to imagine him walking and running and playing with the other kids, but I know he will be doing all that before I know it. I just hope I can still convince him to give me a kiss.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bits and Pieces: August

Summer may be unofficially over tomorrow, but we certainly made the most of it. Our August was filled with many trips to the park and pool, get-togethers with friends, and our first ever camping trip as a family. Oh, and the Fair. We can't forget the Fair.

In early August we packed up the kids and headed to Jay Cooke State Park. I have to say, the trip went a lot better than I expected. Sure, the baby woke up screaming at 3 a.m. because he had peed through his sleeper. And yes, he attempted to eat fistful after fistful of pine needles. Overall, though it was a success. Clare had a blast. She was thrilled about everything, especially eating in s'mores and sleeping in her sleeping bag. We hiked and sat around the campfire. The weather was perfect and the bugs were nonexistent. What more could we ask for?

More pine needles, please!
My happy little guy.
Having fun?
Family nap time. I managed to fall asleep in one of the camp chairs while re-reading Harry Potter.
Looking at the St. Louis River from the swinging bridge.
The beautiful St. Louis River.
Of course, we went to the Fair. I am not a "Fair person" myself, but I don't mind going for a few hours as long as it is not too hot. So naturally we picked the hottest day of the summer to go. It wasn't bad in the morning, but by the time we left it was pretty warm. We looked at animals. Clare absolutely hates chickens, but she was okay with the goats and the rabbits. She even got to pet a rabbit. She closed her eyes and covered her ears when we walked past the chickens. We did the ride thing - Clare could have gone on rides all day. We ate cheese curds, malts, cookies, deep fried olives, mini donuts, and the adults drank beer. Somehow we didn't get stomach aches.

Driving. This ride was incredibly loud and annoying, but Clare loved it.
Merry-go-round selfie.
My sister tried to get a family shot. Clare and Christopher weren't having it.
This is how he spent most of the fair. 
My parents are visiting this weekend, and we went to Minnehaha Falls this afternoon. It is so close to my house, I don't know why I don't get over there more. It was fun, especially driving around in the Surrey. Clare wasn't sure she liked it. She kept yelling directions at my dad, who was driving. "Slow down Baba Ralph!!" She is her mother's daughter.
At the Falls.
Ready to ride.
Now, on to preschool. I think we are ready. I hope. In the meantime, we're headed to the beach on Tuesday. I am going to enjoy every last gasp of summer.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Water Worries

When I was young, one of my favorite things to do was go to the library. The smell of the books, the thrill I felt as I ran over to the new books section, the anticipation of the stack of unread books I selected to take home. I loved the library. I still remember getting my first library card. I was so proud. Clare, Christopher and I frequent our local library now, and I am so happy that Clare shares my love for books. She always comes home with a pile to read (and maybe a Hello Kitty DVD or two). She adores story time. She'll sit and read by herself in her room. She sets up her own story time with her stuffed animals and dolls. I am so excited to share this with her, and can't wait to introduce her to some of my favorite books when she is a bit older. (The Little House on the Prairie and Harry Potter series are on the top of the list.)

When I was a kid, I also loved the pool. Swimming lessons, open swim, jumping off the high dive - you name it, I was game. Maybe that's why I am having trouble understanding Clare's total fear of going in the big pool now. She screams and cries. She'll put her feet in, but that's it. And when her teacher dunked her underwater during class last week? Well, I'd rather not think about it.

Clare loves the water, as long as she can keep her feet firmly planted on the bottom of the pool. She will play happily for hours in the shallow end. I want her to actually learn how to swim, though, you know? It is hard watching every other kid in the class happily do what the teacher asks while Clare sits on the edge of the pool, scared and crying. She told me she wants to wait until she is eight to get in the big pool. I don't want her to miss out.

I am not forcing her. I am trying to be patient. I feel so frustrated, though, because I don't understand. I don't know how to handle this, other than to let her find her way into the pool in her own time.

We went to lessons yesterday, in the rain. Clare sat outside the pool, freezing. Finally, I wrapped her up in her towel and took her to the library. Eight books and three DVDs later, we came home for lunch. She was happy. I just hope she decides to swim, too. When she is ready.

