Thursday, August 21, 2008

August Jack

Apparently, Jack couldn't find his own camera the other day. He has been particularly enamored with this wooden tow truck I bought him and had to take a few pictures of it. 17 of them, actually. This is really a post unto itself. Jack has discovered running, and it may have just changed his life. And mine. The other day I was going for a run, and Jack, heartbroken at being left behind, insisted on coming with me. I put on his little Target shoes and let him come with me, thinking he would tire out in ten minutes and I could bring him home and then go on my own run. Apparently I don't know my son very well. He ran and ran and ran, at top speed, careening through the forest like a human comet. When I finally told him it was time to go home(after about 40 minutes) he cried. The next day we went out and bought him these tiny Nikes. On our next run, it occurred to me that running with Jack was a good metaphor for how I try to parent him: Aaron and I give him the tools he needs to do his best, then we let him choose the path and follow along beside him to help him up when he falls down. Every time we came to a break in the path, Jack would carefully weigh the options then choose the path that looked more difficult. He didn't agonize about it, just took a few seconds to consider the possibilities and then he'd go shooting off again. I made a few suggestions here and there(such as the fact that I thought it would not be a good choice to run head-long into a patch of nettles), but ultimately I let him choose the way. He had a great time, and occasionally between huffing and puffing he'd look at me and say, "This is a good run, Mom. I love you." I can't wait until Fall when the woods will be covered in leaves, making our runs together even more glorious. Throwing sticks into the water; an essential part of being a boy in the summertime. Building sand castles with good friends is the perfect way to spend a hot summer evening. Jack got himself dressed. It was too hot for pants, but just right for rain boots and ear muffs. We went to A Taste of Edmonds this year, and everyone had a fabulous time. They had several different bouncers set up for kids and I bought Jack a few tickets, thinking he'd be too shy try them out. He had such a great time that I had to go back and buy him more tickets so he could repeat his favorites. We also introduced Jack to elephant ears. After his first bite of hot fried dough covered in cinnamon and sugar, he fell silent and didn't say a word until every last bit was gone and he'd licked the remains from his fingers. "That was good," he breathed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

August 14th, 2007

One year ago today, at almost exactly this time, Aaron and I brought Matteas home from the birth center. It was overwhelmingly hot and muggy, just like today. I have all the doors and windows open, with fans in the bedroom windows blowing in the cool night air. I had a small sense that night of what Matteas would bring to my life, and a year later I can say that I severely underestimated the joy and peace that was born with our sweet little Matteas. When I found out I was pregnant with Matteas, I wasn't overly pleased. I didn't bother getting terribly upset though, as I'd had a miscarriage two months before and figured that something beyond my control or scope of vision was at work. I struggled through crippling nausea, ate my way through the second trimester and then hoped and prayed for an early delivery in the sweltering weeks of the summer we packed up the Brier house and moved. Weeks away from my due date, we had yet to pick a name. Aaron hated everything, and nothing seemed to fit. Four days before he was born(but still four weeks before my due date) we were at Albert's birthday party. Anna's friend Ingrid, sweetly concerned that we couldn't find a name, marched into Anna's kitchen and pulled the Byzantine calendar off the fridge. This was extra-resourceful of Ingrid since she isn't Catholic. She began reading the names of the saints whose feast days were in the coming weeks, and, mispronouncing "Matthias"(which is Aaron's grandpa's last name) we had our name. "Matteas" is Portuguese for Matthew, meaning "gift of God." From the very moment of his birth, when the midwife first placed his warm, wiggly little body on my chest, I felt overwhelmed by his sweetness. He laid there gurgling softly but not crying, slowly blinking his peaking little eyes trying to make sense of the world he suddenly found himself in. Even his actual delivery was peaceful and sweet, a long soak in a big tub on a beautiful August evening. When he was four days old, we took him to meet Albert and Anna. The first thing Anna said as she took him in her arms was "Tirzah, he's SO sweet!" I know lots of people say that about new babies, but it was especially true of Matteas. It is his most striking quality, and I have enjoyed absolutely every minute of his babyhood. Part of me is so excited to watch him grow and discover and learn about his world, but a small part of me is a little sad that the first chapter of his life is over. It was such a very good year with him and while I'm sure the years to come will be just as good, there is nothing quite like new baby sweetness, that complete and total helplessness. He will never need me again the way he needed me that first year and while I rejoice in his small independence for his sake, part of me is a little bit reluctant to let him go. But I know that holding on will hold him back, and refusing to acknowledge his growth won't actually keep him a baby. So happy birthday sweet Matteas; don't grow up too fast.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Small Cups

Anna is a wise and wonderful woman for many, many reasons. One of my favorite reasons is her philosophy of "small cups;" some days you need a pick-me-up, and even though pouring yourself a really big glass of wine or ordering a giant coffee might sound good, sometimes the best thing is just having a small cup of something. That way you can have a little moment of solace and not spoil your appetite for later. Anna applies this same philosophy to visiting. I used to be of the opinion that if you were going to make the effort to pack up the kids and go somewhere, you should make it an all-day affair to make the effort worth while. Of course, this was back when I had a non-nursing, fussy baby and I was packing a breast pump with all of the equipment involved(tubes, bottles, cleaning stuff) with me everywhere I went, and chances are that Jack screamed the entire drive so that my nerves were shattered upon our eventual arrival and I couldn't bring myself to put him back in the car for, like, ten hours. Fortunately, both boys do fabulously in the car now, and short trips are readily available. This morning we headed down to Anna's and stayed for about two hours, but we managed to pack a lot in. There was watermelon for the kids...
a shady high chair for Matteas...
then some exploring in the garden...
which necessitated a bath in the kitchen sink. I always feel especially grown up when I give my kids a bath in the kitchen sink because I have vivid memories of my own mother doing this. She detested the kitchen sinks with a divider down the middle because you couldn't fit a toddler comfortably in them.
I'm not sure how Albert will feel about me posting this, but I couldn't resist. Albert and Anna have been married five years this September, have three kids, two jobs, and a mortgage. I know some of you might be thinking, "Five years, that's nothing!" To that I can only say, they have plumbed greater relationship depths in five years than most couples do in thirty. And they're still in love. Albert carved their names on this driftwood during their last family camping vacation. So after a thoroughly lovely and summery day, I cannot account for my craving for Thanksgiving food. Maybe it was the gratitude I was feeling for good friends or something, but I decided to make a Fall Feast for dinner. I melted some butter in a baking dish and added sliced leeks, dried cranberries, salt and pepper, and fresh thyme. I placed two chicken breasts in the dish and spooned the mixture on top, then baked it for thirty minutes. I should have made three breasts because Jack at half of mine and part of Aaron's. So even though Autumn hasn't quite begun, here's to giving thanks any time of year for friends, food, family, and small cups.