Monday, August 31, 2009

The Great Outdoors

Gabriella and Matteas get cozy by the fire.
This weekend, we went camping with the Matriotti family. Aaron and I had both done a bit of camping before having kids, but until now we'd never attempted a camping trip involving children. I endured a lot of teasing because of my alleged unwillingness to take babies camping, but there were some practical setbacks to be considered. With Jack, we had to take a breast pump with us everywhere we went because he wouldn't nurse. I realize it would have been possible to sterilize a breast pump in boiling water heated on a camping stove, but it just seemed too dirty for a newborn. Once I felt Jack was old enough to do well camping I got pregnant with Matteas, and felt so nauseous I couldn't move around much. Plus I had to have, like, ten special snacks on hand at all times. Yes I was high maintenance, but growing an entire human being is kind of a high maintenance job. I should note here that Anna is six months pregnant and has done plenty of camping this summer, but she is a lot cooler than I am. Jack was super excited about his first-ever camping trip, complete with camp fires and s'mores. I think my favorite thing about camping was how entertained the kids were the whole time. We didn't bring any toys, just a few books and some coloring stuff for the car ride and some shovels and buckets for the beach. Not once in three days did any of the kids complain of boredom or declare that they had nothing to play with.
When you've got sticks to poke into a burning fire, who needs toys?
And don't think I didn't find a way to wash my babies anyway; Matteas loved the novelty of bathing in a dish pan(though it wasn't really that novel since he'd done it before) and after he sat down he smiled and asked "Jackie gets in?" I told him Jackie wouldn't fit.
Matteas enjoys his first s'more.
Tristan made fun of me for not just letting my kids be filthy the whole time, but seriously, would you let this critter get in bed with you? I would have if I had too because I love my babies more than I love being clean, but clean babies are especially nice.
Cold, clean lake water.
This is Lake Wenatchee, which was about a ten minute drive from our campsite. It was the most beautiful lake I've ever seen, the water was so clean. It was also framed by mountains, which really added to the picturesqueness. Our last day there, Albert and Aaron put all the kids into Albert's inflatable boat and swam them over to this tiny little island while Anna and I swam in the chilly water and then lay on a big granite rock in the sun like sunbathing lizards. Only we weren't lizards, we were attractive married women in bikinis. It was a great trip, one or two difficulties notwithstanding. Like Matteas barfing chicken nuggets all over himself on the drive over. But that's a story for another day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Those of you who know Jack will understand what an enormous accomplishment petting a dog was for him. Born six weeks early, Jack never seemed quite ready for the world. Noise and light disturbed him, and since he was totally not interested in nursing there was little I could do to comfort him. When he was three weeks old, we took him to a craneo-sacral massage therapist named Loretta my midwives refer to as The Baby Whisperer. The idea was that Jack may have had some underdeveloped or knotted muscles in his baby jaw that made it painful for him to nurse, and maybe some massage would help. I was skeptical, but was willing to try anything to make the screaming stop. As soon as Loretta opened the door I felt calmer. She had an aura of motherly wisdom about her; I don't believe in reincarnation, but if I did I would say that Loretta was a very old soul. After she'd introduced herself, she washed her hands and knelt down in front of tiny Jack who was sleeping in his car seat. She placed her hand on his chest and said a few soft words before unbuckling him and lifting him out. I don't remember what she said, but I could tell she was asking Jack for permission to touch him. I had never seen an adult be so respectful of an infant before, nor seen an infant be so responsive to a stranger. The understanding between them was so deep you would have thought Loretta was his mother and I was a bungling stranger. She held Jack in her lap and gently cradled his tiny head in one of her capable hands while rocking slowly. Jack, who was usually a bundle of tension and distress, was fast asleep in her lap, arms and legs flopped out in complete trust. As she rocked, her hands worked, softly feeling and making tiny adjustments to the muscles in Jack's jaw, face, neck and head. I sat back in awe, wondering how it was possible for this woman my son didn't know to work him into such a state of relaxation. After about ten minutes, she told me the future. I'm not joking. She said, "Jack is clearly a very sensitive baby. It's not uncommon for babies who are born early to have a low tolerance for stimulus; he's not ready for the outside world. He will probably be very sensitive to change as he grows up, and transitions will be very difficult for him. He may also have trouble organizing himself, such as knowing when he needs to eat and when he needs to sleep. Every time he experiences a major growth spurt it will probably effect his eating and sleeping, even when he's older. He will also probably be very artistic; I've met babies like this before, and they usually grow up to be very expressive. This is because they notice and take in everything in their environment; right now it stresses Jack out, but as he gets older he'll find ways to process it. He'll need to do a lot of processing to help him understand his world." I didn't know four year-old Jack at the time, but Loretta could not have been more right. I don't know how she divined all that from holding him for ten minutes, but she clearly knew something about my son. As I type, he is sitting at the kitchen table coloring and singing his heart out the whole time. So, back to the dog pictures. Jack has always been afraid of dogs. "Afraid" isn't quite strong enough. He's terrified of them, and if we are playing at the beach or park and a dog shows up, even a small one on a leash, he panics and wants to go home. Jack has a pretty long list of fears and concerns, but dogs top it. Aaron and I have spent a lot of time talking about how we can help Jack overcome his fears without pushing him too far, and my uncle's dog Lucy was the answer. She is a very sweet, very obedient dog. Recently we spent the day with my aunt and uncle at their house on Lake Tapps, and out of consideration for Jack they put Lucy in the back room or kept her tied to a tree outside. If Jack happened to be around for the transition, he was instantly all a-tremble and would start to whine in panic. Now, I think every person has the right to choose their own boundaries, but Aaron and I feel that life is limiting enough without being held back by fear. We tried our best to respect Jack's fear of dogs while encouraging him to try to be brave, explaining that Lucy was a nice, gentle dog and she would never hurt him. Somehow, Lucy got out of the house while we were playing in the grass by the lake. She walked slowly over to me and then lay at my feet in the shade. Jack ran up to the top of the yard, as far away from Lucy as he could get. "Jack, watch mama pet Lucy," I said. I gently put her head in my lap, then talked to Jack about how soft her ears were and how much she loved having her head scratched. After a few minutes, he was willing to come closer. He just watched for a while, marveling at Matteas who has no fear of dogs and wanted to climb on top of Lucy's head. After watching for some time, Jack was willing to pet Lucy if I promised to hold onto her head so she couldn't lick him. After a few minutes of petting her, he moved up to her neck, his body coiled like a spring ready to jump if she showed the slightest hint of menace. Eventually he worked his way up to her face and ears, and I watched the fear in his eyes melt away and be replaced with pride. After that, Lucy was allowed to roam free and Jack didn't mind. He still needed reminders of how brave he was and how nice Lucy was, but by the end of the day he was playing fetch with her. We haven't yet tested if this new-found comfort level will translate to other dogs, but for now we are celebrating the achievement. "Boy Pets Dog" is hardly headline news, at least it probably wouldn't be in any other house, but I have to say that watching Jack overcome his fear and deliberately choose to do something he was really, really afraid of was one of my proudest parenting moments ever. The dog wasn't the issue; the internal process Jack had to go through to get to the dog was the real triumph. How many of us can say that we have faced and conquered our greatest fear?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Small Treasures