For better or worse, she has no fear on the playground.

Monday, August 4, 2014

10 months

Christopher is most definitely on the move. He finally got the hang of the whole crawling thing. He also figured out how to climb up the step out of the playroom, but he seems reluctant to do it regularly. This is fine with me.

He is starting to communicate with actual signs. They are not  accurate signs, but he consistently makes the same gestures for hungry, milk and all done. He also smacks his tongue when I ask him if he's hungry and shouts "maa maa maa" when he wants more. And he always wants more. He has mastered the pincer grip, and now hates being spoon fed. He wants to do it all himself, thank you very much. He is a big fan of Cheerios.

He loves cars and trucks and balls. Such a stereotypical boy. Clare loved music from the womb, but Christopher has just started reacting to it, shaking his whole body to a song. He especially loves the theme song to "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood."

Everything still goes in his mouth.

He is content to be carried in my Ergo when we are at the park. I am enjoying this while it lasts, because I know next summer I will have to chase him all over the place to make sure he doesn't fall head first off the big slide.

He is still big - only about 7 pounds lighter than Clare. He is not off the charts or anything, but he is in the 80th percentiles for height and weight, and still in the 100th for head. Both kids had to have their fingers pricked for a blood draw at the doctor's office last week. Christopher handled it so much better than Clare. He barely cried. I guess after going through heart surgery a little finger prick is no big deal.

His hair is getting longer and wavy. His smile is toothy. Sometimes when I am nursing him, I realize he's stopped eating (I am looking at Twitter), and I look down. There he is, grinning up at me. I just love that smile.

He still adores Clare, even when she yells at him. They have started "playing" together, and Clare tells him about her day. I can't wait to watch their relationship develop even more.

So, 10 months. Last summer I didn't know if he was a boy or a girl, or what he would be like. Now I can't remember not having him around. And time can go ahead and slow down now.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bits and Pieces: July

July has been filled with visits to family, picnics at the park, birthday parties, cookouts, bike rides, trips to the zoo, dips in the pool, and, most importantly, beer. Kidding!

Hard day.
I had the greatest foodie weekend ever in mid-July. My mom was visiting, so of course we needed to have two ladies-only brunches. Psycho Suzi's and W.A. Frost were more than happy to oblige, as was Ben, who stayed home with the kids. Actually, I don't know if he was happy about this or not, but he didn't complain. That same weekend I got to go out for drinks! With friends! In Minneapolis! A friend was visiting from Philadelphia, so of course I had to go, because I hardly ever see her. Right? We sat outside at The Lowbrow, and I felt very hip and trendy, though I looked neither hip nor trendy. I cannot express how nice it was to eat these delicious meals without having children a). crawling on me, b). asking me for things, or c.) throwing Cheerios all over the restaurant (ahem, Christopher).


We took the kids to Highland Fest, the local neighborhood festival, last weekend. Clare loved the bouncy houses, and because there was no line, she got to bounce for quite some time. Christopher loved the ride in the double stroller. He later feel asleep. So it was a good day for him, too.

On the way home, we stopped at Dairy Queen. Clare decided to try to "drink" her ice cream, pouring it all over her lap and the stroller. She was up much too late, probably due to all the sugar. But hey, what is summer without a little melted ice cream in your lap, right?


We spent the 4th of July in Evansville with my parents, my grandmother, and my brother. It was lovely, and Clare even managed to make it through the parade without having a nervous breakdown. The secret to her new-found courage? Parade candy, of course.

I love the small town 4th. Like last year, we ditched the kids at home and went to the fireworks. And the beer tent. It was great. The kids and I stayed with my parents through the following week. We spent a lot of time watching cooking shows and the World Cup, but also made it to the park, the pool and the zoo. I was able to take advantage of grandparents and uncles who were willing to babysit, and have a girls night out with friends AND a trip to Concerts on the Square. It was a nice visit.

Historical Note: this slide is a famous Madison landmark. I have a picture of myself going down it when I was about four. If I was on top of things I would have found it and scanned it in to put here. I am not on top of things.
So, on to August. Here is a preview for you: we are going to attempt a family camping trip. Where we will sleep in a tent. With two small children. I also plan to eat my weight in sweet corn.