Our garden was a little slow to take off this year, but the sungolds are coming on hot and heavy now, the cucumbers seem to be getting the idea, and the last of our onions are ready for something tasty. I'm trying to focus(literally) on the small treasures in my life right now, as I'm still throwing a fit over not being able to wear contacts. I've been trying unsuccessfully over the last two years to find a pair that I can wear for more than half an hour without wanting to gouge my eyes out. No luck. I'm going to ask my eye doctor if there's any such thing as a "contact specialist" who might be able to help me out, but more than likely I'll be stuck with glasses until Lasik, which isn't happening anytime soon. It's partially a vanity thing; I'm not crazy about the way I look with glasses, or the way my glasses go(or don't) with certain outfits. But mostly, it's about being able to engage with life the way I want to: without having to push my glasses up my nose every few minutes, or protect my face from a charging toddler, or to be able to go running without anything touching my face. I've worn glasses for eleven years, and I'm still not used to the way they restrict my vision; beautiful landscapes really bum me out. I feel like I have tunnel vision all the time. So instead of throwing a fit like I just did, I'm trying to appreciate even having glasses. Without them, I wouldn't be able to read. Or drive. Or take pictures. Or draw. Or find super darling teacups like this to bring home and stuff in my cupboard of already mismatched cups. I'm really into cups of a certain size, so whenever I see some cute ones I buy them. That big pink mug in the lower right corner isn't one of them, but, like an ugly younger sister, is still part of the family. Every morning I get up and make a pot of French press. It has to be French press because drip coffee is never strong or hot enough, and I like my coffee thick and scalding. I think I get this from my mother, who would pour herself a cup of just-brewed coffee and then heat it in the microwave before drinking it. I wrap a hand towel around the press to keep the coffee hot longer, and then I drink it from a small cup with lots of cream. I do this because big cups cool my coffee off too quickly, and while I have been known to reheat the same mug of tea five or six times, I cannot bring myself to microwave coffee. It robs it of something. Not just romance, it flattens the flavor and makes it taste like plastic and metal. I realize I'm a little on the picky side, but no one ever achieved culinary greatness by settling. And now, I'm going to go make a salad with my garden fresh vegetables which I will be able to safely chop by looking carefully through the focused lenses of my glasses.

Monday, August 17, 2009

August 14th

Someone had a birthday. He got a garbage truck. Dad helped him open it.
He was pleased. I can't believe there are two candles in that ice cream bar. Tristan and Iain gave him some books. Reading ensued.
We love you so much, Crazy Blond Adventure Monkey.

With Good Reason

I was reprimanded the other day by my father-in-law for not updating my blog "in 60 thousand years;" can you tell that man is into his grandkids? August has been busy. Kayleigh came to visit, so while she was here I pretty much cleared my priority list to see her as often as possible. We had a lot of talking to do about life, a lot of food to eat and a lot of coffee drink.
Also, we had to remove our old living room window... Which involved carrying some ridiculously heavy glass... And then installing the beautiful new window. Damien did most of the dirty work, but we lent our muscle where it was needed. We are Women of Ability.
Naturally, in the midst of all that construction, we thought it was a good day to throw a dinner party. So we did. The Bernhofts were in town, a family without whom I never would have met my husband or some of the most Interesting People in the World. If you think I'm exaggerating, you haven't met the Bernhofts.
We feasted. Afterward, we reclined. Some of us felt the need for a nap. Andrew and Matteas formed a very special bond during their brief encounter. Matteas was a little shy of Andrew at first, and Andrew was a little suspicious of Matteas at first, but I sat on the couch next to Andrew with Matteas in my lap and told Matteas, "Andrew's nice; he likes babies." After that, any time Matteas saw Andrew he would point at him and say "baby." Andrew mostly kept to himself, but shortly before he left he saw Matteas standing in front of the love seat where Andrew was sitting. Andrew leaned forward and scooped Matteas into his lap, where a long hug and a little kiss were exchanged. The next day we all met up at the park, where Andrew and Matteas sat side-by-side on the swings. Matteas gave a running stream of updates to his swinging progress to Andrew, all of which he ended with "Okay, Andrew?" Their last day in town, the Bernhofts came over for brunch. As we were saying our goodbyes, Matteas leaned out from my arms and planted a juicy kiss on Andrew's cheek. Andrew was so overcome he fell back dramatically onto the couch, grinning from ear to ear.